‘Supernatural’ Creator Eric Kripke Talks Reuniting On The Picket Line, Streaming Residuals, The Importance Of A Writers Room & More — Q&A

A swarm of Supernatural fans joined the picket line at Warner Bros. in Los Angeles on Thursday to catch a glimpse of series creator Eric Kripke as well as the cast and other writers who had reunited in solidarity with the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.

Other familiar faces included executive producer Rob Singer and star Misha Collins. The Winchesters stars Meg Donnelly and Drake Rodger also showed up to support.

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“It’s a little overwhelming. It’s very humbling, and it’s very insane,” Kripke told Deadline from the picket line as he observed the masses trying to get photos, autographs and even glimpses of the creatives behind their favorite show. “The Supernatural fandom is a majestic and terrifying force…I have to say, I sort of expected this madness, but it doesn’t change how insane it is.”

Amid the chaos, Kripke spoke with Deadline about some of the key issues writers are facing that still need to be addressed by the AMPTP as the WGA strike reaches day 122.

In the interview below, Kripke talks about the changes in the television industry from Supernatural to The Boys, the importance of a large writers room, training the next generation of showrunners, and more.

DEADLINE: This is quite the turnout. How are you feeling about getting to see all these familiar faces on the picket line?

ERIC KRIPKE: So good. That’s the best part. I mean, I left the show [at the] end of Season 5 and hung around a bit in Season 6, but then that was it. So there’s a lot of actors of the show that I’m fans of that I never met, but I’m getting to meet today. And just people who, they’re your family and you spend years with them in our weird, carny lifestyle and it’s just so good to see them again.

DEADLINE: Supernatural ran for so long. Even though you weren’t there for all of it, you were there for enough seasons to be able to speak to the benefits of having a large writers room. Can you think of any big moments from the show that were shaped by the room?

KRIPKE: I don’t have a specific example because that’s literally every day. Any good showrunner is only as good as their staff, and only as good as they’re willing to listen and be challenged. I always give the same speech for every show, which is, ‘Now that we’re inside this room, there are no labels or levels. We’re all trying to figure this out. There’s only one asshole in the room, and that’s me. And no one in this room is allowed to say no, except me. So let’s just start talking. And if you think I’m wrong in saying no, you have to get in my face and tell me.’ That’s how good shows get made…the minute people stop saying no to you, your sh*t is terrible. Every filmmaker who got powerful enough that they stopped saying no just starts making garbage. So I think it’s really important to have big staffs [and] really diverse staff. When I started out, staffs weren’t very diverse. It was a lot of white dudes. It’s better now than it’s ever been. There’s so many interesting perspectives and backgrounds and points of view that make the work better. I’ve just never understood that ‘I’m gonna write it myself’ thing. I know there’s a lot of debate about it, but I think having a staff and making sure that a show is staffed is good for you. The other thing that I feel really strongly about, which isn’t really talked about as much, is then they have to be on for the span [of production]. They have to produce their episodes. It’s just so short-sighted to not train the next generation.

DEADLINE: To your point, Supernatural certainly was a training ground for many writers, considering it bred so many showrunners.

KRIPKE: We’re really proud of that, but there’s an intentional vibe of teaching how to do it, watching us do it, sitting with us, asking questions… because it makes their work better [and] makes our work better. Working with me, I insist that everyone stays for the span [of the production]. That’s just part of the deal, now that I have the luxury of being able to demand that in this late stage of my career. People are like ‘That’s so great of you,’ and I’m like, it’s completely selfish. It makes them better writing the show, and I don’t want to f*cking live in Toronto. I want to be there for my episode, and then I want other people to be there for theirs. I got a family. There’s every reason to have a robust staff.

DEADLINE: I was just speaking about this with another showrunner — it seems silly to think that any long-running show could be completely conceived from one person’s mind.

KRIPKE: There’s no way that one season can come out of a single person’s head. It’s a collage, and that’s the best part. Whatever Mr. Yellowstone and all this stuff about like, ‘I don’t want to have a room’ or ‘I don’t need a room.’ My feeling is, you’re missing out on the best part of this job. All of it is a grinding sh*t show. Except you get to hang out with the smartest people you’ve ever met at a cocktail party that never ends. That’s the best part. So I don’t understand why that’s even an issue.

DEADLINE: Since The Winchesters ended, the franchise as we know it right now is over. Have you reflected on that? How does it feel?

KRIPKE: It was strange, because no matter what happened in my career, I always had the safety net of like, ‘Well, if I really sh*t the bed, I’ve still got Supernatural residuals, and I’m still getting the royalties because they’re [still] making it’ — same with The Winchesters. I even had a moment when it was all finally off, I’m like, ‘Oh sh*t. I better make sure I don’t screw up now. I don’t have this backup plan.’ My only wildest dream was to go five years on that show. I couldn’t have predicted this and what it became. I’m just totally humbled by the whole situation and just amazed, proud, but like never in my wildest dreams did I think that that show was gonna go 15 years and that it was going to connect to this many people. I don’t have good words for that. That blows me away.

DEADLINE: Since you mentioned residuals, Supernatural is probably up there as one of the best examples of a show that, when it takes off, it can really benefit the creatives to be able to share in that success. Would you mind speaking to that?

KRIPKE: I’ll give a perfect example. The residuals I get are from its airing on TNT, which you know, it gets a couple hundred thousand views. The Netflix streaming of Supernatural is consistently in the Top 10 for billions of minutes streamed. Part of that is because there’s so many episodes, but still, if you just go by how many people are spending minutes watching that show, it blows away Squid Game and blows away things that are massive hits, and I’ve gotten a total of zero residuals for that. No one should cry for me. I’m doing great. I’m not asking for any sympathy for that. I’m just pointing out the inequity. Then when you think of all the writers on my staff, who really could use that money, are in between jobs or something, that’s significant. The fact that [streamers] can just live in this sort of new media disruptor black box and not pay what other networks are paying doesn’t seem fair.

DEADLINE: Well, and streaming is a whole different ballgame. There’s no syndication pipeline the way that there still sort of is for shows like Supernatural.

KRIPKE: I mean, if there’s one thing I can say, because it’s the issue I feel strongest about, is there’s just so much that the industry has changed and none of the business has kept up with it. Writers still get paid per episode. That’s insane to me. When I had young writers on Supernatural, they were making say $7k an episode, $8k an episode, but it was 22 episodes. After commissions and taxes, you could still get an apartment and live your life. Now, young writers are coming in on The Boys, working eight episodes at that same rate, have to pay all the commissions and work the exact same amount of time. It’s not like with eight episodes we only work one-third of the time. We work as long as we ever did on a season of 22. So it’s wild to me. You can’t live. You can’t make a living wage starting out in this business anymore. I just can’t get over how short-sighted that is, because there’ll be a brain drain. People will go to industries where they can live. If they want a vibrant new generation of writers, and if they want the next Barbie and Stranger Things and everything that makes billions of dollars, you have to support the kids that are breaking in. When I was striking in ’07, I would walk past these titans and they would always say like, ‘Oh, we’re striking for you.’ Now I feel like I’m that guy who’s [got] my cigar and my gold chains, but it’s true. I’m striking for all the kids that are out here, and I think it’s important.

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