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'Supernatural': Jensen Ackles And Jared Padalecki On Castiel's Return And The Winchesters' Upcoming Meltdowns

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"Supernatural": Jensen Ackles (left) and Misha Collins (right)

This week's "Supernatural" sees the return of Misha Collins' fan-favorite (yet divisive) character, Castiel. During a recent visit to the show's Vancouver-based set, HuffPost TV discussed the reintroduction of Castiel with the series' frontmen Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki.

The charismatic actors also delved deeper into Sam's breakdown and where the latter half of the season will take the Winchesters. They dropped a few hints about what we can expect from their characters in upcoming episodes and on the introduction of a female hunter who has a romantic history with both Sam and Dean (lucky her!). We also caught up with executive producer Sera Gamble, who wrote the Castiel comeback episode, via phone to talk about the big episode and those to come, including some updates on the new and recurring characters we can look forward to seeing in the weeks ahead. Tread lightly, there are spoilers ahead.

(You can read the first part of our exclusive interview with Ackles, Padalecki and Gamble here. )

Jensen, we know that Cas is going to come back as a healer, and that Dean goes to him for help with Sam, so can you tell us about their interactions in this episode, especially since it sounds like Cas isn’t going to remember who he is?
Ackles:
Well, strange things have been happening to Dean, and I think that that’s starting to reveal itself a little bit more. One of those strange things is the fact that he got a number of a man who had contact with Cas, and it was an utter shock to Dean to find out that the guy that this guy had sent him to was, in fact, Cas; but he doesn't know it. So there’s an interesting dynamic there, in the fact that Dean has massive mixed feelings about Cas' return. Obviously elated to see his friend, but what [Cas] had done before he left was something that Dean doesn't forgive easily. So there's a big struggle there with Dean and you'll see more of that play out throughout that episode and throughout future episodes. It's going to be difficult for him to kind of forgive and forget, but it's also a different character. It's Cas, but it's not Cas, so there's a whole different dynamic. All the history that comes with Cas and Dean, and with Sam and Cas, all of that has been really jumbled up and it's such a mess. So it's going to take a while for any of that stuff to make sense.

Jared, since we know that Sam's going to be incapacitated for part of the episode, do you have any scenes with Castiel?
Padalecki:
I do. I don't have as much, because Sam's going through his own personal hell. Sam kind of has a funny reaction, because Sam, all season long, has been seeing Lucifer, played by Mark Pellegrino. So he sees Castiel and he thinks, "Oh, my head's still playing tricks with me. Here I go again." And Sam is really trying to be in charge of himself and realize when he’s kind of out of line, realize when he's imaging things or having hallucinations. So at first, he doesn’t believe it, and then comes to find out, through his brother, that it actually is Cas. And Sam and Cas have always had kind of a strained relationship, when Cas' first episode was also Ruby's, where Ruby and Sam reveal that they had been in cahoots. And so, Cas was obviously pretty hesitant to trust Sam and to give him too much power, and then Cas really kind of messed Sam up earlier this year. So Sam certainly doesn’t have a whole lot of love lost for Castiel, but he understands that Dean and Sam are better off with Cas than without. So, I think he keeps an open mind for it.

Can both of you discuss your character arcs at this point in the season, up until what you're filming now [episode 20]?
Padalecki:
Sam, after being kind of ruined by Misha, has been seeing -- or by Castiel, I guess ... Freudian slip! [Laughs.]
Ackles: And Misha.
Padalecki: And Misha … No, Sam’s been seeing Lucifer and trying to get himself on track and he kind of re-confronts the reason he ended up in this place in the first place. So Sam has a big breakdown, then once again, in Winchester form, has to kind of come crawling back out. And obviously, it's not like I get a chance to go off to rehab for 18 months and take care of myself, because Leviathans and Dick Roman are still out there. So it's kind of straight back into the game, you know ... put a brace on and get back on the field. So that's kind of where Sam is right now, trying to get back in the game. It feels like he's been distracted all season long by his own issues, but now that we think he's kind of clean of them, he wants to put his full momentum forward with the task at hand.

And for Dean?
Ackles:
Well, recently, I think some of the episodes that have aired have kind of gotten back to an earlier formula of "Supernatural," which has been refreshing and nice to kind of get back to those week-to-week monster hunts -- though obviously, there's a sub-lining storyline that we’re still staying true to. As far as Dean goes, obviously he’s dealing with his brother, who is not well, no matter how much of a front he puts on, and [Dean] knows that. And so you pair that with the fact that he's just lost his second father essentially and he lost a very, very close and valued ally in the beginning of the season. He's wobbling himself, but there is so much going on right now storyline-wise that I don’t think it's necessarily ... he's not looking at himself. He's just trying to make sense of everything that's going on around him. He's trying to be strong for his brother. He's trying to be strong for himself in order to kind of keep moving. At a certain point, there's going to be breaking point with him. I don't know when that is, but I assume that it's inevitable simply because you can't pent that much up and not have it released at some point. It's coming to a head and it'd be interesting to see how it breaks.

A recent spoiler was released about a female hunter who actually used to date both of the brothers. Can you reveal anything else about her character and what her reappearance means for Sam and Dean?
Padalecki:
Yeah, Sam and Dean find themselves in a situation where ... you know, hunters are always calling other hunters, "I need help, I need backup, don’t know anything about this," and we get contacted by a hunter that we both had a past with that neither of us knew the other had a past with. And it's kind of a funny moment just between the brothers and we see how their relationship and sense of humor about it all stands.
Ackles: That's in episode 19. It's not any giant revelation of the characters; it's more, when he was off soulless for a year doing random jobs and stuff ... Hey, things on a stakeout happen when you work with other hunters and this one is a very attractive one! She obviously had the same kind of mindset that the male hunters have. So, she was game.
Padalecki: [Laughs.] And Sam and Dean have to look at each other for months on end, so I think they were just excited to…
Ackles: Yeah, anything to break it up. [Laughs.] So that's just a little added humor.

HuffPost TV asked Sera Gamble to expand on a few of Ackles and Padalecki's points during our later interview below-- including Castiel's return and the brothers' mental states as the series progresses. She also teases a few of the new and returning characters we can look forward to seeing.

Next week's episode is the return of Castiel, but I hear that he comes back not knowing who he is. How does that affect the dynamic between him and Dean and Sam?
I've been trying to answer these questions by saying as little as possible, so be merciful! [Laughs.] The best way to say it is that Dean never thought he would see that face again. So, it's completely shocking to him to see him and obviously everything kind of unfolds from there. We kind of have an arc in mind for all of this that will kind of take place between this and episode 23. I can't say very much, but it'll all make perfect sense when you see it -- promise.

The last three episodes are going to feature a teenage prophet of sorts. Is that going to be a similar situation to Chuck (Rob Benedict), or a new spin on the idea?
We expound on the idea. We needed a prophet-like element in that story. As we were talking about it, we just realized that our show's take on prophets was just really fun and cool and we wanted to introduce a character who is different from Chuck. But what prophets seem to have in common is that becoming a prophet is just the crappiest luck; you don't choose it, it doesn't do anything good for you. In the case of Kevin, the prophet that we will meet in episode 21 -- which is being directed by Ben Edlund -- he's just a really dedicated high school student. He doesn't want to get involved in anything. He doesn't believe in any of this. Because of a series of events, he kind of becomes "activated" as a prophet. So now there's hunters and there's demons and there's angels and all these things in this world. He's like, "I just want to get a good score on my SATs!"

Neither of the brothers is playing at 100 percent right now; Sam's going to have his meltdown in episode 17 and then, as Jared put it, kind of strap on a brace and limp back out, and Dean's obviously pretty wrecked with drinking and grief. So where are they mentally in the last batch of episodes?
Well, the thing that makes Sam and Dean "Sam and Dean" is that though they are sometimes the walking wounded, they always manage to strap a gun on and face the enemy. If neither of them are at 100 percent, then they'll figure out how to be 100 percent together. That's kind of something that they come to in this season, especially because they lose so many other people. I think that the relationship between the two of them is really strong this season. They don’t get to rely on Bobby. They don't get to rely on Cas. They don't even get to drive in the Impala. Neither of them is doing perfect, but at least they have each other.

Are we going to see a return of Crowley (Mark Sheppard) and more of a resurgence in demons, since you mentioned that Kevin is going to be tangled up in this world of demons and angels and so forth?
Yeah, we're going to have a nice mix of different kinds of creatures weighing in. Crowley manages to insert himself into everything, generally speaking. You'll also see Meg [Rachel Miner] before the end of the season as well.

Excellent segue, because we know that Meg returns in [this week's] episode. Can you talk a little about what her role is?
Well, Meg, as we learned in Season 6, is on the outs with Crowley. She was kind of on the opposing political team -- she was in the other party. That hasn't changed, but Crowley has cemented his position as king of hell. So if anything, she's just higher on the most wanted list. It's like everywhere she goes, there are demons who could easily turn her in for the equivalent of cash. So, she's kind of desperate for allies really. We've been sort of scratching beneath the surface of where she's at now. She's really our longest-running demon, so she has some pretty interesting layers at this point.

Have you already started plotting Season 8 and what kind of theme you might be looking at?
Well, we do have a cliffhanger at the end of this season. Several seeds are planted in the last few episodes, especially in episode 23, that could bear fruit in Season 8. We've definitely juggled a few things around. We're hoping to hear something about a pickup, I don't know. Is Mercury in retrograde right now? I don't want to say anything that could jinx it. I've become like a believer in all religions all at once. I just line up all the talismans and start to believe in everything when we talk about that stuff. [Laughs.]

Are you looking forward to seeing Castiel (and Meg) again? Do you like the idea of a new prophet, and are you intrigued by the prospect of a hunter who has a romantic history with both Sam and Dean? Share your thoughts and predictions below!

Castiel makes his "Supernatural" return and Sam breaks down in this Friday's episode (March 23), at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.

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