'Supernatural': Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles Weigh In On The Winchesters' Journey

Now that The CW's "Supernatural" is in its seventh season, one might expect the cast and crew to be feeling fatigued and simply focusing on the paycheck (the writers even turned the show's longevity into a running joke in last season's deliciously meta installment, "The French Mistake.") But thankfully, the passion and dedication of all involved seems to be just as pronounced now as it was in earlier seasons as HuffPost TV learned last week during a visit to the set of the cult hit.

Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles sat down with HuffPost TV for an in-depth discussion about their characters and the progression of this season's narrative, illustrating how engaged they are with the material by speculating about possible storylines, and taking time to thank their dedicated fanbase for their ongoing support.

Since the pair has a tendency toward being misquoted in interviews, I've tried to present their answers in their entirety. I also had the opportunity to chat to executive producer Sera Gamble via phone to add a little context -- although this close to the season finale, the show's secrets are being closely guarded. We'll have more from Ackles, Padalecki and Gamble over the next couple of weeks, but this should whet your appetite for the March 16 episode (9 p.m. ET on The CW) and the character arcs to come.

Jared, you’ve played so many different facets of Sam over the years, from blood-addicted to soulless to what we have now, kind of slowly losing your mind -- how do you approach these different aspects of Sam in terms of preparation?
I found out early on that I needed to keep as open a mind and opinion as possible. Unlike a movie, a TV show is such that you read something one episode and it's completely different a couple episodes later -- you really have to be able to go with the flow. You know, movies, you have the whole script, and then you have two months to do it. So you know where your character goes. You know where you start, you finish. With a TV show you don't know if you're going to go for the rest of Season 1 or even after the pilot and then for Season 2 or Season 3. You have no idea where it goes so you just try to play it as real in the moment as possible, and luckily, on a show like "Supernatural," we suspend our belief on an episode-by-episode basis. We're not telling a story about guys in high school and this does not take place in reality. So it's easy, and our fans ebb and flow with us and have a lot of fun with us. So, I just try to be true to the story at hand.

Jensen, we know Sam’s going to go completely nuts in episode 17, and Dean’s made it pretty clear that he’s only really still fighting and functioning for Sam’s benefit at this point, so where does the episode leave Dean emotionally?
Well, luckily for these characters. they’ve seen quite a bit. They’ve been through quite a bit, both with each other and with themselves. So there’s an obvious bond between these two characters in the way that, if one of them is out of sorts, if one of them is going off the deep end, if one of them is struggling in any way, the other one is affected. So you obviously will see it affect Dean. How it affects him, it depends. We’ve seen Dean drink a lot this year. We’ve seen him just kind of have a lack of motivation in a sense -- which has been kind of different year-to-year. You go back to Season 1 and Dean was really the motivating force in that one, wanting to find dad. Then you switch to Season 2 and the roles kind of change: Sam becomes the motivating factor in wanting to understand why all this is happening to him. So, those factors always kind of differentiate between seasons and between story lines, between scripts even. So you'll see Dean obviously looking out for his brother. He wants to do everything he can and he always understands that he's got to stay as strong as he can in order for his brother to continue on the straight and narrow.

Jared, you've previously mentioned that you want to go deeper into the Leviathan story this season and potentially next because they're such a huge threat. From the way the scripts have been going, do you feel like you've got your wish?
I have. I mean, in my opinion. I've only read up to episode 21. So then again, there are only two scripts I haven't read this season, and it's not like my opinion is necessarily important, but I think Jared would be upset to wrap that storyline up. I think it’s a great storyline. I love Dick Roman. I'd love to see how the Leviathans and Crowley and the Demons all play out. I think it's very interesting and very fun to play and tool around with and we've done our mythology episodes, as opposed to our kind of one-off episodes. So, yeah, I’d like to see it play out and it doesn't seem like we're necessarily finding the key to rid them all yet. So hopefully, we get to carry it on.

Is Dean still wholly fixated on his kamikaze quest to take down Dick Roman?
I think so, and there might be slight detours to that with Cas coming back and things around him starting to act very strange and he’s still dealing with his brother; there’s a lot of distractions. Still very focused, yes. Still wants vengeance, yes. Still angry at the world and everything around him, yes. Still numbing his feelings with the whiskey or whatever he can get his hands on ... And so I think that, ultimately, it's got to come to some sort of a climax and I think the show's been doing very well as far as posing questions and also offering answers to storylines and to characters. And I think that's an important formula that has made the show successful and it'd be nice to see that. I don't know if they're going to make a whole other year out of Leviathans, but I definitely think that there's a lot of material there to explore. So, whether they choose to go down that route, I don't know. I don't get paid to make those decisions!

Sam has a lot on his plate at the moment, but obviously he's been concerned about Dean's drinking and his self-destructive tendencies when it comes to Dick Roman. So what are his feelings on how Dean's coping in the last run of episodes heading into the finale?
Well, I think Sam even makes a reference to it early on when he says to Bobby something to the effect of, "At least I know where my crazy is -- it's kind of under one umbrella.” And especially since Season 4 when he kind of got hooped by Ruby and did't listen to his brother or listen to anybody along the way, Sam's tried to be very aware of himself and his issues. And so, I think he feels that he's admitted to himself his issues and he wants his brother to admit the same. I think he's worried about his brother, obviously; but he has enough on his plate. These brothers both share the ultimate same objective of kind of killing evil, hunting things. And so we're able to kind of get back to that and put [their issues] on the back burner. But it's definitely something stewing and keeping the storyline for Season 7 going strong. Sam's trying to take care of himself and his brother. His brother right now is kind of trying to take care of everybody else but himself, and so we'll see where that comes to a head towards the end of the season.

Fans have some theories that maybe this season and last season were all a dream, so you could kind of reset things with Season 8. What’s your take on that?
[Laughs.] I think we probably started that rumor.
Padalecki: Well, hopefully we started it. I think we both love that idea. We know nothing of it. I mean, it’s just that: a rumor. Jensen and I are very invested in the show. It’s been our life for seven years, so we’ve thrown around countless ideas, countless ways the show could go, the characters could go. That currently is my favorite, but don’t even think I’ve ...
Ackles: But we're not writers, nor do we pretend to be.
Padalecki: Nor have I even spoken to a writer about it. So, I just think it'd kind of be a neat chance to get back to some of the bread and butter of "Supernatural's" seven seasons and Chuck and Cas and Bobby and the bunch.

Maybe give you guys some time off ...
[Laughs.] Yeah, we killed off a lot of our buddies and I got a baby coming soon, so ...
Ackles: But not just time off. I mean, over the course of seven seasons, we’ve -- not just on screen as characters, but off-screen as actors and professionals -- we build relationships with people and especially with some of the recurring guest stars that I think have been very, very valuable on screen. Go back to the very beginning and I think a lot of the reasons the show was successful in the beginning was Eric [Kripke, "Supernatural" creator] wrote a great script, created two amazing characters, and the chemistry between those two characters was palpable. I mean, you can really get into it. You really felt for these two brothers and the great thing about the show was other relationships like that have blossomed throughout the years with other characters. And I think that, that’s something that he and I as actors both really enjoy, is kind of that cultivating relationship with other characters and--
Padalecki: It also fleshes out Sam and Dean.
Ackles: Absolutely.
Padalecki: I mean, we’ve seen Sam and Dean on and off for so many years. So now we see them with other friends, with other family, with enemies, acquaintances, whatever it is. And also, Jared and Jensen have met fans worldwide. We’ve gone to so many conventions and had an opportunity to talk with the fans who really made the show continue for the first couple of seasons. It was our online support that really put us over the edge as far as getting picked up and we’ve had a chance to talk with them one-on-one, over and over and over again, just as soon as last weekend. So it’s nice and they all love those characters as well. So, it’d be something nice for the fans, for us, for everybody.

We'll have more from our chat with Ackles and Padalecki next week, especially in terms of Castiel's return, Sam's breakdown and what they mean for the characters. But I also followed up with "Supernatural" executive producer Sera Gamble on some of the points the actors raised, so here's a taste of that.

Let's talk briefly about Friday's episode -- are we about to see Dean breaking out some dance moves thanks to those cursed shoes?
[Laughs.] Everyone wants to see him dance! I will let Jensen know that there is a widespread outcry for him to dance and we will revisit that situation.

It sounds like a humorous episode, but does it move the mythology forward at all?
Yeah, we sprinkle a little bit of that in. They’re in contact with Frank throughout the episode. Even though Dean is working on kind of a more conventional kind of hunt, he is very much aware of where Dick is, what he’s doing. He wants to feel like there’s some forward motion on that front, so he keeps calling Frank.

I was on set last week and Jensen mentioned that strange things have been happening to Dean recently, kind of instances of lucky coincidences or other outside assistance. Can you expand on that and what it might mean?
Yeah. One of the most important things that’s happened to really both of them, but in this case Dean, is that he's grieving he loss of Bobby. Whenever something a little bit odd happens, he starts to kind of wonder if Bobby is still around. What they come to kind of realize between Sam and Dean is that what's happening is not really much different than the grieving process that would happen to any of us -- whether or not we believed in the supernatural, whether or not we had experienced even one-tenth of what Sam and Dean have experienced. The difference is just maybe if you or I were grieving a really profound loss. we would start seeing them everywhere. But if Sam and Dean are grieving a loss they start to feel these synchronicities as "did that page move, that beer disappear?" They start pulling out their EMF meter because that’s the way they live and that’s the way they kind of see and process the world. So, that’s one way that we’ve been exploring their grief process.

Jared said that the Leviathan are such a major threat that he'd be happy to see them play out into next season as well. What are your plans for where their story is going?
We definitely heat up the race to figure out how to -- we put it on the board as "How to shaft Dick." [Laughs.] He's having a lot of that kind of joke in the writer's room. Even saying that we hope to bring things to a nice climax, everything takes on new resonance when you’re talking about killing Dick! We will have them kind of trying to do everything they can to bring this to a head moving towards episode 23. But obviously, how resolved? That is remains to be seen. We always like to give people a good cliffhanger.

Jared and Jensen -- and a few fans -- have a theory about the whole season, or the last two, being a dream, so that you could bring back characters like Cas and Bobby and Chuck again. What's your take on that?
Jared and Jensen have that theory? [Laughs]. Just my personal taste, but I always feel kind of let down by shows and stories where you get all invested in the stakes of things and then they go “never mind.” No, no, it's really happening. But the good news about "Supernatural" is that death is extraordinarily permeable on our show. So, that’s the way that we can sort of bring back versions of characters, including Sam and Dean who have died several times. Dean’s died like 1,000 times!

(Note: We'll go deeper into Castiel's return next week, but since some fans have been concerned about the character's future on the show, here's a bonus:)

Death is clearly not any kind of roadblock in "Supernatural," so do you see a place for Castiel [Misha Collins] in Season 8 if you're renewed?
We have left the door open for him. We don’t strike him with lightning. Also, by the way, if we did, I'm not sure how much difference that would make. But we don’t have a pickup; what we do have is just a really positive relationship with Misha. Misha is a busy and [an] in-demand actor, but we'll see how things go.

Do you think Sam and Dean are coping well, or is Dean heading for a Sam-sized meltdown too? Do you like the idea of Season 6 and 7 being a dream, or like Gamble, do you think that would be a letdown? Share your thoughts and predictions below, and tune in for an all-new episode of "Supernatural" on Fri., March 16 at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.