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‘Supernatural’s’ Robbie Thompson on Felicia Day and the Return of Charlie

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Over the previous nine seasons, Supernatural has introduced a lot of characters, but few have gone on to secure recurring roles. Fewer still have clicked with viewers the way Charlie Bradbury has. She even scored her own Funko Pop! vinyl figure.

Played by Felicia Day, Charlie is a LARPing computer expert with a fondness for Star Wars, aliases and, um, unusual tattoos who was introduced to the Winchester brothers in Season 7, only to return (twice!) in Season 8 before leaving with Dorothy to help free Oz in Season 9.

However, as most fans know by now, that wasn’t the last they’ll see of Charlie: She returns from Oz this season in an episode the show’s producers are keeping under wraps.

But while speaking with Supernatural writer Robbie Thompson about the launch of Marvel’s Silk series, CBR News took the opportunity to ask him about the creation of Charlie Bradbury, the appeal of the character, and his hopes for her future.

CBR News: One of the reasons I think Supernatural fans are so invested in the show is not just because of the Winchester brothers, but the great cast of supporting and recurring characters that surround them. What is it about characters like Bobby Singer, Garth, Kevin Tran, Castiel and now Charlie that has fans so excited about them and clamoring for their return?

Robbie Thompson: That’s a great question. I think the core DNA of the show is Sam and Dean and the relationship they have and the many directions that gets pushed and pulled. And the reason I think these supporting characters pop so much on our show is that there’s such a great opportunity with all these characters to see different sides of our main characters.

For example it’s been really fun as a writer to watch Sam and Dean interact with Charlie. So I think these characters — whether it’s Bobby, Garth, or even Crowley — allow us to show different sides of our protagonists. Also in private moments they let them reveal things that they’re maybe not ready to reveal or able to reveal to their brother. Any character is a mirror into another character’s soul, and I think all these characters that you brought up whether it’s Bobby, Charlie, or any of our supporting cast reflect and also show the contrast in this core relationship.

They’re also so much fun to write for as actors. Because as actors they bring a completely different dynamic to the well-established one between Jared [Padalecki] and Jensen [Ackles]. For example, it was always a thrill to write for Jim Beaver because he brings a completely different energy to the scene and the dynamic that they all have as actors.

It’s the same with Felicia Day. Felicia came to play from day one. She really stood her own and brought out a great dynamic. As actors they all found a really fun rhythm. I think it’s a lot of fun, and I’m speaking as a fan, to watch the core dynamic get tested and sometimes challenged by these supporting character and what these actors bring. I remember last season when Tim Omundson was Cain, his scenes with Jensen’s Dean and Mark [Sheppard]’s Crowley really popped because you could tell they were all having a great time on set and it really translated to the characters.

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You created Charlie for the Season 7 episode, “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo.” What inspired her creation? And how fully fleshed out was the character when you began writing the episode?

What inspired her creation was a couple of different things. Obviously with the title, Lisbeth Salander was definitely an inspiration. I love that character. I love [Stieg Larsson’s] books and the movie, but we wanted to find a different sort of spin on a hacker character.

The original pitch was actually completely different. I knew that the story was basically going to be very myth-based, and my pitch for it was, “Hey, could we do an episode like the movie The Insider, where there’s this Russell Crowe character within Dick Roman’s empire who is a whistleblower?” That eventually evolved into something much, much different, and I think much, much better thanks to [then showrunner] Sera Gamble, who is a fantastic writer and was a fantastic boss.

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Then with regards to how fleshed out the character was? I’ve been lucky enough to introduce a few new characters on the show and as a writer I always like to write out a very detailed back story. Knowing a character’s history helps me find their voice. Nine times out of ten none of that stuff will end up on the page. [Laughs]

It’s just work that I do as sort of due diligence, but one of the reasons Charlie’s character was introduced in general was that episode was the one where we thought Jared was going to have his first child. We wanted the boys to be in that episode together too. So we knew we needed a character that was really fleshed out and could hold their own for the days we were shooting because Sera was obviously concerned and wanted to make sure that Jared could be there for the birth of his child. The funny thing was that Jared’s son ended up being born while we were shooting the next episode. [Laughs] So it ended up all being for naught.

I wanted to make sure Charlie was a fully fleshed-out character, and I drew up a pretty detailed backstory. Because we brought her back for three other episodes we got to tell about 75-80 percent of what was in that original document. Some of it changed.

As an interesting side note, I did not meet Felicia until after her first episode was shot, but a lot of the choices that she made were so spot-on due to some of the backstory. The notes she was playing in between beats and the history she brought to the character to make her feel fully realized, a lot of it was on the exact same page as I was even though we hadn’t actually met and we hadn’t shared the character’s backstory. So it’s a real testament to her as an actor. She made some really strong and great choices.

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So Felicia was cast after you wrote the episode?

She was. I finished the original draft of the script and handed it in. I felt good about the draft, but I was nervous because there was a lot of Charlie Bradbury in that episode, and I didn’t know who the actor playing her was going to be. You never know with these things if you’ll get an actor that can carry full days of shooting.

Then I’ll never forget. Sera Gamble sent me a very short email and all it said was, “Felicia Day. Booked. Charlie Bradbury.” And I was so excited. I did another pass on the script after she was cast, and then Sera did another pass on the script as well, because once we knew we had Felicia we knew we had a great actor and we could give her a few more jokes. We could let some of that history play a bit more, and let her go toe-to-toe with the boys. So we were so lucky to get her, and we’re so lucky to have her.

You wrote all of Charlie’s subsequent episodes as well. What was it like collaborating with Felicia in bringing that character to life?

It’s funny, I remember watching her in dailies for her first episode, and my first thought was that I cannot wait to bring this character back. She made so many great choices as an actor with lines that weren’t funny and she made them funny, and some that were funny that she added a lot of weight and history to.

In a couple of her episodes there are references to The Empire Strikes Back, of the Han Solo and Princess Leia Lines, “I love you”/”I know.” I still love the way she played that in the dailies for “The Girl With the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo.” I had written it as sort of a jokey, ha-ha moment, but she played it with such history, like she had heard that line so many times, and she played it in a very genuine way. It was really unexpected, and I remember that being the first bit of dailies that I saw of her work. So I really wanted to bring her back.

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When you have an actor like that you that you know you can really lean on from both a performance and storytelling stand point it just makes you want to write for them more. Also, she has such great chemistry with the boys that you’d even want to write scenes where it’s just the three of them hanging out.

So it’s been a great collaboration. Felicia deserves a lot of credit for bringing that character to life, and frankly she’s the reason why that character keeps coming back. I have the great pleasure of writing that character, but it’s really her strength as an actor and her choices as an actor that’s made it possible to bring her back so many times. We’re really lucky to have her.

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Let’s talk a little more about Charlie’s experiences on the show and her relationships. From my perspective she appears a little closer with Dean than she is with Sam, is that correct?

I guess so. A lot of people have pointed that out. For me it’s just one of those things where it just kind of shook out that way from a timing standpoint, but I think there is a little bit more of a connection there. Hopefully in the upcoming episodes you’ll see a little more of a connection with both brothers.

I think she loves both boys, but there’s definitely a big brother-little sister vibe to the relationship between all three of them. I think she and Dean though have just been through a couple more adventures together. I think there’s a part of Charlie’s character that’s able to access the secret geeky part of Dean Winchester: getting him to LARP, which is something he wouldn’t normally do, getting him to appreciate the logic behind a video game, or appreciate Game of Thrones. I think she’s able to tease that part out of him.

At the same time, I think she has just as much a bond and a connection to Sam. They’re both computer-literate, nerdy, hacker types. That’s something I hope we get to explore as well in future episodes.

As you said, Charlie’s relationship with the boys is a big brother-little sister one and not a romantic one, which is cool and refreshing. That’s partly because Charlie is Supernatural’s first major human LGBT character, right?

I believe so. She definitely is the most prominent, but for me Charlie was never going to be defined by her gender or her sexuality. She came fully formed to me at the very beginning, when she was introduced. The first bit I wrote for Charlie was her having that private moment in the elevator and dancing to a song like nobody was watching. She’s got this incredible spirit and drive. I love getting to explore that every time we get to play with her character.

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Let’s move to Charlie’s return this season. I understand if you have to be vague to avoid spoilers since it’s a ways off, but the last time we saw Charlie in Season 9’s “Slumber Party” she was embarking on a great quest to help liberate Oz. What kind of shape will Charlie be in when she returns from Oz?

All I can really say is Charlie definitely comes back from Oz and she’,s brought back something that’s pretty scary. She’s going to have to confront it with the boys.

One of the great things about knowing you’re working with Felicia is she, as an actor, really gave us permission to let her character grow. So we’ve always tried to tell a new chapter of Charlie’s life when she appears. I always believe that every character is the hero of their own story and that’ definitely true with Charlie. This episode is another chapter in her ongoing journey and continual growth as a character.

Finally, can you talk at all about the dynamics we’ll see in the episode where Charlie returns? Might she have some scenes with “Demon” Dean?

I can’t really say anything about that, but people have asked about Charlie and scenes with other cast members and characters. I can’t comment about that for this episode, but it’s definitely something I would love to see. I would love to see her in scenes with Castiel and Crowley. We actually had a scene with her and Crowley in the “Slumber Party” episode that got cut.

I love writing for Charlie Bradbury and I’m very excited that she’s returning for Supernatural’s 10th season. I certainly hope that this isn’t the last time we see her. I hope she’s a character in the Supernatural universe for years and years to come.

Supernatural airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW. Silk debuts from Marvel in February.

Comments

  • Ginny Cooper

    “I would love to see her in scenes with Castiel and Crowley.” YES PLEASE. Cas and Charlie definitely, definitely need to meet.

  • Dakota60

    I love Charlie and I can’t wait to see her return from Oz. The brothers love her too which is a bonus.

  • Kris

    I’d love to see Charlie and Sam get their geek on together. There’s so few side characters that Sam gets to bond with in the past few years.

  • JPO

    Demon Dean? When was this interview done? cuz *SPOILERS* Dean was cured last week.

  • Paula R. Stiles

    I can’t stand Charlie Sue. And the show’s insistence on shoving her down the audience’s throats, to the detriment of any other character in the same episode including the two leads, is starting to make me not want to see Felicia Day, a performer I didn’t actually mind before, in anything ever again.

    If it was Mr. Thompson’s intent to write in the show’s very own Cousin Oliver/Scrappy-Doo, well, he’s succeeding with this fan. She’s annoying. She reduces the sense of danger in the show whenever she’s in it. And she is grossly overexposed and hyped by the show as the one token female character they seem willing to keep around.

    Better writing might help, but since Mr. Thompson has a death grip on the character and lacks the necessary distance to write her as anything but Mary Sue, I’m not holding my breath.

  • Mark

    A female fan who doesn’t like a recurring female character on the show. Gosh that’s never happened before…

  • Paula R. Stiles

    A male fan who thinks he gets to lecture female fans on what they should and shouldn’t like. Wow. *That’s* sure brand-new.

  • Mark

    Interesting reaction when pointing out a stereotypical view that’s so engrained in the SPN community it has become a running gag. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

  • Ginger

    I think you meant to write that fewer characters have been shoved down the viewers throats so far that they came out the other end like Charlie. Charlie brings “such a completely different dynamic to the well-established one between Jared [Padalecki] and Jensen [Ackles]…” You betcha. Sam and Dean are dumbed down in Charlie’s episodes so that we can see all of her incredible Mary Sue awesomeness. Thompson sounds ridiculous in this interview. It’s like, “See this marvelous character I created, and she isn’t even a love interest for the brothers. I know all the fans love her as much as I do.” Well, Mr. Thompson, I can’t stand her. I swore after that awful Oz episode that the next time you wrote a script specifically for the purpose of having Felicia Day back (and that’s what you do every time) that would be the first live airing of an SPN I miss since the premiere. I detest the character.

  • Paula R. Stiles

    It’s sad, but not surprising, that you are so disinterested in examining your own attitudes about gender that you automatically assume women who don’t like a fictional female character written by a man are the ones thinking in stereotypical terms. Because God forbid a woman ever tell a man how to think about women when surely, a man knows women so much better than women know themselves.

    Seriously, now, look at what you just wrote and ask yourself if that wasn’t being dismissive and sexist toward a real woman in defense of a fictional female character.

  • Ginger

    Some women actually recognize a well-written female character and appreciate them. Based on your comment, I can certainly see where you would like her and all of her awesomeness.

  • Mark

    Given that your initial tirade claimed Charlie was a Mary Sue, which she manifestly isn’t, or that she’s a token character, which I see no evidence for whatsoever, I’m sticking with my original observation. If you’d backed up your claims with more than “you can’t tell me how I feel” you might have had a point.

  • Mark

    She’s one of the best written female characters the show has had IMHO, and Felicia Day is one of the best guest actors.

  • Paula R. Stiles

    Saying, “No, she’s noooooot a Mary Sue and Felicia Day is the best!” is not an argument. When you actually come up with one, let me know. Until then, your white male geek privilege is showing.

  • Mark

    Fine, please specify how in your view she conforms to the Mary Sue archetype in the context of this story.

  • Paula R. Stiles

    Please specify why you don’t agree. Ball’s in your court, pal.

  • Mark

    You made the claim but can’t defend it? Not a good start. The character is firmly in a support role and relies on the main cast to “save the day”. The character is intentionally awkward (far from idealized), and given the author is an unlikely insert. The character is lacking in primary skills that the two leads regularly demonstrate. If Charlie demonstrates wish-fulfillment to you in the context of the stories she has been in, your wishes are rather pedestrian in the Supernatural universe. The character is more rounded and well-developed than most guest parts on the show; we literally spent time inside her mind. Do you need more?

  • Mark

    [As an aside, I hope you appreciate the irony of attempting to pigeonhole someone because they pigeonholed you]

  • Paula R. Stiles

    And here’s why. I’ve been on the Internet a long time kid and in genre a lot longer. I’m even published in it. So, I’ve learned the hard way that any fanboy (like you) who comes in sexism-first with a dismissive tone based *only* on my opinion coming from a woman, has zero interest in a reasonable discussion and only wants to yell at the offending woman until she shuts up.

    Therefore, going on at any length about a term that everyone knows and quite clearly gave you some (highly inaccurate) idea about what I meant (though I laugh at your thinking that a character who is the bestest, awesomest, most perfect girl in the SPNverse, except when she has to show some real strength or overcoming of flaws, is either “well-rounded” or “well-developed”) is pointless. You’ve already decided ahead of time what I think and you’ve already decided I am an evil and uppity woman for expressing it. Well, boo-hoo for you.

    Here’s a tip–next time you actually want to have a reasonable discussion with a female fan about genre, try not starting right off the bat being a jerk about it. Please note that in my original post, I did not attack previous posters for expressing their opinions-unlike what you tried to do to me. I don’t care if they like the character. Good for them. I was expressing *my* opinion, to which I’m entitled. If you want to disagree with it, try an initial argument that doesn’t start right off with assuming I am just too irrational to discuss how my own gender is treated in horror shows.

  • Paula R. Stiles

    If you hate the tone, try not lowering it in the first place.

  • Mark

    Kinda hard to take the high road when you’re so ready to join me down here though, isn’t it?

  • Mark

    Kinda hard to take the high road when you’re so ready to join me down here though, isn’t it?

  • Mark

    Was there any content in that post which actually addressed the point being made? Oh and I went on the dictionary definition of the term, in case that was unclear.

  • Mark

    Was there any content in that post which actually addressed the point being made? Oh and I went on the dictionary definition of the term, in case that was unclear.

  • ZeoVGM

    Charlie is awesome. Simple as that.

    I would love to see the show expand to have more of a Buffy/Angel “Scooby Gang” feel like it’s hinted at the past couple seasons. I want a nice big hunting group.

  • carla874

    like Debra implied I’m alarmed that any body can get paid $5273 in 4 weeks on the internet . Get More Info….>> -> EXTREMELY EASY JOBS!!! <-

  • Billy Bob

    Bit harsh but I’ll grant you that other than her original episode which I thought was very good I’ve found her future appearances to be cringe inducing.

  • JacqMike77

    Woa…apparently we got some Charlie haters here. Why the hates on any female characters on the show? This show is getting more misogynistic by the day.

    I love Charlie but I love her more during her confrontation with the Leviathan. I prefer her as this computer genius & really had wanted her to meet Kevin. And her meeting with Crowley or Castiel would be hilarious.

  • shaydey

    Looks like an episode I’ll be skipping. I cant stand this character and dont understand why they keep trying to shove her down our throats. Of all the female characters on this show, I just can’t comprehend why she keeps getting a reoccurring role while other, much stronger and deeper characters were killed off. Get over yourself Thompson.

  • janef0ster

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  • Orbister

    Don’t bring that overacted fake boring cliche back… it’s the worst character… add a new female character that isn’t annoying as fuck as this walking cliche is…

  • Linda F.

    Ugh. Go away, Mary Sue! Go far, far, far, far away! Go back to Oz and stay there!