After a huge set back with Chuck (Robert Patrick Benedict), who destroyed their only weapon against him, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) are about to hit yet another roadblock on Supernatural. This week’s episodefinds the Winchesters experiencing a no-good, very bad day when Chuck revokes their hero privileges, forcing the boys to deal with regular problems like their credit card being declined and falling ill. Fortunately for our heroes, they won’t be handling this strange new reality on their own.
Thursday’s episode will see the return of Garth (DJ Qualls), a hunter-turned-werewolf and longtime Winchester ally who knows a thing or two about adjusting to new circumstances. After being hit with a few curveballs, like becoming the monster he’d been chasing and going insane from angel grace, Garth has carved out a pretty nice life for himself. Boasting a happy home with a loving family in a tight-knit community, he’s living the sort of idyllic life Sam and Dean have both contemplated at some point in their journey but haven’t yet been able to attain.
As we gear up for Garth’s big return, TV Guide caught up with DJ Qualls, who plays the former hunter, to dish on what to expect, including the surprising skill that he and Jensen Ackles were forced to learn and what Garth has been up to since being locked away in the trunk of the Impala. Qualls also reflected on his experience with Supernatural and revealed why he thinks this isn’t necessarily the end of the road for the Winchesters.
Supernatural is coming to an end this season. How do you feel about that?
DJ Qualls: It’s bittersweet. This is my eighth season [since first appearing on the show] and it’s meant a lot to me, but Jared and Jensen are really good friends of mine. And 15 years, what a gift. We all knew it was ending, so we were prepared for it. Just being part of the ensemble, we’d spend a lot of our time doing conventions and so we see each other. We know each other better off the show than we do actually on the show, [those] of us who aren’t the main three or four guys, and we’ve all just been waiting this season for our call up, our farewells for our character.
When I got mine and read what they wrote, which is such a beautiful sendoff for the character, I was so happy to go up and do it. The thing about Vancouver for me in this show… I was on another show up there for three years with Man in the High Castle. When I moved there to do the show, I laid down roots and have a lot of really close friends there. With Supernatural, the crew hasn’t changed in years so it’s all the same people that I’ve known for the last eight years, plus the actors. So saying my goodbyes, it was tough. I got a lot of love and people saying that they are going to miss me and all that sort of thing. And I held it together, but I cried a little bit in the van on the way back to the hotel. And then I went out with my local friends and celebrated. We shared stories and got drunk and came back home.
This week’s episode sounds like a fun one, with the Winchesters facing regular problems like their credit cards not working. What can you say of Garth’s role in helping Sam and Dean navigate these everyday issues?
Qualls: It was a really fun episode to shoot because Garth always helped throughout the years. He never gets to be the guy to turn to, the guy who had the answers. But they come to Garth’s farm, I think in Wisconsin, and he has this really stable, almost ’50s traditional American life. He has a wife and three children, and he’s a community dentist for all the werewolves. They come with all these problems and Garth says, “Look, this is what’s happening with you right now, and I think I know a way to solve it.” And he becomes this wiser, older friend in their lives.
That’s a really great thing for them to write for Garth, because we saw him as this cocksure guy that would end up getting knocked out or whatever, and the boys also had to come in and save the day. Now you see them turning to him for advice and help, and he’s a great comfort. I’m excited for people to see [the episode]. There’s a lot of sort of pathos in it. It’s Garth’s last episode as far as I know. I mean, that could change, but it felt final to me. We knew while we were shooting and I think there’s a little bit of that in it, just sort of a fond farewell to people that you loved.
Since it felt like Garth’s final Supernatural episode — who knows, maybe we’ll see him again — did you do anything special while filming? What was that experience like?
Qualls: Oh yeah, my chair back with my name on it. That was a really great thing because usually when you guest star, you get a chair with just “cast” [written] on it. I think it was in the second episode [I appeared in], I got a chair back from the prop guys, it was like, “We thought you were going to be around for a while.” That’s a rite of passage and sort of a finality to the show. You can’t dwell on that because they’re halfway through the 20-episode season, and so you say your goodbyes and you know it’s coming to an end but nobody really talks about it. The hugs are little harder and everyone’s a little more like, “I love you man,” a little more supportive in that way.
I know Jared better in real life, but I always felt like I had better on-screen chemistry with Jensen, and most of our scenes are together. Our characters have a deeper relationship, and that was really reflected in this episode in a personal way, because Jensen and I are asked to do something that neither one of us can do. It’s a really specific skill that we had to learn, so it’s a big surprise in the middle of the episode for the audience. It’s a great surprise and it’s beautifully shot and so fun, but we’re both crapping ourselves because it’s a really, really hard thing they’ve asked us to do. I had a sneaking suspicion that Jensen would sort of muddle through the learning of this thing when I was with him and then show up and be amazing — and he was. So I was so glad that I spent so much time in my hotel room knocking over things and doing whatever I had to do to learn this skill. We showed up and we both killed it, and it’s a really funny, sweet moment in the show.
Oh, I can’t wait.
Qualls: I think it’s going to be an iconic moment in the show.
What would you like to see the Winchesters do or accomplish before the show ends?
Qualls: I think most of us just want them to find [peace], to get to a place where they can get out of this. I know there are not direct plans and I’ve heard nothing, but I would really love to see them pass the torch to younger kids doing the same stuff so just like in real life, they can go start families. We did that with Garth. I’m really, really pleased what they wrote for him because he was sort of a wayward boy that Bobby (Jim Beaver) took under his wing. It’s never said explicitly, but I always thought that he was probably an orphan, and Bobby was like a dad to him. And now we see him all these years later, I think it’s been eight years since we first saw him on the show, and now he has this really stable, loving home, and that really comes through in this episode. You see what he has, and the boys see it too.
What great personal growth for Garth, going from hunter to werewolf to now just living a semi-normal life.
Qualls: He’s living a life of service in his community. He’s the local dentist. When somebody has a problem, they come to him… One of his relatives is in trouble, that’s why he sort of summons Sam and Dean to begin with. And so I feel like Garth’s path in his little community is being an elder. He’s been out in the world and he’s seen things and he’s had to do some extraordinary things. He’s lived, which is no small feat on this show. Braver and more skillful people than Garth have not survived the run of this show, and I think he learned a lot from that. He’s in a place where if we saw him in 10 years from now, he’s going to be much more grounded, and sort of the guy that people turn to in the way that… Not a replacement for Bobby, certainly, but in that sort of vein. A guy who’s seen a lot and been through a lot.
Given what you’ve been through over the years, starting from when you first appeared on the show to now, what has this whole Supernatural experience and playing Garth meant to you?
Qualls: I would not be exaggerating if I told you that it’s been life changing. Initially, I was reluctant to take this job. I didn’t really want to be on a seven-year-old show. I wasn’t really doing TV in, I think it was 2011, or if I was, I’d just started doing it and was regular on another show. I was encouraged to do it when I told my friend about it, and I found out that a bunch of people watched this show that I had no idea. They’re like, just do the show. My daughter loves it, or my mom loves it, or I love it and we watch it every week. And I went on to do it. Nobody really looks like me, so if you’ve ever seen a movie that I’ve done, you see me in public and you know it’s me, right? So I’d known fame and that kind of feeling a little bit, but I’d never known cult fame until this show. And cult fame is wonderful and bats–t crazy at the exact same time. You know how, like, people who are on soap operas get yelled at at a supermarket for cheating on their TV wife or whatever?
Qualls: We get all of that. And people call me Garth all the time in public. Whenever I get a movie role, somebody will tweet, “Garth just got a job.” But like I said, we come into contact with fans, I think, more than probably any other show that’s still on the air because our convention circuit is so massive. We have contact with fans all the time, and you get to see what the show means to them and that’s a really great feeling. We’re a giant ensemble cast, and people who I’ve never worked with on the show are now some of my closest friends in real life, like Kim Rhodes, who I love to pieces. She’s like the mother of our group. All of us take this very seriously. No one gets wrecked at a convention. No one goes out the night before it, because we need to be bright-eyed to meet people because somebody drove nine hours to see me this year, and that’s a great responsibility and a great pleasure, and this show brought that into my life.
Jared actually warned me about this. It was while I was shooting my first episode, and he’s like, “This character is going to catch on. He’s going to be popular, and you’re going to get a little bit of what we get.” And a lot of it’s good, but a lot of it’s really not. Because The CW, when Bobby died, they swore to me they weren’t going to do that. They were not going to run a promo asking if I was the new Bobby, and they did it. And before anybody even saw the episodes, people were… My Twitter lit up. People were cussing me left, right, and center, and I talked to Jared about it. I was like, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I will never be on this show again. I’m living my peaceful life and now everybody hates me.” And he was like, “No. You have to ride this out. You have to ride it out.” And I did, and I’m so happy that I did. I have so much gratitude, and I just really want to thank the fans who loved Garth so much. It’s such a beautiful thing to show up and people have a smile on their face, and it’s because of the character. He just such a good man.
Well, hopefully, we get to see Garth at least one more time before the show ends.
Qualls: I have a theory that you haven’t seen the last of all of the characters. At some point in the future, I think you’ll see us all again. That’s based on nothing, by the way. I just feel like this is prime for movies or whatever in the future, some one-offs.
Supernatural airs Thursdays at 8/7c on The CW.