Misha Collins, who plays the angel Castiel on The CW’s Thursday-night thrill ride Supernatural, may not wield the awesome powers of a heavenly being in real life, but that doesn’t mean he lacks skills.
"I’ve built most of the furniture in my house," says Collins, a native of Western Massachusetts. "I want to get to the point where I’ve built everything. I built my couches; I built my table and chairs; I built my bed and all my bedroom furniture. There’s a couple of things on my deck that I didn’t make. Eventually I’ll get there.
"But I also built the house, so, you know, hey!"
And since he’s playing an emissary from the Almighty, Collins is taking some of the time he doesn’t spend woodworking or acting to peruse his Holy Bible.
"I’ve actually spent a fair amount of time with the Bible," he says. "It’s been on my to-do list for a long time. I wasn’t raised in a religious family, so I haven’t picked up the Bible since I was in high school. I’ve never really devoted much time to it, so I’m spending a lot more time with it now."
On Thursday, Nov. 20, Supernatural airs Heaven and Hell, its last original episode until January. A character introduced last week, Anna (Julie McNiven), remembers her past, and demon-hunting brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles) discover why Castiel and his fellow angel, Uriel (Robert Wisdom, The Wire), want her dead.
But the Winchesters have other plans for Anna, while also fending off attacks from the evil Alistair (Mark Rolston) and his demonic minions.
In his white shirt, loose tie and rumpled tan overcoat, Castiel looks more like a young Lt. Columbo or a depressed Wall Street banker than the traditional, white-robe-and-sandals idea of an angel. He doesn’t make booming pronouncements or wave around a flaming sword, either (although Uriel, who first appeared under orders to smite a whole town, probably has one in an insulated pocket).
"I got two kinds of direction," Collins says, "before we actually shot. One was that Castiel hasn’t been around human beings for 2,000 years, so there’s a curiosity when he looks at people. ‘How do these strange beings behave?’ It’s fun to play, interacting with Dean and Sam, looking at them like, ‘What are you doing?’
"And the other one was that he is compassionate. At first brush, reading the first and second scripts, it looked like this guy is just tough, just mean, just bad-ass. But they wanted that [compassionate] aspect as well, the more angelic side, a little of both."
Over its first three seasons, Supernatural dealt with a wide variety of folklore and urban legends, along with building its own mythology. There has been a lot of talk about Hell — the same Hell from which Castiel yanked doomed Dean at the beginning of this season — but not that much about Heaven.
But in season four, the show has taken on an ambitious storyline that features nothing less than Heaven vs. Hell, angels vs. demons, with the freedom of Lucifer himself hanging in the balance.
"It is ambitious," Collins says, "and it sounds so daunting. It sounds like you need the biggest budget in the world to tackle this kind of stuff. Not only are they tackling it, but they’re doing a pretty good job of it. It feels real."
Sometimes when TV shows take on biblical subjects, religious folks object to how Hollywood screenwriters interpret their beliefs. If they’re unhappy with this storyline, Collins hasn’t heard about it.
"It doesn’t seem to be stirring up much furor from the religious camps," Collins says. "I imagine that some people would take exception to the idea of angels coming down and destroying this town. I mean, biblically there are precedents, but it’s not everybody’s idea of an angel."
Of course, when playing an angel, talking about elevated subjects and the Apocalypse and all, it can be hard to maintain one’s composure.
"I give it the requisite level of seriousness," Collins says, "then sometimes I crack and start laughing."
Apparently Padalecki isn’t making Collins’ task any easier.
"The first scene I was in with Jared," he says, "he started making fun of my acting like nobody’s business. Coming from anyone else, it would have been devastating, but it was so good-natured and so lighthearted, it was great.
"It’s great to work with those guys."
Padalecki and Ackles are somewhat legendary pranksters on the Supernatural set in Vancouver, Canada, but appear to be keeping it in check when the angel is around.
"No serious pranking," Collins says. "I’m kind of sad about it. I don’t know if they like me — maybe not. Or maybe they’re just building up to something special."