At the Supernatural? convention in Phoenix, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles took the stage. And it was at that moment I realized what I was about to experience would not only change how I feel about them and the show, but also, and most importantly, their fans.
I’ve heard about the openness of the fans and the love between the cast, crew and fandom. I’ve read the Tumblr posts of people talking about their experiences meeting the cast — telling the actors how they’ve inspired them, how the characters make them want to never give up, how without the fandom they wouldn’t have the friends they have. But being in the room? That was a whole different story.
The first question of the panel was muffled; the speaker’s words were shaky and filled with emotion. Jared Padalecki, who had walked off the stage so he could hear her, repeated it and answered.
“So Sam has obviously been through a lot, they both have, and she was saying she sees a lot of herself in Sam and would Sam ever kind of turn to self-harm. And Sam and Jared both adamantly feel very strongly against that. Just to keep on fighting, and you can do a lot for somebody else. You can bring a smile to Sam’s face, OK?”
There was no pause in his response. No hesitation. And you could hear in his voice the consideration, affection and even admiration for asking that question and being so open.
Over the course of the weekend, I saw people who had never met before exchanging numbers and taking selfies. I heard people ask if they had Tumblr accounts so they could keep in touch. I saw a girl ecstatic after a surprise run-in with an actor surrounded by fans eager to share in her excitement as she shared her experience.
I was lucky enough to be the shoulder that a woman unabashedly cried on only a handful of hours after I met her. She recounted her story of meeting the boys during autographs and telling them both how they changed her life, and how she wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. How Jensen Ackles’ character Dean Winchester changed her perspective on herself. How if she could see how much he deserved love, why couldn’t she see that for herself. How they fought angels and demons to save everyone, and she realized she’d have to do the same to save herself. Proudly showing off her anti-possession tattoo (the same as the boys have in the show), she said it was “a reminder to myself to never give up, on myself or my family, and goddamn it — that extends to every single person at that convention. We’re all a family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
And while I was an observer, I definitely had my own fangirl moments. Yes, Misha Collins’ eyes really are that blue; I could easily listen to both Tahmoh Penikett and Mark Sheppard read a phone book their voices are just that awesome; Padalecki’s wife is “Aunt Momma” to Ackles’ daughter (so cute!); and Jensen Ackles is really good at hula-hooping (go find the video of their panel, it’s hilarious).
But in the end, no one was a stranger. The energy and love at the SPN con was like a comforting hum in your bones. Just take a look at what Jensen Ackles tweeted.:
To all you #PhxCon2015 goers, thanks for a great weekend. And welcome to the Family.
— Jensen Ackles (@JensenAckles) February 23, 2015