'Supernatural' Showrunner Andrew Dabb On Fans, Family, and Legacy at 300 Episodes

Tonight, Supernatural -- a series that is almost twice as old as the next-closest show on its network -- will surpass the 300-episode mark, a feat only a handful of scripted, prime-time shows have managed to accomplish over the years.

They will celebrate not by going meta -- they've done that more than a few times over the years -- but by reuniting John and Mary Winchester, with John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) returning to the series for the first time in over a decade. The episode will center around the town of Lebanon, where the show takes place, and just what it is that the locals think these guys in the Impala are up to.

Executive producer Andrew Dabb joined ComicBook.com to discuss the episode, which airs tonight at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.

What has being part of the Supernatural family meant to you?

I've been on the show 11 years. It is the first and only job I've had in television. I moved from Utah to Los Angeles to pursue this as a career in 2008 after the writers strike, and was very, very fortunate to get hired on Supernatural two weeks later, and have not left.

So my life at this point, the life I have now, is almost exclusively because of Supernatural. My life in Los Angeles, my personal life, the show has shaped it in ways that I can imagine and probably can't even imagine. So to be part of this show and this group of people Bob Singer, Phil Sgriccia, Jared, Jensen has been truly, literally, with no hyperbole, life-altering for me -- life changing -- and I feel incredibly fortunate to have been part of it.

The other question I asked the boys recently, because I'm a smart ass, is, "how's Adam doing in that box?"

Adam is having a great time! The cage is underrated as a party destination and I think that's something that in season 24, we're really gonna explore.

You joke, but everybody else in the industry is like, "Of course there's going to be a season 24."

That's right, it's either the sun's gonna burn out or Supernatural's gonna end and no one's sure which is going to happen first.

This episode in particular...obviously we've had Mary back for a while now, but for people who have been watching the show for a long time, that still feels like a pretty new development. The family dynamic has shifted dramatically in the last couple of years. Was that part of why you wanted to get Jeff back for 300?

Very much so. I think when you look at Sam and Dean, and the emotional journey they're on, and continue to be on during this episode and beyond, having Mom back was the first piece of that, the first piece of feeling like a family.

The Mary they got back was not this loving, motherly June Clever type. She has her own problems, she has her own drama, she by her own admission can be a little bit cold sometimes, that comes from her background. As messed up as Sam and Dean's background was, Mary's was not a lot better and she suffers from that.

And then they got Jack, which is essentially like having a kid, and they've done that for two years. So they've become much more of...they're not a nuclear family necessarily, but they're much more of a family than just Sam and Dean together on the road all the time. Their family has grown.

And so to allow dad to walk back into that, even for just a day, I think was really exciting for us and it allowed Sam and Dean, I think, to look at their father in a little bit of a different light. They have know been essentially parents themselves. They know what it's like to lose people and have them come back, they know what it's like to lose people and not have them come back, and that allows them to have a lot more common ground with John circa this time in their lives than they had with him when he passed away when they were both in their early twenties.

"Lebanon" is not exactly about, but it explores, the town. In a lot of ways with Supernatural, it almost feels like they're always on the road and it's easy to forget they have a "home base" outside of the Men of Letters Bunker.

Yeah, and that was kind of on purpose. We feel there is some stuff to be mined in this town they live in. Not so much the town, because the town is a set. In the characters who live in this town, how they react to them.

We've never really explored it before, so this episode allowed us to plant some seeds with some different characters throughout the town that we'll see grow over the next few episodes, and potentially into next season.

It feels like this show has grown and morphed and evolved so many times that it's almost kind of like you have to take any idea that you haven't tried yet.

I think you always want your show to grow, and I think a show can grow internally, by putting existing elements in different packaging, but it also grows externally in terms of introducing new characters, new problems, things that nobody saw coming. Our goal is to do both.

Our goal is not to become a show that's massively self-reflective, or rest on our laurels, or make episodes like, "Do you remember that one time?" and things like that. I think Supernatural's always done a very good job of having a history, but not relying on a history that's only a storytelling device. That's certainly not something we want to move away from at this point.

In your head do you guys have a sense for, "This is the shape that we want the finale to be when and if we finally get there," or does this show change so much that you just think that's not a productive line of thinking?

I don't think anybody who was on this show in season four, or five, or one could've predicted what the show was gonna look like in season 15 so I don't know that in specific ways the finale would be the same as what Eric Kripke had in mind, but I think in general ways there's always been a finale out there.

I couldn't tell you right now that we even have a specific interpretation of that, but we know the target we're working towards and we know that when and if that day comes, and maybe I'll be here and maybe I won't, but when and if that day comes, I think we'll be able to embrace it. But it's not something we are looking to rush and it's not something we're looking to undermine. I think these characters have been on a very, very long -- longer than most people would have expected -- journey, and that journey's been going to the same place for a long time.

Has the longevity itself been kind of freeing, in the sense that fans are willing at this point to follow you almost anywhere as long as it feels honest?

It is freeing! It is freeing, and we've certainly taken advantage of that. We've done all sorts of crazy stuff, and Scooby-Doo crossovers and all sorts of stuff, and it is freeing, but it's also stressful, because people are so invested in these characters the last thing you wanna do is something to Sam or Dean that's gonna make people fall out of love with them.

So these characters are beloved, and that's not necessarily saying we don't put them through the wringer and make them suffer because we do, but at the end of the day we love these characters, too. We want what's best for these characters to the extent that we can give it, and so you never want to take that love the fans have, take that affection the fans have for granted. You wanna acknowledge it, you're appreciative of it, but you understand where it comes from and you take a lot of big swings, but you try not to do things that challenge the characters at their core because that's why people tune in week-to-week.

You mentioned the idea of the boys kind of taking on a parental role with Jack. A lot of people at first saw Jack as probably more of a plot device and that he would be a thing that hung around for a season and then his purpose and he's gone. Is it a big roll of the dice when you add a new character to a show that has 15 years of history? It seems like no matter what, some people are gonna say, "Well, you're taking screen time away from Cas," or whoever.

Yeah, and we've certainly done that. Look, there have been characters come into the show and gone away very quickly 'cause they didn't resonate with the fans or the story did not support having that character around.

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I think the great thing about Jack and about Alex is almost immediately he resonated with the fans and he became someone who people really liked. At the beginning he was that, and I think he has grown into a character people really love, and because of that people are willing to go on journeys with him, they're willing to see his stories.

You're always gonna get people who want their favorite on screen all the time. But Alex coming into this show when he did was an incredible challenge to him, and it speaks to him as an actor and as a person that he's risen to that challenge and become this really great character for us and a character that we're not planning on having go away anytime soon.