TV & Film

'Supernatural' Season 8: Misha Collins Talks Castiel's Big Return And More

"Supernatural" fans didn't get much angelic action in Season 7 of the CW show, but that is about to change, according to Misha Collins, who plays Castiel.

At a Television Critics Association party on Sunday, I talked to Collins about what fans can expect from his character in Season 8, which is under the creative leadership of new showrunner (and previous staff writer) Jeremy Carver.

In short: We'll see Cas pretty frequently, in the first part of the season anyway, and this fall there's more of an emphasis on the angel's relationship with the Winchester brothers, especially Dean. [Mild spoilers follow.]

Cas first shows up in the second episode of Season 8, which is a flashback to Dean and Cas' time in Purgatory, where they ended up in the Season 7 finale. I briefly spoke to Carver at the party, and he said that the writers are currently at work on Episode 9, and that Cas appears regularly in that first batch of episodes (though he didn't put a precise number on Cas' appearances).

When Season 8 opens, significant time has passed since we left Dean and Cas in Purgatory, and as we found out from the show's Comic-Con panel and cast interviews, the brothers have been apart for a while when the Winchesters return to our screens. As for our favorite angel, it sounds as though he'll be somewhat more like the Cas of old, rather than the mentally disturbed or power-mad Cas we saw infrequently in Season 7.

I've written quite a bit about my dissatisfaction with the last season and a half of
, and some of the issues I've had did crop up in the questions I asked Collins.

As always, Collins answered honestly, but also a little irreverently. Fans know he likes to joke at times, but he was also quite thoughtful about where the show's been and where it's going.

This interview has been edited and slightly condensed.

Can you talk about the first episode you're in?
Yes, [Episode 2 of the season] is a flashback. We're picking up a year later, and it's a flashback of Dean's memory of Purgatory.

So that was a good time, right?
No, Purgatory really sucks for Cas. He's loathed, hunted and hated by everyone.

And so what version of Cas is this? I've lost track at this point. Is this Cas 9.0?
It's Cas Snow Leopard.

Cas Mountain Lion.
Yeah. Mountain Lion is definitely more accurate. He is definitely back to the land in Purgatory.

So it's back to ass-kicking Cas in Purgatory?
No, not so much that. He's a little rough around the edges in Purgatory. It's hard on him.

Well, he was already in a somewhat delicate state to begin with.
Yes. I think he's been forced to nut up, so to speak. Hey, that's almost a play on words, because he was nuts before. He's a little less crazy, by necessity. In order to survive, he had to knuckle down.

So it sounds as though the season begins with Dean out of Purgatory?

And you're in more episodes after the second one of the season?
[Collins asked Carver, who was standing nearby, about this, and Carver said that the show will explore what happened in Purgatory over several episodes at the start of the season, and Collins will be in an unspecified number of them.

Standing in this group was a reporter from another outlet, who asked Collins the following question.]

Do you hate Sera Gamble?
[The first two words of Collins' answer were not meant in a serious way.] Fabulous question. I pretty much have gotten that question, by the way, on camera. What do people expect me to say? I do not hate Sera Gamble at all -- in fact, I love her. But if I did hate her, there's no way in hell I would say yes. It's a pretty loaded question.

OK, that was a sidebar. [And we're back to me asking questions.]

With Jeremy at the helm, have you noticed a difference in the storytelling?
You know, episode to episode, I think "Supernatural" fluctuates a lot. The tone is not always consistent and reliable, and there's no template that every episode follows, so it's too early to say. But I do think that he's doing something different in the episodes that I've seen, and in the broad brush strokes that he's sort of etched out for me of where the season is going. He's definitely doing some new stuff. And as time goes on and the season arc plays out, we'll see how the tone in total is different.

I'll be honest with you, I feel like they went one Cas too far last season. There were so many versions of him that popped up so randomly that it was hard for me to keep the thread of the character in my mind, let alone the thread of his relationships with Sam and Dean. I feel like aspects of the character spun out for me last season, and I wondered if those were ever concerns you had.
On the one hand, I like that they take the risks and do weird shit with the characters -- all of the characters on the show. It's fun to play with that stuff, and it doesn't get boring. But there are definitely times when I feel like the threads -- the character continuity -- haven't always been woven totally thoroughly. And maybe that's my fault as an actor. Sometimes there just isn't quite enough time to totally flesh out and figure out how to make sense of some of these more radical versions of the characters. But I can totally see that point.

And there have also been times in the past when I felt Cas was used as the sort of "fish out of water" comic foil, to the detriment of the character. It was a little dishonest to the character.

He's also been a "get out of jail free" card. "What is the magical thing or power that we need right now? Oh, Cas has it!"
Right. Well, you know, but I think that's a problem with Cas. If Cas is in good form and they need something, they can just be like, "Cas can time-travel us. Cas can smite all these people simultaneously." And it doesn't make for very compelling storytelling, because your two heroes are human beings who are vulnerable and are up against forces much more powerful than them, so if they have this superhero ally who can just, with a snap of his fingers, solve all their problems, it actually makes the story tough to tell.

I don't know if this is true or not, but I think that a lot of the reason Cas has often been found unconscious or crazy or evil or turning into God or missing is because he solves too many problems too easily for Sam and Dean. So it's a writers device for dealing with that, and that totally makes sense. You don't want an incredibly powerful ally. It's kind of not as interesting.

Well, the stuff that is interesting is the relationship stuff, about the characters, and I don't feel like that has gotten enough attention either.
Last season, Cas' relationship arc got virtually none [of the screen time] -- he was an egomanical God figure, then briefly a Leviathan, then he was crazy. So there wasn't much for him to work with there. This season, there's going to be a lot more of the character interplay, I think. So far, that's what it looks like.

You said earlier you had heard about broad strokes for your character this season. Can you talk about that a little bit?
They don't have that many scripts written, so it's a little tough to speculate, but from what I've heard about where they're going and the scripts that I have seen, the Cas that we're going to be seeing is a Cas that is consistent with the old Cas that we've gotten to know over the years. It feels pretty honest to that character, so I'm excited about that.

Cas and Dean. They're a continual source of speculation, fan fiction, pornography…
Yep. I'm just always gratified that I'm in some small way contributing to any kind of pornography. It warms the cockles of my heart. Words chosen carefully.

Is there a particular emphasis on that relationship this season? Or is it just fighting together in Purgatory and desperate circumstances and all that?
The scripts that I've seen so far have been dealing very much with that relationship between Dean and Cas. Whether that's going to be the most significant or a very significant thread throughout the season, I'm not sure, but my speculation is that yes, it will be fairly [important].

I've written many times that I think one of the problems of the show is that it kills off too many recurring characters. I guess my thinking is that drama often consists of complex relationships and people reacting to each other, so if you take that away … well, it's really hard for the guys to bounce off anyone else if everyone they know is dead. That's just one of my hopes for the new season, that there's more of that built up again. Does that make any sense to you?
It does. And it's something you should probably talk to Jeremy about, but my impression is that they're trying to build a little bit more of that kind of a world. I'm going to be back more significantly. Mark Sheppard is going to be back significantly. There are a couple of other characters I think are going to be woven in as well.

The flip side of that is, when you have characters that are well-loved or well-known by the audience that you're not afraid to kill, it raises the stakes a little bit. You're dealing with these life-and-death situations every week, and if you actually aren't sure if someone isn't going to survive, [it's more dramatic]. Some shows, you know the regular cast is always going to be there.

Yeah, but I feel like the brothers are always in so much danger, not just physically but psychologically, and they're always being put through so much pain -- why pile on? I get it, I get that it adds drama to kill off characters, but their parents are dead. Most of the people they know are dead. I mean, is it like, "Oh, yeah, this is the one that'll make them really depressed."
It is true. And to an extent at this point, Sam and Dean are like, "He was a good guy. Anyway, we got to get moving."

Right, it's like, "Um, I have a thing. Have to go. Sorry about that dead person."
"Guys, the car is idling."

"Supernatural" returns Wednesday, Oct. 3, alongside the new superhero drama "Arrow," on The CW.

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