This post is to function in conjunction with my article on the upcoming show, Kings of Con.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking to Rob Benedict and Richard Speight of Supernatural, better known as Chuck/God and The Trickster/Gabriel/Loki. They've been doing 13-14 conventions per year for the last 6 years, which has led to several strange interactions with various people. The experiences influenced them to develop a show called Kings of Con. They're currently working on it independently via an Indiegogo campaign. Below is a record of my conversation with them.
Me: This is going to be a fun one for me. I've seen most every episode of Supernatural.
Rich: That's great!
Me: So I hear you guys are making a show called Kings of Con based on the 70-odd conventions you've done for the show.
Rich: Yes. If you look at the number of conventions compared to the number of episodes we've been in, it's pretty staggering.
Me: Agreed. I mean, Rob was in 8 episodes and you've been in 5. They're strong characters of course. Was it a surprise to be involved in so many conventions?
Rich: Surprised isn't the word. It'd never even occurred to me I'd be invited to a convention based on what was, at the time, two episodes. I didn't know much about the convention world. I'd never been to one as a fan nor appeared in one as an actor. I couldn't imagine them giving a flying fu... (hesitates), flying eff. It was very confusing why I was there. I kept on picturing Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler and there being this sort of drab gymnasium with people walking by my headshot there, glancing and walking away. I mean, I didn't know what'd it be. It turned into weekend long parties with us being guests of honor, and it was amazing. So yeah, A, I was stunned and flabbergasted to have been invited to start with and B, that it turned into this whole side universe, a travelling road show Rob and I basically front. Rob, were you shocked?
Rob: Yeah, you know, definitely, when I got involved, for me, it was a real mind-screw. I'd just done an episode where I was in a convention. I was in this fake convention in a show, then got invited to a real one directly after it aired.
Me: That sounds a little surreal.
Rob: Yes, exactly! It was hard to get my mind around it. So for me, I was scared until I realized we were meeting the best crowds in the business. It's a weekend long party and the craziest people at these conventions are the actors themselves.
Rich: The truth of the matter is people who tend to not go to these conventions will stereotype the attendees as those who go down the unbeaten path. The real wack-a-doodles are us. The fans are incredibly normal, nice and balanced.
Me: So it's not a convention full of people in costume or do you get a lot of that still?
Rich: Oh no, man. There's a ton of people in costume. I love that though. It shows the level of passion and participation that keeps the whole thing alive and going. I mean, you've gotta be there. The show has been on for eleven seasons because people love it.
Me: Very true.
Rich: People take a lot of care getting into character and focus on the details. That's big for the cast, the writers, the producers, the stars, all that. Even having people dressed as Rob's character and my character, it's a huge compliment the fans take the time to do that kind of thing. Many people like to dress as Misha Collin's character, Castiel, and put a trench coat on.
Rob: It's really not that daunting to look out in the audience and see a bunch of trench coats.
Rich: The people who dress up as Castiel without the wings are kind of phoning it in. It's a neck tie and a trench coat.
Rob: It's like, hey dad, can I borrow your stuff?
Me: The conventions are a bit baffling to me. When I think of your guys' role in the show, I think okay, these guys are staple recurring characters. They had to have been in a good twenty episodes. It's staggering to think so much has come from so few [minutes of screen time]. You've spent so much time at conventions...do you still get nervous or is it getting to be second nature?
Rob: I don't get nervous anymore. These appearances used to get me paralyzed with nerves when I started.
Rich: I think, Robby, when we started doing the hotel thing (appearances), that's what made me the most nervous. I wasn't sure how the new design and layout was going to be received, but it's gone over like gangbusters. Now I look forward to it, but there are still moments I'll get nervous. We're veterans at this now, but whenever we shake things up, it's worrisome, because we want it to be accepted, you know?
Me: Of course
Rob: At the end of the day, it's still a performance and there are performance nerves, but it's cool. My band plays and Rich is the host. We're on from the first minute of day one to the last minute of the last day. We're basically on tour, like a band that's on tour. We get excited and nervous a bit before each show. It's not crippling nerves, but excited nerves.
Me: I'd imagine you sort of get into a groove once you start.
Rob: Oh yeah.
Me: Now, focusing on the show, the Kings of Con portion, what's the craziest thing that's happened on the road or at a convention and were you able to work it into an episode at this point?
Rob: Well, the show is going to be based on the actual crazy things that've happen to us in and around the convention, then some antics backstage. It starts with the real story before it gets into the surreal, fictional realm. One story I like to tell is we did a show in New Jersey and we'd just gotten to the hotel. Rich was in room 911 and I was in room 917 and I dialed Rich's room. The voice that picked up went "911, what's your emergency?"
Rob: I was like "Hey Rich, this is Rob." Then the guy on the other line went "911 WHAT'S YOUR EMERGENCY!" I was supposed to dial 7 or something, which I guess they teach in hotel school, but I'd never learned that. I hung up the phone, went to Rich's room, told him I thought I'd made a mistake. We'd been in the building maybe half an hour and right when I finished telling my story there was a big knock at the door. We looked through the peephole and it was a cop. After being in New Jersey less than forty minutes we were already dealing with the cops. That's all true, but in the episode I go to jail. I didn't in real life, but strange things like that were happening all the time. We'd look at each other and say this has to go in a show.
Me: How would you guys define the reality or the universe the show is in? You're obviously going to be fictionalized versions of yourselves, but does it cross into other areas? If you had a cameo would they be more meshed with themselves or perhaps their Supernatural persona?
Rob: I don't know about Supernatural personas, but nothing in this is a reality show. It's not a documentary and even when we're showing real events that happened on the road, we're entering a fictional universe for storytelling's sake. When people do cameos, they'd be doing heightened versions of themselves. They'll be them, (but) version's they'd never hit. They might be a character, but it'll seem like a version of themselves.
Me: Sort of like the alternate persona's Neil Patrick Harris tends to do.
Rob: Sometimes they're completely different and we just capture their talent to make them a completely different character. That's regardless of if they're from the Supernatural and Con universe. We'll use actors that aren't. We use both and none will be dry, dead-on version's of themselves.
Me: Do you guys have any distribution channels you're eyeing or have acquired?
Rob: That's a work in progress at this point.
Me: Ah. Gotcha.
Rich: With our Indiegogo campaign, at the end of it we want to make it a full series. We'll end up either making it by ourselves or getting some help from a production company, but that's unknown. We for sure couldn't have gotten this far into it without the campaign. That's exciting, having this fanbase that's making it happen.
Me: If all goes as well as hoped, is there a possibility of a second season or is this mapped out more like a mini-series where it'll be open and closed in terms of plot?
Rich: There's no limitation to how long the show can go or what the characters will or can do. It's like in Broad City, the show is really about the two women having adventures and misadventures in New York City. The Kings of Con is about heightened versions of Rob and Rich in the Con world, but they can go to any world and it's still the same comedy. There's no limitation to the arch.
Me: Gotcha. So in that sense, is there a continuity from episode to episode or do each have their own independent plot arch? Perhaps somewhere in between.
Rob: They'll each have their own plot arch. There'll be some scenes that create an overreaching arch, but it ain't lost. You'll be able to pop on a random episode and get the characters, get the story and get the same laughs. If you're watching week-to-week, there'll be extra layers and other nuances.
Rich: It's really all about the characters. You don't need to have ever been to a convention to understand any of it, like you don't need to have ever been a writer on a variety show to understand 30 Rock. In the same way, you don't need to be a convention regular to understand Kings of Con.
Me: Is there a particular audience you have in mind? Obviously Supernatural fans will be part of it, but do you aim for it to be darker or more mature? I mean, will it be a show with a few eff bombs every night?
Rob: Rob and I won't die every other night, that's for sure, so we've changed it up a little bit.
Rich: Honestly, the audience we're going for and the tone we're going for has nothing to do with Supernatural. We're blessed to have access to that fan base through our minimal, but impactful time on the show. We're fans of comedy, and a very specific style of comedy. The parallels we always draw are with Louie C.K., Curb Your Enthusiasm, I'm a huge fan of Party Down and I think Broad City does it really, really well. It's good to have one foot in reality and another in a whole different realm. I have a dry, yet very exaggerated comedic approach. Rob coined the phrase, I think, brutal comedic honesty. It's the style we're drawn to and the style we're going for.
Me: Gotcha. So, related to that, are you going for a TV-MA type show that would allow you to say something that'll be impactful no matter how dry it has to be?
Rob: Right now, we gearing it with any sort of "we shouldn't do that" popping into our heads. We want to do the most fun and most exciting stories regardless.
Rich: We're going to be pushing the envelope because that's the kind of stuff that makes us laugh. We're sort of like Eastbound and Down, but not anywhere near Danny McBride. It's not that bad. I feel like until we end up with, on a platform, someone writing a bigger check than the fans have written, saying "We'd rather you not do that," then we'll have that conversation. We're going to do exactly what we think is best and what we think is funniest.
Me: That about wraps it up for me.
Rob: Thank you very much. We appreciate your time.
Me: Thanks. Have a great evening; don't work too hard.
Rich: We'll try.