John Winchester was a major part of Supernatural’s earlier seasons. Sam and Dean’s dad (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) was the whole reason the duo teamed up as adults to tour cross country in their iconic Impala, fighting things and saving people – you know, the family business.
Well, with the new prequel series, The Winchesters, the Supernaturalverse is now cementing the history of Sam and Dean’s ancestry and the fact it has indeed been, and will always be, the Winchester family business to fight the forces of darkness and save people in the process.
Set in the 1970s and focused on Sam and Dean’s parents, John Winchester and Mary Campbell, the series reveals the untold story of how the two met and the demons they fought along the way. With the prequel comes the return of daddy Winchester – this time played by Drake Rodger – and his wife, Mary, who the SPN family didn’t become so familiar with until the later seasons of Supernatural.
Speaking to Den Of Geek at New York Comic Con, Drake Rodger revealed how exciting it has been for him to step into a series with such a well-established fanbase: “It’s really cool to step into a pre-existing universe. We get to inherit a lot of these fans. They’ve been incredibly supportive and it’s been such a blast.”
But while Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s John Winchester might have been a crucial player, and impeccably portrayed by the actor, he was also pretty hated by fans of the show. After the death of his wife, he tumbled headfirst into a world of violence and darkness, being shown to regularly abandon his boys in search of his wife’s demonic killer, leaving them to fend for themselves and worry continuously about their own father’s safety. John moved them from town to town with no hope of settling, making friends or having a normal life, subjected them to dangerous, deadly entities regularly, and didn’t even bother buying them a Christmas present.
Dean was left to grow up quickly and spent his formative years caring for Sam and desperately vying for his dad’s love and affection, leaving him with all sorts of trauma as an adult. The brilliance of Morgan’s performance, though, meant he wasn’t ever a real villain. Infact, he has many likable characteristics that made us hate to love him. It’s these flickers of a former personality that Drake Roger was able to latch on to when portraying the character as a young adult in The Winchesters, finally making us genuinely invest in and care about the character we’d grown to hate.
“I watched twelve-plus seasons of Supernatural and I really loved Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance. In taking the role on, the one thing I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do was live up to Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance,” the actor explained.
“So I didn’t want to recreate anything. I wanted to figure out: if that’s where he ends, what’s the opposite end of the spectrum to show the biggest transition? He’s a little bit more Sam than he is the badass Dean. It’s a fun place to play, especially in contrast to Mary.”
The result is a more playful John, full of quips, jokes and family loyalty, all the while retaining that relentless determination that would set him on the destructive path later on. Played alongside his future wife, the character’s softer side can be seen.
Similarly, the ice cold Mary shows elements of thawing out. As Meg Donnelly, who plays the young Mary Campbell, explained to Den Of Geek: “I think that’s the beautiful thing about Mary is that she’s so closed off and has gone through so many things in her life. Through the show there are little vulnerable parts and it’s so magical. John really helps her open up and she’s working with a team for the first time. There’s so many qualities to Mary. It’s very complex. That’s why it’s so fun to play her. I always say she’s like Dean but she’s longing to be Sam.”