March 18, 2019
On Saturday, March 16, 2019, Toledo native and Supernatural creator Eric Kripke sat down for a interview onstage with a local radio host at the Toldeo Museum of Art. It was a very interesting conversation covering his career, the shows and movies he's made, and how Supernatural began. Here are some of the details and my observations:
Eric Kripke grew up in Toldeo.He remembers seeing ET and how it made him feel as well as the effect it had on the audience and he thought he'd really like to do that someday.To create something like that.
He made home movies when he was young. They were always comedies.He was sure he'd be a comedy writer.He also heard, early on, that USC had a film school and it seemed to him like it was THE film school and he decided he wanted to go there. Ultimately, that is where he attended college.
He planned to make a short film called Truly Committed for many years before he finally made it as a senior at USC around 1996 which was the year he graduated.
From 1996-2003 he struggled to make any new short films. He had no money and did lots of odd jobs. He sometimes panicked a bit thinking it may never happen for him.He entered Truly Committed in film festival competitions and occasionally won; perhaps a total of about $5,000 which funded the next short film; a
comedy called Battle of the Sexes.Having his films screened at film festivals led to several low-paying screenwriting jobs.
He thought he'd only do comedy, but he found out he really wasn't a great comedy writer.
He wrote a horror movie to blow off some steam when nothing was going his way.Every victim in the horror movie had the name of a studio head who'd rejected him.That movie was Boogeyman.He thought this horror movie was a one-time thing but a friend of a friend gave the script to Sam Raimi and
ultimately the movie was made.
Someone at the WB had seen Boogeyman and asked him to write the pilot for their new show "Tarzan in New York".He never loved Tarzan but when asked to write it, he told the studio he absolutely LOVED Tarzan...he lived and breathed it and it was his absolute favorite. He completely bluffed his way into the job. He wrote the pilot.David Nutter directed. Later, David Nutter would direct the pilot for Supernatural.
He had no idea what he was doing on Tarzan.It only lasted 8 episodes before it was cancelled.He was around 28 years old then and screwed up on that show in every way possible.The WB president called him to tell him that Tarzan had been cancelled and he acted disappointed, but he was secretly relieved it was over.
He had worked hard on it though and the WB took notice of his work ethic.
They asked what he would want to write if he could choose.
He had already thought up the idea for Supernatural years ago.His original idea was that there would be this reporter who wrote for a tabloid and drove around researching and writing about urban legends.The WB, that day in that room, said, "no thanks, we'll pass".He then immediately asked them what they didn't like about his idea.They liked the urban legend angle, but not the reporter as the main character.They thought it had been done before. Right there on the spot, he totally made up a slightly different idea. Something like the old Route 66 TV show where there were two guys on an endless road trip...on the spot he said the leads could be brothers instead of the single reporter (he had not thought of this before)and they'd drive a muscle car.He lied, saying his notes for this "other" idea were at home and could he have a week before coming back to pitch the new idea?They agreed and he went home and wrote like hell.
That original pitch he came back with was the one we've all read. (There's a link to it on the right side of this wiki's homepage.)
They agreed to his second version of Supernatural.
The show was heavily influenced by Toldeo and his Midwest upbringing, especially the early seasons. He grew up on Breckenridge and that was the location of the haunted house in the pilot.He said the Midwest and the colors of the Midwest and the feel of the Midwest heavily influenced SPN.
The interviewer asked him about the classic rock in SPN.He said his older siblings introduced him to classic rock and he had grown up listening to it.At the time, the shows on the WB had a lot of hip, current music in them like songs by Death Cab for Cutie that he said made him want to gouge his eyes out.He pitched the classic rock idea and the WB said, "No."They wanted to use the standard WB-style "hip" music.
He threatened to quit over the music.He said he was not bluffing.He meant it.The music had to stay. He thought the studio execs were kind of stunned that he'd threaten to quit when the show was ready to go and they relented.
He only threatened to quit twice during Supernatural.The other time was when they wanted to show the first flashback of Sam and Dean as children and the WB wanted him to cut that.He threatened to quit then too. He felt the flashbacks were essential to telling the story. He quickly realized that threatening to quit is one thing you can't keep doing; you have to mean that you will really quit if you threaten it. You can't bluff.Both times, the WB caved.
The interviewer asked if it was hard for him to hand off Supernatural after five seasons.He said yes and no.It was his baby.He didn't want to let it go, but he also felt a bit burned out and unsure as to where to take the story after season 5.He thought it needed fresh eyes and new ideas.It was the first time he didn't know what the start of the next season (season 6) would look like.He talked it over with Sera Gamble and decided to step away.He wanted it to stay fresh. At first, right after he passed it off, he still wanted to control it and tried to control it from afar.He worried about it and how it was going and sometimes disagreed with some aspect of what was being done, but he soon realized you couldn't do that; micromanage (my word)...he had to let the worry go.
He moved on to make Revolution, then Timeless.Fans tried so hard to keep both shows on the air.Both shows lasted for two years.
Revolution was pure hard work for him. It took a lot out of him and he worked 17 hour days 6-7 days a week on it; on set every day.He began to feel it was not healthy for him.He was, again, relieved when it ended.It was not a happy time for him.
By contrast, Timeless was much more enjoyable.It wasfun.Very positive.He had two other show runners to share the workload with.It was a positive show and he made an effort to include stories about minorities and LBGTQ people.He was so grateful to fans for their dedication.Fans often ask him why HE cancelled Timeless and he has to strongly respond that HE did not cancel it.The ratings were not high enough and it was a business decision that was painful for him but one that he nevertheless understood the network had to make.
He talked a bit about writing the screenplay for the movie The House with the Clock in its Walls.
The House with the Clock in its Walls was a story he grew up reading.He read it in elementary school when he took the book out of the school library.He even wrote a fan letter to the author; the only fan letter he ever wrote; and he received a reply from the author that he kept.He feels there is a direct line from that book to Supernatural.There are creepy things that happen in the Midwest, but you can get through it with the love of your family.The book also contains real folklore.
The rights to "Clock" had never come up for sale. When they finally did, he knew he wanted to be the one to make the movie.In trying to convince those selling the rights that he should be the one, he took in the childhood fan letter he wrote to the author to demonstrate how much this meant to him. He got the rights.
He thought making the movie would be a fun and enjoyable exercise in nostalgia...but it turned out to be so incredibly stressful.When you are writing a screen adaptation, you can't exactly copy the original book and he LOVED the original book so he was constantly worried that he'd cut or add something that would completely wreck the genius of the original.He was afraid to change too much of something he already loved.He agonized over those choices.
His new series, The Boys, will be available starting this July on Amazon Prime. He wrote the pilot for The Boys while making The House with the Clock in its Walls.The Boys is based on a comic book series by Garth Ennis who also wrote the Preacher comic book series.It is set in a world where superheroes are real.But they're famous and more like celebrity douchebags than selfless heroes.They have huge egos (sounds a bit like his take on angels!).His friend Seth Rogan pitches it this way: "What if Iron Man was really Robert Downey Jr.".There are a group of regular humans; blue-collar men (and one woman) whose job it is to keep the superheroes in line largely through manipulation.
He loves the Marvel universe and said that, of course "D.C. sucks out loud!"He enjoys the idea of puncturing the superhero myth.How would they really act in the real world?For example, in The Boys, the Aquaman-like character has really low self-esteem because he can only solve water-adjacent crimes and there aren't that many of those.The Superman-inspired character has the problem of thinking he's a God, which really makes him a bit of a real-world sociopath.
He says he has a truly filthy sense of humor and The Boys will be the most accurate reflection of that.He's very excited about the new show and it feels very personal to him.It's also on Amazon Prime, so the characters can swear.He showed a clip full of jump-cuts and lots of action.You didn't get much sense of the story, but the action seems interesting and the regular-world characters seem like they could be compelling.
Then it was time for audience questions.They did not leave nearly enough time for this.There was a long line and they only ended up taking 7 questions.
1. Is he aware of all of the organizations and charities that have sprung up around Supernatural? Especially those dedicated to mental heath.
He's very aware of the charities that have sprung up around SPN and he loves the SPN community and the good that they do. The questioner ended by saying that Supernatural is an awesome escape for many people and thanked him for creating it.
2. In French Mistake, did he know his character would be killed with a shotgun?
He said he was actually on set most of season 6 and oversaw most of it as he tried to make the transition to Sera Gamble as showrunner a smooth one. He and writer Ben Edlund came up with the idea.Kripke himself suggested that he be shot.Kripke really wanted to play himself, but executive producer and director Bob Singer told him he's a terrible actor, no way was he playing himself.Some of the stunt and camera crew did play themselves in that episode.
3. When Supernatural ends, will he write or be involved in the writing of the final episode?
He's not sure.It depends a bit on what the situation is when it does end.Right now, for example, he's under contract with
Sony (for The Boys?) and there could be some contractual issues with him writing for the CW...he may not be contractually allowed to do it, but he'd like to be involved.There was a bit of an audible gasp or sigh of disappointment from the crowd at this.
4.How is he able to soldier on after rejection?
He said you have to train yourself to be able to get through
heartbreak.You have to learn to have grit.Every rejection is horrible, but you have to try again.One day it will work.He's found that there's a common thread among successful people and that is that they've been successful in spite of and after many many failures.
5. If he could could bring the character of John Winchester back, would he be brought back as someone Sam and Dean would have to kill?
Kripke said no, he would have done it like it was done in the 300th episode and he felt that was a very good cathartic (my word) way for John to come back. He thought it was great.He approved.
6. Since Supernatural was such a huge success, does that mean he now knows the secret of what will make a show a hit?
He said definitely not.He was just as enthusiastic about Timeless as he was about Supernatural and you never know how it will turn out.
7.A man said that he thinks his life story is a good one (the questioner)...he was a cop or something and wants to sell his story to be made into a show and how should he do it?He doesn't know where to go to peddle it.
Kripke said you can't start with big studios or expect a high-end manager to be interested...they usually do not accept unsolicited scripts, but some smaller outfits do and you have to seek those out and start there.He himself wrote 12 scrips that were rejected and he was very passionate about each one.He told the guy to try and if that doesn't work, write something else and try that.The guy pointed out that he only has one life story and that's all there is.Kripke told him he'd better get out and live a bit more life
then so he has more stories if the first one is rejected."Get out and live some more life then, man."
After the presentation was over there was the chance for fans to talk to him, get an autograph, and take a photo. He was extremely gracious and appreciative with everyone.
If he has one professional flaw, it might be that he gets very excited about every new project and almost works himself to death on each one to the point that he's glad when it's finished. This was not the case with every project of his, but he's obviously very passionate about his work. I found him to be a kind and self-deprecating man.