In Part 2 of our exclusive interview phone interview with Richard Speight Jr., he talks more about his acting work playing a novice demon hunter in the new low-budget supernatural feature film DRIVEN, written by fellow lead Casey Dillard and directed by Glenn Payne. Speight also discusses directing for the series SUPERNATURAL – he plays the Trickster/Loki/archangel Gabriel on the show – and LUCIFER, as well as fan conventions.
ASSIGNMENT X: Having made a scripted TV series, KINGS OF CON, with Rob Benedict – who plays Chuck/God on SUPERNATURAL – about being actors who appear at fan conventions, and being a frequent guest at fan conventions, by now you probably know a great deal about the convention scene. When you started being a guest at conventions, did you have expectations that turned out to be different than what the experience actually was?
RICHARD SPEIGHT JR.: I had no expectations, except for having seen William Shatner’s spoof of conventions on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. I had never been to a convention, didn’t have any friends who attended conventions, didn’t know anything conventions. The thing that I was thrown by – so this would be the expectation that was not correct – I couldn’t comprehend why fans would want to meet an actor who’d been in two episodes of the show [SUPERNATURAL]. It was all I’d done at that point. It didn’t make any sense to me. I’d done plenty of TV, and I’d done many more than two episodes of many other shows, and the idea that two shows was enough to warrant me attending a convention [as a guest] just did not compute. Because I’d never done anything in the genre space before as an actor. But then when I showed up at the hotel in Chicago, suddenly there were all these people who were excited to meet me, that whole preconceived notion was blown out the window. But it definitely was confusing to me at the beginning.
AX: You had done BAND OF BROTHERS, which was, I’m guessing, a much longer, larger experience than SUPERNATURAL had been at that point, so were you like, “Why is there not a fandom for that?”
SPEIGHT: Well, no. My entire career was built on stuff that doesn’t have fandoms, so I never thought, “Gee, where is the fandom for this show?”, because I’m not part of a fandom. I’m a guy who watches TV shows and I turn it off and do something else. So I’ve never been a part of that world or witnessed it at all. So I had no reason to wonder why other works didn’t have fandoms. I was more surprised that SUPERNATURAL did. I just was not familiar with shows that have that kind of support structure.
I’m super-impressed by it now, because the fan base is incredibly loyal to that show, and incredibly supportive of the show, and they keep the show on the air. And it’s not just that show. Now that I’ve been immersed in that world, and I’ve seen firsthand how it’s the convention crowds that make stars out of these people playing superheroes, and keep franchises alive, and they’re really tastemakers when it comes to cinema and TV, and they have network execs being sure that they get the attention of the con-going crowd. The con-going crowd are the viewers, and the avid supporters, and the people who promote things on social media. They really are a sought-after group, which makes perfect sense now, it’s just nothing I was familiar with pre-SUPERNATURAL.
AX: Are you also are in charge of the after-hours music events at SUPERNATURAL conventions?
SPEIGHT: Well, it’s still part of the convention. It’s a concert on Saturday night, called “Saturday Night Special.” It really is anchored by Rob Benedict’s band Louden Swain, and I helped put that night together years ago to a) give the fans something fun to do on a Saturday night, and b) give the band a venue to play their music the way they should. They are on stage all day long at SUPERNATURAL conventions, basically being like Jimmy Kimmel’s side band. They play actors on and off and are part of the entertainment throughout the day, but on Saturday night, they get to actually be the rock stars they actually are and play the show, and other actors who have musical ability will sit in with the band. But it’s not a talent show, it’s a show filled with talent. It’s very different.
AX: Do you perform in the “Saturday Night Special”?
SPEIGHT: I have sat in with the band before, usually to play bass, because Mike Borja, the bass player, sometimes will play piano on songs. And in that instance, I’ll step up on bass, because I had played bass for years in bands. More recently, every now and then, I’ll sit in, because I started my own side project band, called Dick Jr. and the Volunteers, and actually just released an album in November. Now I’ll sit in with the Louden Swain boys on Saturday nights sometimes, and play my stuff from that.
AX: Besides playing bass, do you sing? Do you write songs?
SPEIGHT: For that, I sing. I’m the lead singer for Dick Jr. and the Volunteers, and co-wrote one of the songs, and then a couple of them are written by other people, and then a couple of them are old-school country songs that either are well-known, or completely unknown but are worth knowing.
AX: Do you come from a rock ‘n’ roll background? Was that part of your formative years?
SPEIGHT: I’m a guy who played music. It’s never been anything I pursued as a career, but I’ve been playing in a band since I was fifteen, just because I like it. I’ve been playing bass in bands since fifteen on – took a break to have kids, because it’s not a profession, it’s definitely a hobby for me – but having Louden Swain onstage and the SUPERNATURAL convention audience in the seats has been a great opportunity to dip my toe back into the music world for fun. And it’s been a blast.
AX: Does your music inform your acting in any way?
SPEIGHT: No. two separate things.
AX: To ask about a third thing, you’ve directed three episodes of LUCIFER, one for fourth season and two for the upcoming fifth season. How was that?
SPEIGHT: Awesome, great group of people. It’s a show that’s similar to SUPERNATURAL in that they strike a lot of tones – they do comedy, they do drama, they do relationships – in fact, more than SUPERNATURAL, per se, because SUPERNATURAL is so based on the brothers. There are more romantic elements in the LUCIFER world, and it’s been awesome directing that phenomenal cast. It has the same upbeat energy that I came to appreciate in SUPERNATURAL [for which Speight has now directed eleven episodes]. When you have [actors] Jared [Padalecki] and Jensen [Ackles] as great team leaders [on SUPERNATURAL], you get a little spoiled. Then you go over to LUCIFER, and you’ve got [actors] Tom Ellis and Lauren German, who are equally as charming and lovely and welcoming. And they have a bigger regular cast, and it’s equally lovely. And the scripts are clever and fun, and it’s a bigger show in terms of how it’s executed, and that was a fun, cool challenge, and I really had a good time over there.
AX: LUCIFER shoots Los Angeles for Los Angeles, whereas SUPERNATURAL shoots Vancouver for everything. As a director, is it a little easier on LUCIFER to go, “Fine, this is really where we are”?
SPEIGHT: Well, to be honest, I think that challenge falls more on the production designer. Certainly, for L.A., making it L.A. is easy, and back when LUCIFER was shot in Vancouver [for its first two seasons], I never directed any when it was up there, but it’s a lot harder to depict sunny L.A. in overcast Vancouver. In SUPERNATURAL, they’ve just got it down. Jerry Wanek, the production designer, he’s just got it so down in how to make certain strips of Vancouver look like the [American] Midwest or the South, so they’ve never had a hard time with that up there. So little of that falls on the director. He gives me great locations that I can use to look the way they look, and he’s done all the heavy lifting in finding those spots. So then I get to choose them and we help come up with ideas to make them look what we all want them to look like. But you’re going to get drizzle in Vancouver, you’re going to get some things you can’t not get, and you just learn to work around them.
AX: As a director, do you have a favorite episode of either show?
SPEIGHT: Well, I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for [Season 11, 2011’s] “Just My Imagination,” because that’s the first episode I directed of SUPERNATURAL. [Speight and episode writer Jenny Klein were nominated for a Hugo Award for the segment.] And I thought it was such a beautiful story about [Padalecki’s character] Sam as a boy, and what he needed, which was an imaginary friend, as a child, to get through those tough times, and how that has affected him as a young man, now being a Hunter with a brother. I just thought it was a beautiful piece of writing and, as a dad of young boys, I was just really moved by the content of the piece, and I thought Nate Torrence, who played Sully, the imaginary friend, was just a force of nature. I thought it was a great experience across the board, and I still go back and love that episode, as much now as back then, when I see it. So I have a lot of appreciation for that. And that’s also maybe because it was my first episode of SUPERNATURAL, but I also think it’s a beautiful story.
As far as LUCIFER goes, I’ve really enjoyed all three episodes I’ve directed. I’m trying to think if there’s one that resonates more for me. It’s hard to say. I think the two I’ve done this season, Season 5, which haven’t come out yet, were both super-fun and I think really great experiences. I mean, I’m not even being flaking in not picking one. Fantastic people, great show runners.
AX: As an actor on SUPERNATURAL, for a while, your character had an identity wrapped in an identity wrapped in an identity. Did you reach a point of going, “I’m not surprised anymore,” because your character kept going, he’s this person, no, he’s really this person, no, he’s really that person …?
SPEIGHT: I think that’s the nature of TV, right? You do one episode of something, and you feel like, “Oh, that’s the character,” and then you open a new script, and like, “Oh, I’m a – okay, now I’m doing this.” So yes, nothing surprises me in SUPERNATURAL ever, but hopefully it surprises the audience every now and then.
AX: I’m guessing you’d be struck by lightning if you said whether or not you’re going to appear in the last seven episodes of SUPERNATURAL …
SPEIGHT: If I lie, I might be lying. If I don’t lie, I might be lying, and if I lie, I might telling the truth. So there’s no point in even answering.
AX: Back to your new movie DRIVEN, you play an aspiring demon hunter who enlists a rideshare driver in his quest. Do you think DRIVEN will appeal to the SUPERNATURAL audience, and if so, why?
SPEIGHT: I think DRIVEN will appeal because it’s clever and fun, and the SUPERNATURAL universe has a smart audience. They might love the scary elements on SUPERNATURAL, but what keeps that show relevant and popular is the relationship and the banter between the brothers, the heart and the banter and the connection between the brothers. And in its own way, I think DRIVEN did a great job of creating a really good connection between the main characters, which bolsters the story that is very clever and very well done, and so I think it’s got enough humor and heart to enable audiences to be able to connect to the people on the screen, and that makes it a fun watch.
AX: Do you have any other projects coming up that we should know about?
SPEIGHT: I’m currently waiting for my youngest son to finish English, and then we’re going to do poetry and reading. I’m right now in this teaching kids at home. There’s nothing happening. Everything’s shut down. So no, there’s nothing. I’ve got those two episodes of LUCIFER that will come out whenever Netflix drops that season, and then beyond that, I, like everybody else, am in lockdown.
AX: And what would you most like people to know about DRIVEN?
SPEIGHT: DRIVEN represents everything that’s good in the independent film world. It is made by people who love movies, who love to make movies, who work hard at telling a good story, and yearn for nothing more than an audience to watch and enjoy it. There are movies that are crafted to make money, that know they’re going to hit you in the pocketbook, because they’re designed to do so. They’re big, flashy, they’re hitting on intellectual property that you already know and love. But to build an idea from scratch, to start with nothing but a concept and a computer screen that’s blank, and turn that into a movie that is well-written, well-shot, well-received on the festival circuit, and released globally on digital platforms, it’s a hell of an accomplishment. So if you love movies, you should go support DRIVEN. And you won’t be disappointed.
Related: Movie Review: DRIVEN
Article Source: Assignment X
Article: DRIVEN: Richard Speight Jr. on new film, SUPERNATURAL and LUCIFER – Exclusive Interview – Part 2