The untold truth of Supernatural

It feels like Supernatural has been on TV since the dawn of time. Since its debut in 2005, it's transformed from a scrappy one-off horror show to a serialized apocalypse story to one of the best family dramas on television. The series has continuously reinvented itself in ways that only Supernatural can, taking advantage of a unique premise and a willing cast to craft beautiful, hilarious stories nearly every week. Although the project has had its ups and downs, the show still has a rabid fan base willing to do just about anything for its favorite hunters, but even its most passionate followers might not know some of these surprising behind-the-scenes facts about the series. Here is the untold truth of Supernatural.

Casting chaos

It's hard to imagine anyone other than Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki playing the Winchesters, something producers immediately noted when the two read for the parts. But there was one problem: casting saw them both as the same Winchester brothers. Creator Eric Kripke told Variety that Ackles, who was invited to audition due to his work on Smallville (2001-11), initially auditioned to play Sam, with producers falling in love with him in that role. However, when Padalecki came to audition, they thought he was great in the part too.

"Looking back, we were such idiots to not see it," Kripke said. "We had two great Sams and no Dean and you think it would be obvious to put one into the other role, but it was not obvious." He said that it was Warner Brothers president Peter Roth who eventually solved the problem, simply suggesting, "why don't you make Jensen Dean?" Kripke added, "It's so difficult to find one actor who is charismatic enough to be a breakout character and to support a show. So to find two of them, where there's only two leads…I didn't realize what a miracle it was at the time."

Jensen was game to try out for both roles. He said at the William S. Paley Television Festival in 2006 (via a transcript on the Supernatural Wiki) that he was intrigued by the role of Dean when he first read the script, thinking, "What about Dean? I like Dean. He's funny." Producers called him in later that night to read for that character alongside Padalecki's Sam (they were the only pair of actors called), and the rest, as they say, is history.

Soapy beginnings

Most people know what Padalecki was doing before Supernatural: the actor famously appeared as Dean, Rory's first boyfriend, on Gilmore Girls (2000-07) and reprised his role in the Netflix revival in 2016. However, some fans may not realize that co-star Ackles also has some very dramatic roots.

As briefly shown in "The French Mistake" during Season 6 of Supernatural, Ackles used to play Eric Brady on NBC's Days of Our Livesthe same soap that launched the careers of Lisa Rinna, Melinda Clarke, Shelley Hennig, and Mila Kunis. Ackles isn't the only Supernatural star who appeared on the soap. Jim Beaver, who played Bobby Singer, also starred on Days and even shared a very #tbt-worthy scene with Ackles. Although their interaction was brief, it was clearly the start of a beautiful friendship.

A family connection

Fans who watched early episodes of Supernatural might remember it as a slightly different show, focused more heavily on the monsters' stories (and using big names such as Bloody Mary and the Hookman) and less so on the relationship between Sam and Dean. According to show writer Sera Gamble, this started to change when the creators began to notice the crazy amount of chemistry between Ackles and Padalecki.

"We were realizing the thing that we most enjoyed when we were watching cuts of the show was the chemistry between the brothers, and that the mythology we were constructing for the season was really a family story about two young men and their father, and this family legacy that they're trying to deal with," Gamble told Variety. "That was the heart of the show, and if we paid attention to how each monster story resonated with the relationship between the brothers, then the show was always really interesting."

Supernatural has become so mired in Sam and Dean's relationship that it's hard to imagine it any other way, but had the show's creators not been so observant and open-minded, the series could have swung in an entirely different direction.

Changing channels

Supernatural has always been a bubble show, with ratings varying over the years but often dipping into the lower ranges due to stiff competition with fellow time slot contenders, from Lost (2004-10) to "Shondaland" to The Big Bang Theory (2007-). "Every year we have to fight for our survival," Kripke told TV.com in 2008. "The biggest determinant of whether or not we come back and really tell the story correctly is in the hands of the fans."

One of the most nerve-racking times for Supernatural came when the show's WB network merged with UPN to form The CW right after its debut season. Supernatural was one of the few shows that survived the merger. "So if we were nervous about what was going to happen to us to begin with, then when we found out there was going to be a new captain of the network ship so to speak, it certainly didn't settle our stomachs," Padalecki told Variety.

Despite ratings struggles over the years, Supernatural's enthusiastic fan base has kept it on the air, and, at the time of this writing, Season 13 has been secured. The series shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

A five year plan?

Longstanding lore in Supernatural fandom says that creator Kripke had a three-season plan that eventually shifted to five seasons as the show's popularity increased. Rumor has it that once the original plan was completed, Kripke decided to depart the show and move on to other projects, leaving daily show-running duties to Gamble.

Kripke told The Futon Critic in a 2007 interview, "We have a five year plan that by design we keep huge gaping holes in the middle of it, because you just don't know how things are going to evolve." He told IGN two years later that he did have a 5-year plan, but that it was born of "low self-esteem." Writer John Shiban also confirmed this to DigitalSpy in 2007, saying, "In the very beginning, we mapped out, we put signposts up for about five years in our head. We kind of knew that at the end of season one, this is where we'd like to be, end of season two, etc. We're kind of sticking to it, but we were careful…careful to have a broad idea of where we wanted to end up."

Kripke has since backtracked on these claims, telling Collider in 2010 that "plans are not set in stone," and in a 2014 interview with Variety, he said the long-term plan was never actually a thing. "If I've said in the past that I had this five year plan from the beginning, I was lying," he said. "I always knew what that particular season was going to be; 'by midseason I want to be here, by the end of the season I want to be there.' And then I always had a rough sketch what the season after that would be. I will say I knew that the show was going to come down to evil Sam versus good Dean and the fate of the world was going to hang in the balance—that was baked into the pilot. I wanted to build it to something that felt conclusive because I didn't want these mysteries and mythologies to stretch on forever."

So why has Kripke supposedly changed his story about his story? Was he just trying to make it seem like he knew what he was doing, or was saying the 5-year plan was a lie the lie? Around and around we go. We may never know the truth.

Rock on, wayward son

Classic rock has always been an integral part of Supernatural, with the show even bringing in rock star Rick Springfield to play Lucifer in Season 12. One song that fans will remember from the series is Kansas' hit song "Carry On Wayward Son," which has been used to open most of the show's seasons. According to Kripke, the inspiration for the song came from his childhood. "#SPNFunFact: we had an old jukebox in our basement growing up," he tweeted in 2015. "I found a song on it that I liked and played a LOT: #CarryOnWaywardSon."

Music has had other impacts on the show as well. Kripke tweeted in November 2015 that Crowley and the Crossroads demons were inspired by the music of Robert Johnson. There are also, of course, the many episode titles that mirror classic rock songs. The music "was something that was really important to me, coming into the pilot," Kripke said at the William S. Paley Television Festival in 2006 (via a transcript on the Supernatural Wiki). "I'm from a small town in Ohio and this is the music I listen to. I was a huge Zeppelin fan. So when it came time to write and produce the pilot, it was so important to me, with all due respect to my beloved network, not to have music that is usually on that network. I was so rabid about it that in the original draft of the pilot, I even wrote in the script, 'Cue music. And you can take your anemic alternative pop and shove it up your a**.'"

While the show has mostly focused on Dean's music choices over Sam's (remember that one time Sam installed an iPod in the Impala?), Kripke told The Futon Critic that he imagines Sam listening to "whatever cool modern music is," adding, "I am so a stranger in a strange land when it comes to those bands, that's why you never hear Sam's soundtrack because I don't know that music." Driving home his point, he said, "That's why Dean's music always wins out because I hate so much modern music that I can't bear to listen to it in the editing room."

Sam and Ruby forever

Padalecki quietly began dating co-star Genevieve Cortese, who played Ruby on the show. The pair announced its engagement in January 2010 and married the next month. While the celebs kept their relationship quiet before the wedding, they have been fairly public since, with both regularly posting adorable pics of their kids on social media. In November 2016, the couple announced its expecting a third child.

Padalecki and Cortese's romance was spoofed in the very meta Season 6 episode called "The French Mistake." Considered one of the series' best episodes, Sam and Dean are sent into an alternate universe in which they are actors named Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles on a TV show called Supernatural. Padalecki talked to Screener about filming that episode with his wife. "She was a great sport, and she had a fun time making fun of ourselves and actors and actresses in general," he said. "The way [Jared] presented it was so funny," Cortese added. "I was like, any chance to make fun of myself, and to make fun of the industry, I'm so there."

Real-life friendships

Padalecki didn't just meet his wife on Supernatural—he also met some of his best friends. As can easily be seen from the cast's social media accounts, everyone on Supernatural is incredibly close, chilling outside of work on what appears to be a pretty regular basis. Padalecki and Ackles even lived together in a house in Vancouver during the early seasons of the show, before either was married.

About meeting one another for the first time, Padalecki told Entertainment Tonight, "It was like immediately, 'Oh I've got best friends that are exactly like you!' and vice versa so good job, Network, on pairing us up together."

Based on social media postings, Misha Collins and Mark Shepard have definitively joined the squad at this point too, and the cast appears to love to play pranks on each other behind the scenes. Basically, if you're not following the Supernatural gang online, you're definitely missing out.

Always keep fighting

"Always keep fighting" sounds like a fitting motto for Sam and Dean, but it's actually related to the show in a different way. Always Keep Fighting is the name of a campaign started by Padalecki and inspired by his own battle with depression.

In an interview with Variety, Padalecki detailed a moment while filming Season 3 when he went to his trailer to get changed and had a breakdown, prompting a doctor to tell him that he was likely clinically depressed. "It kind of hit me like a sack of bricks," he said. "I mean, I was 25 years old. I had my own TV show. I had dogs that I loved and tons of friends and I was getting adoration from fans and I was happy with my work, but I couldn't figure out what it was; it doesn't always make sense is my point. It's not just people who can't find a job, or can't fit in in society that struggle with depression sometimes."

Padalecki thought it was important to start speaking out about his experience, and Arrow (2012-) star Stephen Amell gave him the idea to launch an Always Keep Fighting Represent t-shirt campaign to raise money for suicide prevention charities such as the Wounded Warrior Project and To Write Love on Her Arms. Since then, lots of Padalecki's costars and fans have helped promote the project. More than 7,000 fans brought candles to a 2015 Comic-Con panel in a show of support, something Padalecki said was so touching that "it took everything not to cry."