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An Interview With Sera Gamble, Supernatural Producer and Writer, Part One

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A seven-week hiatus can be rather maddening. Given Supernatural’s explosive season four and the mind-boggling material that’s been presented for ten episodes, this long time to reflect has left me with more questions than answers. I’m sure I’m not alone.

Thankfully Sera Gamble, supervising producer and writer for Supernatural, an instrumental player in developing the show’s story lines, was generous enough to answer some questions about season four during the break as well as address a few of my other curiosities. She even opted to tackle a few fan questions I sent her way.

Below is part one of my two-part interview in which Sera gives her thoughts on the introduction of angels to the mythology, the introduction of Castiel, Dean’s faith issues, and Sam and Ruby's strange relationship. Heck, she even talks about the life-sized teddy bear.

This is where I must offer the standard spoiler warning, but I wouldn’t call them heavy spoilers, more like teasers. If you don’t even want hints though, stop right here.

First, congratulations on season four so far. It's been generating some big buzz and the increased ratings are proving that. How happy is everyone about that?

We're happy. Also surprised. Eric [Kripke] emailed us the day after the premiere and I marched into his office holding my bowl of Cheerios like, "You're lying. We did not pick up a million viewers." He just shrugged and said he was a shocked as I was.

You guys went there! Just when everyone had written off the idea of angels appearing, we get not only one but two badass angels in the most spectacular way. When it was pitched in the writers' room that angels would drive story line this season, was it obvious from the start that they would be wrathful, unfeeling, and flawed in their blind obedience, or did that evolve over several episodes?

Angels weren't pitched in the writers' room. Eric started talking to me about them just before hiatus. They'd sorta been in our hip pocket, but I don't think the show was ready for them before now. I've discovered, working on Supernatural, that a lot of good ideas don't work at all until the time is right. And then they just slot magically into place. This was like that.

Our notion of the angels has evolved a bit, yes. Less that they're different in their construction, more that we've become more thorough and creative in developing them as individuals and weaving them into the story. There's an episode coming up that opens in Castiel's point of view. That's a strong indication of how central the character has become this season. It was an organic evolution; we discovered that we were just unexpectedly inspired by these creatures. It was clear to us that when they were in the sandbox, cool stuff happened on the playground. And it's interesting to me, by the way, that you call the angels "unfeeling" and "wrathful," because I don't see them that way. Castiel wrestles hard with his obedience. Turns out it's really hard for angels to walk among humans and not get kinda… involved.

Castiel's character is a gem, and the casting is even more inspired. He's got quite the deep conflict going inside of him since he's gotten to know Dean and it's all told in the eyes. Is everyone there pinching themselves over having an asset like Misha Collins to work with? What direction do you anticipate Castiel taking, especially in his relationship with Dean?

I doubt anyone needs me to point out that Misha is doing a great job. He's very sharp. As for the direction Castiel's going, I don't want to give away too much. In his relationship with Dean… Castiel genuinely likes Dean. And that is going to create difficulties for him.

Where are the sources of inspiration for the story lines coming from? While I love how the show is carving its own mythology and keeping us guessing, my Google search on 'Rising of the Witnesses' came up empty, as did the 66 seals. Are the stories being created on actual legends, or are you having fun with us?

Rising of the Witnesses is our twist on some of the actual stuff in the Book of Revelation, about the dead rising from their graves. We twisted it up quite a bit; hence our assertion that the version you find in motel rooms is "just for tourists." Our regular monsters, you can straight-up Google. But our mythology tends to reflect a bit more mental ping-pong. We don't want to just retell the same old thing.

At this point, I couldn't begin to say where inspiration comes from. I can't watch a brownie commercial without trying to turn it into a pitch for an episode.

Dean and Sam's faith issues this season are particularly compelling. You wrote so well Dean's conflicted struggle over the fact that angels and God exist in "Are You There God? It's Me, Dean Winchester". That must have been an exciting direction to take, especially after you introduced his issues in "Faith" and "Houses of The Holy". How pleased are you with how Dean has slowly been embracing his faith and the way Jensen has been selling it?

I guess I must be deeply interested in this stuff, because I end up writing about it over and over. I like the turn Dean took this season, because it was so unexpected and because we laid so much groundwork in previous seasons. I feel like we earned Dean being rescued by an "angel of the lord" and then calling him a dick and continuing to doubt that there's a God. Needless to say, Jensen kills it. Very talented actor, that Jensen. You may have noticed.

Yeah, I think I’ve heard a few positive comments on that Jensen guy. On the other side, Sam's faith is now slowly eroding after meeting the angels and finding they aren't merciful plus they want to stop him from using his abilities for good. How much fun has it been to setup that parallel, both brothers changing directions on their beliefs?

It kinda writes itself, right?

It certainly does! Still, those words of Castiel’s ring in my head, “Stop him, or we will,” along with Sam’s heartbreak over the angels’ disapproval of his powers. Can we hope that someday Sam will find at least personal redemption for his actions?

What Sam is doing isn't cut and dried. Basically, the way I look at it is to put myself in Sam's shoes. He can't do anything about the fact that he was dosed with demon blood when he was six months old, and it changed him forever. He's trying to make lemonade out of some seriously fucked up lemons. Which is what a hero would try to do. At this point, Sam's a pragmatist. He knows he can't change what he is. He's all about the results of his actions. So, yes: saving people.

Speaking of parallels, first there are the demons, who get that way after forgetting their humanity, and the angels, who haven't walked among humans in 2,000 years and are pretty out of touch themselves. It seems the two sides aren't all that different and I'm assuming that plays a role in why Dean was chosen. How excited are you over the possibilities this sets up?

We'll be laying out the specific reasons Dean was chosen. Stay tuned.

I need to take a few sentences to gush over "I Know What You Did Last Summer." The script was gorgeous, as was Jared's performance of Sam at his absolute lowest point. You gave him some outstanding material to work with. Out of all your scripts, that so far is my favorite. Having said that, did the ridiculous fan debate about Sam being a rapist prompt you to give Ruby an empty shell to inhabit (great line, by the way, "Al Gore would be proud") or was that the plan all along?

We started work on the episode before any debate began that I know of, so none of it was a reaction. But we did know that Sam having sex with a demon would be provocative. Actually, I was very excited to work on the episode. People do a lot of otherwise unthinkable things when they're grieving. Who doesn't want to write the episode where a character they've worked on for 70 episodes does stuff he'd otherwise never do?

But anyway, the state of Ruby's body was the subject of much conversation, mostly because I couldn't shut up about it. I just couldn't get past the rape thing. I think I actually disappointed some people I work with, who thought I'd be tougher or darker or something. Or possibly just didn't care as much as I did one way or another. But I took a lot of writers' room time talking about it. And ultimately took the long way around so I could get her into a vaguely more morally acceptable body. I readily admit it's rather silly, and the mechanics are contrived — that's why I leaned into the joke so much.

Did you write Sam and Ruby's sex scene to be like Monster's Ball, or did that come from the direction? I loved it by the way and it so fit with how broken their characters are.

I referenced Monster's Ball right in the script. We were asking ourselves, "Where's the lowest place Sam can go in a state of despair?" That's why calling it a love scene strikes me as hilarious. It's kind of like self-mutilating and calling it getting dressed for the prom.

Speaking of Ruby, her character has caused quite a stir again this year. There's a vehement debate that she's carrying a hidden agenda, while others see her benevolence and truly developing feelings for Sam. She also seems to be winning Dean over. I gotta say, I love the ambiguity. How fun has it been to write for her character this season?

Ruby's fun this season because so much has changed between her and Sam. Actually, more has changed than we've gotten to so far — there's stuff coming up later in the season that's useful in further understanding their dynamic.

I see you got another promotion this year. Congratulations! Are there increased responsibilities with "supervising producer", or is it just an impressive title change? Does this mean more visits to the set, or do you coordinate from LA stuff like casting snakes and reptiles and pink-bowed Yorkies to have their fun with Jensen? Who was the genius that found that giant teddy bear costume?

These kinds of title bumps are built into contracts. There aren't specific responsibilities that go with the title, but it's true that I've picked up some new tasks this year. But the majority of my time is always spent working on the story side of things. I don't go up to the set; I work with the folks up there by phone and email.

We built the teddy bear. Many swatches of fur were FedExed to the office and scrutinized with great seriousness. You'd think we were redesigning the Batsuit or something.

I've enjoyed seeing some new writers work their way into the show this year. Have you had to take any of them under your wing? Are there any episodes other than your own that you've played a pivotal part in?

They're all under my wing. They're great. Since there's a constant rotation of several episodes happening at once, I'm almost always working with someone.

Coming up in Part 2, Sera gives her reaction to Jared Padalecki’s answer over whether he cringes at her scripts, talks highly about Eric Kripke, and graciously answers some fan questions.

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About Alice Jester

  • elle2

    Alice,

    Fantastic interview. I love Sera Gamble and her interviews and this was no exception. I had been one who posted comments on a fansite that the whole Ruby/Sam scene was straight out of Monster’s Ball in its setup and execution so it is satisfying to see that I ‘channelled’ Sera’s thoughts as well.

    As an aside, Monster’s Ball is a compelling, complex, at times deeply disturbing and very raw film but fascinating.

    I’m of the mind to see the Ruby character killed off this season because I find myself a bit tired of waiting for the ‘other shoe to drop’ what is her endgame? Sera’s answer is satisfying in that it tempts me enough to know that there is more coming…yeah! They may not kill off the character but further reveals and development absolutely work for me, so I’m pretty confident I’ll be very happy.

    As for the other tidbits they’ve got coming our way, I continue to be completely stoked for the rest of the season. There seems to be so much talent and passion for what they’re doing and I really appreciate their time and effort (as well as their willingness to put up with so much from the fans — here I’m purely referencing the negative things from the fans ’cause it irks me to know end and has caused me to leave all fandoms for the show ’cause there is just so much anger, hate and nastiness.)

    Alice, you’re a class act and I just added your site to my favs list for SPN and am starting to explore. Whee.

    Laurel

    PS, I’m so glad Sera got it right too, pet peeve of mine but so many call it the book of Revelations when it is only Revelation no plural. Thank you Sera for getting it right.

  • hermit

    >>>>>>Needless to say, Jensen kills it. Very talented actor, that Jensen. You may have noticed.<<<<<<

    Yes we have Sera, and I not only agree, but greatly enjoy watching such a talented actor bring so much to a show that I love very much. Thanks for the interveiw Alice and Sera.

  • Em

    Sera gave some wonderful answers. I agree with her about the angels, I don’t know why you are so negative towards them, Alice. :) They aren’t unfeeling and wrathful. Castiel has been a wonderful addition, I really want to see how his and Dean’s “relationship” progresses. He’d show some real compassion for him in 4.07 I thought. I even enjoy Uriel, not because he’s a nice guy, but because he is a bit of a dick, so I like how he and Dean insult each other but he almost seems to be gaining just a slight grudging respect for him – at least before they stole Anna’s bottle of grace from him. Hopefully he’ll get over it.

    I’m very glad they’ve added the angels. It feels like they’ve been inspired by them just like she said. Except for Anna, who is a character I wish I had never had to lay eyes on. Boo hoo, no chocolate cake and God didn’t call her often enough[eyerolls]. Might have been better if they hadn’t written her like a whiny teenager. I believed she was ever Castiel and Uriel’s superior about as much as I believe someone has a bridge in Brooklyn to sell me. LOL

    “Needless to say, Jensen kills it. Very talented actor, that Jensen. You may have noticed.”

    Why yes Sera, I do believe I have. :D He’s just a wonderful actor and no matter how annoyed the show gets me from time to I will forever be grateful to Kripke and the rest for introducing me to Jensen Ackles acting.

  • alie

    This was a great interview and I’m so excited for the show to come back!

    I love Sera’s answers about Sam, his powers, and why he’s using them. I like that she put so much thought into Ruby and the host body. That episode made me interested in Ruby again for the first time all season, and I hope the character continues to have something to do. When she shows up for 1 minute to just Yoda at Sam I’m bored. If she’s more integrated into the plot she could be a great character.

  • Alex

    Hello, Sera. Newsflash: Sam’s story isn’t writing itself. If that’s the track you’re taking, then no wonder he has practically no story at all. With the exception of a couple of scenes, we are past the halfway point this season with a mytharc full of nothing but Angels and Dean. Sam Winchester is a guest star. And please, dear God, don’t bring that dumb Anna back (her body exploded, for the love of God). And no long lost third Winchester brother. If that’s the best you guys can come up with, let this be the last season.

  • http://bt-kady.livejournal.com Kady

    Nice interview! I’m looking forward to part two. Any idea when that’s coming?

  • http://www.jesterz.net Alice Jester

    Kady – Part two will be out on Sunday or Monday.

    I must say, I’m tickled with the answers I got, especially about Sam and Ruby. Those two are so misunderstood, its great to get some clarification from the person that actually wrote their controversial sex scene.

    As for the angels, Castiel is not unfeeling or wrathful, although he knows he has to be at times. Job requirement. We saw that in both “Are You There God…” and “Heaven and Hell.” Uriel was the one I had in mind when I asked that, but the question didn’t come out very clear. My bad. Sera’s answer on that was great.

  • El

    Thanks Sera and Alice! Great interview – and really interesting info about the writer’s POV re Ruby and Sam, Angels and God, Dean’s new direction and Sam’s too, with his powers. I really really like the direction the show’s taking this season – so I’m concerned that the Powers That Be don’t over-react to some fans’ reaction to these. I don’t want this to be a show where characters or ideas or plots get “voted out”.

  • Tammy

    “If that’s the best you guys can come up with, let this be the last season.” If you feel that way, perhaps you should just stop watching. :D

  • Rachel

    Most of the questions are longer than the answers, why is that? I think it is something the interviewer must think about.

  • kk

    If calling it a love scene is so hilarious, why was Gen Cortese cast as a “love interest” instead of a demon? She even said it herself, that she thinks Ruby is in love with Sam.

    I’m disappointed to hear that she’ll be sticking around longer. She’s the one thing that makes me change the channel.

  • Kate

    /Most of the questions are longer than the answers, why is that? I think it is something the interviewer must think about./ Yes, darn her for explaining herself, and Sera giving short answers. All the interviewers fault of course.

  • Karen

    I guess I’m not getting my Christmas wish about not having much Ruby in the second half of the season. I’m glad Sera’s having fun writing for Ruby, it sure as hell isn’t any fun watching her.

  • amy

    Thank you so much for this interview. It was a pleasure to read. Sara Gamble is my fav SPN writer, can’t wait to read the second part.

  • vichi

    Hi Alice,
    Good to have you back:). What a wonderful interview! Thank you so much and a Happy New Year!
    As for Castiel: Yay! Glad to see him more in tha show..
    Ruby – better not to talk about her!
    Can’t wait for 15 january:)

  • tina

    No wonder I have detatched from this show. Sera , Eric, writers are you there hello? there is someone on your show whats his name? now dont tell me , he used to have a mytharc , tall guy , very pretty played by a stunning actor , the one wwho isnt Dean thank god, or a secondary angel.Begins with a S, how about you get your act in order and focus on him, and I will not be treated like a fool , Dean ,s should have a role in the mytharc not become it, I will not pretend 3yrs never happened to suit you.

  • Riverbella

    Really enjoyed this interview. Sera is always fun. The woman has chutzpah. I am loving this season, for many of the reasons you mentioned. I think I get what Sera meant about things happening at the right time. The show has become darker and the mythology more sophisticated over time, and, to my mind, the continuity is amazing and the revelations (no pun intended) do not come before their time. The changes in the characters are not random or thrown in for effect, but formed from a natural progression of experiences, mostly awful ones. But I’m a big fan of angst, so that suits me just fine. I do wish some of the fans would take the long view and focus on the evolution of the boys’ journey rather than jealously counting the screen time of x versus y. Both these actors are amazing and they both have had moments to shine, seperately and together. We are so lucky to have two such talented (and gorgeous) guys to watch, and two guys so hard-working and commited to their craft.

  • http://bardicvoice.livejournal.com Mary (Bardicvoice)

    Thank you for the interview, Alice! I’m really looking forward to part two … I always enjoy hearing from Sera.

    I am loving season four! Even this show’s occasional “Uh, say WHAT?!” moments are better than most of what else is on television.