TV Tour Guide: So tell me about Jericho.
Richard Speight: [Series co-creator] Steve Chbosky and I went to USC together. Super talented writer, great guy. He had a bee in his bonnet to get me involved in the show somehow. So I kept going in for different characters and the other bosses kept saying ‘no’ and ‘no’ and finally they said ‘play Bill!’
Then I got to work with Bob Stephenson (Fight Club, Se7en, TV’s The Forgotten), who is an actor I’ve admired for years, and he and I got to play off each other a lot. That was super fun getting to know and work with him so closely. We carpooled to work, carpooled home, grabbed a beer, did it again the next day. It was like a normal job. Kind of.
TTTG: How did you feel when the show was cancelled?
RS: I thought we were creating some really interesting television. I was sorry to see it go away. I think in a different time, a time like today when the internet audience was trusted more and listened to a little more clearly, I think we would have stayed on the air longer. If Jericho had started one to two years later, it would have gotten a good series run. Sadly, our network was less enthusiastic about the web audience back then because they couldn’t figure out a way to monetize it. That ball has moved way forward since then. We were just a hair too early to catch that wave.
TTTG: So when you have the time, what are you watching?
RS: I’m watching Mad Men. I f***ing love that show. It’s brilliant, great, just outstanding. And I watch a lot of news. I’m a political junkie. And I love movies. I used to watch every movie that came out, but man, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I’ve got a stack of screeners at home just waiting for me to watch them. Lord knows when that’ll happen
TTTG: What’s your take on “reality” television?
RS: I know there are those who absolutely hate it. I don’t. I don’t like it either, but that’s neither here nor there. TV is ‘survival of the fittest.’ When HBO, Showtime, AMC, and other cable channels do such great TV, it forces the main networks to raise their game. Everybody wins. So if reality is beating other shows, then the other shows have to get more interesting to beat reality. This isn’t a camp talent show where everybody gets to perform. It’s a business. Networks and producers are trying to draw eyeballs to get those ad dollars, and the way to do that is to create stimulating programming. If, for some people, ‘stimulating’ means watching over-collagened women hurl fine china at each other, God bless ‘em. It’s not my cup of tea, but hey, whatever. Somebody’s watching it. A lot of “somebody’s.”
TTTG: And now, SUPERNATURAL.
RS: You know, that was an interesting gig. I didn’t know what I was hired to do. They called my agent and offered me the role, so my agent called me and said, “You wanna go play a janitor [Season 2 episode Tall Tales] up in Vancouver?” And I thought, “Sure, I can play a janitor.” So I was on the airplane reading the script, and then I realized, “Oh wow, this is really cool.” I’d never heard of the show and didn’t know anything about it. I mean the title Supernatural kind of tips its hat right there, but still I didn’t think I would be a supernaturally-charged janitor. I noticed that I didn’t die in the end and I thought, “Hey, that’s neat,” but in the world of the guest star, you don’t really think twice about that kind of stuff. You go, “When I leave here I’m done. This is the end of the gig.”
TTTG: Tell me about the role – or should I say roles – of the Trickster/Gabriel
RS: Super fun character. They kind of just let me do what I wanted to do for the character. I don’t mean improv… I’m not making up dialogue. They have great writers, and they map out exactly what they want you to say… but still, within that framework, I had a lot of creative freedom.
TTTV: You did come back for a second episode, Mystery Spot.
RS: I guess it was about a year or two later, I talked to Jason in the production office and he said “Oh, this is a great script [Mystery Spot, Season 3]! You’re gonna love this. You’re all over the script!” Then he called back and said, “Oh, wait… you’re not all over the script. You’re only in two scenes. Your character appears in a different form for most of the episode.” I think I was there for two days, tops. The coolest part of doing that episode was that is was (the late) Kim Manners directing. A TV legend. I found him oddly intimidating but very nice at the same time. And the man knows his stuff.
This episode was different than Tall Tales because the Trickster wasn’t just goofing around with the guys. He was starting to have a point. Maybe then, they [the writers] knew he was going to be something bigger than he was. I’m not sure what their game plan was, but certainly if you go back and look, you can see where the seeds might have started to have been planted there because it seemed like he was trying to say something without saying it. It was a story that wasn’t completely told when he left, and he left in a way that was very much like “Oh, you’ll see me again.”
TTTG: Then came your third episode, Changing Channels …
RS: Well, THAT was a surprise to everybody! I mean, look, you don’t get to play dual characters as a guest star. Hell, you don’t get to do that much as a regular, so that was a really cool turn to get to make. I loved shooting that scene with Jared (Padalecki) and Jensen (Ackles) in the warehouse because it was like theater: three actors facing off – no props, no big set pieces – just having a conversation. That was really, really fun.
The result of the reveal was interesting. It was a much more shocking revelation to people than I realized it would be. As time has passed, it has gottten a lot of attention from the fans, on the web and in the Supernatural magazines. No one saw that coming. Kudos to the writers … they really slipped that one past you guys.
TTTG: It was also surprising to find Gabriel actually being on the Winchesters’ – and humanity’s – side.
RS: I think it was the right thing to do. I mean, even before doing Changing Channels, it was obvious he liked these guys or he wouldn’t mess with them. You know, when you’re a kid, you only antagonize the girls on the playground you have a crush on. That’s just the way it is. If Gabriel really hated them, he would’ve just killed them – just off them and walk away. But he wasn’t doing that. He was screwing with them, which meant he had a fondness for them … kind of like a cat playing with a bird, you know?
TTTG: And in your final episode, what a great (spoiler alert) death!
RS: I died twice! I remember reading Hammer of the Gods (Season 5) and thinking “Oh, s**t, they killed me.” And then I read further and thought, “Oh, I’m not dead at all. Great!” Then I turned a few more pages and was like, “S**t, they killed me again.”
TTTG: But this is Supernatural, and anyone who watches knows that when you die, you don’t necessarily stay dead.
RS: No, I’m pretty damn dead. I’m not sure, I might be the one exception.
TTTG: You now do a lot of the Supernatural fan conventions …
RS: That’s the damndest thing, man. I mean I’ve been doing this [acting] for a long time and never been to a convention or been associated with a show that had a convention. It’s awesome! It’s basically like going into a hotel filled with people who love what you do. The first call I got to do a convention, I turned it down. I hadn’t done an episode in a long time and couldn’t imagine why the hell anyone would come to see me. It seemed like a recipe for embarrassment. The second time I got offered a convention, my agent was like “Eh, maybe you should go.” They weren’t familiar with that world either but figured couldn’t hurt … shake a few hands, sigh a few pictures. They had NO idea. Neither did I. I’m glad I finally said yes.
TTTG: Now you’re a fixture.
RS: Go figure, right? I’m not sure how that happened, but I love it. I’m doing 12 this year alone. That brings my convention total to somewhere around 20. Having done four episodes, that’s a 5-to-1 ratio. Pretty crazy.
TTTG: How do the conventions overseas compare to the ones here in the U.S.?
RS: You’re there longer, so you hang out more with the other actors, do more sight-seeing and fun stuff away from the convention. And you see a hell of a lot more of Jared and Jensen. At the American ones, I literally walk over to them during their autograph sessions to say hi and that’s it. They fly in for the day because they’re busy filming the show. They have almost no time to socialize. Not so overseas. The European ones are different in that regard. It’s a little more like traveling with a group of people as opposed to the American ones where you all meet at the hotel, do your thing, then disperse.
All the conventions are really fun. I mean, half the guys I’m friends with from the show… scratch that, MOST of the guys I’m friends with from the cast I never actually worked with. I’ve become friends with them by doing conventions with them. Rob Benedict, Matt Cohen, Misha (Collins) – although Misha and I, I think we were on screen together for about four seconds, so technically I’ve worked with him.
TTTG: There always seems to be mostly the male actors scheduled with one or two actresses at most …
RS: It’s a real boys club, for sure, but the girls are fun, too. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know and play with Amy Gumenik. She’s awesome. Kim Rhodes is a real kick in the pants. They usually throw at least one woman into the mix. Regardless of the roster, everybody almost always relates to each other really well. We all share the stage at karaoke or during various Q & A’s and it always seems to go exceptionally well. It’s amazing that many of us don’t actually know each other very well because we do a damn fine job pretending like we do.
And now, the segment I like to call The Richard Speight, Jr. 50¢ Tour:
RS: You should call this “The Richard Speight, Jr. 50¢ Tour” for everyone you interview. That’ll confuse ‘em.
Favorite impulse buy: Prius
Favorite candy: 3 Musketeers bar
Plane, train or automobile: train
Favorite line from a movie: "I'll have a Bloody Mary and a steak sandwich and... a steak sandwich.” – Fletch
Do you believe in ghosts? Never really thought about it … undecided.
Halloween as a kid, what dress up as? Uncle Sam
Hulk-Off – Hulk Hogan or the Incredible Hulk? Incredible Hulk
What superpower would he want? Invisibility.
What would his alter-ego/identity be? Daniel Trask, neurosurgeon
If create own political party, what would he call it? Blue Collar-crats
Who would his ultimate dinner guests be? Steve Martin, Jimi Hendrix, Abraham Lincoln, Jesus, Charles Manson, Patsy Kline, and Brian Jones.
What’s the best tour he’s ever taken? World War II battle sites in Normandy.