Every few weeks thousands of Supernatural fans will descend on airport hotels and local convention centers across the United States and Canada. From Vancouver to Jacksonville, fans line up for a chance to get up close and personal with their favorite actors -- most of whom, if you’re not a Supernatural fan, you probably don’t know by name.
Still, for these few days, people who have only appeared in a handful of the record-breaking show's 241 episodes are gods to these fans. Just ask Rob Benedict, who played, well, God, or Richard Speight Jr., who played fan favorite Gabriel. They’re not famous day-to-day, but for 13 weekends a year they gather with their fellow cast members to give the fans a great show. But the real fun happens backstage and now, thanks to those fans, that’s a show too.
This Fall will see the streaming premiere of Speight and Benedict’s single-camera comedy Kings of Con on the Comic-Con HQ streaming platform, which takes viewers past the curtain into the wacky world of these actors' strange lives on the con circuit. I had the privilege to sit down with the Kings at a slightly bigger con in San Diego in July to talk about the show and why it’s not just for fans of Supernatural (though it certainly doesn’t hurt to be one).
The show, according to Speight -- who not only appears at the conventions but also serves as the master of ceremonies -- is inspired by experiences he and Benedict have had over seven years of doing conventions. The two men met on the con circuit, having never appeared on the show together, and became best friends. Both also write and direct, including short films, such as Benedict's The Sidekick and Speight's work on various projects, including directing episodes of Supernatural.
“Robbie and I have a great time on stage and off, and we find ourselves in crazy situations doing goofy things and making note of … and eventually we made so many notes we decided, you know 'you’re a writer, I’m a writer; you’re an actor I’m an actor, and we both find each other funny, let’s make a show'."
Thus the idea of Kings of Con was born.
“It’s not a documentary,” cautions Speight, but is it based on real experience. Speight and Benedict envisioned a backstage comedy in the vein of Curb Your Enthusiasm where their own lives and personalities were heightened for comic effect. For example, Benedict and Speight play characters called Rob and Rich, but not really themselves. Rob and Rich will play characters called Rob and Rich, who are them but ... a bit more.
“We took one thing about ourselves and sort of heightened that up,” Benedict explained. "'Rob' is neurotic and 'Rich' is sort of blindingly optimistic.”
The kings made sure that the focus of the nine-episode initial run will be behind the scenes, rather than on mocking or focusing on fans. While fans definitely show up, “it’s mostly about our quirky relationship, and it illustrates that the craziest people at these cons are the actors themselves,” said Benedict.
That’s not surprising, given that the fans are part of what made Kings of Con possible. Speight and Benedict initially shot a teaser for the show in 2015 “with the idea that we were going to go the traditional route of pitching it to networks,” said Speight.
“A series of things changed our minds, and we decided we should take this to the people and see if there’s an audience for it built into the crowd funding.”
The response, notes Benedict, was “overwhelming.” Launched in March of 2015, the show’s Indiegogo campaign surpassed $100,000 in a matter of days, and eventually raised just short of $280,000. That campaign got some media attention, and eventually the show caught the eye of Seth Laderman, Lionsgate and their new venture Comic-Con HQ (which officially launched at San Diego Comic-Con, where Kings was there in force.).
But it didn’t surprise Speight and Benedict that Supernatural fans provided such amazing support for the show. They have been coming to these cons for nearly a decade, and Speight and Benedict said they have worked very hard to make the conventions a wonderful and unique experience.
“The idea of doing conventions as an actor was very strange to me,” said Speight, “and I always felt a little bit like a shill, like I was taking people’s money to sell them a headshot that had no value cause I’m not really famous. So I thought, if I’m gonna be here … I wanna give people back the value for what they’re spending.”
By transforming the Friday Night karaoke party from an exercise in awkward to one of the most fun events of the whole weekend, evolving what used to be night of “speed dating” cocktails into an amazing Saturday concert where fans can see Benedict’s band Louden Swain perform with their favorite actors, and rebuilding the whole idea of hosting, the guys and their castmates have made Supernatural conventions a unique part of nerddom.
Speight explained: “If I have more fun, the actors with me have more fun. … If the actors with me have more fun, the fans have more fun. If the fans have more fun, more of them show up … [it] becomes a self-propagating fun machine.”
Though these cons are very much a part of Supernatural fandom, Kings of Con will exist on its own, and you certainly won’t need to know Supernatural to enjoy it. The comedy will be in the relationships, and, especially since it would be a licensing nightmare, the show won’t even be mentioned by name.
Still, fans of Supernatural will “get the dog whistle,” according to Speight. Viewers will also see other familiar faces to fans of Supernatural and genre TV, including Kurt Fuller (Psych), Mitch Pilleggi (The X-Files), Sebastian Roche (The Originals), Gil McKinney (Once Upon a Time), Kim Rhodes (The Suite Life of Zach and Cody), Osric Chau (the upcoming Dirk Gently) and Alaina Huffman (SGU), as well as Supernatural’s stars Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki and Misha Collins, though none play themselves.