‘Supernatural’ and ‘Timeless’ creator Eric Kripke details the real-life inspirations behind his fantasy series
Eric Kripke’s career has come full circle.
The creator of the long-running series “Supernatural” and the time travel drama “Timeless” can trace his love of horror and ghost stories back to the book “The House with a Clock in Its Walls.” The spooky children’s mystery novel by John Bellairs quickly became Kripke’s favorite when he discovered it as a young boy.
Cut to 2018: At 44, Kripke has helmed three more sci-fi TV shows — his latest, “The Boys,” premieres on Amazon Prime in 2019 — and he has adapted “House with a Clock” to film. He wrote the Eli Roth-directed movie, which hit theaters in September.
“You could draw a completely direct line from the tone and the world of ‘House with a Clock in Its Walls’ to ‘Supernatural,’ ” Kripke said. “They’re a little funny and a lot scary and about the importance of family.”
Currently in its 14th season, “Supernatural” will air its 300th episode early next year. The CW series is part of an elite group: On major broadcast networks, few prime-time scripted series have ever lasted this long.
Kripke stepped down as “Supernatural” showrunner after its fifth season, moving on to other projects, including “Timeless,” which he co-created with Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”).
On Thursday, NBC will air what the network has publicized as the two-hour “series finale” of “Timeless,” though Kripke refers to it as a “TV movie,” saying, “if the numbers are crazy, then maybe there’s even a chance for more.”
One can’t blame him for harboring hope that this isn’t the end for “Timeless.” NBC made the near-unprecedented move of reviving the show after not one but two cancellations. In May 2017, when the show’s end after season 1 was met with fan outcry, the network re-negotiated with series co-producer Sony Pictures Television and gave “Timeless” a 10-episode second season.
Earlier this year, a month after NBC pulled the plug on the series again, came the official announcement for a two-hour finale.
The “Timeless” writers did aim to provide some closure to the series about time travelers on a mission to protect American history from a secret organization rewriting the nation’s past to suit their own interests. Kripke says that he hopes the TV movie “answers all the questions and provides all the feels that the fans are hoping for.”
In a recent interview, Kripke spoke about “Supernatural’s” long run, the end of “Timeless,” his post-apocalyptic sci-fi series “Revolution” and themes that run through his projects.
Theme 1: On the road again
Kripke has been repeatedly drawn to stories that are essentially road shows. He cites Jack Kerouac and Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” as influences on “Supernatural,” which depicts brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) driving cross-country in a 1967 Chevy Impala, blasting classic rock as they chase reports of paranormal occurrences.
His fascination with the open road may have begun at age 9 when Kripke’s family traveled from their hometown of Toledo, Ohio, to Los Angeles and back. Packed in a van with his parents and his older brother and sister, Kripke remembers visiting the Corn Palace in South Dakota, Jackson Hole in Wyoming and Universal Studios.
“Any time in any of my shows there’s some cheesy, chintzy, but so beautifully American roadside tourist trap, that is 100% from that trip,” Kripke said.
His series “Revolution” follows its characters trekking across the U.S. after all electricity has stopped working across the globe.
Like “Supernatural,” “Revolution” had very few standing sets, taking its characters (and production crew) to new locations every week. But “Revolution” posed the additional challenge of designing a post-apocalyptic world 15 years after a global blackout.
“Man, that show almost killed me,” Kripke said. “That was definitely my most painful, professional experience just because it was so stressful all the time.”
On “Timeless,” Kripke and Ryan shared the workload of running a series that achieves the feat of traveling to not only a new place but a new time period in each episode (albeit on a shorter episode order than “Revolution”).
“My wife always says to me, ‘Why can’t you just write a doctors show?’ I wish I knew how,” Kripke joked. “I don’t know if it’s my fear of getting bored, or probably even more a fear that I’m gonna be boring.”
Theme 2: A close-up on family
Pulse-pounding action and spectacle have lit up the screen in Kripke’s work, from fights against all kinds of monsters and demons in “Supernatural” to depictions of the Hindenburg disaster and the Battle of the Alamo in “Timeless.”
But then it’s time for what “Timeless” actress Abigail Spencer fondly calls “the Kripke close-up.”
“He wants the biggest concept possible, and yet he then wants to match it with the tightest close-up of his characters,” Spencer said.
Ackles said that he and Padalecki still talk about the day when Kripke sat the two actors down on a park bench while filming an early episode of “Supernatural” and told them that though the series may at first appear to be a “monster of the week” show, “it begins and ends with you guys and your relationship as brothers.”
Looking back on his career, Kripke has realized that “every show I make is about families needing to stick together, however you define them.”
“My parents have drilled into [my siblings and me] from a very young age that family is the most important thing, and you protect each other and watch out for each other,” Kripke said. He also noted that his childhood best friends and his classmates from the University of Southern California’s film school are like family to him.
That mentality was behind a line he scripted for “Supernatural” character Bobby Singer, who is a father figure to Sam and Dean: “Family don’t end with blood.”
Kripke now has two sons, aged 11 and 8. “He’s a fun guy to see be a dad because he’s a grown-up kid in a lot of ways,” said “Timeless” actor Malcolm Barrett, who recalls his first impression of Kripke as “a guy brimming with personality… just fun and boisterous.”
Ackles says he considers Kripke “a third Winchester brother.” The community that has grown around the series calls itself “the ‘Supernatural’ family.” The hashtag #SPNfamily has been used on Twitter and Instagram millions of times by the series’ talent and fans alike.
Kripke says that what he is perhaps more proud of than “Supernatural” itself is the community that has grown out of it, particularly “how that group — both the fans and the actors — has coalesced into this force for good and change.” The cast has rallied the fans into outreach for such organizations as “Supernatural” actor Misha Collins’ own nonprofit Random Acts.
Theme 3: “The Boys” and beyond
Getting “House with a Clock” on the big screen was the fulfillment of a long held dreams, but “The Boys” has him achieving other goals — including getting back in the director’s chair.
The Amazon show’s season 1 finale is his first directing credit since a 2009 “Supernatural” episode. Though Kripke says making television interests him more than making movies because TV “gives you a little more room to stretch out and tell stories,” he still hopes to direct a feature film.
“The Boys” depicts corrupt superheroes monitored by a superpowered CIA squad. Based on a comic book series written by Garth Ennis, it shares the dark humor and violence of another Ennis comic-based show, AMC’s “Preacher.”
“I have a really filthy, filthy sense of humor, and I was never able to put it in any of my work,” Kripke said. “With ‘The Boys,’ I can honestly say, really for the first time without restriction, I’m doing the thing that I set out to do.”
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Rating: TV-PG-DLV (may be unsuitable for young children with advisories for suggestive dialogue, coarse language and violence)
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