Two years after The CW said goodbye to Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) on “Supernatural,” the network has said hello to younger versions of their parents, John and Mary, for prequel series “The Winchesters.” Played by Drake Rodger and Meg Donnelly, this version of the “Supernatural” couple is introduced to viewers at a time well before Sam and Dean are born — when John and Mary serendipitously run into each other when her monster-hunting father has gone missing. John, whose father also has been missing (since he was 4), is completely unfamiliar with this demon-fighting world but steps in to help his badass future wife. Rodger was cast by “The Winchesters” showrunner Robbie Thompson and “Supernatural” star Ackles to fill the formidable Winchester patriarch’s YA shoes.
How much of the character did you base on Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s adult John Winchester from “Supernatural”?
One of the things I talked a lot about with Robbie, Jensen and the whole producing staff a lot was, how do we not try to re-create what Jeffrey Dean did? When you’re playing the younger version of someone, I think that’s a lot of times where people get it wrong, trying to match a performance that’s unmatchable. So a lot of what they had cast was, not that I was trying to play Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s John, but I was trying to play a mix between Sam and Dean. My take on John, especially this early version of John, is how much of Sam and Dean can I incorporate into myself?
Did you watch “Supernatural” before getting cast?
I started “Supernatural” around Seasons 5, 6 and 7. I had binged everything. And I’ve watched it all but the last two seasons — I do know how it ends. I went back and watched the last two episodes of the last season. But when we booked the show, one of the things Jensen said was, do not feel like you need to watch 300 hours of “Supernatural.” But it’s good! I forgot, and rewatching it, you see how good it is.
When will we learn more about John’s past and his father, Henry?
Episode 4 is a big one for John. It’s a Vietnam-centered, trauma-based episode revealing who this John Winchester guy is. Then, as the series goes on, it’s heavily centered around who is John and how well do we actually know him? As for his dad, there’s not much I’m able to say because of timeline stuff. But obviously, him being missing is a critical part of John.
What kind of timeline stuff?
There are a lot of timeline things they’re telling us to keep under wraps: “Don’t post in these clothes.” And the beauty of this show is, a lot of the mystery of it is still a mystery to us as a cast, so we’re able to act it a little bit easier because we don’t know why they want certain things held lock and key. There are so many Easter eggs in our show, and so many callbacks to the mother ship, that I think they want to save those for as many of the fans as they can without spoiling it.
What is it like building the slow-burn romance with Meg Donnelly’s Mary?
It’s tough, because these characters are written to love each other. It’s like Romeo acting opposite Juliet and not being able to spew out some poetic love. But we’ve discussed the timeline of that, and how much to give of John and Mary’s romance in each episode
Things you didn’t know about Drake Rodger
Hometown: Keokuk, Iowa
Favorite CW series that’s not “Supernatural”: “Arrow”
If he weren’t an actor: “I would have been in the military.”
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