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Thirty years later, Jim Beaver is going back to the one that made him.
Today, he has a worldwide following playing Supernatural‘s Bobby Singer, demon-hunter father figure to Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles), but back in 1980s, Beaver was an ex-Marine working as a film journalist for the National Board of Review magazine. When he wasn’t interviewing actors, he was writing Verdigris, a play that won honorable mention at numerous competitions, but never took home the top prize.
Prize be damned, thought Beaver when he mounted it at Theatre West in Hollywood back in 1985. It became a critical hit, launching him into TV writing and later, acting. Now, Theatre West has reviving the play, running through April 26, reuniting Beaver with the original director, Mark W. Travis, and original castmember Sheila Shaw.
“It was always something we felt we hadn’t quite finished with,” Beaver tells The Hollywood Reporter about revisiting his play. “I was finally in a position where, if worse came to worst, I could put my own money into it. And I did put a good deal of my own money into it,” although $56,000 was raised through a Kickstarter campaign.
A great deal of it was generated by Beaver’s massive Twitter following (651,000+) and a worldwide fan base from his portrayal of Sheriff Shelby Parlow on Justified and Whitney Ellsworth on Deadwood, but mostly Supernatural.
It’s no coincidence Beaver often gets cast as a rural type. Born in Laramie, Wyo., raised outside of Dallas, and educated in Oklahoma, he fits the bill. They say “Write what you know,” which may be why Verdigris is about a drama student who finds part-time work at the home of a paraplegic widow, Margaret Fielding (Shaw), a bitter old woman who was once a grande dame in an Oklahoma college town. A dynamic character piece, one could say it has shades of August: Osage County, only it was written 20 years prior.
“I actually had more than my share of doubts about whether the play would hold up,” Beaver confesses. But after a production last fall at Blackburn University in Illinois, he decided that after 30 years it still seemed solid, though he did do some tweaking. “I think those changes substantially improved the play. And if I do say so myself, it was a pretty good play back then. I think it’s a much better one now.”
While he hopes it might move to off-Broadway, Beaver’s not holding his breath. In the meantime he was revived from the dead on Supernatural after a fan outcry following his premature demise back in 2013. Since then, he’s appeared sporadically in a heavenly form, appearing as recent as April 1’s season opener.
“If you’re going to get killed off on a TV show, do it on Supernatural,” he jokes. “Because of the nature of the universe the show takes place in, they can do almost anything they want. They can turn me into a dog next week. I’m sort of hoping not.” But if they do change him into a dog, he can always just continue making personal appearances at conventions where fans line up for a chance to meet and greet.
“At some of these personal appearances they set up question-and-answer sessions,” he says. “The very first one of these things that I attended, somebody actually stood in line for 10 minutes or so in order to ask me the following question: ‘If you had to have any body parts stapled to a board, what would it be?’ In all the years that I’ve been involved with the show, I can’t think of anything to top that.”
Practical joker or serial killer, when it comes to fans, Beaver’s just happy to have the attention. “I’ve been doing this for 42 years and it’s only in the last eight or nine years that anybody cares. This is like being in desert for 40 years. I’m very happy to find some water at the end.”
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