Supernatural Chat: An Interview with Julian Richings

Appointment in Samarra

Hey there, Supernatural fans! How about that midseason finale last week, eh? I’ve already talked about the episode ad nauseam in my review, so I won’t go into it here.

Now that the midseason finale is over, we’ve started our winter hellatus and I think it’s rather appropriate that my last Supernatural Chat article is an interview with Julian Richings, who played Death on the show. As he says below, Death is sort of the representation of winter.

Richings sat down with me and other members of the press at last month’s Salute to Supernatural convention and here are some of the highlights.

On playing Death and how he approached the role:

“I didn’t have any preconceptions about the part. I approached it like [any] character actor who goes into a show. I knew of Supernatural but I really wasn’t into the show. So I made sure I did a little bit of homework, but all I did was respond to the scene and the way it was written.”

On his first scene as Death and working with Jensen Ackles:

“It’s so well written, that first scene, the whole idea that Death loves pizza. He’s obviously pretty fond of Dean, too. He has a kind of twinkle in his eye and he’s clearly the most powerful man in the universe, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Those were my clues and I just went with those. Jensen was terrific in that he really helped me by playing his fear. He played that he was scared of me and that meant that I didn’t have to be really tough and really brutal with him, and it meant that I could have a bit of fun and enjoy playing with like a cat does with a mouse, in a way. So really it just happened organically.”

On Death being like a gardener:

“The way that I look at it, he does represent change. Death is a cycle. I live in Canada, the different seasons are an incredible thing and I love the fall. I love the reaping of the harvest and the next year it brings spring. I don’t look at it as a force of evil or a force of bad or good, I see it as a natural cycle. I think that’s why his character takes it seriously and teaches Dean a lesson or two about the consequences of not taking it seriously and not reaping when you’re supposed to or when it’s someone’s time. As a result, I don’t think he is a jerk, actually. I think he’s like a gardener or somebody that’s actually cultivating and tending the natural order of things.”

On the conventions and how they compare to working in the theater:

“It is totally different than anything I’ve ever experienced, but I do have a theater background. I’m a theater actor and that’s my training so I’m actually used to being in a room with people. I actually love it and it took me a long time to get used to playing for the camera because you had to forget about the people and play for the lens, which is an inanimate object. But I actually automatically play to everybody in a room so these conventions are a fantastic way of meeting the audience.

On what it’s like meeting fans of Supernatural:

“It’s quite humbling. You realize how committed and how diverse the audience is for Supernatural and how it brings people together. It’s a jumping-off point for an incredible culture of people and I’m seeing certain people at three or four different conventions all over North America. It’s amazing. I feel for me as an actor it’s an amazing opportunity to meet the people who are watching what I do. So I take it very seriously. I mean I joke and I have fun but it’s a great opportunity to actually cut through that sort of idea of being an iconic god on TV and having the minions that watch you. The whole convention thing turns that on its head and it’s so great that we get a chance to make fools of ourselves at things like karaoke. Because we are human, all of us, and we’re telling stories about the human condition.”

On how Supernatural conventions are different than other fan conventions:

“It’s kind of unchartered territory too, because I think Supernatural has taken this whole idea into a different level and it’s still changing and still maturing, and so are fans and so are the interactions between us. I get to the point now where I actually look at other actors and I think of them as the actors and not the characters. So people will ask me a penetrating question about one of the reapers and I’ll go, “Oh, you mean so-and-so?” I think of them as a real person. It’s family and I think it’s family for the actors and family for the fans. It sounds corny to trot out too much, but there’s truth to that: That it really is people that see each other and enjoy being together and it’s cool.”

What did you think of Richings thoughts on Death and the Supernatural conventions? Sound off in the comments below, I love hearing from you guys!

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