The Transformation Of Jared Padalecki From Childhood To Now

Jared Padalecki never meant to be an actor, much less a star. A smart and dedicated student, he planned to use his brains to carve out a career, but an unexpected life awaited the 6'4" Texan and his perfect hair. Padalecki rose to prominence shortly after he graduated from James Madison High School, when he landed the part of Dean Forester, a role he went on to play for five years on "Gilmore Girls." Many years after the show's final season, fans continue to keep Dean's legacy alive, as evidenced by the "Team Dean vs. Team Jess vs. Team Logan" debates that fire up the internet to this day.

Padalecki's skills were quickly recognized, and he was nominated for a Teen Choice Award for choice TV actor: drama in 2002. At that point, Padalecki was already a TV star, but the best was yet to come. In 2005, he snagged the main part on "Supernatural" alongside Jensen Ackles. Together, Ackles and Padalecki introduced the world to the monster-fighting Winchester brothers and one of TV's most famous bromances, which would go on for 15 years, building a passionate and dedicated fanbase along the way. 

While his baby face may be deceiving, Padalecki has been actively working since 2000, meaning he's been in the limelight for multiple decades. And what an eventful couple of decades they have been! Check out Padalecki's transformation, from model student to the star of one of The CW's most popular shows ever

Jared Padalecki enjoyed a happy childhood and supportive family in Texas

Jared Padalecki grew up under the vast Texas skies in San Antonio in the 1980s. Sandwiched between his big brother Jeff and little sister Megan, Padalecki described his younger self as an adventurer, a trait fueled by the freedom he had to explore his surroundings with the help of his bike. "The memories that I really enjoyed are the times where I was free," he told fans at the "Salute to Supernatural" convention in Dallas in 2015. A natural "explorer," Padalecki was allowed to ride unsupervised around his entire neighborhood, not just his street, he added. Climbing trees with his friends was among Padalecki's favorite activities as a child.

Padalecki had a supportive circle that included a tight family and close friends. "I remember feeling very supported. I was very lucky," he said at "Salute to Supernatural." When he moved to Los Angeles to try his luck in acting, Padalecki's brother made him a photo album documenting his life, so that he would have something concrete to remind him of home, he shared in an old Q&A with fans. Padalecki called it "the best present anyone ever gave" him.

His father is Polish, while the background of his mother is "a big hodgepodge," Padalecki said on "The Bonnie Hunt Show." In spite of his heritage, he speaks no Polish beyond "nie." "Unfortunately. I wish I did. I'd like to," he told Bonnie Hunt.

Jared Padalecki spent a whole day alone at Disney World when he was 8

When he was around 8 years old, Jared Padalecki took a road trip with his family to Disney World. At the 2019 "Salute to Supernatural" convention in Toronto, the actor told his story of getting lost at the theme park. Amid the crowded chaos familiar to all who have been to the iconic Orlando attraction early in the morning, Padalecki wandered off from his brother and "papaw." Instead of freaking out, Padalecki decided it was a great opportunity to explore the parks on his own. "There was no way to get a hold of them, so I was like, 'I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to get on the monorail,'" he said.

He went to Epcot Center and Universal Studios and made a day of it until he realized the gates were closing down. That's when he decided it was time to head back to Disney World and look for his family, Padalecki said. He didn't find anyone and headed to the exit — yes, all by himself — and that's where he found his papaw crying his eyes out. His grandfather spent the whole day parked there in hopes of catching a glimpse of his grandson. "He thought I'd been kidnapped, so he was waiting by the exit to see if someone tried to walk out with me," Padalecki explained. Surely he had a better day than his family.

Jared Padalecki's acting career was an unexpected surprise

Jared Padalecki always enjoyed portraying characters. He loved film and eventually considered himself an actor, but he never expected it to turn into a career. Speaking on "The Bonnie Hunt Show," Padalecki explained that he was working on a ranch between his junior and senior years at James Madison High School when his sister mentioned reading about a "trophy presenter contest" in Seventeen magazine. He had a "why not" moment and turned up to the Planet Hollywood in San Antonio to try out for the 1999 Teen Choice Awards, according to Tulsa World.

During the audition, Padalecki shared his love for acting but also noted that he wanted to give his mother, a local teacher in San Antonio, the opportunity to go to California, as the contest winner would get to take someone along. "I think my mom deserves a vacation," he recalls telling them. That was clearly the right thing to say, since he won the contest. While in Los Angeles for the awards show, Padalecki met his manager, and a newfound career was born, he told Bonnie Hunt.

While grateful for the unexpected turn of events, Padalecki knows he was also lucky. "I have a bunch of friends who are really talented actors and actresses and they're like, 'How do you get to where you are?' And I'm like, 'Try out for the Teen Choice Awards?' I don't really know what to say," he told Hunt.

Jared Padalecki was a gifted student and candidate for the Presidential Scholars Program

In high school, Jared Padalecki was a good student and, according to his manager, a National Merit Scholar (via TV Guide). In 1998, Padalecki began competing in speech and debate, proving right away that he had some mad skills as he and his friend Chris Cardenas took home the title of "National Forensic League champion in Duo Interpretation," according to the Dallas Observer. "I think a life well lived is one where you seek out knowledge and you seek out learning ... if you know everything now then you're as smart as you'll ever be. And that to me is depressing, so I try to remind myself, I don't know everything, I have something to learn from everybody," he told the newspaper, reflecting on his interest in speech and debate.

In 2000, the year he graduated, he was a candidate for the Presidential Scholars Program, which recognizes "some of our nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors," according to the program's website. Even after he earned the opportunity to present the Teen Choice Awards, Padalecki was still planning to go to the University of Texas (per TV Guide), but life had different plans for him. What was in store for the actor still fills him with gratitude. "How wonderful life is when you have no idea what's to come," he wrote in a July 2018 Instagram caption that he paired with a high school photo of himself.

Jared Padalecki gave up on his college plans so he could star in Gilmore Girls

After presenting at the Teen Choice Awards, Jared Padalecki booked a small role in the 1999 film "A Little Inside." At this point, he still thought his future was in an academic setting, but that changed when he landed the part of Dean Forester, the first boyfriend of Rory (Alexis Bledel), in "Gilmore Girls." Padalecki packed up his things and headed to Los Angeles to effectively kick off his acting career.

Landing the role of Dean also involved a bit of luck. That's because the role had already been filled and the pilot shot, as Entertainment Weekly noted. The first handsome face to look down at Rory as she picked up her books off the floor at Stars Hollow High School wasn't Padalecki's but Nathan Wetherington's, the report detailed. At the time, Wetherington was in a good position to land the role of Anakin Skywalker, but he decided to withdraw his name from the process. Shortly after, he received a letter informing him he had been replaced in "Gilmore Girls," according to EW.

Padalecki didn't disappoint and gained widespread recognition for his portrayal of the handsome, down-to-earth Dean, whose low profile contrasted with Rory's nerdy, ambitious personality. In Season 1, Padalecki and Bledel, a fellow Texan, dated briefly in real life, he told Glamour. The actor stole the hearts of fans for five years, before he left to star in his career-defining role.

Jared Padalecki's role in Gilmore Girls almost cost him Supernatural

In the early seasons of "Gilmore Girls," the differences between Dean Forester and Jess Mariano, played by Milo Ventimiglia, drive much of the plot as Rory Gilmore falls out of love with one and in with the other. The intellectual bad boy Jess contrasted with Dean's down-to-earth nature, eventually leading to Rory's choosing Jess. In fact, as Bustle noted, Season 2 begins with Rory's grandfather sharing that he doesn't think Dean is smart enough for her.

This aspect of Dean, while relevant to "Gilmore Girls," almost cost Jared Padalecki the role of Sam Winchester in "Supernatural," he told TV Guide. Unlike Dean, Sam was super brainy, so the show's creator, Eric Kripke, had his doubts that Padalecki could play the part the way he had envisioned. "Eric's like, 'Uh, I've seen 'Gilmore Girls.' We want Sam to be really smart.' And so my manager had to go, 'Uh, well, my client is a National Merit Scholar,'" Padalecki told TV Guide.

After the first encounter, Padalecki's manager instructed him to forget about being "charismatic" or "charming." "Just be hyper-intelligent," he told him. It became a running joke between Padalecki and Kripke. "Now we laugh about it. I tease [Kripke] all the time. I'm like, 'Hey man, thanks for thinking I'm smart enough to play Sam,'" he told TV Guide. Who would have thought that participating in all those debate competitions and studying late into the night could bolster one's acting career?

Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles actually competed for the role of Sam Winchester

The casting process for "Supernatural" was not easy as the pairing of the Winchester brothers was of central importance, Kripke explained in a behind-the-scenes interview. "The pressure was really on to cast those two guys. And we saw everybody. We had weeks and weeks of casting, and we weren't, you know, finding who we were looking for," Kripke said.

Jensen Ackles became involved with the project before Jared Padalecki, but here's the catch: Ackles was actually auditioning for the part of Sam, the younger brother, and not Dean, the character he ended up portraying for a whopping 15 seasons. "They wanted to bring me in and read kind of against Jared as opposed to with Jared," Ackles said in the same interview. Padalecki felt the connection with the youngest Winchester from the onset, which he made sure to express to the producers. "I basically said, you know, 'I'd love be a part of this if y'all will have me... I'd love to work my butt off for y'all guys,'" Padalecki recalls telling them at the time.

After deliberating with the others, Kripke decided that Padalecki's likability and soulfulness were a better match for Sam, while Ackles' charisma would work best for the character development of Dean, he explained. When Ackles accepted the role, Kripke knew he had a gem in his hands. "We have a series. We're going to get picked up," he remembers telling the other producers.

The chemistry between Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles molded Supernatural

The chemistry between Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles wasn't something the showrunners had anticipated. In fact, it organically became the soul of "Supernatural," Kripke said in an archived 2009 interview with the Chicago Tribune. Initially, Kripke and his team envisioned the brothers as just "an engine to get us in and out of different horror movies every week," he said. But their relationship was soon driving the plot, and the showrunners began to adapt scripts to reflect that. "[A]round Episode 4 or 5 [of Season 1, executive producer/director] Bob Singer and I were watching the episodes, and we just started saying, 'God, those two guys and their chemistry is so much more interesting than the horror movies we're showing,'" Kripke explained.

Padalecki and Ackles hit it off during the audition process, they revealed at a "Supernatural" convention in New Jersey. Padalecki admitted to being slightly intimidated by "Johnny Handsome," who also had more experience than him, having worked on "Days of Our Lives," "Smallville" and "Dark Angel." But they soon began to bond over what they had in common: Both are from Texas, fans of the Dallas Cowboys, and super into country music. It was a match made in heaven.

Their relationship also became a special factor among "Supernatural" fans, who are famous for their online engagement, as NPR noted. Unsurprisingly, Padalecki and Ackles (along with co-star Misha Collins) won the People's Choice Award for favorite TV bromance in 2014.

Jared Padalecki met his wife on the set of Supernatural in 2008

Jared Padalecki fell for a demon. That's right, Padalecki's wife, Genevieve Cortese, replaced Katie Cassidy in 2008 as the demon Ruby in "Supernatural." A year later, in October 2009 (per Us Magazine), Padalecki proposed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in front of Jules Bastien-Lepage's "Joan of Arc," the couple's favorite painting, Sun Valley magazine details. Padalecki and Cortese wed on a snowy February day in Cortese's native Idaho the following year.

It may not feel like that long ago, but Padalecki and Cortese have been married for 11 years. In honor of their 10th anniversary, Padalecki took to Instagram to celebrate their bond. "Ten years ago today, I was able to convince my best friend to marry me. I can't even imagine what I must have done in a past life to deserve to be able spend THIS one with this phenomenal women. [sic] I am the luckiest man alive. Love you baby. Here's to 10 THOUSAND more," he gushed.

Before tying the knot with Cortese, Padalecki was in a long-term relationship with actor Sandra McCoy, whom he met working on the 2005 horror film "Cry Wolf," he told TV Guide. In 2007, Padalecki and McCoy worked together in an episode of "Supernatural" titled "Bedtime Stories," per TV Guide. The couple got engaged in early 2008, Just Jared reported, before eventually calling it quits.

Jared Padalecki is a family man through and through

After finding the perfect match in Genevieve Cortese, Jared Padalecki also discovered that he would make a great dad. On March 19, 2012, he and Cortese became first-time parents when they welcomed Thomas Colton, a name they decided on after their son was born. When Cortese was still expecting, Padalecki told Us Weekly, "We don't want to put it out there, like try and turn him into something before we meet the kid. We want to get a feel for who this kid is before we name him," he said. The happy couple didn't wait long to expand their family, adding Austin Shepherd, or Shep, to the brood in December 2013, when Cortese gave birth at their home, Padalecki said on Twitter. A little over three years later, on March 17, 2017, they welcomed their third child, this time a daughter named Odette, whom they call Dot. 

When not working, Padalecki dedicates all of his time to his family, People learned in 2014. "I am violently protective of my — I call it my off-time — when I'm not working. I'm straight home and whether they're in Vancouver or they're in Seattle or wherever we happen to be I'm straight to them," Padalecki said. In January 2021, Padalecki noted on Instagram that he is "Forever grateful that my best friends also happen to be my family," including photos of Cortese and another of his brother and sister-in-law. Padalecki is indeed a family man.

In 2015, Jared Padalecki opened up about his mental health struggles

In March 2015, Jared Padalecki launched the "Always Keep Fighting" T-shirt campaign to help raise funds for To Write Love on Her Arms, a nonprofit organization that works with people suffering from addiction, depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts, Variety reported at the time. Padalecki's own experience with depression inspired him to act, he told Variety. And his experience portraying Sam Winchester in "Supernatural" inspired him to be the person to do the helping. "Sam and Dean, are always dealing with something greater than themselves, and I've sort of learned from the two of them that they get through it with each other, and with help and with support," he told the magazine.

Padalecki explained that his depression peaked while filming Season 3, when he had what he described as a breakdown, per Variety. "[I]t kind of hit me like a sack of bricks. ... It's not just people who can't find a job, or can't fit in in society that struggle with depression sometimes," he said. Padalecki noted that counting on the support of his two best friends, one being Jensen Ackles, was crucial.

That summer, more than 6,000 fans held up candles during a "Supernatural" convention to show support for his fight against depression, per ET. "I will never forget this day. ... TOGETHER, we can and will make a difference! Keep letting your light shine. I will do the same," he wrote on Facebook (via ET).

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Jared Padalecki was arrested in 2019 outside a bar he owned

In 2018, the '90s-themed bar Stereotype opened its doors in Austin, Texas, and Jared Padalecki had "a stake in" the establishment, per Eater Austin. The next year, Padalecki left the bar handcuffed. As the Los Angeles Times reported at the time, Padalecki was arrested on October 27, 2019, after an argument with an assistant manager reportedly "turned physical." He was accused of slapping the assistant manager and punching the general manager, who was trying to separate Padalecki from the assistant manager and a doorman, the report detailed. Padalecki was charged with "public intoxication and assault with injury." "Jared appeared to be intoxicated," one of the arresting officers wrote in the report, per the LA Times.

The criminal incident caused Padalecki to miss a "Supernatural" convention in November of that year, per a separate Los Angeles Times report. His co-star Jensen Ackles walked onto the stage solo to a rowdy crowd. "There's a lot of love. I'm going to tell Jared to stay home more often," he said in his characteristically ironic tone. He promptly added that he was joking. "We all miss my big dumb friend," he said and asked fans to send Padalecki "some support and love." On November 3, 2019, Padalecki took to Twitter to thank everybody. "I want to sincerely thank my family and friends for all of your love and support. So sad to miss the #SPNFamily at #dccon but I hope to see y'all soon," he wrote.

Jared Padalecki bid farewell to Supernatural after 15 years in 2020

"Supernatural" shaped Jared Padalecki in more ways than one. After 15 seasons, the show not only drove Padalecki's career, but it also gave him his wife, Genevieve Cortese, and his best friend and on-screen brother, Jensen Ackles. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Padalecki said he and Ackles were the ones who decided that the show would end after Season 15, a decision he believed they came to in Season 13. After spending "2,500 days" on set together, Padalecki and Ackles had enough time to think it through.

Padalecki said he was "100 percent" satisfied with the ending, but that doesn't mean he didn't get emotional over it. "I think I cried every time I read the script. And not because of what happens in the script," he said, highlighting that he is an "emotional guy. I'm a Cancer." He indeed teared up while describing their last day on set and then driving from Vancouver, Canada, where the series was shot, across the border for the last time with Ackles. "It was right during all the wildfires, so the sky was really weird. It felt like a 'Supernatural' episode or something. ... We crossed the border together and it just felt like a pretty poignant meaningful full-circle [moment]," he said.

The series finale wasn't exactly what fans had expected, as Screen Rant pointed out. But, as Padalecki indicated in the EW interview, the finale of a beloved show can feel a bit inadequate for the actors, too.

Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles had a rather public falling out in 2021

After headlining one of TV's best known bromances, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles sent their dedicated fanbase into a frenzy of anxiety in June 2021. The whole thing began with a Deadline report that announced Ackles and his wife, Danneell, were working on a prequel to "Supernatural." Titled "The Winchesters," the project aimed to tackle the story of how Sam and Dean's parents met, per the report. Ackles was set to reprise his character as the narrator and also act as the series' executive producer.

The issue? Apparently, Padalecki had been kept in the dark about the "Supernatural" spinoff developed by his best friend and groomsman. He took to Twitter the same day the article was published to reply to a tweet by Ackles that included its link. "Dude. Happy for you. Wish I heard about this some way other than Twitter. I'm excited to watch, but bummed that Sam Winchester had no involvement whatsoever," he wrote.

Speaking with The New York Times in August 2021, Padalecki clarified that he and Ackles talked things out the morning after the tweets. Ackles explained that the project was still in the early stages and that "[i]t was just something that he didn't feel really even existed yet," Padalecki said, emphasizing they're on good terms. "I love Jensen deeply. He's my brother — he has been for many years, and he always will be, no matter what," Padalecki told The New York Times.

Jared Padalecki is reprising Chuck Norris' character in The CW's Walker reboot

In 2019, The CW announced it was working on a reboot of CBS' "Walker, Texas Ranger," which ran between 1993 and 2001 and starred Chuck Norris in the titular role, as Deadline reported at the time. The current iteration, titled simply "Walker," premiered in January 2021, with Jared Padalecki bringing Cordell Walker to life in the action-slash-crime series. In addition to his leading role, Padalecki is also one of the series' executive producers, per The New York Times. "I have so much I want to say. BUT, I'd rather give y'all the time to watch the premiere of Walker [smiley]. But I will say this, it's been a long road, and I couldn't be more proud to bring you a new character and a new world," Padalecki wrote on Instagram when the show premiered.

Padalecki's wife, Genevieve, has a recurring role in the show as Walker's late wife. Considering that they met on the set of "Supernatural," the couple has experience working together, so sharing the screen shouldn't pose any issues for the family. "Being able to show her off to the cast and crew was awesome," Padalecki told People, adding that he is happy his wife is working again. "She sacrificed so much while I was in Vancouver [shooting 'Supernatural']." As Deadline reported, "Walker" was renewed for Season 2, giving fans more time to enjoy Padalecki flaunting his Texas Ranger uniform.