There's Something About Mary
She may have only appeared in a few episodes, but Mary Winchester has had a huge influence on the world of Supernatural. After all, her death is the reason John, Sam, and Dean became hunters to begin with. We caught up with actress Samantha Smith, who plays Mary, to find out why she keeps dying on screen, and what it was like finally getting to work with Jared and Jensen in season two...
The Official Supernatural Magazine: In the beginning, Supernatural was this new project, so did the spooky material immediately appeal to you?
Samantha Smith: Totally. I'm a huge sci-fi fan. I'm actually a giant geek, but don't tell anyone! It's not so much horror [I'm a fan of] as sci-fi. I'm an avid Battlestar Galactica fan. I was in Transformers, too. Horror movies scare me to death, so I can't watch them at all.
So when you got the script for the Supernatural pilot, what interested you about the role of Mary Winchester?
Well, to be honest, when I got it, it was pilot season, so you try out for so many shows, and you take the job you get. I was thrilled to get that one, because when I went in for the audition, David Nutter was the director and he made the audition so much fun, which is such a rare occurrence. He's just a lovely guy, and all the producers were there [as well]. The audition scene was my very first scene in the pilot where I had to come in, talk to the baby, there's the demon, and then I'm on fire. It was a hilarious thing to have to do, so we had a lot of fun. I knew that the character could come back, and would have to come back in interesting ways because Mary is [basically] dead as of the first two minutes. I knew I would have to come back in flashbacks or as a ghost or something cool, so I looked forward to that.
How did they pull off Mary burning on the ceiling?
It was a special set-up where I was on the floor and it was reversed to make it look like the ceiling. They shot it from a special angle to make it not just flat on. Then they had these big fire things on either side. It was crazy, but they actually had a model of me. They built a metal cased frame of my body, then papier-mached it, put it on the ceiling of an actual set, then set it on fire. I have a picture of me standing under it.
Was it unsettling seeing yourself going up in flames on screen?
Ummm... yeah. It's a little disturbing. My mom really freaked out. She didn't like it at all, but we have a running joke that I die in almost everything I do. It's this ongoing, unexplainable phenomenon. I just keep getting killed in all kinds of gruesome ways!
Your Supernatural husband, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, seems to have the same problem.
Both of us just keep getting killed off [in all our projects]!
At the same time, Mary was the catalyst for Sam and Dean's demon hunting.
Yeah! There are times [on other projects] where the role is a little part with no impact. This part feels special to me. I've only been in four episodes, but I feel like I'm such a continual presence in the series. Rightly or wrongly, even though I'm barely in it, I feel like such a part of the show because of the impact Mary has on the boys. It's nice.
Were you pleased with the way the pilot turned out?
Oh, yeah. Even more so, I loved the next episode I did [Home], where I came back as the ghost that protected the boys. To me, that was very meaningful. That was an even smaller scene [than in the Pilot] where I had three words, but I loved the relationship between my character and the boys. I loved the way the episode was shot and how the film was so grainy. I love how everything was minimal. They don't over-explain [things], so there wasn't a lot of exposition.
And after playing "mom," you finally got to interact with Jared and Jensen...
I didn't think that was ever going to happen, because Mary is dead, so any scenes I had with the boys would be when they are little. I haven't even had any scenes with the little kids, except for in the pilot. I love Jared and Jensen. They're super fun, and it's great hanging out with them.
There was a big gap between Home and your next appearance, What Is And What Should Never Be in season two. Had they approached you in between those episodes, and was there a scheduling conflict?
There might have been one scheduling issue, but I can't remember if it was for that episode and they worked it out. It wasn't like they had been pounding down my door and I was like, "No, no!" because I would pretty much drop anything to work for Eric Kripke. I love him and would do anything [for him] work-wise. I love Vancouver and the [WGA writers'] strike screwed everything up, because who knows what season three was going to be. I don't know if they've exhausted Mary. We still need to know how she knew the Yellow-Eyed Demon, but I don't [necessarily] have to be present to explain all that, so I don't know what the future holds for Mary on the show or if I will even be back.
Sam, you're supposed to say "They NEED me to come back!"
Yes! I think they should call the next season Mary: Supernatural [laughs]!
Up until that point, we only had glimpses of who Mary was, and then there was What Is And What Should Never Be. What did we learn about her in that episode?
Mary was a much more rounded person than how I had played her before. Every scene I did before, Mary had to be the perfect mom, the perfect ethereal spirit representing something not only in the series, but to the boys. She had to represent [goodness]. In that episode, that was Dean's genie imagination. I'm still [representing] the good, but [as] more of a real person. I laugh and joke around. It was a 360-degree turnaround.
Were you thankful for all that dialogue as well?
Yes and no. It was great, and I had a lot to do. I was up [in Vancouver] for a while to do that episode. How much I have to say doesn't really matter as much as how much impact I have. I don't know how they did it, but in the first two episodes, I had so little to say, and yet Mary's impact was so great. I was grateful for how much I had to do [in my third episode], but it had to do [more] with how I influenced the story.
Mary has an emotional talk with Dean at the end of the episode, where she's trying to persuade him to remain in the dreamland. It was very poignant and kind of a summation of his character. Everything Dean had ever wanted was right within his grasp, and he turned it down. Also, if Mary had been real in that sense, she would never have wanted that for him. That's when you knew it couldn't be real, because she would never try to convince him to do something that was detrimental [to anyone].
That episode was creator Eric Kripke's directorial debut. How did he do as a director?
He's so intimately acquainted with the characters and he was so easy, fun, and knew [exactly] what he wanted.
How was it recreating the pilot in your next appearance, in All Hell Breaks Loose?
It was kind of crazy. I had a stuntwoman who did the crawling up the wall for me. It had been two or three years since I had done the pilot, so to see it from the other angles was cool, the whole "fill in the blanks" so to speak, because there was so much mystery and stuff [that was] left unsaid. I also got to reprise the nightgown. Love the polyester gown and the fuzzy slippers!
When Mary ran into baby Sam's room, she muttered two haunting words to the Demon that still stick out - "It's you!" Somehow, she recognizes the Yellow-Eyed Demon. Did you ask the producers what the deal was?
Nope. I don't ask many questions. They wouldn't tell me anyway if I did [laughs]! Because I'm not really in the show and more of a peripheral, "come in once in a blue moon" character, I also get to be a fan of the show. By not knowing what's going on, I get to wonder like the people who aren't involved. That's fun for me.
Mary gets slammed into the wall and lifted up by some invisible force. Was any of that actually you?
It was. In the end, the only part that's my stunt double is when I had to be put into a harness, which was a time issue. I wanted to do it, but to rig someone up in one of those harnesses takes a lot of time. When I was going up the wall, they had this cool device which is sort of a hi-tech see-saw. They had me on one side strapped in and sliding up the wall. It was cool when you see it happening because it looks very real. It was like I was doing stunts.
Do you have any standout moments from Supernatural?
I liked the scene in Home where I only have three words. I loved coming out of the fire. They actually had a guy walking in the fire suit for that, so I was very grateful not to have to do that myself! That scene was just so powerful, and I loved how it turned out. That's my favorite one so far, but I'm challenging Eric to come up with another that's just as great.
In what capacity would you like to see Mary return?
I would like to see a little bit, maybe even before Sam is born, about how I know the Yellow-Eyed Demon and more of my life as a normal mom for Dean, before any of the bad stuff starts happening [to Mary]. Maybe life with my husband and just some back-story to figure out why all these things are happening [to her]. That would be helpful. And lots of episodes about it... maybe for the whole season!
The pilot of the show was done in Los Angeles, but does filming the rest of the series in Vancouver help to give it a certain vibe?
Supernatural, X-Files, and Battlestar Galactica [are all] well-suited to shooting in Vancouver because of the gloomy weather, the rain, the warehouses, and all the different terrain that's so readily accessible. You also have the woods that are nearby. If you moved a show like that to LA, it wouldn't work here. It's too sunny and green.
What other projects do you have in the pipeline?
I just finished [filming] a cute comedy called The Chosen One. Rob Schneider wrote it and stars in it. It's not one of his over-the-top comedies. It's sweet, and there are some very serious moments in it. I play his ex-wife who has left him for my scuba or yoga instructor. It's cute, but [at the moment] I have my fingers crossed that I get to be in the Transformers sequel!
Finally, is it a strange feeling having your own Mary Winchester trading card?
Yeah, but I'll tell you what's really surreal. We approved the picture for the card, it came out, they sent me a whole box of them, and then they came out with another one that had little pieces of the nightgown and robe I was wearing cut up and stuck on the card! It's bizarre. What's also weird is that on Wikipedia, they have no page for me, but Mary Winchester has her own page! It's a little indicator of who is more important in the Supernatural world [laughs]!
Category: Interviews | Posted on: 23 June 2010