“Car coming through!” It’s a rainy December day in Vancouver as Supernatural’s crew members clear out of the way of an incoming vehicle. Despite the dreary weather, excitement fills the air, because everyone knows who’s inside the car. They just haven’t seen him yet.
Seconds later, out steps a scruffy Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the man who brought John Winchester to life all those years ago. He’s got a cigarette in his hand and John’s boots on his feet as he’s ushered through the rain and mud to the reunion he’s been waiting for: He’s about to see his Baby.
“Driving from set to where the Impala was, I was getting excited,” Morgan tells EW. “I was like, ‘oh god, I get to get in the Impala!”
And get in he does, sitting in the driver’s seat of the 1967 Impala and preparing to say his first line as John Winchester in more than a decade. Morgan’s reunion with Baby is the first of many as he returns to the show after 12 years away. And in the middle of it all, EW sat down with Morgan on the Supernatural set to discuss his big (though temporary) comeback.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Fans have asked you about returning many times over the years, and you’ve always said…
JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN: “Every time a fan asked, I always said the same thing: ‘I’m totally open to returning. It’s about the story.’ Because I’m very good friends with Jensen [Ackles] and Jared [Padalecki], and we’ve talked about it and it was always, ‘Before the show goes off the air, I hope to get on.’ Jensen called and said, ‘Hey would you be interested in doing our 300th?’ I wasn’t going to be working at this time so absolutely, sure.
So I got on the phone with [co-showrunner] Andrew [Dabb] and I said, ‘It’s about story.’ It’s kind of important if you’re going to bring this guy back, there’s gotta be an endgame. The relationships between these three men were so open, so if I was going to come back, it would be nice to have some closure, especially with Sammy. So it went from there, and we worked it out to where we think it’s a good story and a really good way for John to come back into the fold.”
What was it like returning to a character you haven’t played in more than a decade?
“To step into it again, it’s like wearing an old pair of boots. I’m friends with these guys so it’s a joy to come in. Today was my first day and you just kind of sit down and do it. It’s fun and it’s easy. I remember very well what I did then. I remember the story and I remember playing with these guys. If I hadn’t been seeing and talking to these guys the last 10 years maybe it would’ve been a little bit more of a nervous situation, but I’ve been doing this a long time. I feel like I’ve been doing it forever and I really haven’t stopped working since I was last on this set. Like a father would be, I’m very proud of the guys.
They are two of the best guys. They’re as genuine and as cool as they get and I’m sitting here doing the scene with them and it makes me get choked up because they’ve done so well here. Episode 300? That’s unheard of. That’s a hard thing to do, so huge props to not just these two but the whole crew. It’s funny walking back into the stage today and all the crew guys are coming up to me that were here on day one. Same guys! It’s amazing. The turnover on the shows that I’m normally a part of, they’re there maybe a week or two and then they’re like, ‘I’m done.’ [Laughs] But this show, there’s something special about it obviously. It keeps people wanting to be here.”
What does it mean for John to get to see his boys and his wife again?
“I think it means the world to John certainly. And also for me, the actor that plays John, I think it means almost equally as much. There’s always been a need for closure with these characters and their father, especially with Jared’s character. Kid’s a disaster because of his father apparently. [Laughs] My thing was always, if I come back, I gotta fix that. There’s gotta be an opportunity to mend that relationship and I think that that’s hopefully what the audience is anticipating.
But it always bugged me that the John that I played is different than the John that has been portrayed since I haven’t been around. I really wanted the opportunity to be able to come back and make amends in a way and try to fix the sullied name of this character. But more than that, it’s three friends, life lived. It feels like we’ve been friends for a lifetime now, getting to reunite in a place that we love and that we met and do what we do and I think that is super cool. So not only does John win in getting to come back and see his boys and Mary again and hopefully make some amends, it’s just as cool for me, the actor, to be able to come back and see everybody.”
This show is hitting 300 episodes for a number of reasons, but as someone who’s worked on many different shows and sets, what makes this set different?
“That’s the easiest question. It’s because of those two dudes. It begins and ends with Jensen and Jared. I’ve never seen guys that are here every day — there are not scenes in this show without them, they don’t get time off, they’re here every day, and they have families just like I do. I know how hard it is to be away from my family and I know how grumpy that makes me. They show up every day, they’re not grumpy, they know their sh-t, they’re pros.
And they’re not only all that, but they’re also genuinely nice. Because of that, these crew members that could have gone on to do whatever they want, they stay here for those two guys. They’ve got two great leads that set an example for everyone else and it’s how it should be done. They’re just good guys and I love ’em. That’s the simple answer: It’s because of those two. There’s a couple more [people] that have been here just as long and they’re also equally as great but it really starts with number one and two on the call sheet. They set an example for cast and crew.”
Supernatural airs its 300th episode on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.
For more on Supernatural, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday, or buy one — or three — of our collector’s covers featuring Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins, and Jared Padalecki now. A very special cover featuring the Winchester family is also available for purchase exclusively at Barnes & Noble. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.