Supernatural from Script to Screen: Writer Davy Perez
"(Comic Con 2016) was my first time meeting a lot of the fandom, which was actually a very humbling and amazing experience in its own right, because I had not even written for the show yet. It was July at that point, and I was very new. Yet, I was being embraced and I was being shown a lot of love, and people coming up and saying they were so excited to see what I was going to do."
– Davy Perez, Supernatural Writer
Supernatural from Script to Screen is a series of interviews with the crew of Supernatural by Jules Wilkinson, Supernatural Wiki Administrator.
Jules: Is that the first time you've been up to Vancouver?
Davy: That was my first time up to Vancouver, and I wish I had gone sooner. It was really inspiring and it was very fun to meet everyone face to face and spend some time with them.
As writer, sometimes you think of these big ideas and you put everything in a script and then you go up there and you realise, oh these are the people that have to bring those big ideas to life. You begin to understand some of the notes that you get back. They're certainly a very talented and amazing crew that does mere impossible things, but it does put a lot of things in perspective when you get to see it all come to life, in real time.
Wherever you are physically located is going to have some effect on what the world looks like. Fortunately for us our story takes place in a slice of middle America that Vancouver can double for very easily.
Supernatural is set in a unique version of small town America where some old gas stations and diners might still exist, and I love going to places like that whenever I do travel, so the fact that we can create more of those and pretend that they still exist is awesome.
Jules: Was there anything that you thought you must file away for use in a future script?
Davy: Watching Jared and Jensen off camera and seeing how they really have natural chemistry and just talking with them and getting to know them outside of the Sam and Dean of it all, made me very inspired -- I might have fun with that in the future. Maybe I'll write a little something that's fun for them to play with knowing what they naturally like to rib each other about. There’s something to be said about why they've been around for so long because they have such great chemistry together.
Seeing the guys then have their own version of fun with what I’ve written and breathe life into it is such a treat.
Jules: Your most recent episode 12.12 Stuck in the Middle (With You) has just aired. It was so Tarantino-esque, and another example of the way Supernatural plays with form in a way that very few shows, let alone genre shows. Was Reservoir Dogs the initial inspiration?
Davy: Absolutely. We go in knowing loosely what our season is going to look like, and we come together every couple of months and talk about our episodes in depth. For this round of pitches Andrew Dabb specifically said come in with one that can be a big wild idea. Every year they do like 6.15 The French Mistake or 11.04 Baby.Meredith Glynn had 12.11 Regarding Dean. Mine was I would love to do a Reservoir Dogs episode where we see this heist and we see the different points of view, and we understand that the reason they're in this mess because much like Tim Roth keeping the secret of being undercover, but Mary's keeping the secret of working with the British Men of Letters.
Not only is this episode harking back to what has come before but it really also sets the table for what's going to happen in this back half of the season. Andrew worked with me very closely on it because he was excited as I was about these things I was touching upon, and he knew we could use these elements in another other arc. It was like kismet, it just all kind of lined up and in a really cool way.
Jules: It's never easy in episodic TV to do that non-linear narrative. Even flashbacks on their own can be problematic let alone the shifting POV. So how did you start with that?
Davy: Bob Singer who has created so much television said that non linear and flashbacks, said when they are not done right, are they absolute worst episodes. To work and be done right it has to have certain things. He had me watch The Killing by Stanley Kubrick, which was the inspiration for Reservoir Dogs. Then I re-watched Reservoir Dogs and it became a template for me.
I wanted to sort of hit certain moments, not just for the homage, but it worked in that story, it should work in this story. So bonding in Act 1, danger and character reveals in Act 2, and there was actually…so in Reservoir Dogs there's a scene that flashes all the way back when Harvey Keitel, and you get this real familial sense of him and the big boss, and that's what inspired me to do the flashback.
Jules: We have to talk about Richard Speight's directing, but that triumvirate of you and then the directing and editing to make this work would've been so vital because certainly without the level of talent in directing and editing it would of also fallen over.
Davy: Yeah, it needed to be firing on all cylinders and Richard Speight immediately got what was going on. I emailed him very early in the process and I said: “Hey, I know you don't start prep for a while but do you want to take a little quick peep at the script, and what we're doing here?” As soon as he read it he emailed me back, he said “Oh yes, I get it!”.
We met for lunch and talked about all things Tarantino, and we got to fan boy out ourselves. I knew it was in great hands, to the degree that I don't think anybody else could've pulled it off. Richard deserves and earns all the accolades that he's getting, Watching dailies was just the funnest, especially the slow motion grpup walk. I've put different soundtracks to it, because I have the raw footage!
Jules: In both The Killing and Reservoir Dogs there is a theme about belonging and of family and relationships. Castiel's been a bit of a lost soul the last year or so, and trying to find himself. His deathbed speech was incredibly moving. So how was that to write?
Davy: For me the scene was about trust. Trust and family goes hand in hand. Can you trust your family at all times? Can you trust the people that are closest to you? And do I trust these people enough to be honest while I'm dying? Mary is someone that is the boys’ mother and they kind of don't really know her all that well as a person, and Castiel is someone they've known for a very long time and yet they still are able to surprise each other in a lot of ways. The deathbed speech itself for me was just about what would I want to say if I were really honestly believing that they were my last moments? And that's how I really wrote Castiel. I wanted him to really believe, because I wanted the audience to, that this was it.
And if it were not for Crowley who, speaking of trust, is person that they don't trust and yet he's the one who's proven himself to be the most trustworthy in some ways. There's a really cool dramatic irony in that - that the one you trust the least is the one who's got your back.
Jules: Given the complex nature of the story, how was it when you saw the rough edit?
Davy: It was pretty close. I saw the first one and it was really cool. It just got better and better and tighter and tighter, and as the sound and the mix and the special effects were added, I was giddy. I remember I at one point even emailed Andrew and said: I can't watch this and not be a fan. I just was so thrilled to see it all come together.
Jules: The episode got a huge positive reaction from fandom on the night.
Davy: Well I thank you for that. As a writer, it's for audience, that's why everybody who is putting work out there, you go to personal places and you write from yourself. So it is a great feeling to know that the audience receives it well because if it weren't for the fans there would be no show, I would have no job.
Jules: And as you know before this episode there were fans who were really anxious about what was going to happen to Cas, and then there's people angry at Mary, and what's going on with Mary.
Davy: I think they're probably still angry with Mary.
Jules: Well exactly, and that fascinates me. And I think bringing Mary back for this season, it was a stroke of genius. She is so much a Winchester but we're only getting to know her and the emotional reaction to her I think is wonderful. And she's neither an antagonist or a hero at this point.
Davy: Right. I think she is just an individual going through her journey. It's an interesting journey to watch and just hopefully it'll pay off in a way that satisfies. I absolutely agree with that idea that she's a Winchester and they're very complex. And it's one thing to have an ideal of someone, like the boys did of Mary, and it's another thing to actually get the thing you wish for and be like “Woah ok, this is not what I thought it might be, but what is it?” I still want to have a relationship, I still want to have a connection. How can we work that out? So it is a very fascinating and fun thing to write for.
One of the things that I find the most interesting is Sam and Dean are two grown men, and to have a woman who had two sons that were young boys, and then be in heaven and be re-living whatever her heaven was, and then come back to this plane, and these two grown up men are now your two sons. I'm about to have my first child and I couldn’t even imagine if I blinked and all of a sudden he went from a baby to someone who was my same age, and wanting things from me and needing things from me. It's just a fascinating and interesting thing to explore.
My wife and I actually found out the weekend of Comic-Con (in 2016) so the whole Comic-Con experience was so surreal.
Jules: Oh it must've been.
Davy: We had this very big secret and we were just sort of like, there's so many people around us and we just want to tell people and we can't. And it was my first time meeting a lot of the fandom, which was actually a very humbling and amazing experience in its own right, because I had not even written for the show yet. It was July at that point, and I was very new. Yet, I was being embraced and I was being shown a lot of love, and people coming up and saying they were so excited to see what I was going to do. I actually had a conversation I believe with someone there, they had asked me one of my favourite directors and I had mentioned Tarantino and talked about Reservoir Dogs. So possibly the germ of the idea for this episode was already there. It just felt like a very special weekend -- learning that I'm about to be a father and then going into a space where I got all this positive feedback from everybody, it was very #SPNFamily.
Interview by Jules Wilkinson, Supernatural Wiki Admin
Many thanks to Davy Perez for his generosity in doing this interview. If you enjoyed this interview, you can tweet Davyat @JamesRPickel
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Please link back to this article if quoting from it.
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