Jim Beaver is known among the Supernatural family as surrogate dad Bobby Singer to the Winchester boys. Jim played this role as a regular from 2006 to 2012, but we have seen him return to the series once in a while. His most recent appearance was in season 10 in the episode Inside Man.
For the past few months Jim has been busy with a play he wrote in 1985 called Verdigris. He re-launched the play to the theatre and got many positive reviews for it. Besides being an actor and playwright, Jim is also a screenwriter, director, film historian and writer. He is a single parent of a teenage girl, Maddie, whose wisdom he often shares with us. And on top of that, he is a kind and caring man, as I myself was able to witness at Asylum13 last year.
First of all, let me thank you for agreeing to do this interview for the Lusty Fangirls website. We’re honored.
IV: OK, now let’s get this first question over with. I’m sure every interviewer asks you this one, but our readers are dying to know what it was like for Jensen and Jared to work with you? (question with a twist)
JB: What was it like for J&J to work with me? I’m sure it was the pinnacle of their careers. In fact the one great disappointment of my own career is that I can’t work with me! In truth, I hope they have enjoyed working with me even half as much as I’ve enjoyed working with them. They’re great, decent, honest, committed, loyal fellows, and I’m proud of my association with them. I hope they feel something akin to that about me.
IV: I’m sure they do feel the same for you, judging from the many positive mentions by Jensen and Jared about you in the press. And as actors of the younger generation they probably will have learned a thing or two from you as well.
When fans are being asked for their favorite Bobby moment, they probably each have a different favorite. Bobby had so many great moments and scenes. I personally love S4.1 Lazarus Rising, in which Bobby doesn’t believe its Dean who’s returned and throws every known demon repellent at him. What was the best or most memorable moment for you, playing on Supernatural?
JB: It’s hard for me to pick a favorite moment, as I have so many of them. It’s a little easier to pick favorite episodes. “Weekend at Bobby’s,” “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” and “Death’s Door” are all particular favorites for various reasons. (It’s probably no coincidence that those episodes all focused rather predominantly on my character.) But among my favorite moments were the kiss and the near-kiss with Sheriff Mills, having the ear-worm baddie take over Bobby’s body in “And Then There Were None,” and the lecture Bobby gives Dean in the wrecking yard in season 2. But there are dozens more.
IV: The chemistry with Jody Mills was present, indeed. A kickass lady Sheriff together with Bobby; yes I can really see that happening. That would make for some good fireworks. It would be nice to get Kim Rhodes’ take on that idea as well.
A serious question now; How was playing the scenes where Bobby loses his wife? I imagine it brought back some real life emotions, or did you rely completely on your acting skills? I only dared to ask you this, as you’ve been very open about the life and death of your wife Cecily in your book “Life’s That Way.” I thank you for sharing your story, it brought me to tears and helped me with personal issues, as I’m sure is the case for many of your readers.
JB: Playing the scenes in “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” and “Death’s Door,” where Bobby confronts the reality of the loss of his wife, was not as hard on me in a personal way as it might seem. That’s not to say I didn’t experience deep, painful emotions playing moments that echoed in many ways my own real-life loss. But I think most actors would have felt the same way I did, that being able to draw on the experience of my own tragedy was in a way a real gift, an opportunity to make something more dramatically meaningful and powerful by virtue of really knowing the emotions I was playing. Many people have asked me if I was bothered by scenes in Supernatural and also in Deadwood, where I had a similar situation to play. Sometimes people think I should have been upset or unhappy at being asked to play such things that were so close to my own unhappiness. But to me, it was a blessing to be able to take something so painful and use it to make something good. We have a saying in the U.S. about “making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” meaning taking something unpleasant and making something good out of it. Knowing that I could bring truth and real feeling to these scenes of loss better than someone who hadn’t experienced such things was an enormous gift and blessing, and I’m so happy I was allowed to make a little thing of good out of elements of great sorrow. Of course, in the middle of filming such scenes, it is difficult, simply because an actor’s body doesn’t know he’s pretending. If you’re on the verge of tears all day because the scene calls for you to be (and a 2-minute scene can take all day to shoot), your body is in this perpetual frozen moment of anguish all day, and it doesn’t matter that the tears and pain are for a fictional character. By the end of the day, you just want to collapse on your bed and cry all night. But it makes for great drama!
IV: Awww, and great drama it was! And knowing the background on your thinking and feeling while filming these scenes makes me watch these differently.
You must have had ideas on how Bobby’s character would evolve while you were playing him. If Bobby hadn’t died, where do you think his life would have brought him? It seems like a fun thing to imagine him a few years down the line.
JB: If Bobby hadn’t died, I always imagined he would eventually end up in a relationship with Sheriff Mills and together they would take on both the Big Bads of the world and the ups and downs of a romantic relationship. Bobby would have continued to be the voice of experience and reason for Sam and Dean, and the fight would go on. As dramatic as Bobby’s death was, I confess I really regret that it didn’t work out the way I imagined it would. But the great thing about Supernatural is that death doesn’t end the story for any character. There’s still a chance something like that could happen, because there’s always a chance that ANYTHING can happen on Supernatural!
IV: We are keeping our fingers crossed for Bobby. I personally am convinced that we haven’t seen the last of him. He’s too good a character to lose on the series.
Just something I always wondered: Is Bobby’s accent similar to how you speak when you are among friends and family or was that done purely for the character?
JB: I don’t think there’s a lot of difference between Bobby’s voice and accent and my own. I probably unconsciously pitch him a bit lower in my vocal register than normal, and I may exaggerate a tiny bit my own Texas accent. I don’t sound quite as colloquial or regional in my daily life, but none of it is faked. Bobby and I probably sound almost identical. He’s just grouchier than I am (most of the time).
IV: Maybe grouchy, but just worried about the ones he loves, I guess.
The entire Supernatural family was devastated when Bobby died. Why do you think the writers/producers killed Bobby off and do you think that they’ll ever bring him back? After all, it is Supernatural, nothing is impossible. Would you be in for a return of Bobby?
JB: My understanding of why the producers killed Bobby off was that they wanted to shake up the show and to shake up the characters of Sam and Dean, who had amassed a notable collection of resources in their fight against evil, and the producers thought it would be highly dramatic to deprive them of all of these resources. Speaking as a dramatist myself, I think they were right. Drama IS creating obstacles for, and denying resources to, characters and seeing how they cope. But I’m not convinced that it was the best thing for the show. It was pretty good for me in some ways, because it freed me up to do some of the best work I’ve been allowed to do, on other shows and in movies. But I wouldn’t have been at all unhappy to continue playing Bobby just as I had before “Death’s Door.” And I’d love to go back to that, if the producers ever decide they want to explore the character again in a fuller way than in the past 3 seasons.
IV: I certainly won’t object to Bobby returning, but at the same time I can see you wanting the part in a “fuller way” as you so nicely put it. Supernatural has given you a wider audience I assume, so maybe more doors opening for you to get some interesting work.
I guess that you don’t have much spare time and lots of thing to be done and social obligations to meet. But do you keep in touch with people from Supernatural, cast or crew?
JB: I don’t see many people associated with Supernatural very often, simply because I live in Los Angeles and they film in Vancouver. I see Jared and Jensen and Misha, usually only for brief moments, at various fan events, but we rarely if ever get any time really to catch up or hang out. I love and miss the entire crew of Supernatural, and I’m really happy that social media allows us to stay in touch so easily. But, no, I’m not in touch with any of them nearly as much as I’d like to be.
IV: A shame really that you don’t stay in touch regularly, but that’s life I suppose. We only have so much time and so much to do.
Every television series and movie has their own secrets, some large, some small. Some are dying to get out; some are begging to stay hidden. Could you please share something that we definitely don’t know about Supernatural or the people working on it?
JB: Secrets from Supernatural? I can’t think of anything actually secret that I could (or would) expose. I can tell you a piece of trivia that probably isn’t well known: for at least two seasons, a while back, EVERYBODY on the show, ESPECIALLY Jared and Jensen, was addicted to Words with Friends. Sometimes it was hard to get anyone’s attention, so many people on set were glued to their phones. I think that phase is over, but it was a strange time. I never quite caught the bug, but there were huge contests among the cast and crew at the time.
IV: Hey, I know that game! I play it daily with friends. Didn’t know I had that in common with Jensen and Jared. Fun.
The Supernatural family is a very passionate community. Good things come from it, and less good things, as is most often the case when passions are involved. What are some of the positive and negative things that being a part of the Supernatural Family has brought to your life?
JB: The positives of being part of the Supernatural Family far outweigh the negatives. I’ve been around the world (literally), visiting with fans and meeting extraordinary people and coming to know and love many of them. I’ve learned a great deal about myself from hearing of the lives of people who follow the show. I’ve been able to contribute to the world through charitable activities by involving the fandom in such work far more effectively than I could ever have done on my own. I’ve also gotten kissed and hugged more than a man my age should ever expect! For all this (especially the last), I’m very grateful. The negatives are almost non-existent. Sure, it’s a little tiresome to tweet that I’ve got a headache and to get 3,000 responses suggesting that demons have infested my brain. Sometimes a simple “Feel better, Jim!” is much more welcome. But even that isn’t worth complaining about. I love playing Bobby, and I love being me, and I like people to know the difference. At the same time, for most fans, if I weren’t the guy who plays Bobby, they wouldn’t have much reason to care much about Jim.
IV: So true and so honest Jim. But I must confess that one of the perks of conventions for me is that I can hug handsome and kind men without shame. I was lucky enough to receive a big bear hug from you last year. This turned out to be one of my favorite photos.
Supernatural conventions are immensely popular, both in the US and abroad, and new cons are still emerging. Fans obviously love to visit them. But what is it from your perspective: work or play? Can we surprise the Jim Beaver/Bobby Singer fans; have you been booked for any conventions in the near future?
JB: Conventions are wonderful experiences for me. I LOVE meeting the fans, and having people gather from all over in part to tell you they love your work is an immeasurable gift for which I’m deeply grateful. The cons are great, great fun, but they are also exhausting, far more exhausting than the work of doing the show. So I tend to get worn out and lose my voice and often end up with “con crud” pretty often, but these are petty concerns compared to how much I enjoy them.
My upcoming convention appearances include the Jus in Bello convention in Rome in mid-May, the Phoenix (Arizona) Comic-Con in late May, a convention in New Zealand in July, 2015, and the Asylum event in Birmingham, England in spring, 2016. There may be others planned, but I don’t recall them. I just get on a plane whenever my manager tells me to!
IV: I hope to see you again next year in Birmingham. Although not so many as in the US, fortunately there are some good Supernatural conventions over here in Europe. And that might contribute to your Frequent Flyer miles!
Of course we all must work for our money in order to support ourselves and our loved ones. Some are blessed with a job they love, some are less lucky. Apart from money, what does acting bring you? And has there been a moment when you thought of leaving acting and pursuing another career?
JB: Acting is the single most rewarding activity of my life. It has been since I first discovered it at 21. It gives me perspective. It gives me a feeling of intimacy with large groups of people. It gives me a connection to the past and to the future. It reveals truths to me that make my life richer, and it allows me to share those truths with others. It gives me so much fun. And it gives me the feeling that I’m doing something useful and meaningful in the world. I always swore I would never give up acting, that it was the single most sustaining thing in my life. There was a moment in 2002, when I was not getting much work, when I had a wife and new baby to provide for, when I briefly wondered if I might have to find something else to do, as I wasn’t able to bring in enough money to support a family. But then Deadwood fell in my lap and led to the greatest experiences of my career, in one great show after another, and I’ve never again given any thought to doing anything else. Which is good, because I don’t really know how to do anything else, except write, and that’s way harder work than I want to do regularly!
IV: Can you let us in on your other plans for the future? Are there any exciting new appointments on your calendar that you can share with us? Also you’ve just brought back Verdigris to the theatre. You have gone to a lot of trouble getting this far, including a Kickstarter campaign. Do you have any plans to share the play, which received a lot of praise and excellent reviews, with people all over the world by filming and distributing it?
JB: I have no immediate career plans, none that are formalized. I took a few months off from looking for or accepting work in order to concentrate on my play Verdigris, which just closed a very successful run at Theatre West in Los Angeles. We are hoping to interest other theatres in doing the play or even taking on our production, but such hopes are just in the earliest planning stages. I would love to make a film of our recent production of Verdigris available to those who weren’t able to attend, but there are vast complications with the various unions that make such an effort difficult to pull off. Nevertheless, we’re working on it. As to film and television, I have nothing coming up, though Guillermo del Toro has indicated he wants me for another film and also for an upcoming TV series he’s producing. But none of this is set. The film I made for Guillermo last year, Crimson Peak, will premiere in October, and I’m very excited about that. The bits and pieces I’ve seen are glorious, and I suspect it’s going to be a huge hit.
IV: Sounds good Jim and I hope those plans work out! I’m certainly keeping my eye on the premiere of Crimson Peak and when the DVD production of Verdigris comes true, you can send me one. No seriously, I wanted to see the play badly, but unfortunately geography wasn’t on my side.
You’ve done a lot already in your professional career, which spans more than 40 years. I know it’s almost impossible to choose, but I’m still going to ask you: What are you most proud of in your professional career?
JB: What am I most proud of in my professional career? That’s so hard to quantify. I think Deadwood was probably the greatest artistic triumph of my career, both as a show and as a forum for my own work. Supernatural seems to have had the widest public acceptance and I’m so proud of the work we do on the show and the effect it has had on so many. Justified brought me the greatest critical acclaim of my career thus far. And there are stage performances (in The Lion in Winter, The Hasty Heart, and my own Verdigris) that give me great pride, even if few people saw them compared to the audiences for film and television. I’ve been so incredibly fortunate, it’s hard to point to one thing and say, “That’s the one I’m proudest of.” But of everything I’ve done in any professional capacity, I think my book Life’s That Way has had the most meaning, both to myself and to the many people who have read it. I am blessed that my own story has had such a positive effect on people, that so many have gained help or comfort or insight because of what I wrote. The letters I get from readers are among the greatest blessings of my life, and I know with certainty that even if I accomplished nothing else, I have had a positive effect on the world with that book.
IV: Absolutely right, I know for a fact that “Life’s That Way” is hugely appreciated. I’m thinking not only of myself, but I learned at Asylum 13 that lots of people got something out of the book and your story.
Just as we fans have favorite actors, my guess is that actors have favorites as well. After all, they’re almost ordinary people. Haha! I have to admit, and it probably shows that I’m not a spring chicken anymore, that I’ve always had a soft spot for Jimmy Stewart. It’s a shame that his kind of movies aren’t made anymore. They’re always bound to cheer me up. So who is on your bucket “One day I want to act with…” list?
JB: Most of my very favorite actors are long gone, so I can’t say I want to work with any of them someday. But a chance to work with Meryl Streep or George Clooney or Ian McKellen or Benedict Cumberbatch or Robert Duvall would be heavy items on my bucket list. I’ve been in movies with Streep (twice) and Duvall, but never met them, and I almost worked with Cumberbatch before he dropped out of Crimson Peak. So I still look forward to such possibilities. It’s not so much specific people I want to work with, but simply good, committed, decent, human actors who enrich the project and work in splendid collaboration who attract me. Working closely with people like Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Nick Nolte, Edward Asner, Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, and other actors perhaps not quite as famous world-wide, but just as dedicated, talented, and human, has made my career utterly joyful. I just hope it continues thusly.
IV: An impressive list there Jim. I’m sure that list will grow, as you must be on other actors bucket list as well.
Now something quite different. Do you support any good causes? The Supernatural family is known to be really supportive to causes that are brought to their attention; e.g. Jared’s Always Keep Fighting campaign and now Jared and Jensen’s joint foundation. I’m sure our readers would love to know what causes are close to your heart.
JB: My charities of choice are principally two: the John Wayne Cancer Foundation (jwcf.org) and the Cherokee Rainbow House (cherokeeelderscouncil.cherokee.org/Cherokee-Rainbow-House). My wife Cecily, a non-smoking health nut, died of lung cancer, a disease that is affecting an increasing number of non-smoking women, and I believe the John Wayne Cancer Foundation is not only in the forefront of the fight against cancer, but also a tribute to the memory of my favorite actor. And as a member of the Elders Council of the Cherokee Nation, I am devoted to Rainbow House, a small organization that provides free food, clothing, and supplies to the poor members of the Cherokee tribe. I’m grateful for the help these organizations have received from my fans, and I hope all of them will consider assisting these charities in their invaluable work.
IV: You read it here Supernatural and Lusty Fangirls Families: two good causes in need of your help. If you would like to help in one way or another, please take a look at these websites and see if you are able to contribute.
You have a very busy life. Teenage daughter Maddie, acting, writing, traveling and more. What do you do to wind down after work? And what else sparks your passion?
JB: What do I do to wind down after work? Well, with a teenage daughter, winding down is usually something I do AT work, which seems to be the only place I can relax from the rigors of getting her to school and keeping her fed and clothed and entertained! But my default relaxation is always either watching movies (preferably older ones) or reading. I insist on reading at least a little bit every single day, and my idea of heaven is a quiet room in a quiet, beautiful place (preferably with an ocean view), and a lot of books and movies. Facebook has eaten into the time I spend with those activities, because I’m way too active there. But I like the opportunity to have virtual conversations with many people around the world, and so social media is probably the third corner of my relaxation triangle.
IV: Yes, social media has brought the world to our doorstep. I’ve made a few very good Lusty friends through it. I’m astonished at how fast the development of internet, social media, etc. goes. Teenagers of today cannot imagine their life without it.
Speaking of teenagers, as a mother of 2 teenage girls, I have one burning question: please let me in on your secret on how to raise a teenage girl? One moment you love them to bits, the other moment you have to leave the room in order not to let the situation escalate. Many parents are searching for the handbook on how to raise kids, I’m sure. Have you found it?
JB: Do I have a handbook on how to raise a teenaged girl? BWAHAHAHAAAA! Yeah, right! I feel like the most incompetent parent ever born. The ONLY thing I know is to give her all the love I can and always be open to anything she wants to talk about. I feel utterly stupid most of the time, and I generally feel like I’ve been asked to pilot an airliner while speaking Croatian. It’s all guesswork to me, and I gaze in wonder at people who seem so competent at it. I’m scarcely the most disciplined person myself, so instilling discipline is an utter mystery to me. But I love my daughter with all my heart, and I let her know it constantly. I may never know or understand the secrets of good parenting, but I know the secret of love. She’ll always have that, whether I manage to teach her anything else or not.
IV: And love is the most important gift you can give Maddie.
I’ve seen some beautiful pictures you took in Ireland last time you were there. My guess is that photography is one of your hobbies. As a regular visitor to the UK and Ireland myself, I understand the beauty of those countries. What is your fascination with the UK and Ireland in particular?
JB: Photography isn’t exactly a hobby, but I have a minor eye for composition, so even my iPhone photos sometimes come out pretty good. Of course, taking pictures in Ireland and the UK is easier than in some places, because the landscape is so richly beautiful. I love history, and the British Isles are awash in history. I suppose every place is, but I’m somewhat more familiar with European history than some of those other places, and I love traveling to places where things I know about occurred. And there’s a poetic mystique to Ireland that increases its appeal. But anyplace I go, I like to dig into what happened there in centuries past. We are what came before us, and I like to know those things and see where they occurred.
IV: That are some nice compliments for our European readers. Enough history over here in Europe indeed. Give us a shout when you’re next in Europe, Holland has got a few nice spots as well.
To conclude this interview I would like to leave you with the signature question of the Lusty Fangirls: What is the most Lusty Moment in your life (in whatever way) up until now? This is a purely subjective question open to interpretation.
JB: The most Lusty Moment in my life? Hmmm. This could go a lot of ways. Well, this will sound like I’m blowing my own horn, and that’s because I guess I am. Aside from a little flirting, I don’t care much for exposing the more personal aspects of my life, especially the “Lusty” ones. But a former girlfriend once said to me, “You sure know your way around a woman.” It’s not exactly an Oscar, but as Lusty Moments go, it’ll do.
JB: Hope this is all good for you!
IV: Well Jim, I enjoyed interviewing you and am impressed with your responses. These really show your writing skills and your personality shines through. Thank you again and we Lusties hope to see you and say “Hi” at one of the US or European conventions.