#SDCC2016: NerdHQ Hosts Jared Padalecki, A Couple of Friends, and a Stalker

NerdHQ founder Zachary Levi (Chuck, Tangled) took to the stage as soon as the audience of approximately 200 people took their seats Sunday afternoon, July 24, at 4 o'clock. The small venue evoked an informal and more intimate feel, quite opposite to the 6,000-plus seating at Comic-Con's Exhibition Hall panels. In addition, Levi's organization raises funds from panel ticket admissions for Operation Smile, a non-profit group that raises money to pay for cleft lip and palate surgery for children around the world.

Right off, Levi auctioned five Supernatural gummy gift boxes to the first five smiles, which meant that five people committed to $240, the cost to sponsor one child's surgery for a cleft lip. Levi premiered two other auction items: an autographed Death Star and a painting – both going for $10,000 right then, or to be posted on an eBay auction.

With the auction concluded, Levi introduced Jared Padalecki (Sam Winchester, Supernatural) to the stage. Tall and lanky, Padalecki smiled to the warm applause. After taking his seat, he told Levi, “I have a friend.” Levi added a chair to the stage as Padalecki said to the audience that they may know his friend, Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester). Ackles came from the side of the audience with a huge grin as he joined his onscreen brother. Once settled in his seat, Ackles coyly mentioned that he happened to have a friend, too. The audience started clapping in anticipation. Another chair was brought out and soon after, Misha Collins (Castiel) joined Padalecki and Ackles. The audience was ecstatic.

Once the audience quieted down, Collins chuckled and said he did not have a friend like Padalecki and Ackles; however, he did have a stalker. At that moment, Mark Sheppard (Crowley) sheepishly poked his head through the side stage door and looked over to the stage and then the audience, which had once again broken out in an exuberant clamor of cheer. What an absolute treat to have all four main cast members up on stage for a second hour. (They had been together on the prior hour's panel.)

The audience settled down again, and Levi stated it was fitting that Padalecki close this year's panel program, because the actor had been involved with NerdHQ since the inception of the organization in July 2011. Reminiscing back to that first year, Padalecki shared that the air conditioner worked better and the event has grown, but “the message was still the same.” Levi appreciated his point, because Levi felt that NerdHQ and the panels provided a place to hang out. He added that the fans cared very much, which was important because they were the lifeblood. With that, Levi opened up questions from the audience.

It immediately became apparent that the rapport these four actors shared on stage went a long way to shedding light on the longevity of the television series that recently started its twelfth season – 241 episodes so far. The camaraderie was priceless; instead of four grown men, it was more like four boyhood chums who had been lifelong friends, sharing stories at an extended family reunion.

Sheppard shared a story of about being the shortest man of the group, which was exaggerated during a photo-op when on the count of three, the other three men went up on their tip toes while Sheppard remained flat footed. At that point, the four then stood and provided the audience with a visual, which was hilarious.

A question from the audience asked all of the men what special skill(s) they could now add to their resume, based on their involvement with Supernatural. Padalecki said his skill was “throwing [his colleagues] under the bus and messing up their takes.” Ackles said hitting Sheppard, which happened on the show, and “remembering my lines.” Sheppard retorted, “Who needs lines?” Collins said his was not laughing, which led into him mentioning GISHWHES, or the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, which Collins founded in 2011 as a publicity stunt. Other cast members noted some of the unusual items for the scavenger hunt. Collins then stated that Levi would be participating for the first time this year.

Interspersed between questions, the panelists would share different stories involving the show and the cast. For example, Padalecki and Ackles shared the “CW smolder” which led Collins to share about an award's ceremony they attended early on after he joined the show. During a photo-op, while the Winchester boys gave their best “CW smolder,” Collins was right there with his charming, million-dollar grin. The trio recreated the moment for the audience; again, a priceless moment that solicited laughter and applause.

The cast was asked what song was their favorite to sing. Collins said he sings an unusual song with quirky lyrics, while Padalecki likes Fitz and the Trantrums. Ackles, without batting an eye, said “Work Bitch” by Britney Spears, and in a similar vein, Sheppard shared his favorite was Prince's “Sexy M.F.”

Collins was asked how he keeps a straight face in the series, when he constantly has a smile on his face. He said there are 25 – 30 takes of him laughing left on the floor. A follow-up question asked about his hallmark trench coat. He said that three coats were originally bought from a local store. Then, the show costume department went back and bought the rest of the coats. Eventually, the store quit carrying the coat and the show had to start making them. Collins figured he has had about 50 trench coats.

There were a few particularly poignant and emotional moments when a few audience members expressed their appreciation to Padalecki, who has been candid about his personal struggles with clinical depression. His openness has given fans, suffering from similar issues, hope.

The men were asked their favorite character line. For Collins, it was “Hey ass butt!” Ackles said his favorite was “Saving people, hunting demons.” He then added, he was also partial to “Does this taco taste funny to you?” Sheppard loved “Where's moose?” And, Padalecki shared his favorite: “I lost my shoe.”

A follow-up question for all of the panelists: What is the last nice thing you did? Collins shared that he managed to change a diaper without getting shit on himself. Padalecki said it was not sharing a diaper story. Ackles stated he was a “sad sack of regret” while Sheppard said “just being me.”

Padalecki and Ackles were asked what they were looking forward to with season twelve. For Padalecki, he was looking forward to Sam exploring being a son to their mother. Ackles sees the season being a challenge for Dean, who will have another person (his mother) he would sacrifice himself to save.

With the hour coming a close, all four were asked what were their favorite episodes. Padalecki said his was “Swan Song” and “Sacrifice.” Ackles stated his were “Baby” and “The End,” which was also Collins' favorite. Sheppard shared that his were “Abandon All Hope” and “Sacrifice.” Audience members nodded in agreement to the various episodes mentioned. The four actors stood and as they exited the stage, it was to unrestrained applause and woots from the audience. It was a magical hour and one that will not be soon forgotten.



Photos from this NerdHQ panel can be found at Fanbase Press' SDCC 2016 photo gallery on Facebook.

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