Ty Olsson, the star behind Dean Winchester’s unlikely vampire-ally Benny on the CW hit Supernatural, is a lot like his fictional counterpart. Minus the fangs, of course. He’s charming, funny and talking with him feels like you’re catching up with an old friend rather than a versatile actor with plenty of experience under his belt. The Daily Quirk caught up with Olsson to ask him about his time on the Supernatural set, his upcoming fan convention debut and if we’ll be seeing Benny again before the season finale.
The Daily Quirk: The last time we saw Benny, he and Dean were saying goodbye for what appears to be a final time. Were you at all surprised by how the two characters split?
Ty Olsson:The writers kept me in the dark pretty much the whole way along. I don’t know if they ever expected that Benny was going to become a character that would come back as much. I know when I signed up to play him he was a four-episode arc, but the fan response has been so strong that I think they’ve been flying by the seat of their pants and continuing to write his story line. I don’t know if that [ending] was there intention or if they had an early demise for him. So when we got to the point where Dean was calling him up and saying that relationship had to end, I wasn’t surprised by it but I also think that I never really thought that was the end of Benny coming back.
TDQ: We also left Benny on a sort of cliffhanger as far as the question of did he or did he not drink blood. Are we going to see him again by the end of the season for a resolution?
TO: Again, they don’t tell me a lot, but someone just forwarded me an article this morning where Bob Singer, an executive on the show, has communicated that Benny will be coming back. This is always a tricky area for me because I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say without having the SWAT team come down. But I have a strong suspicion given the article I read that Benny is coming back. What they’re going to do with the story line, I’m not sure, but I’m excited to see where they go with it because there’s a lot of meat left on that bone and he’s been a lot of fun to play. I’m looking forward to seeing what they have in store for Benny next.
TDQ: A good portion of the scenes you filmed for Supernatural were for Purgatory. How is it different approaching a scene like that in a kill or be killed situation compared to a scene in regular society?
TO: There’s an old actor’s trick when you talk about stakes in a scene. It’s about making everything as close to life and death as possible. So the situation that they were in, this war-like scenario in Purgatory, was truly a life or death situation. But anytime you’re approaching a scene, the character has to have a goal or a need bad enough that in some way, shape or form you can call it life or death. I mean, no one wants to watch someone brush their teeth. So, for me, those scenes are easier to play because the goal is really clear and there are really high stakes and there is no huge amount of detective work to figure out what the scene’s about and what people want. It’s just survival. So the nice thing is that part of the work is already done for you and you can focus on the tactics of what the character needs to get that goal and what does it mean for that character to survive. Not only does it mean fighting off all the creatures in Purgatory, but also trying to find a way out and trying to keep that relationship with Dean strong. But the goal is very clear at all times, compared to when you’re trying to figure out what the character actually wants. It’s a nice thing to have. The stronger the writing is, the easier it is to know what a character wants.
TDQ: A lot of the fans really embraced Benny from the beginning, both as a friend for Dean and a potential foe. What is it about the character that you think grabbed their attention?
TO: I think, first and foremost, that the writers have done such a spectacular job of making him such a full character, being both threatening and mysterious, but also having humor. It made my job easier. But then the fans have been around for so long watching the show for eight seasons and they know the Sam and Dean characters so well that I think they immediately saw the wedge that Benny was going to drive between the relationship of the brothers. And that’s something they were immediately drawn to. I can’t tell you how many people have written me or tweeted me saying ‘I really like the work you’re doing but I still don’t trust you’ or ‘If you hurt Sam’ or ‘If you hurt Dean, I’ll hate you forever!’ That’s the kind of thing that shows the writers are on the pulse of their fans. That they know what they’re doing and they’re doing it well. They’re kind of doing the puppet master act, so Benny was one of those characters that fits the bill well. He’s a wedge between the brothers. He’s got humor and he’s got danger and I think he’s the kind of character they can empathize with because of his predicament. Not knowing who he is. Is he a monster? Does he have a conscience? Does he have a soul?
TDQ:And how fun is that accent?
TO:It’s so much fun. They never told me what accent they wanted exactly, but it was clearly written in. As soon as you have something like that, it takes you immediately outside of yourself and gives you permission to play. It’s like having a hall pass and getting a free card to do whatever you want. Making a choice like that is like ‘Well, there’s nothing stopping me now.’ It’s been a lot of fun. What’s interesting is that people keep saying ‘Oh, I love your Louisiana accent,’ but I didn’t actually plan to put it anywhere too specific because they never told me about it. So I put it in that neck of the woods but I also thought that I’m playing a vampire that’s been dead for 50 to 100 years. Accents change. So I never wanted to nail it down so specifically.
TDQ: Speaking of the Supernatural fans, I recently read that you’ve signed on to do a few conventions in the future. Is there anything you’re really looking forward to?
TO:I’m looking forward to the whole thing. I’m so excited to travel. I signed up for eight conventions in places like Brazil and the UK and Germany and Australia, so I’m really looking forward to that opportunity. I can’t wait to see fans face-to-face because that’s going to be fun. Undoubtedly, I’m going to get myself in trouble so I’m a little worried about that. But the fans have been so great in embracing me and Benny that I’m excited to go and shake their hands and have a drink and eat dinner. This will be my first experience talking with the fans so directly, so I’m excited.
TDQ: And is there anything you’re nervous about?
TO: I have one Twitter follower who has been very upset with me the last few months. I’m not quite sure why, but she can’t wait to fight me. So I’m a little nervous about her coming out of nowhere, but she looked small so I think I can take her. Other than that, I’m looking forward to it. I’ve committed myself to some things I think I shouldn’t have. I agreed to some karaoke and I’m a terrible singer, so I’m sure to lose some fans that night. And I’ve committed myself to a night of drinking with a group of people as well. I’m going to give my agent some bail-out money and say ‘Here you go. Check in with me every morning.’
TDQ: Because everyone loves on-set stories, do you have a favorite moment you could share from filming Supernatural?
TO:This will make the blooper reel, I promise you this. There’s a nice little moment where Jensen [Ackles] and I were doing the scene where our characters meet for the first time, I just save his a** from a vampire, and we’re doing this scene where we’re kind of stalking each other and going around in circles. Jensen gets to the end of his little speech and a mosquito lands smack dab in the middle of his forehead. And, perfect timing, he just kind of face palms himself. So you guys can look forward to seeing that.
TDQ: Are there any other projects you’re working on that we should be looking out for?
TO: I’m in Toronto right now working on Beauty and the Beast. It’s a supporting character for some of the leads and I’m not sure where that storyline’s going, but again, the SWAT team would probably come down. And rumor has it that there’s going to be more Supernatural coming down the pipe, so it’s a good start to the year.
And the show I keep telling everybody about, you can find the whole pilot on YouTube, is called Borealis. There still hasn’t been any news [of its continuation] yet, but the feedback has been outstanding, despite the fact that they dumped it on a Friday night without any commercials it actually won the night. Not with gigantic numbers, but considering they never advertised it was still a good day for viewership. But I hope that there are enough people out there watching it and staying interested that they will continue to write in to SPACE Channel and let them know that they enjoyed the show.
TDQ: Lastly, because we always thinks fun facts are awesome, do you think you could share what the best book you’ve recently read was?
TO: I don’t know if I’d call it the best book I’ve recently read, but it’ll definitely be the most entertaining answer. I just recently read all three of the 50 Shades of Grey books [by author E.L. James]. If you’re going to read them, just read the first one and the others you can probably do without.
A huge thank you to Ty Olsson for taking the time to talk with us! Catch Supernatural Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on The CW.