Spoiler alert: This post contains plot details from the April 26 episode of Supernatural.
When Richard Speight Jr. was told that he was going to direct himself in an episode of Supernatural, he didn’t quite realize what he was getting himself into. “When they mentioned to me that I would be directing an episode in which I also appeared as an actor, I was fired up,” he tells EW. “When I got the script, I realized I don’t just appear in the episode, I’m the anchor of the episode in terms of guest stars, and the second guest star is also me! So that was an enormous challenge, but I looked at it totally as a positive.”
Not only did Speight end up playing two characters in the hour he directed — he appeared as both Gabriel and Loki — but he had to direct a scene in which Gabriel and Loki got into a fight. As he was told, “It’s you vs. you, directed by you. Have at it!” Ultimately, it all came together to create what Speight calls “the professional opportunity of a lifetime,” though his costars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki tried to warn him about the workload. “The first time I saw Ackles, when the breakdown for the script came out, he was standing there and Jared was standing behind him, and they both looked at me like I had something green dangling from my face. They were like, ‘Dude, have you seen the breakdown for the script you’re directing?’ I said, ‘Yeah I saw it.’ Ackles goes, ‘Your head’s going to explode.’ I’m like, ‘Let’s hope you’re wrong, sir.’”
But the workload isn’t too much when it’s a story you love. And thankfully for Speight, this script contained a story he’d wanted to tell for years. “I love the fact that they were telling a cool part of Gabriel’s backstory that we hadn’t seen before, that involved this other character that had been referenced,” Speight says. “I always knew there was a story here. I’ve been asked onstage at [fan] conventions many times, ‘What story would you like to see Gabriel play if he ever came back?’ I said for years that if Gabriel convinced a roomful of pagan gods that he was Loki, he must look like Loki or he must somehow be able to fool them into thinking he’s Loki, so that means the real Loki is somewhere else; I would like for that real Loki to come out and those two guys confront each other.”
But the story he got, which he credits to the episode’s writer, Meredith Glynn, was far more complex than he could’ve hoped. “Meredith crafted this story that was layered and had this fantastic history that involved family and loyalty,” he says. “That created a real mix of: Is Loki a bad guy or a good guy? Is Gabriel a bad guy or a good guy? And it kind of leaves those questions unanswered in a really beautiful way, so it was an absolute all-you-can-eat buffet in terms of the acting. Then to be the guy steering the ship so I get to tell the story the way I want it told, you can’t do any better than that. That assignment is either going to crush you or it’s going to drive you like dynamite in your engine, and that’s what it did for me. I just thought it was the most exciting thing that’s happened to me in the history of my career.”
In terms of playing a new character in the world of Supernatural, Speight easily identified with Loki, the protective father. “To me, Loki had a really legit beef with Gabriel,” he says. “And yet, Gabriel got sold off and tortured and that was awful, but he never would’ve been sold off and tortured had he kept his word to Loki in the first place. So honor amongst thieves, I suppose, but nonetheless, Loki had a point!”
Thanks to the Winchesters, Gabriel would ultimately survive Loki’s wrath. And as for what fans can expect from the archangel for the rest of the season, Speight says, “Gabriel’s still Gabriel. He has new books in the library that are now part of his history. For lack of a better example, I think if what we knew before was boy Gabriel, this is man Gabriel. He’s still going to be the same character we know and love, and have the same outlook on life and conflict as he’s had before, but at the same time, he’s been through s— that he never expected to be a part of. He’s been treated in a way he never thought was possible, and it triggered in him emotions and feelings that he didn’t know he was capable of having.”
Supernatural airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.