Supernatural send-off: A.J. Buckley, Travis Wester reflect on their Ghostfacers journey
17 episodes into Supernatural's first season, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) came across Ed Zeddmore (A.J. Buckley) and Harry Spangler (Travis Wester), two nerdy, self-proclaimed paranormal investigators and the co-creators of the Hell Hound's Lair website. Needless to say, Ed and Harry didn't understand the paranormal quite the way Sam and Dean did, and as a result, Sam and Dean saved their lives before ultimately tricking them into thinking a Hollywood producer was interested in their idea for a ghost-hunting reality show.
Cut to season 3 of Supernatural, and fans got to witness an episode of that reality show, titled "Ghostfacers," in an hour that remains one of the series' most creative. EW spoke with A.J. Buckley and Travis Wester about their journey as the fan-favorite duo.
Phase I: Love at first geek
Both Buckley and Wester had connections to Supernatural, the then-WB series, when their auditions came along, but they wouldn't meet each other until they were cast.
TRAVIS WESTER: Jensen and I go way back. I was working on a show called Mr. Rhodes and he was the heartthrob on that show. Then he went over to Days of our Lives and I got a guest-starring role so we hung out there. I saw that he got the Supernatural pilot and then I saw that the pilot went and I was really excited for him. I didn't really think anything of it. And then I got an audition for Supernatural, went in and read for it and I booked it. I was stoked! And that was it. I thought it was funny that I got hired to work on the same show as Jensen AGAIN, the third time. There's not too many actors where you get on the same show repeatedly.
A.J. BUCKLEY: David Nutter, who directed the pilot, is a really close friend of mine. He's the reason I came down to Los Angeles. I did a movie with him and on his advice, I convinced my parents to come down. I got a call from my manager at the time and he said, "I submitted you for that show Supernatural, I don't know if they think you're quite right for it. Do you want to reach out to Nutter?" So I did and the audition came through. I went in and I think before I got to the parking lot they called and said I got it. I remember seeing Travis in the room because I recognized him from EuroTrip and I thought he was a really funny guy.
WESTER: When they said A.J. Buckley is going to be the other guy, I was not familiar with him. But we worked on season 1, we did the "Hell House" episode, and he was just a top man. And it was cool because it shot up in Vancouver and A.J. was from Vancouver so it was really great to have a buddy that knew the area.
BUCKLEY: Travis and I were like Step Brothers when we met. It was like, "Did we just become best friends?" We had a really good energy together. But I had no clue then what it was, we were just playing these nerdy guys.
WESTER: We had a great time shooting that first episode and I kind of assumed that was it. So to get that call that we were going to come back, I was really stoked.
BUCKLEY: We did that first episode and then I think Nutter texted me and said, "Everybody loved it and I think they're gonna bring you guys back."
Phase II: "Ghostfacers"
Two months after the end of the 07-08 writers strike, when reality television was booming, Supernatural made a reality series of its own. Shot like an actual ghost-hunting show would be — meaning handheld cameras and all-too-serious confessionals — season 3's "Ghostfacers" follows Ed, Harry, and their team of hunters as they enter Morton House, the most haunted place in America.
WESTER: What the writers strike did is it created an immense market for these non-scripted television shows and that's really when you saw the advent of these ghost-hunting shows. So they had the idea of, "Let's do a ghost-hunting show but have it be like The Office, let's do confessionals and interviews." And what a great idea.
BUCKLEY: I was sent the "Ghostfacers" episode and I f---ing could not stop laughing reading it. I was like, "Are you kidding me? This is so awesome!" We went up there and we met Dustin [Milligan] and Brittany [Ishibashi] and Austin [Basis]. Everyone got along, the improv was there, it was a perfect moment that still hasn't happened again in my career.
WESTER: I didn't read the script [right away]. I figured it would be the Hell Hounds guys come back. I get on the plane and I see Brittany [Ishibashi] and we'd worked together before. I sit down and I read it and it's Harry and Ed by the fire, and I realized what they were doing and I realized, "Oh my god this whole episode is going to be me and A.J. basically." I still remember turning around in my seat and looking at Brittany and pointing at the script with my eyes super wide and her eyes go wide and she just nods slowly. I was blown away. By far and away the most creative piece of writing for a TV show I had personally been involved with to that point and maybe even since.
BUCKLEY: Jared and Jensen I remember loved it because they worked like two days. But to show up on somebody's set and it's their show and for them to allow us to, in a sense, take over, some actors could get bent out of shape. But they just embraced it. They're such great human beings anyways, but they're just always down to riff.
WESTER: In terms of the technical aspects of the production, it was a 360-degree set so what that means is you could swing the camera anywhere and you wouldn't hit a crew person. So basically they would hit the bell, everything would start going, and then crew left the set entirely and it was just the actors with their cameras. It was liberating. Not having the crew on set, it really created this environment where we felt more free than I've ever felt on any other set in my life because it was just the actors and so the level of immersion was unlike anything I'd ever experienced in my life. That was the first time I'd ever done anything like that. And I think that was one of the first times anyone did anything like that.
BUCKLEY: We all got along and then [director] Phil Sgriccia was this warm, loving guy. He's got this little giggle that he does. He's almost like Santa Claus, so every scene we're rehearsing, he would be laughing. He's like, "Just keep riffing." We just went off and started doing stuff.
WESTER: Crew members and the director and producers got involved as well. As an example, for some reason I was doing one of the interviews and they were like, "What scares you?" I said I didn't like rats. So I made his character decision in the moment. I think I said, "Rats are the rats of the world" and Phil [Sgriccia] thought that was funny. So what he did is he had props put a rat prop in a room that I was supposed to walk into but he didn't tell me. So we opened the door and I saw this rat, I ran with it — literally, I think I ran away. So the whole crew got to get involved and that was really fun.
Phase III: The impact
The Ghostfacers would go on to get their own web series, while also returning for two more episodes of Supernatural, with their final appearance occurring in season 9.
BUCKLEY: Phil [Sgriccia] called us and was like, "[Show creator] Eric Kripke wants to have a meeting with you and Travis." We thought we were in trouble and then we show up and there's like 10 or 12 people in the room at Warner Bros. They're like, "Hey we're thinking maybe we do a spin-off with you guys, like a web series." We're like, "Holy s---!"
WESTER: It was one episode of a show but everyone really responded super positively to it and I think that was such a blessing because when you're in television, you don't get that response, you don't get that feedback from the people who are actually watching you perform. The conventions gave us an opportunity to come face-to-face with the fans and hear about what they liked, what they didn't like.
Phase IV: "Go well into that starry night"
With Supernatural coming to an end, both Webster and Buckley look back on the experience fondly.
WESTER: That "Ghostfacers" episode was, by a country mile, the most fun and rewarding episode of television I've ever done. It was a high point of my career for sure, just from the perspective of artistic merit.
BUCKLEY: The cool thing is our characters never died. To have lived from season 1 until now was pretty remarkable. I was hoping that we'd come back in the last little bit but it didn't work out. But still when I look back, it is, by a long shot, the most fun I've ever had with character. It was such a collaborative thing and I'm incredibly grateful that Eric Kripke gave us that opportunity to play in that sandbox with everybody. Travis and I are always like, "Dude we should shoot some more videos and put them online."
WESTER: Shows like that don't go for 15 years unless you have amazing people at the top and Jensen and Jared are by far and away two of the greatest stars of a show I've ever encountered. The way they take care of everyone on the set, the way they treat everyone like family, it's really something to behold and honestly, every single star of every single TV show can take something away from how they treat everyone on their set.
Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki star as the Winchester brothers, hellbent on battling the paranormal forces of evil.