In Episode 1015 of The CW hit series Supernatural, entitled “The Things They Carried,” Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padalecki) decide to focus on a new murder case, where they cross paths with Cole (Travis Aaron Wade). The three reluctantly team up and learn that a Khan worm is infecting men and turning them into murderers, which is even more unfortunate when the worm makes its way into Cole.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Travis Aaron Wade talked about how this episode was the most challenging of the ones he’s done, how Cole ends up crossing paths with the Winchester’s again, that he applied some of what he experienced in his four years in the Marine Corp and at boot camp to what his character goes through, what lead him to acting after he was done with the military, how acting has saved his life, and what it’s meant to him to be a part of Supernatural.
Collider: Without giving anything away, what can you say about this episode?
TRAVIS AARON WADE: This episode, for me, was the most challenging. And as anything in life that’s challenging is, it’s rewarding and fun, when you look back on it. I’m so excited. When I got to do the fight scenes with Jensen [Ackles], and got to see what we did and what our stunt doubles did, it was really cool to sit down and watch it with my family and friends. But this week, I gave everything I could, as an artist and as an actor. I really went Daniel Day-Lewis on this. It was very difficult, and what was required of me was extremely taxing. As an artist, you’re so excited to be challenged by the work, and the writers did such a great job with this episode.
How does Cole end up crossing paths with the Winchesters again?
WADE: Cole is back because the boys are on a case where there’s a military man involved, who’s an actual acquaintance of mine, that I’ve known in Hollywood for quite some time. A great actor named Richard [de Klerk] plays the role of Kit, and he did a phenomenal job. It was really easy for us to bond really quickly on set. That mutual feeling that you have with other actors, where you really care about whether this guy lives or dies, I actually cared about him in real life, as well. We had that kind of chemistry right away, so it was really easy for me to go in and do that. So, Cole gets a phone call from Kit’s wife, and she says that things are happening with Kit and he’s going absolutely out of his mind. She needs my help because we’re friends, so I go to help her.
Along the way, I see that the boys are already on the case, and they’re there before me. I don’t like that very much because I know that their way of solving problems is not the way that I want to solve problems. There’s a big reason that we need to work together, which is that I have information that they need for this specific case. So, I go with them, and they have to let me because I’m an asset to them. They’re also an asset to me because I know that, if we are working in the supernatural world, they know how to get where they’re going pretty quick. So, we’re using each other. I have my motives, and they have theirs. At the end of the day, they want to destroy the Khan worm, and I want to save my buddy’s life. That’s our goal, so we form a bond, this time around.
Clearly, some not too pleasant things happen to your character, with this whole worm situation. What was it like to shoot those scenes?
WADE: It’s not fun. When I read it on paper, and I read this script when it arrived, I thought, “This is going to be hard.” When you audition, you don’t really have the actors or the props around, but in this case, I knew there would be props and I knew that I was going to be working with a phenomenal actor, in Jensen. When you get down to it and you actually have all of the tools, you actually put yourself through the feeling of torture. Your whole body constricts. On some level, they’re actually doing it to you. If they’re not doing it to you, you’re mentally putting yourself through it, and we know how strong the mind can be. So, when we finished doing those scenes, I got really ill. I was sick for a week. I went back home to Los Angeles, and I was in bed for a week. People say, “Oh, come on, it’s just acting! Stop being a weakling!” But, it really knocked me out.
I spent four years in the Marine Corp, and a big part of the Marine Corp, especially in boot camp, is torture. The military is not going to like me saying that, but that’s what it is. Boot camp is one of the most torturous things I’ve ever been through. So, a lot of the things that I felt when I was in boot camp, I was able to bring back out here, so many years later, during the filming of this. It was difficult. It was hard. It made me sick. I lost my voice. I was bedridden for a week, when I got home. I always tell people that, if you feel like you’re doing it really well, you’re not acting. If you can reach that point where you don’t feel like you’re acting, than you’re doing your job and the audience will believe you. In this case, I didn’t feel like I was acting in the moments with Jensen. We were really, really in it, and it was really, really difficult. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done yet, in my career.
When you made the transition from the military to acting, did you realize exactly what you were getting yourself into, entering a profession where you have to be in touch with all of your emotions, after leaving a profession where many people choose to close off their emotions?
WADE: That was my biggest issue. After I got out of the military, I was going to college and doing everything I was supposed to do, but I was completely numb of any emotions. My sister passed away tragically. She died because of childbirth, in real life. Her child survived, which was beautiful, but her heart gave out. She was only able to live for 24 hours after she gave birth, but she was able to hold her baby and see the healthy baby that she gave birth to. That was a very traumatic experience for the entire family. We went to the funeral and people were just a mess, but I wasn’t. I looked like a robot. People would come up to me and be like, “Are you okay?” And I was like, “Yeah, I’m fine.” I just had no emotion. I remember telling my mom, “I don’t want to be like this, for the rest of my life.” The military enabled me to turn off my emotions, for obvious reasons. That’s why we have so many guys coming back who are going through so much. They just can’t reconnect.
I didn’t want to be like that, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. A good friend of mine suggested that I maybe look into acting. My mom said that I should do what I love, and I loved the movies. It was really the only time I could feel anything. I’d go into the movie theater and my emotions would come back, but then I would walk outside and feel nothing. My friend said that maybe acting could reconnect me with those emotions. What I discovered with acting is that you step out of your own personal life and you connect with characters that are not you and you try to understand their journey. I have three Chihuahuas, but I’m not a father. I can put myself in the position of playing a father on a TV show, by paying closer attention to my friends that have kids and by spending more time with my nephew.
I do these things, as an actor, that I would have been oblivious to, if I hadn’t studied acting. You start to understand the emotions and feelings, as close as you can get to them. That really helps. Acting literally saved my life. It helped me not become one of the statistics of all the military members taking their lives because of depression and PTSD. Even Jared [Padalecki] has an organization that helps people who struggle with depression and suicide, and I’ve aligned with that and try to help the cause through social media. We just want to help people and let people know that we all suffer from depression in life. You’re not alone.
So, this show has really become a life experience for you, as well?
WADE: Yeah. Anytime I get an acting role, I find a way to learn about something new, or heal a part of my life that I didn’t know was hurting. I think anybody could benefit from taking acting classes. You don’t necessarily have to want to be an actor or pursue the acting business. But just taking an acting class, you’re going to learn so much about life and what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes. It helps you stop judging people. It does something to you where you become empathetic to people’s plights and journeys, and it makes you a little more understanding and caring.
What has being a part of Supernatural meant to you?
WADE: I think things are building. Just as a message to the fans out there, the writers of this show have given the fans something to fall in love with and to love, over the past 10 years. These guys and gals are all trying to do their very best to put out the best possible show for the fans. That’s their goal. Knowing them and getting to know them, that’s what their ultimate vision is. They’ve created these characters, and we’re fortunate enough to say the words and the lines and to serve the script. If the fans can be just a little bit more patient with the story and character development, they’ll see that these guys have a bigger picture. They’re so smart and they’re so intelligent with where they want this show to go and how they want it to continue on. They just want to keep on giving the fans the best possible product. If the fans can be just a little bit more patient with some of the storylines, they’ll see that it’s a great group of people making wonderful entertainment.
Supernatural airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.