Our favorite angel, Castiel, has gone through some extreme changes lately on Supernatural. And whether we'll ever see Cas again, one thing's for sure — he'll never be the same again. How did Castiel wind up going down such a dark path? We've got an exclusive excerpt from a new book, The Supernatural Season 6 Companion — the section focusing on Castiel.
We've also got the chapter focusing on the supremely meta episode "The French Mistake," where Sam and Dean cross over to a universe where they're just fictional characters on television. Check them both out below. (Including spoilers for Supernatural season six, of course.)
Early in season six it appeared as if Castiel's storyline with the war in Heaven would remain mostly offstage, but Misha Collins didn't mind. "I had a lot of time off at the beginning of the season," he concurs, "but that really worked out well, because I'd just had a baby – West Anaximander Collins – and it was super nice to be able to actually be around for the first couple of months of his life. In the past, if I had been in the situation where they weren't using me very much, I would have been like, ‘Oh my God, why aren't they using me? What's wrong? What have I done to upset them?' But I was not neurotic about it, because I had just had a son, so that was great."
Collins needn't have worried anyway, since Castiel wound up being at the epicenter of the season's mysterious story arc. Some might even call him the "big bad" of the season, but Collins doesn't look at it that way. "He is trying to save Heaven and ultimately save the world," the actor reminds us. "He's taking a whatever-means-necessary approach to that. Ultimately, that has caused him to make some very morally dubious decisions along the way, bringing him into conflict with Sam and Dean." Nonetheless, the actor found it challenging to portray Castiel as someone who would team up with the King of Hell and deceive the Winchesters. "It was difficult to play the duplicitous Cass, as it is something that is inherently difficult for him, because he's not a great liar," explains Collins. Yet he managed to fool Crowley, blindsiding him with his double-cross, and demons are arguably experts on lying. "I actually was surprised by that," says Collins. "I didn't expect that. Castiel tends to try to be as upstanding as he can along the way, but he's always reviled Crowley, so it wasn't totally out of keeping with his character to betray Crowley. In fact, he lays the groundwork for that when he steps away to have his first negotiation with Crowley and Cass says, ‘I was smarter than him.' So I think to outmaneuver him was Castiel's plan from the beginning. It was one of several surprising twists at the end.
"Seeing the inner dialogue of Cass and exploring that in a way that we hadn't done before made ‘The Man Who Would Be King' somewhat challenging," adds Collins. "Then I got quite neurotic in shooting the last episode, because I didn't know until we got on the set that day how Cass as his new proto-god (or whatever he is) was gonna carry himself or sound. I made some subtle changes and I was a little self-conscious when it came to how that would play."
With Castiel now far more powerful than Crowley, it begs the question: why did he let Crowley go? "Well, I speculated on that and I don't have any answers," Collins says, "but I think that Castiel probably feels like he's in a position where it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks of him any more, because he's so powerful that everyone has to do his bidding. Irrespective of what Crowley would like to do to him, I think that Castiel certainly is carrying himself with an air of invincibility and that everyone will have to do exactly what he says. So, if he has plans for Crowley, Crowley, like it or not, will have to do what Cass wants."
Castiel also didn't turn on the Winchesters, even though he had killed Balthazar for betraying him, and even though Sam literally stabbed him in the back. "There are a couple of possible reasons for that," Collins muses. "One is that in spite of his new godliness, Sam and Dean may still have a soft spot in his heart. He definitely knows that Sam and Dean have always been trying to do the right thing, which is not something that he felt about Raphael or Raphael's supporters. The other possibility is that, like Crowley, he feels that Sam and Dean may have a role in his future plans."
What exactly are his future plans? "I don't know," Collins insists. "I'm fascinated and curious to find out where they're going to go with that. It's definitely got me curious. At the beginning of season six the plan was to have Cass go down this dark and dubious road with Purgatory and the souls and an alliance with Crowley, and for him to ultimately have a faceoff with the Winchester brothers and die. But we didn't end up going that route in the end, so I'm glad that I'm still in the picture here. That's gratifying."
BEHIND THE SCENES: THE FRENCH MISTAKE
"You want us to do what?"
That was Jensen Ackles' reaction when the producers first pitched the idea behind ‘The French Mistake' to him and Jared Padalecki. "Actually, it was the first time that we ever got called in to comment at the pitching stage," Ackles says. "Normally we just get the script or an outline. Honestly, though, there was some hesitation at first. I mean, it was really out there to do, even for us – and that's saying a lot! But Eric Kripke was like, ‘Listen to me, Jensen, it's gonna be great!'"
The lead actors warmed up to the concept quickly, though Padalecki says, "I loved the idea, but I asked, ‘Can we not play Jared and Jensen?'" His wish was granted, but apparently he didn't make the same request for his wife, who did play herself. Sort of.
"They asked me beforehand if I'd be willing to play myself," explains Genevieve Padalecki, "and I said, ‘Yes, as long as it's poking fun,' which it was." Besides, she wasn't really playing herself. "No, so it's weird for me to think that people are going to think that's how I am. It was doubly strange for me to play, because it's my husband I'm playing opposite, yet he's not really my husband."
That wasn't really her house, either. "No, no, no," Padalecki says. "It was this big, beautiful house in Vancouver that had taken the owners four or five years and millions of dollars to build, and it'd just been finished. It's nothing like our house here [in California]," Padalecki says. "Nothing. We're pretty normal people. It makes me laugh, because I was just up on the roof of our house with a guy who was putting tar over the places that leak. We're pretty low-key and not ostentatious or crazy.
"We don't have an alpaca," Padalecki continues with a smile. "But we hiked Machu Picchu and alpacas are rampant there, so we laughed when we saw that in the script, and I asked, ‘Is this because of the Machu Picchu thing?' They were like, ‘No, alpacas are green animals, because their hoof prints don't smash down the earth.' Apparently there was some big rage in Hollywood for a little while where people were all like, ‘Save the alpacas!' So it's a way of making fun of our business."
Padalecki is not currently involved in an International Otter Adoption program, either, but she does do pilates, which is something that the script referenced in that scene. When Gen is reminding her husband about the charity dinner, she mentions that they are auctioning off a pilates mat that she and Jared signed. "I did say that line; they must've edited it out for time's sake or something," says Padalecki. "Jared's done a little bit of yoga, but he's never done pilates, although I want him to do it with me. Neither of us have ever auctioned off a mat. It was kind of poking fun at everything, and then ironically we did auction off Jared's watch at the  Supernatural convention in San Francisco for the charity 5 Gyres."
The watch went for $3500, so imagine how much money they could raise for charity if the Warhol-style portraits of the Padaleckis ever went up for auction. "We ended up giving those to Jared and Gen," says locations manager Janet McCairns, "because they just thought they were so hilarious." Padalecki confirms that he took those pictures and the one of him riding a horse in cowboy gear, but now he wonders, "Where on earth can I put them? I can't put them in my bathroom, with our faces just staring back at me… " Maybe they should go in Jensen Ackles' house instead. Although there might not be any room, what with his predilection for giant aquariums. Actually, Jensen was caught off guard by the aquarium in his trailer, which was about twice the size of his actual trailer. "I walked into that set and thought, ‘I'm not me!'" says Ackles. Not that he would be opposed to a trailer upgrade. "Jensen loved the inside of his trailer that we had on that episode," comments set decorator George Neuman. "He was like, ‘Hey, everyone take note, this is what I want for next year.'"
Apparently Dean was taking note of the "male modeling" style of Jensen Ackles on the cover of the Official Supernatural Magazine that he found in Ackles' trailer, because he seemed to be attempting similar facial poses in the scene where the Winchester brothers are forced to act. "I know Dean is supposed to be cool, obviously," says Ackles, "but I figured if he actually tried to be cool, he would just look silly." Although not quite as silly as Sam saying his lines to the ceiling and melodramatically emoting with his arms. "I couldn't help laughing," says Misha Collins. "Whenever Jared held up his arm, I'd crack. Then, when I was finally used to that arm, Jared held up the other arm, too! I just lost it. I had to leave the set."
"That was a great episode," Collins adds. "Really, quite amazing. It was fun to break from the Castiel character and get to do something else. I wanted to distance my true self from the character Misha Collins on the show Supernatural as much as possible, because I was trying to play him as douchebaggy as possible. I think, sadly, it wasn't quite far enough from my natural character for everyone to pick up on that, so a lot of the viewing audience walked away thinking, ‘Wow, he's kind of a douchebag.' But, mercifully, I wasn't the only one that had that fate befall them. I mean, poor Jared had enormous photos of his face and a tanning bed in his living room! I think we each came out looking like something of a douchebag."
Collins is a regular user of Twitter in real life – with over 200,000 followers as of this writing – but, he says, "I tweet with far greater infrequency than the Misha on Supernatural. I do not tweet from the set of Supernatural, and I have a rule, which is I try not to tweet anything that's true or real, or if and when I do, it has a surreal twist or something. I generally don't recognize the existence of the show Supernatural, and when I do I refer to it as a reality series about two brothers who hunt elves. I try to keep what I consider a healthy separation."
Ackles had no problem keeping that separation, because he got to stay in character. "From my perspective," he says, "we never broke the fourth wall, meaning I never went from playing Dean to actually being myself on camera. That never happened. I was Dean throughout the whole script. People referred to me as Jensen, but there was never a break from the character of Dean."
The fact that Jensen was acting like his character, Dean, within the alternate reality of the episode still made for some confusing moments with the "real" people in that world, like when he calls Genevieve Padalecki "Ruby." Even "Jared" calling her "Genevieve" instead of just "Gen" seemed strange to Padalecki. So what would the real Gen Padalecki think if her real husband and the real Jensen Ackles started acting like Sam and Dean? "I would think that there was something wrong," she replies, "because Jared can do funny things, but I'd be like, ‘This joke makes no sense.'"
Sebastian Roche has never witnessed anyone staying completely in character off-camera, but he'd like to. "It's never happened to me in the style of ‘The French Mistake'," he says, "but it would be rather fun to see. I'd actually have loved to have been ‘Sebastian Roche' in the episode and gone back and forth being Balthazar and the actor. That would've been great fun."
Production designer Jerry Wanek also would have loved to have played himself in the episode, but since he's not on set very much, he says, "There was never a version of me in the script. I even volunteered to get shot! But it didn't happen."
Creator Eric Kripke did of course get shot, three times, and executive producer Ben Edlund doesn't recall Kripke minding. "I'm not sure if he didn't demand to be blown away," says Edlund. "I think killing the creator in a place where we're talking about absentee gods and stuff is something that immediately appealed to Eric."
Being the shooter immediately appealed to Carlos Sanz. "It was fun!" he enthuses. "I've been on both ends of it, when you're shooting and when you're getting shot, and it's more fun to be shooting than to be shot, let me tell you." Although, there was one downside. "I had to take apart and put together a gun very quickly, and I pinched my hands a few times. At one point the director came up to me and asked, ‘How you doing?' I said, ‘I just pinched my hand… ' Then he was like, ‘Well, suck it up! Take one for the team.' So I did. I think it comes off pretty well."
Of course, things didn't go so well for Sanz's character – he's stranded in the alternate reality. "I hope I'm not stuck in that reality," says Sanz. "There's no magic. I have no power. That would be horrible. But I do have a way of communicating with Raphael. I just need to take somebody's blood, call Raphael and say, ‘Hey, get me outta here!'"