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SYFY WIRE The Winchesters

How much will Dean be in 'The Winchesters'? Creators talk 'Supernatural' connections, surprises

Executive producer Jensen Ackles says with The Winchesters, "We're trying to recapture the heart that Supernatural had."

By Tara Bennett
Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester (narrator)

For 15 seasons, Supernatural fans had high hopes that The CW series starring Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki would get a spin-off series. But it took the ending of the beloved flagship series in 2020 to finally get their wish with the prequel series, The Winchesters which debuts Oct. 11 on The CW. Executive produced by Jensen and Danneel Ackles (who developed the idea into a series), The Winchesters is a period piece that reveals how Sam and Dean's parents, Mary Campbell (Meg Donnelly) and John Winchester (Drake Rodger) met, eventually fell in love and came to fight monsters together. 

At today's virtual The Winchesters CW press day, the Ackles and showrunner Robbie Thompson spoke to reporters (including SYFY WIRE) about some of the biggest questions Supernatural fans have about the series, like how it fits into the existing series canon and if it will do anything to negatively impact the future demon hunting of Sam and Dean Winchester in the original series. Thompson said one of the first creative conversations they had about the concept included how they could make a show that doesn't undo anything in the narrative canon. He said they used Better Call Saul as a creative template to craft their own path within an established universe.

"We pull back the creative curtain in the 13th episode of this season to differentiate [this series]," Thompson teased. "Because we deal with the supernatural, we have a few more tricks and a lot of options and misdirects for where we are going. But we're keeping our cards close to the vest on the specifics. There are hints in the pilot and in subsequent episodes. But we have a run of episodes at the end of this season where we turn over cards, all of them, in Episode 13."

Jensen Ackles added that the question of whether the series is in the same timeline as Supernatural or is its own thing has come up a lot at recent convention appearances. "I wish I could say something to put everybody at rest but then I would spoil half the season," he joked. "But the integrity of the mothership is of vital importance to us and that this show is given its space to be what it needs to be. That requires some tricky writing but Robbie has done that."

He added that they reference the Back to the Future image with Marty's fading family often in their creative conversations. "We want to make sure that Sam and Dean are not erased," Ackles emphasized. "We are preserving everything we can."

Asked if there was ever a question of not using Dean Winchester as the series narrator, Thompson said it was actually a big selling point for him to come onto the series as the showrunner. "Honestly, the option to write more dialogue for Dean was extremely tempting," he said. "It was a surreal moment to be on the set of The Winchesters shooting and getting Ackles' first temp recording. He was doing the Dean voice and I got goosebumps."

As for how much Dean factors into the episodes, Thompson said they did not want the series to be filled with "wall to wall" narration. "It's a light touch," he clarified. "It's nice to be writing and ask, 'What would Dean say?' and then text him and he tells you." Thompson said he frequently emails and texts Jensen for his Dean feedback for how to include Dean's voice. "It's a great dance. Once I have a draft, I will send it to Jensen. And he'll do a final pepper pass in the [recording] booth. It always has to feel like we're doing extra due diligence."

One of the hallmarks of Supernatural was how ambitious and bonkers the writers were about breaking traditional structure and format, crossing genres and mediums to tell the Winchester brother's stories. Thompson said he hopes that The Winchesters will grow towards that ambition as well. "We have to establish more of a foundation before we go crazy," he said of their freshman season. "You need partners for that. We could go crazy on Supernatural because we had a great cast who could do that. And we have a lot of kids who can play here too. They can sing and dance so we'll get to that down the road."

However, Thompson said they can guarantee that fans will be seeing some younger versions of well established Supernatural characters in Season 1. "Familiar faces are coming up and then some more after that," he said and that also includes Dean Winchester. "We have plans to bring back younger versions of the characters that we haven’t seen yet."

The Winchesters premieres Oct. 11 on The CW.

Looking for more ghosts and scares? Check out SYFY's SurrealEstate, which returns next year for Season 2.