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How 'The Winchesters' prequel was born out of a 'Supernatural' rewatch during COVID

The groovy prequel officially premieres on The CW Tuesday, Oct. 11.

(L-R): Drake Rodger as John and Meg Donnelly as Mary

You can thank the pandemic lockdown for The CW's decision to green-light a Supernatural prequel. Back in March 2020, actor Jensen Ackles and his wife/producing partner, Danneel, decided to while away the interminable hours by rewatching choice episodes of the long-running series created by the one and only Eric Kripke. 

"Almost every celebrity was doing something ridiculous in their house, and I'm like, well, I don't want to embarrass myself by trying to make a sourdough loaf," Danneel said during a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly. After each episode, the couple would discuss their thoughts on camera, going so far as to shoot a pilot for a Supernatural retrospective project. This eventually caught the attention and interest of the network, which wanted 10 episodes produced within an unrealistic timeframe.

"That kick-started Danneel and I workshopping ideas and it also put us in the Supernatural world," Jensen explained of going back to the proverbial drawing board. "Then we asked: What would be a story that I would want to see outside of the show?" He later added: "If you're going to spin off from this world, it's gotta be about a main character, it's gotta be about a Winchester. I think it was Danneel who was like, 'Well, it's your mom and dad.'"

RELATED STORY: 'Supernatural' creator Eric Kripke on how a failed 'Sandman' adaptation inspired the Winchesters

The end result was The Winchesters, a '70s-set prequel that centers around the early adventures of John and Mary (played as young adults by Drake Rodger and Meg Donnelly, respectively), who start to battle the forces of shortly after John returns from fighting in Vietnam. Jensen and Danneel co-created the show with the ultimate blessing of Kripke (currently steering the ship on Amazon's wildly successful The Boys) and tapped longtime Supernatural writer/producer Robbie Thompson as showrunner.

"I remember very vividly [executive producers] Bob Singer and Jeremy Carver coming in and saying, 'The 200th episode is going to land this season and we want to do it as a musical in a high school where kids are adapting the Chuck Shurley books,'" Thompson recalled to EW. "My first reaction was, 'Oh my god that seems so terrifying, I really want to do it.' I had the same kind of reaction when Jensen and Danneel pitched this to me."

"A lot of people are like, 'Hang on, are you changing the lore? Is this like Back to the Future, where Dean and Sam are going to start to disappear in the picture?' It's not," Jensen said when the conversation turned to whether or not the prequel would mess with what the canon that's already been established. "We obviously don't want to change anything that was experienced on what we lovingly call the mothership."

"Everybody who's involved in this project loves this show," Danneel continued. "We have lived this show for 15 years; it's a family member. So just trust us that we're going to take care of it."

The Winchesters premieres on The CW Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 8 p.m. Eastern. Supernatural officially came to an end in late 2020 after 15 seasons and more than 300 episodes.

Looking for more supernatural thrills and chills? Check out SYFY's original SurrealEstate. The first season is streaming now on the SYFY app, and Season 2 is coming soon.

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