The Empire Stage at New York Comic Con 2022 quickly filled up on Sunday afternoon for a panel about The Winchesters, The CW’s spinoff of Supernatural that serves as a prequel to the hit fantasy drama which ran for 15 seasons between 2005 to 2020. As Supernatural told the story of monster-hunting brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, respectively), The Winchesters takes the story back to 1972, before Sam and Dean were born, to explore the early hunting careers of their parents. Young John Winchester, portrayed by Jeffrey Dean Morgan in Supernatural, is now played by Drake Rodger, while the Winchester brothers’ mother, Mary Campbell, is played by Meg Donnelly, rather than Samantha Smith who depicted the character’s older counterpart in Supernatural.
Things kicked off immediately with the world premiere of The Winchesters’ pilot, ahead of its October 11th debut on television. The episode follows John Winchester after he returns home from a traumatic experience fighting in the Vietnam War, as he sees his mother, Millie (​​Bianca Kajlich) for the first time since leaving home years ago, and meets his future-wife, Mary, for the first time. While John is new to the world of monster hunting, Mary is already trying to escape that dangerous life. “My parents put a knife in my hand before I could even hold it,” she says.
During their first monster hunting expedition together, John also meets Mary’s companions, Latika Desai (Nida Khurshid), an eager librarian who’s early in her own education as a hunter, and Carlos Cervantez (Jojo Fleites), a sexually fluid, confident hunter who often butts heads with Mary.
Every major character received zealous cheers from the fans the first time they appeared on screen, but if audience reaction is any indication, Carlos is poised to become the breakout star of The Winchesters. With his hippie aesthetic that recalls a young Robert Plant, his love for rock ‘n’ roll, his cocky-yet-charmingly aloof personality, and a swaggering performance by Fleites, not to mention a refreshingly matter-of-fact approach to his queerness, I suspect to see a lot of love for Carlos among fans as the series continues, and hopefully big things on the horizon for Fleites’ career.
As this pilot is technically the first episode of a new series, it should be relatively accessible for newcomers to the Supernatural universe, but as the Q&A that followed the premier indicated, this spinoff was designed with longtime fans in mind. The panelists included showrunner Robbie Thompson, stars Drake Rodger and Meg Donnelly, and executive producers Daneel and Jensen Ackles, both of whom also starred on Supernatural. Jensen Ackles even reprises his role as Dean Winchester for The Winchesters, serving as the narrator.
Fans were also treated to a special, albeit brief surprise when Tom Welling appeared on stage for all of about 15 seconds to reveal that he would be appearing in the series as Mitch Campbell, Mary’s father and Sam and Dean Winchester’s grandfather. Shouts of “Superman!” filled the air, as Welling is best known for playing a young Clark Kent on another popular CW program of years past, Smallville.
Another surprise came in the form of Thompson’s announcement that actor Richard Speight Jr., best known to Supernatural fans for his role as the archangel Gabriel, would be directing episodes of The Winchesters. While Speight did not appear onstage as he was “working on some other show,” the announcement excited fans nonetheless.
Throughout the Q&A session, young actors Meg Donnelly and Drake Rodger appeared to be in awe of the intense reaction from the crowd. Thompson and the Ackles, however, were a bit more irreverent as veterans to the Supernatural universe.
“You should be worried about all these characters because it’s Supernatural,” said Thompson. “I’ll kill them all.” Joking aside, he and the Ackles assured fans that The Winchesters would not do anything to contradict the established canon of the Supernatural mythology.
“If you guys give us the opportunity to keep telling this story, I guarantee you’ll see a lot more familiar faces,” said Jensen Ackles.
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