It's not very often that a genre show sustains a long, healthy life on television (R.I.P., Firefly). Science-fiction and fantasy series cater to a very specific audience (which helps explain the constant lack of Emmy love), but every once in a while, one finds its place and enjoys a nice extended run. The CW's Supernatural is one of those shows. The Winchester Bros. will enter their ninth season this fall, and even experienced a rejuvenation in Season 8, after a couple of less-than-stellar seasons following the Season 5 departure of creator Eric Kripke.

This past weekend at Comic-Con, I had the chance to sit down with stars Jared Padalecki (Sam), Jensen Ackles (Dean), and Misha Collins (Castiel), as well as executive producers Robert Singer and Jeremy Carver. Here's what they had to say about what Season 9 has in store for our favorite hunters.

First of all, the new season picks up very soon after the events of the Season 8 finale, once the angels have all fallen to earth. And as you can probably imagine, life ain't gonna be easy for the Winchesters and the newly human Cas. When asked about what will happen this season, Ackles jumped right in with a vague tease, “There is a situation that is happening that Dean is aware of and is having to keep quiet about. And it's a very substantial secret.” Uh, cryptic much?

Padalecki couldn't tell us much either, though it was obvious he was dying to. “I want so badly to talk about [it],” he said. “[Bob and Jeremy] didn’t talk about it at the panel, which means I can’t talk about it.” But whatever "it" is, it’s got to be pretty amazing, because Padalecki also told us that it’s got him more excited to shoot this new season than he's ever been in the past. Maybe it'll have something to do with unicorns.

Wait, so what did we learn? Ackles assured us that fans won’t have to wait too long to find out about this mysterious bombshell because the secret will be revealed in the season premiere... and it will cause another rift between the brothers, because that’s really what this show needs. Executive producers Robert Singer and Jeremy Carver also noted that fans will “probably never see it coming” but that it’s “worth the wait.” Sigh, if you say so.

Meanwhile, Padalecki also confirmed that Sam didn’t immediately get better simply because he stopped the trials. Which, to be honest—and I feel like I can be honest with you guys—is refreshing, because this show has too often used a magic eraser to wipe away storylines that should have had lasting effects and consequences (like all those times Sam and Dean died).

And despite this super-duper massive secret that will cause a rift between them, Ackles insisted that the Winchesters are going to be depending on each other and needing each other more than ever (if you’ll recall, they chose each other over the closing of hell in the Season 8 finale). “I think that that was probably not shocking to most people because it is what the show is about, this brother bond that they have,” he said. “It's going to be … a free-for-all on earth now with all these fallen angels.” And don't forget they’ve still got all those demons running around, too. “They've got to find a way to exist amongst all this and still fight the good fight. They're really going to need to each other more than ever.” Uh, that sounds kind of like every season to me, but what do I know? I just watch the show for Jared Padalecki's hair.

As for what’s happening with everyone’s favorite angel-turned-human, it sounds like Castiel might be shedding the trench coat for good, something Misha Collins may or may not be happy about. “When I started, I thought I was only going to do three episodes, so I went into the fitting and I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever, this is fine.’ And then I had to wear it for, you know, going on six years now. It was quite ill-fitting.” Collins admitted that they tweaked Cas's wardrobe last year so the shirt was no longer two sizes too big and the pants no longer had pleats. Apparently he really hates pleats (I feel that). And regarding the question of whether we’ll soon see him in polo shirts and jeans, Collins did assure us that Cas at least begins Season 9 in his trademark trench coat. “It’s always possible,” he said, “that Cas could change his clothes. I would love that. Now that he’s human, at least change [the] underwear.”

And speaking of being human, Collins is really excited by the prospect. “From the beginning of my tenure on Supernatural I’ve always wanted to do that with Castiel. ... We dipped into human territory in Season 5 for a moment when he started losing his powers, but we never really explored it and I was kind of disappointed.”

But Cas may not be the only one who's in for a change. You may have also noticed a stroke of humanity in Crowley at the end of last season (as well as his apparent love of HBO's Girls). Speaking to that, but also to the main theme for Season 9, Carver said, "We're always looking to find another aspect of a personality that maybe we haven't showcased. And I'm really excited about the moves we're making." He continued, "We're going to be telling stories this year that feel really fresh and a little bit different. ... We're doing B-stories and C-stories in a way that we've never really done before. We're spending a lot of time with Crowley, we're spending time with Castiel. We're really watching these two guys come to grips with their new reality. It's made for some really fun storytelling."


– Ackles has not been promised an episode to direct this season. He passed on the premiere (his usual episode) because of the birth of his daughter. Collins will be directing Episode 17. And Padalecki's just not feeling it right now.

– On seeing old faces return: “The writers and producers pay attention to feedback; they know when things stick and when things don't stick. I think it's very intelligent of them to utilize the ones that work,” Ackles said. Returning this season are Jim Beaver’s Bobby Singer (“You’re going to see him in a way that he hasn’t been seen before,” said executive producer Robert Singer), Kim Rhodes' Sheriff Jody Mills (she's alive!), Osric Chau's Kevin Tran, and Felicia Day’s Charlie. Who wants to bet Bobby’s a fallen angel?

– Hey Benny fans! Ackles says Benny's one of his favorite characters, too: “I love the bond that he and Dean had. That was really richly layered in a way that we haven't seen for some time. I hope they bring him back.”

– As for how much of Ackles goes into making Dean: “There's a lot of trust between myself and the writers [and] the producers. That freedom allows for a lot of really spontaneous creativity. I think I know the character well enough to be able to take chances and find those funny moments when they may not be there on the page."

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