There are thousands of working actors. Many of them are good. Some of them are great. A few of them can steal a scene in a way that elevates a project and increases the interest factor for an existing fanbase of a particular series or film.
David Haydn-Jones is that rare actor. When he was introduced as the mysterious Arthur Ketch of the British Men of Letters in season 12 of “Supernatural,” many fans of the show were left wondering (and hoping) if the character would be sticking around beyond a short guest stint. Thankfully, not only did Mr. Ketch play a strong role in the season’s throughline story, but his character, in large part to Haydn-Jones’ portrayal, has become more and more dynamic as the season has gone on.
While the fate of Arthur Ketch beyond season 12 has yet to be revealed, one thing is certain. David Haydn-Jones is an actor worthy of keeping a very close eye on.
We recently sat down with Haydn-Jones to discuss how he tapped into the character, the most electrifying day on set, and his surprising discovery of the extremely loyal “Supernatural” fandom.
TrunkSpace: We just have to say that your career has touched on two of our favorite guilty pleasures… “Supernatural” and holiday movies, so we thank you for that.
Haydn-Jones: (Laughter) Yeah. There’s a big Venn diagram crossover there.
TrunkSpace: (Laughter) From an acting standpoint, it seems like your character Mr. Ketch in “Supernatural” would be pure fun to inhabit and we’re curious what brought you to discovering him from a performance standpoint?
Haydn-Jones: Yeah. Totally. As you say, having lived in Hallmark land, nice guy world… it was really fun to transition into such an interesting character. I can only speak for myself, but I think a lot of actors like to move between eclectic roles, so to just inhabit a guy that was so pimp on the page and just hit all of the trappings of James Bond with the “Supernatural” monster twist, it was just delicious.
And also, I’ll just tell you for a little “Inside Sports,” it was a big mystery to me because they don’t really reveal to you… because they’re so worried about spoilers and they also don’t fully know where the guy is going yet… I was only booked for like three episode originally, so I was kind of unraveling the guy as I went. But what was nice was that some of my early choices really tracked. It was really fun.
TrunkSpace: It’s got to be a crazy ride when you’re playing a character whose full personality isn’t being revealed to you at the time of you diving into him.
Haydn-Jones: Oh yeah. Exactly. I would get a new script and then they would, what’s called “pinning” me for another episode or two in a row. I’d be like, “Oh, good!” And I’d always race to the back of the script and be like, “Is he dead yet?” (Laughter) I would literally jump to like page 62 and be like… Ketch, Ketch, Ketch. And what was nice was that on my PDF viewer… because I would get my first scripts digitally… I would just put “Ketch” in the search field and just go to the last page. I’d be like, “Ketch it winking and sneering and driving off into the distance. Yes! There’s maybe another job coming my way!”
TrunkSpace: Well, the interesting thing about “Supernatural” is that nobody really ever stays dead, so even if Ketch died, you’re never fully out! (Laughter)
Haydn-Jones: Well, fingers crossed. Who knows!
But yeah, I tried to make him with a big mask at the beginning. I called him the butler assassin, this sort of posh, British guy who was trying to be charming and jovial and all that stuff. Because I knew just from story arc and story theory that there was probably going to be unraveling that happened. I didn’t know what it was going to be, but I knew if I sort of played him as that soldier… that trained guy… that would play out well and now we found out that he and Mick were conditioned and brainwashed and probably, one could argue, abused. So, that all tracks nicely as the mask and the poshness sort of starts to get stripped away.
There’s definitely a stripping away of the English gentlemen for sure. Beast mode is beginning.
TrunkSpace: So did the writers give any indication that they always envisioned Ketch playing this larger role in the season from the start?
Haydn-Jones: Honestly, the writers don’t tell us anything until you get the script. There’s a lot of mystery involved and I know why they do it. There’s too many leaks, especially digitally now. Also though, I will say that the actors job is always to do detective work. The actors job is always to fill in the blanks from the cues on the pages. And the writing was all there and if you know story arc and story theory, you can sort of do your detective work. But then also, your job as the actor is to fill in nuance, backstory, and just kind of the choices that you’re making about the history of this guy. That may not necessarily be literally true for the headcanon, but will still play on the day because you’re just going scene to scene. That’s the only way you can really work as an actor, from an improv background anyway. You can’t know too much. You can’t play too much. All you can do is play the information in the scene, so in a way you’ve got to keep it simple and trust that the writers and the producers are taking you on the journey.
TrunkSpace: During the course of this season, was there a particular scene that you worked within that allowed you to flex the acting muscle and go to places that you didn’t expect with the character?
Haydn-Jones: Yeah. I would say, and this is not a spoiler now because it’s out, the fight scene with Mary (Samantha Smith) was incredibly challenging, very technical, and it was really fun, just as I say, to strip off the English gentleman and get into the beast mode with the guy. Show them that this guy has a really dark, physical underbelly to him. And just the technical things… the planning of a fight like that with throwing people over desks and taking punches and all that sort of stuff… you have to hose it down with all of this coverage. I think the fight lasts maybe a minute or two, the whole scene, but to shoot it was almost seven and a half hours. And you’re physically putting yourself in that position and throwing punches and falling on the ground and snapping your head and all that stuff, so physically it was really taxing. I’ve never done a full, hardcore fight scene in that way. And there’s a part of you that’s like, “Well, I’m fighting with a woman, but she’s supposed to be a badass hunter.” And Sam could not have been more generous and more trusting. We just gave each other hugs and were like, “We’re here for each other.” It was just one of those great days when you’re like, “I have the best dance partner in the world, we have total trust, and we are bringing it physically.” We were being safe but we were also pushing the envelope a little bit with each other. It was just electric. And Richard Speight Jr., he’s such an actor’s director, and he was just there for us and pushing us and yelling at us. That was an electrifying day as an actor.
TrunkSpace: And having Richard involved as a director, somebody who is so familiar with the series and the world itself, it must be very helpful considering how invested he is in “Supernatural” and the characters?
Haydn-Jones: Totally. And also, I would add to that too, he just knows the audience so well being such a cons guy and just knowing the fandom and what the audience loves and wants to see. And by all accounts, the fight really landed with the audience.
TrunkSpace: When you came into “Supernatural” you were stepping into a show that has spent over a decade establishing itself and the tone on set. Yes, it’s an ensemble show and actors come and go, but many of them have been there since the beginning or close to it. Was it intimidating coming into it as essentially the new guy on campus?
Haydn-Jones: So here’s where a little bit of research is good news and where a little bit of ignorance is really good news. (Laughter) I had no idea how worldwide or rabid this fandom was. I knew the show. I respected the show. I had auditioned for the show six times prior in the last 10 years. I knew it was popular and I knew it had carved out this space, but when you’re an actor in Hollywood and you’re just going from job to job to job, you can only do so much research on any given show. You’ve got to get a taste of everything and you sort of move on. So I had no idea about the whole convention thing or the SPN Family. So that was good that I didn’t know that because it’s been a really fun, wonderful discovery for me to enter this universe and sociology, so to speak. It’s been amazing. The other side of it is that Jared and Jensen, no joke, and the whole culture there, is an extremely welcoming family. They gave me hugs, big handshakes, and just, “Where you from, Dave? Who are you? Welcome.” Day one! Like, minute one! And when you have leadership like that, from the top… all the directors and Phil Sgriccia, the executive producer who was my first director. That guy is so in love with his show still, 13 years later, it’s just infectious. And it’s so rare to come to a set like that where 12 or 13 years in, people are still having a blast, still having a laugh, and welcoming their guests into their home with such grace. I think it’s that Texas, southern hospitality. They were just like, “Welcome to the show!” There’s a lot of gratitude on that set.
TrunkSpace: And you just touched on it, but the way that this show has resonated with its fanbase, to the point that it doesn’t only hit the convention scene but has it’s OWN conventions, it’s just amazing.
Haydn-Jones: Don’t I know it! And I’m booked for two already. The show has allotted me… I already did Fantasy Basel, my first one ever, in Switzerland. And I’m going to one in London and I’m going to Rome next week. So it’s just like, Holy Hannah! It’s exploding in a way that I never could have imagined last summer when I auditioned for the role.
TrunkSpace: As a series it also sort of defies the life cycle of popularity. Shows get big and then the audience fades, but “Supernatural” has and remains this slow burn with an unwavering fanbase.
Haydn-Jones: It’s incredible. It’s really record breaking TV in all metrics. Phil said, other than like “Law & Order,” it’s the only show in this genre that has done this many episodes and this many seasons, so I think it’s in record breaking territory now. And it will continue to be, especially now that it’s gotten renewed for 13 and maybe beyond.
TrunkSpace: Do you hope that playing a character like Mr. Ketch will open the eyes of casting directors and producers in the industry in terms of seeing you in a different light as an actor?
Haydn-Jones: Yeah, I really hope so. I’m definitely going to try to take as many clips from the show as possible and edit something tight together to showcase because it stretched me in so many ways. I’m totally grateful for the wheelhouse that I have, which is sort of the everyman, widowed dad Christmas guy… and those are all great jobs and I love them and that audience too… but when you get something like this, which is rich and meaty and mysterious and you get to wear suits and use grenade launchers and drive Bentleys… the little boy that wants to play James Bond is just like, “Oh yeah! Let me live here for awhile!”
“Supernarual” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.
Featured Photo Credit: Theo and Juliette Los Angeles