"Supernatural" returned to the legendary Hall H during Comic-Con International in San Diego on Sunday for their annual hour of reminiscing over seasons past and looking toward future episodes. Attending the panel this year were cast members Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins and Mark Sheppard, along with writer Andrew Dabb and showrunner Jeremy Carver.
Because production for the upcoming season started the week of the convention, no preview for the Season 11 was available. Instead, the panel started with a compilation video of favorite moments from the show's ten seasons.
Moderated by Rob Benedict and Richard Speight, Jr., the panel kicked off by asking Carver about the show's upcoming season. In the Season 10 finale, the Winchester brothers unleashed a primordial evil darkness onto the world, ending the season on a cliffhanger with a new major villain to combat.
"We're really proud of last season. We had a lot of intensely personal character stories," said Carver. "This year we're going back to an epic feel with a big bad and a real quest for the brothers to unite on."
"I'm excited to see the boys working together again," said Padalecki. "We've seen them at odds, we've seen them working together, and I'm glad to see them teaming up."
"Essentially we're left with the clean-up," said Ackles. "Now it's figuring out how to deal with the decisions we have made, which is pretty much what we've had to do for the last ten years anyway."
Speaking of ten years of "Supernatural," Padalecki asked how many newer viewers were in the audience, which was met with scattered applause, indicating that most of the people attending the panel were long time fans.
"That's amazing, I think when he said ten years, it occurred to me that a lot of you all have grown up with us," said Padalecki.
While there was a bit of debate among the cast about how much they have actually grown up during the last decade, Collins marveled at his own experience with the show.
"I'm one of the new kids. I've only been doing this going into eight seasons now," joked Collins. "It's been an amazing journey in so many different respects."
Continuing the larger discussion, Benedict and Speight recognized the several Teen Choice nominations the show earned this year, with Padalecki nominated for Best Actor while Ackles and Collins were nominated for Best Chemistry.
"Jensen and I actually have a chemistry set that we work with on set and I assume that's what they're talking about," joked Collins.
Moving over to Sheppard, Benedict and Speight, using a stuffed hamster with a wandering accent as a proxy, asked what the show might have in store Crowley next season.
"Well, I'm dead," said Sheppard. "They just let me come here because I was going to show up anyway."
But while Crowley's ultimate fate wasn't revealed, writer Andrew Dabb announced that the fourth episode of the new season will be another themed episode.
"That's the fun of having great fans like these," said Dabb. "They will follow us anywhere, so we feel that we have the freedom to take the show to different places."
As for fan-favorite characters returning to the show, showrunner Jeremy Carver did have something to say on the topic.
"There are, but they're coming back in a surprise way," Carver teased.
Four days into shooting, Ackles revealed he's not just acting in the season premiere -- he's also directing it. This prompted a slew of jokes about both Jensen's directing skills and the cooperativeness of his fellow cast members before Ackles acknowledged how much he enjoys working from the director's chair with them.
"After ten seasons, ten years of playing these characters and knowing the story, there is an ease to having to direct the main cast in which you really don't have to," said Ackles. "Jared knows the character so well, Mark knows the character so well, Misha's still working on it..."
After nearly a decade together, the "Supernatural" crew has become a tight knit group, which has become more like a family than typical television production team.
"We've seen children grow up. We've seen people get married. We've been through births, through deaths, through marriages, through divorces," said Ackles. "It runs the gambit of what we've experienced with this whole group of people and there's a majority of them that are there that have been there from day one and that's pretty special."
"There's no better feeling in the world than going to work and being embraced by the arms of your family, and know you have people there to trust and just smile at you and make your day better," said Sheppard.
Still insisting that his character is dead, Sheppard shared his thoughts about his time with the Supernatural crew.
"Quite honestly though, it's been an amazing journey. I showed up as a guest star, kissing a very tall man under a bridge and suddenly it's seven seasons later and it's been the most fun journey I've ever had," said Sheppard. "And to be quite honest, even if I knew what was going to happen, I wouldn't damn well tell you because it's so much fun."
Opening up the panel to audience Q&A, the fans in Hall H lined up to ask their questions, starting with a question towards Ackles regarding how he felt about playing 'Demon Dean' during last season.
"He didn't care. He didn't have a care in the world and I enjoyed playing that aspect of it," said Ackles. "The tough part is that it changes the relationship on screen with all the other characters that I had a relationship [with] over nine years."
As Ackles was answering the question, Hall H lit up with hundreds of electric candle lights held by the audience. It wasn't a call to play "Freebird," but a show of fan support for Padalecki and the t-shirt campaign he recently launched to help people struggling with depression.
Dealing with a topically sensitive subject, the next question asked about the decision to kill off fan-favorite character Charlie (played by Felicia Day) in order to further the story of the Winchester brothers.
"I don't have a great answer beyond, we have favorite characters throughout the years who come on the show, and if we're doing our job right people fall in love with the characters," said Carver. "And on the show where pretty much everybody dies at one point or another, it's one of those horrible, sad, yet dramatic things that we do on the show."
Ackles added that Charlie was supposed to be a one-off character to begin with and that it was only because her character was so well received that she was brought back for multiple episodes.
"So, theoretically we got her more that we originally planned anyway and we should be thankful for the time we got to spend with her," said Ackles.
The next question was directed to the actors, asking them if they ever try to insert their own ideas for the characters and story into the show.
"I really enjoy my place as an actor and all that comes with it," said Padalecki. "You know, Sam doesn't know what's happening next week and nor does Jared -- we know our characters enough that there's certainly a sense of mutual trust, but I certainly wouldn't try to guide my character's actions. If I did we would have been canceled a long time ago."
Next up, the actors were asked if any of the monsters they've fought on the show were monsters they were afraid of as children.
"I was really scared of Bloody Mary," admitted Padalecki. "Bloody Mary and Hook Man were definitely things I was scared of."
The admission earned a sarcastic "Really?" from Ackles, who went on to share his own childhood fears.
"I think as a kid I was really afraid of the thunder and lighting storms that we had in Texas which could rattle the house," said Ackles.
"Really?" responded Padalecki.
"Yeah, because it's real," Ackles shot back.
"I feel like I'm watching a scene from the show right now," said Carver.
Recounting their favorite scenes of the previous season, Ackles started with working alongside Timothy Omundson for the final battle between Dean and Cain.
"You can very easily become an audience member while working with him and simply forget your lines," said Ackles. "It was a good thing I didn't have a sayable line. I just kind of threw myself around the barn."
"I really loved the finale. I loved the showdown," said Padalecki. "It's always fun to do a fight scene, especially with Jensen because we've known each other for all these years, but there was so much heart in the dialogue that was written that it really stuck a chord with me."
"I liked closing out Jimmy's storyline," said Collins. "That was kind of cathartic for me. It was also challenging because I had to play a different character than Castiel, which I haven't done in almost a decade."
"I had fun. I got a lot of mommy issues this year," said Sheppard, who explained that he had to call his mother after every episode to assure her he was just acting. "It was brilliant. It was a lot of fun. It was a different exploration for the character."
"I had the privilege to write a lot for 'Demon Dean' in the second episode of the season," said Dabb. "That was really fun to write and Jensen really embraced it."
"I was a really big fan of the Crowly/Rowina dynamic," said Carver. "I thought it was a fun direction for the show to go and we had a lot of fun directing time to that story."
And finally, for the last question of the panel, an audience member asked the cast if they ever disagreed the actions of their character and felt a need to press back against the script.
"That's one of the joys of acting is that you get to explore these parts of humanity that you never would have. It's talking a lot about myself by being forced to do something that I never would have done and that's one of the ways I learn about myself," said Padalecki.
For their parting words, the cast and crew thanked the thousands of Supernatural fans attending the panel for their support over the show's ten seasons.
"We've been doing this for a number of years now and it never ceases to amaze," said Ackles. "You guys are awesome and thanks for continuing to watch and support and inspire us to do what we do."
"The gratitude you feel toward us, we feel toward you," said Padalecki. "We don't exist without you guys, so thank you."