It might be a bit surprising to discover, but Meg Donnelly came into her starring role in The Winchesters as a bit of a scaredy-cat.
Donnelly says playing Mary Campbell in the Supernatural prequel series, as well as her extensive stunt training for the part, gave her a great deal of confidence. This is especially true when it comes to things that go bump in the night.
“Through playing Mary, I feel like I’ve just learned a lot about myself. I initially felt that when I started playing her, she was really closed up,” Donnelly exclusively tells Parade.com.
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“Everyone in the cast and crew, they’re so down to earth,” she adds. “I really think it has to do with the energy that came from the series, Supernatural.”
The Winchesters, also starring Drake Rodgers as John Winchester, made its debut on The CW on Oct. 11 and quickly captured a large fan base, many of them from the earlier series. The series, which returns to The CW in mid-January, has a new 9 p.m. timeslot.
Set in the 1970s, Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles, reprising the role that made him a household name) narrates the story of how his parents John Winchester and Mary Campbell met, fell in love and fought monsters together while in search of their missing fathers.
Read on for more about Meg Donnelly, why she loves stunt training and her devoted fans, and learning more about The Winchesters and Supernatural.
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What are your favorite aspects of making The Winchesters? Maybe you could supply some teasers to whet our appetite?
Meg Donnelly: The stunts are always my favorite. Every time we get a stunt day, to go in and start training on the new episodes is always so much fun because we’ve just been learning so many different types of fight training. So that’s been wild and so new for me.
I also love how every episode there’s a new case to crack with the creative storylines often happening. So, that’s just really fun, and it’s fun to play more of a darker character than I have before.
Can you tell us what else we have to look forward to for the rest of the season?
There are actually a lot of the OG Supernatural characters coming in throughout these next episodes, and there are some really great ones, so I’m really excited for people to see the characters that come back. It’s not for a second, they’re fully interacting with our characters, so that’s been really, really fun.
There’s also a lot more fighting. In Episode 9 there’s a whole fight sequence with Mary herself, which I’m really excited for people to see because that was just so much fun to do. I’m really excited for viewers to see what unfolds.
Before you got this role, did you enjoy Supernatural?
Well, when this series first came out, I was way too scared to watch it—I don’t do well with scary shows. I knew about it because all my friends were all obsessed with the show. So I knew a lot about Sam and Dean Winchester through that, and through pop culture.
But when we first started our show, I started watching the episodes now. And they actually gave us a list of what episodes to watch specifically to help either Mary or John or whoever, so that’s been really helpful. But it’s also been helpful because Drake who plays John is a huge, huge Supernatural fan, so he’s been a great help.
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Talk about the epic love story of The Winchesters.
Yes. The love story is very important because I feel like in Supernatural you realize that John is fighting more for Mary than he is for his own sons, he’s putting Mary first. And so Drake, and I have kind of said it’s really important to show that, and how amazing their love is and how it defies all the odds.
Of course, they’re going to go through ups and downs because they just met, but I think their love is so strong. It gives context for what happens in Supernatural, so that’s been really fun. Working with Drake is just amazing. It’s been really fun to play these characters and have the highs and lows of their relationship. It’s been really fun to discover.
Who is Mary Campbell in your eyes? How is she evolving? How are you getting to know her?
It’s really funny because when we first started the show I was thinking, “Oh, this is so nerve-racking because I’m not like Mary at all. How am I going to play this role convincingly?” And then I realized that I’m actually so much more like Mary than I thought, and we’re actually very similar.
Mary is in a stage of her life right now where she has been doing the same thing her entire life, and now she’s like, “Oh, well, is there more to this? Could I do more? Is there an out, an escape?” I think that’s really interesting because for me I think it’s starting to be in your 20s, it’s this stage of, “What am I doing? What is life? What is the purpose?” Honestly, playing her has really, really helped me through a lot of that stuff.
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I think now she’s just evolving, becoming more vulnerable. She’s very easily guarded and protected because of everything she’s seen throughout her life, of course, because she’s been hunting and killing since she was five years old. And through working with people and not feeling alone, she’s been able to open up more. I think it’s been really cool to see her in a light like that, and her journey which has included opening up more has been really fun to play.
Yes, we do live-tweeting every single week, which has been really awesome. The fan reaction and the interaction with us on Twitter has been nothing but amazing, and we love interacting with them, too, because it means so much to us.
All of the feedback I’ve seen so far has been extremely positive, so it’s been really cool to have that support. And for Supernatural fans to get really excited about little cameos and lines that we say and stuff like that, we are always wondering if they’re picking up on the little Easter eggs sprinkled about. And they always do, of course, so it’s been really fun to see.
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Do you make the most of filming in New Orleans? What’s your favorite part of the Big Easy?
Yes, we definitely do. When we have the energy on the weekends we go out. There’s a festival literally every single weekend of some kind. There’s always a parade or something fun happening. Being in New Orleans is completely magical. I went a couple of times growing up, but I never got to fully experience all of the New Orleans culture.
Very spooky? Please expound on that.
Yes. Personally, I haven’t; knock on wood, but a lot of people on the cast have had paranormal experiences. Especially on set, I feel like we always film in these abandoned warehouses and abandoned hospitals and stuff like that; it’s very eerie and very spooky.
Paranormal stuff is really cool if you’re into that kind of thing. I personally am terrified, that’s why I didn’t watch Supernatural when I was younger. I was like, “I don’t need to live it in real life either.” So, it’s been really fun.
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Are you reading more supernatural stuff? Has this genre captured you in any way?
Oh, yes. I feel like working on the show and seeing behind the scenes how everything happens, it’s definitely made me less scared of TV shows and movies that have monsters or scary things. And also to see the amazing prosthetics and what they do for bloody scenes or fight scenes or monsters, it’s like, “Oh wow, okay, this is just art.” That helped me because I get scared so easily, especially during Halloween.
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Do you think about the bigger issues like good versus evil when you’re reading your scripts?
Yes, definitely. Not that they keep us in the dark, they kind of tell us what’s going on, but when scripts come out, we don’t really know where the show’s going or what they have planned. Because they want to keep us surprised and invested in everything that’s happening.
So, we don’t really know. The cast always gets together to read the script. Or we’ll watch the episodes together and we come up with predictions of what we think is going to happen and what we hope for. There are a million different ways it can go
What are your future plans, other than working on this show?
In all the free time I have, I’ve been working on music. That’s always something that I really wanted to do, I just haven’t had a solid amount of time for it. And I have been experimenting with different sounds and stuff like that. I’m really hoping to put out music in the New Year; that’s number one on the list. Live performances and the like is really what I want to do. That would be a great deal of fun.
Overall, how did The Winchesters change your life?
In so many ways! I think the people first and foremost have just been so incredible. And this is the first time I’ve ever been somewhere else, living completely on my own. Everyone in the cast and crew is older than me, and they have such amazing advice. They’re just amazing people, amazing communicators too.
Jensen, Daneel and Robbie have established such an amazing, open workspace and everyone just feels so comfortable. I really think it’s the people that make working on the series so great.
And also, just pushing myself, too, because I’ve never done anything like this before. With the stunts, the really dramatic and hard scenes, and living on my own and playing more of a mature role. It’s a lot of firsts for me. So, it’s been overwhelming at times, but I think it’s really changed who I am and I’m so grateful for that.
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Since Christmas is around the corner, please share a few of your favorite holiday traditions.
Yes, I’m really looking forward to the new year. I think Christmastime is so awesome because it’s so nostalgic about old memories, then you can create new ones. It’s just a very joyful holiday season that I really love. I feel like people are just in good spirits. I really love New Year’s! It’s not even really a holiday but it’s probably my favorite because you just get to reflect on your whole year.
I’m the only child, so it’s me and my parents, and we always open a present on Christmas Eve as a tradition. And then on Christmas morning, we watch the parades and the shows. We always have to watch The Sound of Music, too, which even though it’s not a Christmas movie, it’s become one of them to us.
Why should we watch The Winchesters?
Well, it kind of touches on a lot of different genres. There’s a lot of romance between John and Mary, and other characters that I think are really interesting. Because it doesn’t just happen right away, it’s a very interesting, messy type of relationship that I think is really relatable.
Then there’s a lot of action as well. Every episode has these really in-depth fight scenes that happen that have been so much fun to do. So, there’s action, and there’s a lot of drama, a lot of tapping into these hunters’ trauma and why they act the way they act, and a lot of death and how humans react to that. It kind of checks in a lot of boxes.
I think it’s really exciting for people to watch because it’s also a completely different world of hunting and fun, so it’s a really easy show to relate to but also escape into as well.
The mid-season premiere of The Winchesters will air on The CW on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, at 9 p.m. An encore episode will air at 8 p.m. to set the stage for the premiere.
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