If there’s one thing that Misha Collins knows how to do, it’s break the ice. When our founder, Nanea Hoffman, and I met him in Burbank, California at the Salute to Supernatural Convention, he was intrigued. “Sweatpants & Coffee?” he asked. “Well, it’s a super weird name, so good on you.” Luckily, we know that “weird” is a huge compliment in the world of Misha.
Collins makes his directorial debut on Supernatural in episode 9.17, “Mother’s Little Helper.” Fortunately, after playing the angel Castiel since season four, he knew he would feel right at home. “It’s nice going into my first big directing experience with a crew that knows me, that I know,” Collins said. “I’m not going to feel like a fish out of water. Jared and Jensen in general are pretty respectful of directors that come in. They generally give first time directors on the show a wide berth and certainly give them a fair shot.” But, he added, jokingly, “I’m not going to have that experience.” Two pies in the face from the boys later, he proved that presumption correct.
Despite that on-set pranking that Supernatural is famous for, Collins took his directing gig very seriously. An on-set source reports that Collins made sure that the joking around during the shoot itself was kept to a minimum. And apparently, the source added, he was a natural. “He seemed very comfortable in the role,” they said. “It didn’t appear at all like it wasn’t something he had done before.” That was partially due to the fact that Collins had the comfort of knowing he was working with an exceptional crew. “The crew is a well oiled machine,” Collins said. “You have department heads of areas like visual effects and special effects and makeup effects who all have your back. They want to do the best job they possibly can.”
Credit CW Supernatural Facebook page
Collins prepared for the gig by seeking out advice from seasoned vets. “Basically, I have grilled every director that has come along and asked for their input, and I have been storing it all up,” he said. Those vets included former episode director Jensen Ackles. “I have talked to Jensen about his experiences. He’ll deny it, but he actually gave me a bunch of advice that was helpful.” Careful to ensure that Ackles doesn’t get a swelled head, Collins added, “That stays here in this room!”
Credit CW Supernatural Facebook page
Collins saw his role as being the force that took all input and brought it into a cohesive whole. It was a task that he was given much more control over than he might have been on another production. “I think Supernatural, probably more than a lot of episodic television, gives directors a fair amount of leeway and allows them to do their thing,” Collins said. “We don’t have a director producer on-site. Kim Manners was up in Canada, but he passed away in Season Four. Since then, we have not had a director producer on the show. A lot of shows will have a point guy–basically someone who will direct maybe five episodes in the season but will also keep an eye on the production and make sure the guest directors coming in are doing things the way they are supposed to be doing them. There is nobody (on set) saying ‘we don’t do that’, and that probably gives the tone of the show a little bit more variation than a lot of episodic television. It’s not all the same. But we have the same cinematographer and the same wardrobe department and we have a lot of key department heads who are giving a consistent tone to it. That helps even things out a little bit.” Of course, Collins teased, not having that point guy isn’t always beneficial. “We don’t have that guy on Supernatural so sometimes people will come in and totally f**k stuff up.” Collins’ dead-pan delivery didn’t let us know he was joking, but the admiration he expressed for the crew certainly did.
Of course, Collins knew he wasn’t in it alone. “I think that for the most part the crew is supportive and helpful,” he said. “At least for the first day or so. Once they see how badly I am botching things they may throw their hands up in disgust and abandon me.” Collins also knew that even though there was no point man in Canada, he would have the full support of the show runners in Los Angeles. “If there is a question that pops up, Bob Singer and Jeremy (Carver) will get a phone call.”
When asked how he would handle it if he ever had to direct himself, Collins responded with his usual dry wit. “If I am directing myself, the most direction I will give is ‘Oh wow! Way to bring it!’” he said. “But in a perfect world, I would be very light in the episode or not in it at all. Because it is just more to think about.”
Dabbling in directing doesn’t mean he’s giving up his day job. Collins is still excited to bring everyone’s favorite wayward angel to life. “One of the things that I like about working on Supernatural is that it isn’t stagnant for my character. There is always something new going on,” Collins said. “Making him be a human is something that I had my fingers crossed that they would do starting back in Season Five. So I was really glad that they did it and I think they did it in a really interesting way. So I’m really happy about that.” Although the writers made Cas more “mundane” in Season Nine, teaching him to brush his teeth and feed himself, they never shied away from the more important questions. “The big question that Cas grappled with was the meaning in just being human. Like, being a human in and of itself. Is working at a convenience store something that gives purpose and meaning to one’s existence? That was a pretty good question to be grappling with.”
Of course, the project nearest and dearest to Collins’ heart may just be the YouTube cooking show he does with his son West. “’Cooking Fast and Fresh with West’ is, for those of you who haven’t seen it, just fun with my three year old.” For the last episode he filmed, the third in the series, Collins felt a little more pressure. “I was a little nervous because he’s older now and he’s talking and he’s a little self conscious of the cameras,” Collins said. “The episode started really lame, because he wasn’t doing the stuff he did before, and then when he got into the kitchen appliances things really took shape, so it’s really funny. I couldn’t stop laughing. Just tears streaming down my face.”
Misha Collins has already made his mark in the world of acting, showing superior skill and finesse. As he makes his episodic television directing debut, we are certain he will do the same. One thing we, as Supernatural superfans, are totally confident about? Our beloved show is in excellent hands.