In our Supernatural: Road to the End retrospective series, we’ll be revisiting some of the key characters and recurring guest stars who helped make the show into the fan-favorite phenomenon it became over its 15 seasons on the air before the series ends. We’ve talked to Mama Winchester herself, Samantha Smith; Felicia Day, who plays hacker-turned-hunter Charlie Bradbury; and the man behind the Winchesters’ oldest surviving ally Bobby Singer, Jim Beaver. Next, we’re talking to the reigning Queen of Hell, Rowena, aka Ruth Connell, about her surprisingly supernatural Supernatural journey.
Supernatural’s final season has been full of goodbyes. In SPN tradition, though, while many of the character exits have been shockers, The CW show has been sending some of the Winchesters’ extended family off through heroic self-sacrifice – like the tearjerker Earth-end for Rowena that came during Season 15’s “The Rupture.”
After their plan to patch the demon-spewing rift went awry, Rowena stepped into the demon-absorption role, with the caveat that she had to die by Sam Winchester’s (Jared Padalecki) hand. It was a heart-wrenching moment that actress Ruth Connell recalled when IGN caught up with her and asked about the unique connection Sam and Rowena shared over the years.
“It kind of crept up on me a little bit. The fans saw it before I did – this sort of kindred spirits type relationship. It was just such fun times with Jared, like the bit when I threaten to turn him into a moose. It was so interesting … to start to have scenes one-on-one with Jared or with Jensen [Ackles] or with Misha [Collins], kind of build those individual relationships rather than just Rowena vs. the Boys. I love that, but I will definitely always be 100-percent indebted to Jared for how he turned up for me, especially in ‘The Rupture,’” Connell shared. “Fifteen years into a show, he could not have worked harder with me to try and make that whole dramatic death scene – he could not have worked harder with me to try to make it count. And I love him for that. I love them all so much. I love them especially right now ’cause I’ve not seen them for ages. I miss them all.”
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Connell first joined the show for its 10th season. It was a role that felt like it was written for her, even if she had to chase it down to get in the audition room. It was Connell’s close friend (and fellow actress) Henrietta Meire who sent her “this breakdown of this mysterious woman, perhaps with a Scottish accent.”
“And I went to all kinds of trouble – emailing my agent, I got in touch with the casting director in Canada, I was putting a reel together of my Scottish clips, all this stuff,” Connell recalled of how she approached getting an audition.
Eventually, she got in the room with casting director Robert Ulrich after viewing 14 episodes of Supernatural the weekend before. “And I went in and read with them and I could see like a little bit of a light bulb go off. … And the next day I was in front of producers,” she remembered.
It’s fitting that Connell played the show’s most powerful witch (and long-lost mother to Crowley), as the process that brought her to the role of Rowena had a – sorry to use the pun – supernatural element to it.
“It really did feel, though, for me, like I was at a point in my life where I had tried and tried and tried so hard – so many ways – and I was really at a point of surrender in the industry, and it did feel like a little bit of magic where this part came in that was so right for me and I was so right for it,” Connell told IGN.
“And I was only ever booked for one episode and pinned, potentially, for one or two. There was no way that I knew or that anybody knew that it was going to turn into 12 episodes in the first season [I was in], which was just – I could bore you to tears, I remember it all so clearly because it was all so important to me and it meant so much to me. It still does.”
Rowena stuck around much longer than just 12 episodes. She’s enchanted our screens for the last five seasons, popping in and out of the Winchesters’ lives, causing trouble, helping them out on occasion, and always working with her own secret agenda. After that first appearance, Connell had a “good feeling” it wouldn’t be a one off.
“I’m quite hippy-dippy intuitive in that way and I [was] aiming for like, eight. I saw that Alaina Huffman, who I had never met, who’s now one of my best friends – I saw that she had done eight. And I really got Abaddon and I got what happened there and I thought, that’s something to aim for,” she said. “At one point they killed me, but [executive producer] Bob Singer took me into his office with Eugenie [Ross-Leming], who wrote a lot of the Rowena episodes … and was like, ‘Can you keep a secret?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘You’re not really dead.’ I said, ‘I never thought I was!'”
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The writers, Connell said, “just took such good care of Rowena. And I love where she’s landed on this throne [in Hell] – like she deserves.”
As of this Thursday, there are just two episodes of SPN’s final season – and a lookback hour – left. It has been a long – and wild – ride, with a universe that’s extended far beyond an hour a week on television. Supernatural may be concluding, but it will be remembered long after the final credits roll.
“Supernatural is on television so often with reruns and different channels and different ways, and there are so many people who, as part of their everyday life … see it and it’s on. So, it’s on in airports and the screens when you’re there,” Connell laughed, revealing to IGN she gets recognized most in airports. “It’s not going to go anywhere. As long as there are reruns and repeats, it’s going to be a little like Star Trek or something like that, I think. That’s the closest analogy I can think of.”
Supernatural airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW. The series finale airs on Nov. 19.