Some Supernatural fans hate them, others — count me among them — love when the show punches through the fourth wall. Writer Ben Edlund (he wrote last season's hilarious "Changing Channels") is back Friday (9/8c on The CW) with another exposé of life behind the scenes on a TV show. This time, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) find themselves thrust into the topsy-turvy world of Supernatural, the TV series. Executive producer Sera Gamble lets us in on the joke.
TV Guide Magazine: This episode, "The French Mistake," sounds like the biggest meta episode you've done.
Gamble: We're going pretty far! [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: What does the title mean?
Gamble: It's a reference to a song at the end of Blazing Saddles, that's a reference to breaking the Fourth Wall. We chose the title as a winking nod to that concept.
TV Guide Magazine: What's the situation Sam and Dean find themselves in?
Gamble: Castiel has been fighting this civil war in Heaven. The archangel Raphael launches a particularly grave assault against all those who have helped Castiel. In order to help them outrun this hit man, [Castiel's angel ally] Balthazar zaps Sam and Dean away into this crazy sort of alternate parallel universe. In this place, there's no magic, there are no angels, the legends are just legends and Supernatural is a television show.
TV Guide Magazine: Your meta episodes usually contain plenty of self-reverential humor as well as peril. How about this one?
Gamble: Some parts are just fall down funny and of course there are moments of real danger for the guys. We find moments to muse on what all of this could mean and we slip in a couple of beats that are important for mythology. So Sam and Dean find themselves on the set of this show Supernatural, which seems to be eerily about their lives. And they're on a set that looks like Bobby's house. The director of the episode is someone who calls himself Bob Singer. [It's a double joke. As well as the name of a major character on the real Supernatural, one of the exec producers is Robert Singer.] We were cognizant of the fact that those jokes are very inside in that 30 Rock kind of way and that not everybody knows about the television industry. Not everybody wants to know all about Hollywood and the process of making television. So we tried to make sure that the episode is accessible. It was about putting Sam and Dean in a situation that they had never been in before. We are not just navel-gazing in this episode.
TV Guide Magazine: Are they supposed to be actors named Jared and Jensen?
Gamble: Everyone seems to think Sam and Dean are these actors named Jared and Jensen, who don't understand what's going on. People are expecting them to take scripts and act. Nothing is more boring to Sam and Dean than the idea of being on a set and acting and pretending to be hunters. This is about as far as we can take them. Being on a TV set is far, far scarier to Sam and Dean than being in a haunted house.
TV Guide Magazine: Genevieve Cortese makes a return visit. How does she fit into the storyline?
Gamble: In real life, Genevieve Cortese is married to Jared Padalecki. They met on the set of Supernatural. She played Ruby and we asked her if she would be game to guest star in the episode as the wife of "Jared Padalecki." She totally got the joke. So she plays herself.
TV Guide Magazine: In this alt world, she thinks she's married to the actor Jared?
Gambel: The person who shows up in this episode is married to him. But at first Sam and Dean think she's Ruby, the [now-dead] demon she played on the show.
TV Guide Magazine: Is there a Sera Gamble in the show, since there's a Bob Singer?
Gamble: Sera Gamble is a disembodied voice on the phone. Our production is in Vancouver and our writers' office is here in Los Angeles. I do a lot of my producing on conference calls with the producers who are up there. So there's a moment in the show where they have to call down to Los Angeles and they hear the disembodied voice of Sera Gamble.
TV Guide Magazine: They're on this set terrified that they have to play these fictionalized hunters. Where is the real peril?
Gamble: The reason that they were launched into this perilous world to begin with was to try and outrun an angelic threat and we keep that threat alive throughout the episode. That's in addition to all of the classic Wizard of Oz type threats that you can think of, meaning what happens if they can't get home.
TV Guide Magazine: Does this Supernatural set look like the actual Supernatural set?
Gamble: Actually, it's fairly true to life. We used our sets so they look like our sets. We cast a lot of people who very much resemble the people who work on our sets every day. It really is a shocking glimpse into our show. We kind of looked at each other and said — "Are we really going to do this?" [Laughs] There was nervous laughter in the writers' room. This idea has been pitched over the years a few times — by [series creator] Eric [Kripke] mostly. We have this philosophy on the show that we should always go for the ballsiest idea. And this was by far the ballsiest idea on the table.
TV Guide Magazine: Since it's his brainchild, is Eric Kripke involved in the episode?
Gamble: Absolutely. Eric and Ben broke the story together and Bob Singer and I popped in quite frequently. [Laughs] This one was too much fun for us not to all come in on and be a part of.
TV Guide Magazine: What's your next "ballsy" concept?
Gamble: We're shooting a Western version of Supernatural. We're so excited.
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