Life after ‘Supernatural’: Here’s what lies ahead for Jensen Ackles and Jared Padelecki after 15 years
For actors, a 15-year-commitment as leads on a prime-time network show is already unprecedented. But 'Supernatural', dealing with fantastical monsters, demons, angels, pagan deities, the Devil and God himself is even more unique.
Most scripted network dramas that survive this long are usually police procedural or crime dramas like 'Law and Order', 'CSI' or 'NCIS'. 'Supernatural' is the longest-running American live-action fantasy TV series. When it started, one of the show's lead, Jared Padalecki, was happy just to film the pilot episode and had no hopes that the show would actually get picked up.
After Season 1 ended, the show almost got shut down because their channel The WB was being merged with UPN to create the new The CW Network. Many shows were dropped but 'Supernatural' got another season. Then, there were rough days, (this was pre-streaming when 'prime time' and 'time slots' had more value) when they were scuttled to the end-of-the-week Friday night Siberia that most shows never recover from. But it did survive, moving triumphantly back to a mid-week slot on Wednesday.
No other show has been moved around quite as much. 'Supernatural' is airing on Mondays now, but it has also aired on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, either in the 8 pm or 9 pm slot. It has also survived a writer's strike, with a truncated Season 3 with just 16 episodes. But overall, each season would have a grueling 23 episodes on average, which its two leads, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, who play the Winchester brothers, Sam and Dean, have delivered consistently from Episode 1 onwards to the last and final episode 327 which will air on November 19, 2020.
Since the show is about them, Padalecki and Ackles have been running the 'Sam and Dean' show for the last 15 years without a break. Guest stars and even regulars like Misha Collins and Alexander Calvert can only take the heat off them for limited amounts of time. And therein lies the rub.
Actors often worry about being typecast. Padalecki and Ackles have only been Sam and Dean Winchester for a majority of their careers, starting when they were fresh-faced 20-year-olds to now, grizzly middle-aged men with wives and six children between them. How they transition out of 'Supernatural' will be interesting to watch. Neither have had time to invest in significant acting roles outside Supernatural's grueling schedule, with Padelecki squeezing out an odd movie or two in the initial few seasons. But in later years, both have devoted themselves entirely to the show and the show's convention circuit during the hiatus where they meet multiple generations of their fans who have seen the show either since it began on The WB or binged on it on Netflix. Yup, they have fans who are younger than the show because of the miracle of streaming. Being a cult favorite is of course a great thing but just like Henry Winkler's Fonzie, this can be a double-edged sword.
For now "the boys", as fans call them affectionately, have gotten off to a strong start, with futures clearly mapped out post-Supernatural. Padalecki will star in 'Walker', a reboot of the original 'Walker, Texas Ranger' with Chuck Norris. The poster for the show revealed that it will debut on The CW Network in January 2021. 'Walker' is based in Austin, Texas and centers on Cordell Walker, played by Padalecki, a man finding his way back to his family after two years undercover. This broken widower and father of two is now picking up the mantle of Texas Ranger and will be getting a female partner, one of the first in the history of the organization, in the updated version of the show's DNA. Padalecki's real-life wife, Genevieve Padalecki, will play Emily, Cordell’s late wife on the show and appear in flashback sequences.
Similarly, Jensen Ackles has also carved up something with his wife, Danneel Harris Ackles. He has formed a production company, Chaos Machine Productions, with her and signed a multi-year deal with Warner Bros. Television Group (WBTV). Under this new deal, Chaos Machine will develop and produce original television programming for broadcast and cable networks, as well as streaming services for them. Jensen Ackles has already shown an interest in behind-the-scenes action by directing several episodes of 'Supernatural', unlike Padelecki who preferred being front of camera.
In addition to this, Jensen Ackles has also been roped in by former showrunner and creator of 'Supernatural' Eric Kripke for his R-rated superhero satire 'The Boys' to play a character called "Soldier Boy". According to Kripke, the character was the original Captain America/Homelander-esque figure in the first generation of supes. And no, Ackles won't be playing a good guy, strongly going against his typecasting as Dean in 'Supernatural', unlike Padalecki who is sticking to his hero roots in a non-satirical way in 'Walker'. How their careers will shape up given these differing choices with Ackles diving into production along with acting and Padalecki looking to create another cult, long-running hit, remains to be seen.