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[This story contains spoilers from Thursday’s midseason premiere of Supernatural, “Wayward Sisters.”]
Lay your weary head to rest and don’t you cry no more, Supernatural viewers. The long road for the spinoff series Wayward Sisters has finally paid off.
The all-female potential spinoff, about a chosen family of hunters, aired its backdoor pilot Thursday as the midseason premiere episode of The CW’s Supernatural, and it literally has been years in the making. Ever since Sheriff Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes) adopted her first wayward daughter, Alex (Katherine Ramdeen), viewers have been clamoring for the secondary female Supernatural characters to get a series of their own. And when Jody adopted fledgling hunter Claire (Kathryn Newton), befriended Sheriff Donna Hanscum (Briana Buckmaster) and took in psychic Patience (Clark Backo), what originally started out as a fan campaign grew too big to ignore. The CW doubled down on its longest-running series and decided to take a second stab at a Supernatural spinoff series (after Bloodlines failed to go a few years back). Wayward Sisters was officially born.
The two-part introduction to the potential new series began in the Supernatural midseason finale when Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) accidentally got thrown by inexperienced dream walker Kaia (Yadira Guevara-Prip) into The Bad Place, an alternate dimension full of monsters. The midseason premiere, appropriately titled “Wayward Sisters,” picked up in a familiar way.
“It’s Sam and Dean, they’re missing,” Jody tells Claire, who had been off hunting on her own. “They were on a hunting trip and I haven’t heard from them for a few days. It’s time to come home.” That phone call is how the series first started 13 seasons ago, when Dean brought Sam back into the family business of hunting when their dad, John Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), went missing. It was a clever homage to the roots of what has become a massive franchise.
By the end of “Wayward Sisters,” the women helped save Sam and Dean and returned them to the normal world, but they tragically lost Kaia. That loss hit Claire hard, but what she doesn’t know is that Kaia’s doppelganger, who murdered Kaia in The Bad Place, somehow found her way to the normal world, too. If Wayward Sisters goes to series, the show will follow the women as they hunt down all the monsters that escaped from The Bad Place and will have to unravel the mystery of Kaia’s doppelganger.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Rhodes and Buckmaster, the leading ladies of Wayward Sisters, about the long road to bringing this spinoff to life, what it means getting to debut a badass female-led sci-fi series in the current climate and more.
Wayward Sisters started as a grassroots fan campaign a few years back. When did you first realize that this spinoff actually had the potential to become something real?
Rhodes: It was originally supposed to be a standalone pilot, so when they actually created it and came to me and negotiated a contract, I was like, “Oh, really? You’re serious? Huh, interesting. Fancy that.” But even that was like a year and a half ago. And then that went away and it became an episode this season, so it has just been in so many permutations that it feels like forever.
Buckmaster: Kim and I first got wind of it through an email. We were both in Australia at a fan convention and the email was last December, and it literally said something like, “The CW is looking to do something more with your characters. Let them know if you book anything over pilot season. Happy holidays!” So we didn’t really know what it meant until we came back in January and they offered us a contract. There have been so many highs and lows in this process of what’s it going to be. The producers fought for certain things and on our behalf and they wanted it to be something very special and they didn’t back down from that. Now we have this really incredible thing and opportunity of it being an embedded pilot, meaning we got to have our fandom see it, which doesn’t happen with every pilot.
You shot this episode before the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements started. What does it mean to you to see a female-driven sci-fi series air amid this climate?
Rhodes: What is important to me is I don’t ever want to seem like I’m taking the ball away from the boys so that the girls can finally play. I want to play with them. I want a bigger game. I want a bigger playing field. I want more. This isn’t about, “Finally it’s the girls’ turn!” It’s more about expanding the perspective and honoring the fact that we are now able to tell a story from points of view that we haven’t seen before. That doesn’t make the points of view that already exist bad or wrong or inconsequential. They’re vital. They are the foundation of what started here. But beyond that, I want more. I want empowerment for everyone through good storytelling and valid points of view that represent voices that haven’t been represented yet. Within that, if people tie that to political movements and to the explosion of feminine power, I love that and I want that to be done in the spirit of inclusivity and expansion.
Buckmaster: What is important with those two movements, especially Time’s Up and with our show, is that we’re not trying to say, “Our turn or move over.” We’re trying to say, “Here we come.” Equality in terms of “We want to play, too.” That’s the great thing about the pilot, training for it and shooting of it. We were treated like I’m sure any of the male stars are treated. We were trained the same way, we had similar demands. They didn’t go, “Oh, here are the girls, let’s do all the ammunition work in [postproduction].” They had us doing real gun training. We shot all of those guns ourselves. That was really empowering and I think it’s going to be a big deal for the fans to see us actually doing it, and that also speaks to the producers who demanded that of us. They want us to be seen as strong, empowered women by the fans. They didn’t want us to fake it, which was incredibly admirable.
That’s especially relevant in light of what happened behind-the-scenes at the network with Supergirl-The Flash showrunner Andrew Kreisberg being fired amid sexual harassment allegations and similar ones against iZombie star Robert Knepper …
What has the culture been like at The CW in the past few months?
Buckmaster: I haven’t been in the working environment there over the last couple of months. But the last time I was on set, there was a crew discussion, a meeting to discuss recent allegations and things like you said in the landscape of television right now. They reiterated that if there ever is an issue among cast and crew, to immediately come to producers. That being said, I think it’s going to change things a lot, not only for our set but for everybody to make it just a safer and better workspace, really, if you’re not scared of going to work every day.
Rhodes: I haven’t been up there since we shot the pilot. But one of the wonderful things about a show that’s been going for 13 seasons, stuff starts at the top and trickles down. Were I to step in to a situation where I did not feel safe, I know I have places to turn. I know that if nothing else, my voice would not be shut down in that environment because the crew and the cast feel like family. Now in some families, we all know dangerous things can happen. Different people have different experiences, but I am confident that on that set I would be able to find someone that I could get to hear me. As it is now, I don’t think that The CW, what happened, really makes it that different, you know? And the landscape is changing. More and more of us are feeing like, well, if it’s something that “everyone knows,” then how about we make it known all the way up? Or if it’s something that everyone knows, then it’s something that everyone needs to deal with. Humans are going to be human and, quite frankly, assholes are going to asshole. They exist everywhere. But the Supernatural set has been some place I’ve always felt very comfortable, and in my moments of discomfort, I’ve been able to find someone to hear and validate and offer me some solutions.
Have either of you ever experienced any form of harassment in the workplace or challenges in the industry because you’re female?
Rhodes: Of course, are you kidding me?
Buckmaster: Oh, absolutely yes.
How did you handle that?
Rhodes: I had a director drag me in a prop closet, lock the door, slap his chest and say, “Press your tits right here.”
Buckmaster: And I had an older actor approach me at a party and ask me to kiss him and when I said no, he told me to go fuck myself. It’s funny, because my experience with my immediate thought was, “Oh, my God, I’m in so much trouble.”
Rhodes: Me, too.
Buckmaster: I was so young, and you don’t know what to do. It’s a very scary situation.
Rhodes: I told one friend and she was like, “You can’t tell anybody. He’s one of the biggest comedic directors in town. You’ll never work again.” So I didn’t.
Do you have any words of advice for your female viewers and aspiring actresses?
Buckmaster: It’s a ride, come with us and scream loud. Be yourself, be your authentic self and don’t be afraid of what you have to offer this world.
Supernatural airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.
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