Top Billing on Supernatural?

Over the years over on IMDb this question often pops up. Now I am often surprised in the answers that come back. But this year surprised me in the replies. One mentioned that its down to Jared’s agent that he is billed first. As I didn’t realize that agents have that power to demand their artist gets his name up top first. Apparently there appears to be competition, and money at stake.

Now many in the past have said its alphabetical which its not. Jensen Ackles in surname comes first, whom incidentally is the elder brother of the show (as if we didn’t know this fact). So Jared Padalecki if by surname would naturally come in second position. Unless alphabetical by first name, Ja comes before Je.  Sam is the younger brother which to many were surprised that he was top billing. As in many cases elder siblings often come first, as they simply are the eldest. 

Now my theory is that when Eric penned the draft of the show Sam was his MAIN character, and the stories revolved around him. This is simply why to me that Jared is top billing? He is the one with the supernatural journey the one with the mysterious and demonic power, whom is human also the one with the dark side in his nature. I also remember from previous replies fans talking about Jared is the first seen in the very first clip coming out from the bathroom talking to Jess.

Whether this has anything to do with why fans are upset over the years that Jensen is side-lined remains a mystery. But I think in later years fans have come to expect that they are now both leads, and all is fair and square. It has never overly bothered me and I understand why Jared’s name appears first on the shows credits. I am not over certain if they are on the same pay grade now either, which also remains a mystery. Perhaps you have another reason why he has always been billed first. I would love to hear what you have to say.

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12 thoughts on “Top Billing on Supernatural?

  1. Jared has top billing because Eric Kripke created the show with Sam Winchester as the main protagonist in mind. This eventually changed to both brothers becoming main protagonists and they never changed the order of billing.
    Welcome to the group Sue always great to see a new face. 😉
    I was right, I had a hunch this was the main reason because Sam is the main character. But I still think they could have changed the running order and put the brothers as equal footage. Maybe the boys were happy with it as it was.

    I never really understood why people make this out to be more than it is. It’s not uncommon at all for the actor portraying the main protagonist’s role to get top billing. A good example of this is Fringe. Anna Torv has top billing portraying the main protagonist Olivia Dunham. Joshua Jackson, who is arguably a much bigger name than Torv has second billing.
    Most of the time its generally alphabetical if they have a large cast. But with two leads it was a simple matter as Sam was also on screen first which indicated to me he was the main character behind the story. Its never bothered me for this reason I understood from day 1.

    It really has nothing at all to do with the popularity or marketability of either actor in these types of cases. Nor does it have to do with agents pushing for their clients’ name to come first. It just simply comes down to the actor who is portraying the main protagonist’s name coming first in the credits. No more, no less.
    Sam is the one with the supernatural power, and the one who’s mysteriously surrounded by demons all his life. I didn’t think it was down to marketing at all. Some agents may do this, but when we discussed this thread at the time I found that hard to believe. It does make perfect sense when you think about it.

    Thank you,
    Love Aunty B xxx

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  2. Heard that the basic Kripke vision was a story about a young man named Sam who had a supernatural connection and an older brother named Dean who did not have such a connection. It was to be a vehicle for Jared who had a failed pilot called Young McGiver (pretty bad- on line if you want to see a really green Jared) and Kripke had Jared in mind. Dean was to be the second banana which is why some folks still think he is. They did test Jensen for the Sam role- he requested to read for the Dean role after reading the script again and probably thinking he was not going to get the Sam role. So the agent negotiated the billing.
    So I am partially right in my assumption? I have seen it, and thought Jared did a good job and was surprised it wasn’t picked up. Maybe because it was a bit too cheesy. I heard this too about Jensen being screen tested. Did I recall that Jensen knew someone had already gone up for the role of Sam, this was why he thought he wouldn’t/might not get it? This is obviously now thinking about it, why many think that Dean is side-lined, the gofer, the nanny etc. I think in the end from what I remember (memory not so good) that he liked the idea of playing Dean as he sounded funny?

    Along comes Jensen(who was shooting a love interest in Smallville) and he blew away the casting director and Kripke. J2 read together and the chemistry was (and still is) amazing. But the agent had set JP’s billing rights. Jared had more credits on screen at the time as well in a variety of dramas. Jensen had some also to his credit. I also heard that Jensen earned 25k less per episode in the first year of the contract. When the series took off, Jensen’s agent renegotiated his income to be equal to whatever Jared is paid, however, billing was not changeable. Kripke expanded his story to make the older brother a bigger part of the story. John Winchester was to stick around but JDM got other offers and left the show. This is all that I have picked up over the years so pass on what you think is true. I have also heard the actors say that the billing is alphabetical by first name, but I bet that is to cover any rumors or suggestions of differentiation. I have often wondered why by now the billing is not side by side. It does not appear to create friction between Jared and Jensen, so it is best let sleeping dogs alone. I heard that Jensen tried to get Associate Producer status, but was denied. To his credit, he re-signed the contract anyway. Original salary was rumored to be 100K for Jensen and 125K for Jared, per episode. Of course the both received substantially more money now since the show requires them both to be a part-fans can talk about whether the roles are equal or not, but salaries and perks are probably equal now. Again just what I have “heard” through the years. I cannot substantiate any of it.
    Yes I heard this too a few years back, that Jared was on more and now they are level. I suppose to keep the peace amongst fans, that sounds the most logical route, being alphabetical which did cross my own mind. Not everyone wants to know the shows politics. Its strange by now that they are not side by by side as Jensen has earnt that right, just as much as Jared. Again your right about it that it appears to not to come between them. And they are stronger for it. Having more than one home a piece, I would say these boys are pretty wealthy men. Their wives are also on a good income so can only imagine the life style they are accustomed too. They’ve worked hard for it, and earned it. I also think they earn a packet whilst doing the conventions too. I think nine years down the line it would be wonderful to see their names together, so one can dream!! As they are of course Brothers in arms ……..

    Thanks for the comments,
    Love Aunty B xxxx

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    1. Jensen has stated that he wanted to read for the Dean role because it was a Han Solo type of role and the character was funny from time to time. As far as wealth, I heard a rumor on one of the blogs that J2 clear about 50 K at each convention which includes their short panels, and of course they must have rights to their images- agents negotiate for these things.Not bad take for short time. So how many conventions per year x50k? plus each episode? I am not worried about their financial well being and wish them continued success. Acting is a difficult profession. Very few from the minions make it to the financial security level. There is no guarantee that either will ever have another long term series(not that they don’t deserve one) so why shouldn’t they earn bucks while they can and then go invest in a vineyard or indoor golf game or real estate? Why wouldn’t they show their appreciation to the fans? Some actors would not be bothered, but J2 seem to make an effort and appear to have fun at these conventions as well as make a few bob. That’s just how capitalism works and if they were doing an awful job, fandom would not be so supportive. So if J2 are on board with the billing, then the egos are put aside, and their relationship is strong, which is rare in Hollywood TV land.When you see non posed for pictures of J2 they are wearing regular clothing and not” blinging “it up as some actors are prone to do. Jensen was once caught on camera in an airport wearing a $17.00 pair of jeans and a tee shirt. Jared looks just as comfortable in jeans. When they dress up for an award show, they pay for their own clothing since the network won’t spring for it and if they use a stylist, they pay for it as well.(Jensen and Jared have been quoted on that issue). They can buy nice stuff and probably buy it, but appear to have remained level headed about their respective success. Credit to their respective parents for raising them with good values.
      Oh boy they’ve worked bloody hard for their money, and deserve every penny of it. With the convention circuit and the hours they both put in, I could only begin to imagine their life style. My own is pretty poor in comparison to theirs. 50K in american money what’s that in UK money about half? They certainly do okay from those. I think they do a great job at the conventions and they give up their family time now. It wasn’t like it used to be for them as they both have commitments to consider too. So juggling all that must be really hard. I often think of the plane trips they do, and the shortness of time they spend with their family and then its back early Sunday morning on the plane again. How they stay in such good shape and bring up a family, wow! I can’t think for one minute they were ever really bothered by the billing, as we know they get on so well, otherwise it would have changed shortly after. I love how laid back they are. How comfortable in their own skin they are. Looking back on the DVD’s you can really see how they’ve grown up and matured. I still think when you see them off set they are quite classy dressers in a casual way. I saw a shot of Jensen at the airport with a classic man’s hat on and it really suited him. You don’t see many men wear hats over here. It was refreshing to see. Mind you Jensen would look good in anything!! I love how level headed they are. I also recall how some girls have said to me how humble Jensen is, and I really love that about him, he never appears to take his role for granted unlike some actors. I think these boys are so special in many ways 🙂

      Thanks for the comments,
      Love Aunty B xxxx

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  3. I read somewhere that the story was about Sam but told threw Dean’s perspective. When I first started watching the show, I was surprised that Jared received first billing because, character wise, Jensen gets as much, if not more, airtime as Jared. They are both obviously stars of the show, because Sam’s story is Dean’s story as well. They are two halves of the same coin. Brothers that are sharing a hellish existence but cannot survive very long without the other. The billing I think may go towards how the names roll off the tongue when paired together. The way the two brothers names are joined when people speak of them as a single entity is always ” Sam and Dean”. Jared and Jensen names are just following, IMO, the pattern of the characters they play. It also helps that both have two syllable names that begin with J. I really do not believe that either actor is receiving more money than the other, because, quite frankly, the show could not survive without both of them. While there is a large supporting cast of characters, this is not an ensemble cast and that dynamic between Sam and Dean cannot be replicated by any other pairing, including Dean and Cas. If Cas were written off, the show would go right on. If Sam were killed off, then Dean, if written true to character, would probably be killed in a hunt within a year of his brother’s demise. If Dean were killed off, Sam may go off to find Amelia or someone else, but he would not continue to hunt without Dean, so again, end of the show. Of course, just my humble opinion.
    They are two sides of the coin. I think fans are so vocal about this that its become apparent knowledge that, that is how its now seen. That Dean is as just as much part of the supernatural journey as Sam. I also think your right its seen through Dean’s eyes about his own brothers story. Again perfect symmetry, the second letter in Jared comes before the second letter of Jensen, so alphabetical. I wonder if they were both cast because their names begin with the same letter? Or was it just a coincidence. I think if either brother fell away from the show many fans would walk, me included. Cas is slightly different, but still a very high profile and popular character and has his own legion of fans, that’s for sure. I think if Misha did decide to walk, there would be uproar just like when Sera decided, for what ever reason to kill him off during season 7. I think the show would continue on without Cas as the brothers bond is a crucial part of the whole monologue. If one of the boys died and came back as a ghost it would still work, as he’s still in the show. I still don’t know why Death is present this season, which is already working me up into a frenzy. But I see your points.

    Thanks for the comments,
    Love Aunty B xxxx

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    1. Their names are a coincidence. They were cast because of that chemical heat that radiates between them. Good grief! It is that certain something that is hard to recreate. Even tho it is a bromance, I have not watched anything (besides Scandal) where I cannot imagine any other actors playing Sam and Dean. Not a romantic pairing, but still very intense bonding.
      Considering they were the only two who went up for the auditions it appears it was set in stone almost before they got there. How cool must they have felt after. Their bond is special and hope they realize how well it comes off on screen. They ooozz charisma and are so talented in what they do. I don’t think any other actor could play Sam and Dean. I know Jensen does remind me of Paul Newman there is something about him.

      Thanks for the comments,
      Love Aunty B xxxx

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      1. Chemistry is either there or it is not. Producers say they saw it immediately with J2 when they read together and as season 1 went along, the MOTW format expanded to be more about family and Sam and Dean’s relationship. Producer Bob Singer has also said that when Jared had his first scene with Gen as Ruby, there was heat and that something was “going on” on a chemical nature. Jared admitted he wasn’t aware of it other than there was this hot chick actress in her underwear during the first scene. He has commented on how he is going to explain to his kids what Mommy and Daddy are doing in that scene and the one where she appears as a prostitute, Krissy- it’s a quick scene in soulless Sam,’s universe. So maybe Jared exudes something that creates the heat. Jensen has the same quality so the fusion of the two must have been palpable during the auditions as it continues on screen and at conventions.
        I was amazed that no one on the forum picked that up that Chrissie the prostitute was Gen. Sam of course gets her name wrong. I laughed when she said are you to and Sam replies eh no, he’s my brother 🙂 I think I remember Robert Singer talking about Jared and Gen too. No wonder they are together now.

        Thanks for the comments,
        Love Aunty B xxxx

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        1. Jared is very sexy. I really like him when he plays the villain. I hope that after SPN is over, I get to see him playing the bad guy more than the romantic lead. Jensen is hot but in a more subdued way. Dean is sexy, but Jensen seems more reserved.
          Jared is so talented in Born under a bad sign, evil/Lucifer Sam, tortured and soulless Sam. He was so good in how he put BAD/EVIL across. I remember Jensen applauding Jared for the role of Lucifer when an interviewer asked what role of Jared’s do you think he was best at. Jensen said hands down Lucifer in ‘The End’. Jensen thought Jared nailed it, and was quite envious. Its great when they see each others talents.

          Thanks for the comments,
          Love Aunty B xxxx

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  4. I too don’t get the big deal about this. I looked and could not find anything official about the order of the credits. One fan site lists 4 ways shows in general list credits

    1: Alphabetically: The case with Lost, Heroes and a few other shows. This is normally applied to large ensemble casts of which there is no real star, and are usually run over opening scenes instead of within an opening credit sequence. Shows that used an opening sequence and alphabetical billing included Dallas, Melrose Place and Sea Patrol. The exception is a show which uses a sequence which starts with the star and lists others alphabetically instead of in order of importance, such as All Saints and Star Trek DS9. This does not fit unless they are alphabetizing by first name, but basically I think no.
    Yes where there is a big cast its nine times out of ten been alphabetical, and rightly so. I think any other way and the actors would themselves have something to say about this. Its not the case with SPN.

    2: In order of arrival: The case with 90210, CSI, ER, Blue Heelers, etc. Although this tends to start as one of the others and becomes this as characters come and go. This is a maybe, Sam, as an adult, was shown first in the Pilot, so he could be considered as appearing earlier than Dean.
    This is not an order I’m familiar with. Again I said as much that his face appeared first in the pilot, so I get this. In order of sequence.

    3: Random order: headLand is the only obvious one I can think of for this, although I suppose Neighbours and Home and Away (the 2007-2008 version, especially) qualify, to some extent. I did find a rumor that said that Jared and Jensen flipped a coin on first listed. That makes some sense to me.
    I’ve never known this either. Now this was mentioned in that thread that they flipped a coin. Guys do this sort of thing, and could see it happening. As you say it makes sense.

    4: An order which actually tells you something about the show. The original Law and Order would be a great example of this, as it always goes: Snr Detective, Jnr Detective, Captain/Lieutenant, EADA, ADA, DA. This plays into the Sam was supposed to be the main character narrative. It could have applied to the original billing order, but when they renegotiated contracts, Sam was no longer the main focus, it was pretty well shared.
    Again this makes perfect sense as its going in order of characters rank. So hats off to those guys. I still think to me it was during Eric’s rain that he decided Sam was the main character and it stuck. Jared came first, as simple as. So after season 5 the ball park changed. So I wonder why Jensen’s agent didn’t push it at this point if he knew contracts were changing again?

    Pre show Jensen had more acting credits, but Jared had been in a long term major role in Gilmore Girls from 2000-2005 making him known to the WB. The WB also considered building a series Young McGiver with Jared as the lead pre-Supernatural but nothing came of it. It does show that the WB considered Jared leading man material even before he was cast in Supernatural. Jensen had more acting jobs, but none seems to have lasted more than a year, not anything to do with Jensen, some of the shows were one and out. His stint on Smallville and Dawson’s Creek were guest stars were on the WB, so he was known there.
    I heard about McGiver too. It was also Eric’s wife who mentioned Jared to him for the role. As if you recall only the two of them went to those auditions no one else auditioned. I strongly think Jared was slightly more popular to the WB at the time which is also another strong point. It was a shame for Jensen that his roles didn’t last longer than that time as he certainly was leading man material as he’d been nominated for Days of our lives, so he was known. It sounds as though there’s not much in it again.

    I have no idea why Jared has first billing. I tend to lean toward his agent was pushier about it in season one and everyone is happy to keep the credits status quo. I can also buy the let’s flip for it idea, but really I don’t think we will ever get a concrete answer.
    So maybe the board was right in their analyzes about his agent. As you say either of your idea’s feel appropriate, but can’t help but think Sam was a/the main character to start with. Good homework there Percy thank you very much.

    Thanks for the comments,
    Love Aunty B xxxx

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    1. Oh, thanx for this. I never knew it was like this for TV. I only noticed this in film.

      I knew that shows either had opening scenes with little or no music like Supernatural or they had opening credits with a theme song, like Hawaii 5 O and I just assumed that the names were all in alphabetical order, so this is interesting.

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  5. I honestly don’t know why some fans seem obsessed with this issue. I think that you are probably right about Kripke putting Jared first because initially the show was supposed to be more about Sam’s journey than Dean’s. I just don’t think that Dean or Jensen is being “side-lined.” The show has come to be as much about Dean as it is about Sam.
    This is what I’ve always thought that his character is the one that the story is based on, and that’s the conclusion I’ve come to over the years. Its certainly not alphabetical. I think its about them both too. I think Dean fans are more vocal and even now are saying he’s unhappy with the job blah, blah. I think any little thing that involves Sam/Jared they seem to jump on it. Which is sad 😦

    What is clear is that from the beginning Jared and Jensen have presented a united front. There has never been a hint from them that billing or compensation are an issue. They are clearly incredibly close friends, and fans who want to instigate some kind of rivalry or discontent are barking up the wrong tree.
    Yes, I so agree. I think its stirring among the fans plain and simple. Its often come up though and not just this year. I mean if it ain’t broke why fix it? They are obviously happy with the billing as its still the same eight years on, sorry nine years now.

    Like you, I don’t really understand why this has become such an issue with some fans.
    I know its so childish… Its like there so focused on disturbing something that’s good and solid. God knows how the boys feel about this stuff.

    Thanks for the comments,
    Love Aunty B xxxx

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    1. Not only that, but when fans do or say things like this I get the impression from Jared and Jensen that they are bemused and maybe a little irritated by this sort of questioning. I’ve also gotten the impression from them that they are a united front and attempts to come between their friendship by certain types of fans irritates them too.

      I remember in an interview with Jensen, he stated how the two of them come from similar backgrounds and both are from Texas, so there was lot of understanding between the two of them and that they hit it off right away and they’ve both stated how much like a brother the other one has become. I can’t fathom why such a thing would be of such enormous concern to the fans unless they are trying in some way to prove that one or the other of the actors is better than the other.

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