Supernatural's Jim Beaver discovered life after death

Jim Beaver, who plays the flannel-wearing demon hunter Bobby Singer on The CW's Supernatural and Sheriff Charlie Mills on CBS' horror series Harper's Island, told SCI FI Wire that he's just put out a new book about his wife's battle with cancer and his daughter's autism diagnosis, Life's That Way.

In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Beaver, we talked about what's in store for his Supernatural character, secrecy on Harper's Island and his new book, which is now in stores. Following is an edited version of our interview. Supernatural airs Thursdays at 9 p.m., Harper's Island Thursdays at 10.

So I hear your Supernatural character is going to be involved in a little demon-blood rehab with Sam [Jared Padalecki] and Dean [Dean Winchester].

Beaver: Yeah. Yeah. Dean and Bobby are gonna do their best to, shall we say, unhook Sam [laughs]. How well we pull that off, well, that remains to be seen.

I was told that Bobby actually wants to let him out to fight ...

Beaver: Um, well ...

I don't know how much you can say...

Beaver: [laughs] Well, there's also how much I can remember! You know, let's put it this way. There's a big argument about that, between Dean and Bobby. And each of us kind of shifts in our perspective about what ought to be done. So that's probably incredibly vague. But I'm trying not to violate any secrets, and at the same time I'm trying to remember [laughs].

Well, I know your character is part of a pretty big story arc at the end of the season. ... What do you remember about that?

Beaver: Well, you know, it's not exactly what I would call a Bobby story arc. Bobby is very much a part of what's going on in the last couple or three episodes of the season. But the story arc is really Sam and Dean's response to what's going on with Sam. And Bobby's just part of it. Just part of that. I wouldn't want to overemphasize the focus that's on Bobby. But he's very much a part of the action in these last two or three episodes. ...

Speaking of the whole confidentiality thing, I heard you practically had to sign your life away for Harper's Island's agreement.

Beaver: Oh, yeah! That was insane. ... I had a secret clearance in the Marines, and I've signed more confidentiality agreements for Harper's Island then I ever signed in the Marines. And I think there's a much larger chance of being killed by CBS in real life than there ever was in the Marines [laughs].

So what do you think of the concept of the whole closed-ended show?

Beaver: I don't know much about how marketing and ratings go. I always get surprised by things like that, but my sense is that it's a pretty good way to go, because there's not a huge risk attached for the network. I think the only real risk is if it were an absolute monster hit, like American Idol, and it stops at 13. But I never underestimate the power of the network to figure out a way to exploit a good situation.

Dramatically, I think it's strong because these days—and I've got a fair amount of experience with this—the last few years we've seen a lot of shows that had devoted fan followings canceled and yanked off anyway. And that leaves the fans really dissatisfied with the whole business of television. I think it's something that the fans can count on and know that it's going to be there until its planned ending. It's very reassuring to fans, because ... I think people are a little tired of investing their emotions in things that have a really good chance of getting pulled before the storylines get resolved. ...

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You've got a seriously intense schedule with two shows right now, but somehow you found time to publish this book. Tell us about Life's That Way.

Beaver: I didn't have to take any time out to write the book, because the book came together without the intention of being a book. It was based on this year-long series of nightly e-mails that I sent out during my wife's illness [Beaver's wife Cecily Adams died in 2004 from lung cancer], and during the period after her passing where I found out all about being a single dad. It's really kind of a day-by-day exploration in real time of what that whole experience and what that year was like. I was writing that during the first season of Deadwood in 2003, 2004. It was two or three years after that that I began thinking I could make something useful out of it by getting it published. And I spent the last year or two pulling that together. It's getting a very nice response. And I'm flattered and proud.

Fans have definitely responded to this, and you've definitely touched people. What have you learned going through this process and sharing this so publicly?

Beaver: I've learned one very practical thing, which is if you're going to publish a book, do it while you're on a hit series. Because the fan support has been far, far beyond anything I would have imagined or asked for. I'm just incredibly touched by the loyalty, devotion and friendship of the fans, of Supernatural in particular. They've just been extraordinary to me. And I'll never stop being grateful to them for that. ...

The other thing I think I've learned is that there is something very useful and meaningful in my having decided to be very open about my personal experiences. And I was hoping that it would have a positive effect, but I'm really gratified to see that it really seems to be the case. The response to the book has been amazing and everything I've hoped it would be in terms of being helpful.

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