Interview: Jim Beaver
“If Bobby Singer doesn’t come back to “Supernatural” again, I will be very, very, very unhappy.”
– , Jim Beaver on the return of his character Bobby Singer.
Lucy – Bobby Singer is a fantastic character! What is the story behind you taking on the role of Bobby?
Jim – That’s an interesting question. I know my version, but I’ve heard Bob Singer (the real one, our producer/director) tell a different one. My version is that I got a call from the casting director Robert Ulrich to come audition. I didn’t know the show at all or anything about it. I read for Robert and my audition was taped. As I understood it, Robert Ulrich called Bob in Vancouver and said the audition tapes were completed and were ready to be shipped to him in Vancouver. Bob then supposedly asked who the actors on the tape were. When Robert Ulrich told him that I was one of them, Bob Singer reportedly said, “Oh, then, forget the tapes and just give the job to Jim.” I had worked for Bob Singer a decade earlier, playing Mark Harmon’s cop partner Earl Gaddis on Bob’s show Reasonable Doubts, so he knew me. That’s the way I heard the story. But a year or two ago at Comic Con in San Diego, I heard Bob tell the audience a different version, which is that the episode that was my first one was originally intended to have Loretta Devine repeating her role as Missouri, but she wasn’t available, so they decided to create a new character of another veteran hunter and, as Bob told it, as soon as they decided this new character would be kind of a redneck guy, Bob said, “I know the guy for it.” That’s how Bob said I got the part. To tell the truth, I don’t know which one is true. Maybe both. At any rate, at the time, it was just a one-shot as far as I knew. I never expected to be back after “Devil’s Trap.”
Lucy – How much of Jim Beaver do you think is in Bobby?
Jim – Often, when an actor is on a show for good amount of time, the writers begin consciously or unconsciously shaping the character to traits the actor has revealed in himself, or to patterns of speech or thought that show up in his work, so a character frequently grows more like the actor over time. I don’t know if that’s true for Bobby, because he seemed like a very good fit for me from the beginning. I like to think I’m like Bobby, although I’m not as brave or as clever. I think there’s more of Bobby in me than there is me in Bobby. But the knack for a dry wisecrack is something I guess I possess, and that’s a big part of Bobby, so….
Lucy – What was it like working on the Supernatural set and especially working with Jared, Jensen and Misha?
Jim – “Supernatural”‘s set is one of the most fun places I’ve ever worked, because of the cameraderie and humor. We work seriously, but we don’t take it too seriously. Laughter is the most common trait on the set, and a scene has to be very dramatic or emotionally difficult for the laughter to subside. There’s a lot of respect paid when an actor has an uncomfortable or trying scene to play, such as some of my stuff in “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.” But most of the time, it’s like a playground where really good work still gets done. Much of that feeling comes from the attitudes of the boys, who take nothing too seriously. But the crew is filled with smart, witty people, too, and we have serious fun on that set, more than most I’ve ever worked on. Jared, Jensen, Misha — they’re like brothers to me in a lot of ways. But so are the guys (and girls, to wreck the simile) on the crew. The hardest thing for me being away from the show is missing that crew.
Lucy – Misha is going to be directing an Episode of Supernatural; do you think he will survive Jared and Jensen’s antics?
Jim – Misha must be out of his mind. They’re going to skin him alive. I wish I could be there to see it.
Lucy – What does being part of the SPNFamily mean to you?
Jim – If you mean the show, then see my answer above about what it’s like on the set. Family is very much the right word. I love them. If you’re referring to the fan base, well, that’s just marvelous. I’ve worked as an actor since 1972, and nothing has ever effected me like the fan response to “Supernatural.” The fans are intelligent and so incredibly generous, and they are outrageously kind to me. That feels like family, too.
Lucy – What is your favourite Bobby Quote/Saying?
Jim – “Get the hell off my property or I’ll fill you so full of rock salt you crap margaritas.” That, my friends, is a great line.
Lucy – Do you have any special stories/moments from your appearances at the Supernatural Conventions that you could share with us and do you have any songs lined up to sing at Karaoke next year?
Jim – I love the conventions. They’re exhausting and I almost always end up sick and without a voice after them, but they are so much fun. There are lots of stories, though some I’d probably better not share. I remember one where Misha (I think) left his cell phone in the green room and some of the guys texted really awful stuff to his wife. Of course, it was probably better than stuff he really does, so maybe no harm. There are always crazy things from the fans — sometimes just little stuff like people who can’t talk and burst into tears when they meet us. It’s sweet, though strange… it’s hard to think of why anyone would get that freaked out meeting me. But it’s happened. As to karaoke, I don’t have a song picked out, and I’d probably better not. I nearly lost my voice before I ever started work in Toronto this year! But if I know me, I won’t be smart enough to stay away.
Lucy – When Bobby was drinking whiskey, which was quite a lot of the time, what was actually in the glass?
Jim – If we’re sharing the bottle, it’s usually watered-down tea. If it’s just for me, it’s Dr Pepper or Coke sometimes. It ain’t booze, that’s for sure!
Lucy – What did you think of Sam and Dean as cowboys?
Jim – Billy Crystal in “City Slickers” was a better cowboy than those two idjits.
Lucy – What is your view of Bobby’s relationship with Sam and Dean? As an adopted father figure or more of a hunting mentor?
Jim – I think of Bobby much more as an adoptive father. Yes, he’s their mentor in the world of hunting, but he’s also their colleague. They know an awful lot about hunting. I think Bobby’s most valuable place in their lives is as a surrogate dad.
Lucy – Death’s Door in season 7 focused on Bobby’s death; it was also one of the more emotional episodes in Supernatural history. What did you think about Bobby’s exit and was that a difficult episode to shoot?
Jim – I loved doing “Death’s Door” because it was richly dramatic and gave me lots of colors to play. I hated doing it once I realized that it was a significant farewell for Bobby. There was so much great stuff in it, so many opportunities to run the gamut of feelings, and I got to play with my sweet Carrie Anne Fleming, whom I adore. But somewhere during shooting, I began to realize that I was no longer going to be a part of the show in the way I had been, and that was very upsetting and sad to me.
Lucy – You have already been brought back to the show a couple of times, in very different ways; do you honestly think that this will be the last we will see of Bobby Singer?
Jim – If Bobby Singer doesn’t come back to “Supernatural” again, I will be very, very, very unhappy. I do not at all think you’ve seen the last of him. It’s “Supernatural,” after all. But who knows? Despite the wonderful other opportunities for work I’ve had, I would be immensely saddened not to return to the show.
Lucy – If Bobby does come back, do you think he and Sheriff Jodi Mills could start up where they left off?
Jim – Oh, yes, please! From your lips to God’s ear! One of my biggest disappointments was the setup of that relationship and having it just dropped as though no one cared what would happen to Bobby and Jodi. I think there’s still rich material to be mined there, and I hope somebody decides to revisit those possibilities.
Lucy – Do you prefer working in TV or in Film?
Jim – I like them both. I do enjoy the speed at which TV is shot. You can spend half a day or even a whole day shooting a scene, but you’re almost always on to another scene before long. In a feature, one scene can take several days to shoot. There are advantages to that, especially in being able to find the depths of the character and of the scene. But I like the fast pace of TV a lot. In films, though, you get to do some stuff that time never would allow on TV, and you get (sometimes) more budget and thus more detail and intricacy in sets and costumes and props. Both are great experiences. TV has one advantage, too, that I enjoy: you get to see the results fairly quickly. “Supernatural” episodes air about six weeks after we shoot them. I got cast in a feature this summer, and it won’t be out till two years later!
Lucy – You wrote a best selling memoir called ‘Life’s That Way, which is a deeply personal account of your life. Could you tell us a bit more about your reasons for sharing your story?
Jim – I decided to share publicly the story of what happened to me and my wife and daughter because it became clear to me that not only would people find it interesting, but that it could be helpful. It’s a story that’s tough to read at times, but I found that the people I shared it with almost unanimously stated that it had helped them cope with difficulties in their own lives, and eventually, it began to sink into my head that it might help many others if it were available to a larger audience. I’ve never proclaimed that I thought the events of my own life were in any way special. But so many people told me that my writing about them had opened doors for them that I felt it was something I should share with more people. My wife’s illness and our daughter’s developmental issues were not unique to us, but it’s the very commonality of such events that made the story of meaning to people. In our society, most of us keep our deepest troubles to ourselves, and I hope my book can show how important it is to share one’s difficulties with others, how keeping quiet about them makes them harder to bear.
Lucy – I believe you have also written a number of plays and magazine articles. How important is writing and literature to you still?
Jim – I like to say I love having written. Writing’s tough work, much harder for me than acting. But I’ve written all my life, almost always out of a desire to express and to tell stories. I’ve given up writing strictly for money. I used to write quite a bit of TV, but the things I’m interested in writing these days are much more things that grow out of my own interests. I’m not disciplined, and my work as an actor and single parenthood steal much of my writing time, but I suppose I will always be in the middle of some writing project or other… or ten.
Lucy – Your daughter Maddie is also a budding writer, what do you think of her wonderful creativeness?
Jim – Well, I’m a writer, and Maddie’s mom Cecily was a lyricist, so it doesn’t surprise me much that Maddie enjoys writing. She’s got a quirky mind, which is perfect for writing, because nothing is ever clichéd or familiar. She writes from her instinct, and her work amazes me. She shares a problem with me — a tendency not to finish projects. But then, she’s 12. She’s got an excuse.
Lucy – How do you cope with having to be away from Maddie occasionally for work?
Jim – Anyone who’s ever raised a kid alone knows it can be, shall we say, exhausting? So it’s nice sometimes to get a break and be on my own on location. I am by nature an isolate creature, very happy to spend days on end by myself. But I also adore my daughter more than life itself, and we have such good times together, and I miss her dreadfully when I’m gone, and I feel terribly guilty every time I have to leave her. But I remind myself that leaving her occasionally gives me the only real opportunity I have to provide for her and for her future, and then I feel a little better about it. A little.
Lucy – You have been posting some film reviews on Facebook/Twitter. Do you have a favourite overall genre of film and any favourite actor/actresses?
Jim – I was writing film stuff and researching film history before I ever dreamed of being an actor. It’s an area I really love. I’m a big fan of Westerns and of film noir, but I have very wide ranging tastes. I admire so very many actors and actresses, but my favorites are pretty much John Wayne, Laurence Olivier, Robert Mitchum, Groucho Marx, Buster Keaton, Toshiro Mifune, and Randolph Scott. Good, bad, or indifferent, I’ll watch just about anything these guys are in. There are a lot of others nearby on the list, men and women, but these are my top favorites.
Lucy – If you could play anything, is there any role that you would like to play, in film or TV?
Jim – When I started out, there were lots of roles I wanted to play. I’m too old to play most of them now. But I’d like to play James Tyrone in “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” or Richard III, or King Lear, or Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha.” All of these are thought of mostly as stage plays, but I’d do a film of any of them in a heartbeat. I love doing Westerns, and I’d love for my own “True Grit” to come my way some day. Not that exact film, but something along those lines.
Lucy – Your most recent TV appearance was in Revolution, what other TV shows may we be lucky enough to see you in, in the future?
Jim – Next up is a quick appearance in an episode of “Major Crimes,” on January 16, I think. I’ve also got a Priceline commercial running, with William Shatner! But I haven’t been doing much TV lately. I’ve been growing my beard long for a movie which starts shooting in February, and the way I look has made it hard to get other roles in the meantime. I’ve lost out on playing some army officers and cops because I look more like a homeless guy these days.
Lucy – Are you working on any other projects that you can tell us about at the moment?
Jim – I’ve just signed to do a little film noir called “The Frontier” with Kelly Lynch. It’s a smaller-budget film with a great, nasty hard-boiled script, and I get to play a great, nasty, hard-boiled fellow. As soon as it’s done, I start shooting a huge picture for Guillermo del Toro called “Crimson Peak” with Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam, and Mia Wasikowska. It’s a period piece, a Gothic ghost story, and I’ve got one of the leading roles. They’re two very different films, but I’m immensely excited about both of them.
Lucy – Do you find yourself saying “Balls!” in everyday life now if something doesn’t go quite to plan?
Jim – I never said “Balls!” or “Idjit” as expressions until they showed up as words in a “Supernatural” script. I still don’t. Those are Bobby’s words, not mine. Though I throw them around occasionally for an appreciative audience!
- Thank you to the fans that supplied questions for Jim.
- A huge thank you to Jim Beaver for answering these questions for the fans!
- Thanks also to Teri for helping to arrange the interview.
- E-mail Interview by Lucy (@SpnUK)
- E-mail Interview conducted 30th December 2013
For more information on Jim Beavers best selling memoir – ‘Life’s That Way’ please follow the link below: