Metatron is that angel you just can’t help but hate, though if you ask the actor who plays him, Curtis Armstrong, he thinks he’s “adorable.” While I couldn’t get any spoilers out of him about what’s coming up for his Supernatural character in season 10 — and he admitted that he doesn’t know much — he did have a lot to say about Metatron when I interviewed him at New York Comic Con.
Read on for BuddyTV’s exclusive interview with Armstrong about Supernatural, Metatron, King of the Nerds, New Girl and more.
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Metatron’s not exactly an angel that’s very likable.
Apparently not. I think he’s adorable personally, but not a lot of people feel that way.
He’s got some pretty good lines, though.
The greatest, which is why I have a particular fondness for him because they enjoy writing for him so much. It’s obvious that it’s really fun to write somebody like that who’s evil, articulate and funny, that’s like your perfect bad guy, so they really enjoy it.
I love his “I really hate continuity errors” line and the fact that that brings him down in that episode.
I know. I know. Yeah. There were a lot of great lines in that episode. In fact, in the very first, the introductory episode, where he talks about — was that in the first one? — where he talks about the universe being made of — no, that was in “Meta Fiction,” when he was talking about the universe being made up of stories, not atoms. They just write such great things for him, and for an actor, when you’ve got that kind of material, it’s all you can do to keep from just making a meal of every line, so the biggest thing I have to resist is the desire to chew the scenery because there are so many opportunities.
How would you defend his actions?
I’m not sure they require a defense. … It’s not that I think he’s right, it’s just I think he has, from his standpoint, a point, which is that God had lost touch. I think that’s what he thinks. I think the key for him was, for me — I don’t know what they think because they never tell me, the people who write the show don’t tell me anything. I don’t know when I’m going in, I don’t know how many episodes I’m going to do until the last minute, but what I feel the last episode that has been aired [with Metatron], which is the finale, before he kills Dean, he talks about God and how people look up to God and pray to God and go to war in His name and die in His name when God doesn’t even know their names, but he knows their names, which is why they’re going to follow him.
That was incredibly key for me, and it came very late for it to be significant, but it was key because, for him, he’s saying, “God lost touch with the common person, but I’m the common person who has never lost touch, and I do know all their names, and that’s why they’re going to love me and that’s why they’re going to follow me.”
He thinks he’s doing right. … [For actors, when] you’re playing a bad guy, you don’t play the bad guy. If you play the bad guy, that’s just boring. When you’re a bad guy, you play the good guy. He’s got a reason for doing it. It gets harder and harder, if you’re a serial killer, like an old-fashioned serial killer, it’s harder to justify things, but for Metatron it’s easy. A lot of what he does is not — he doesn’t kill Kevin, he arranges to have Kevin killed. He does kill Dean, but a lot of the angels being thrown out of heaven, all that kind of stuff.
In the premiere the other night, we find out many of those angels are back in heaven, so maybe that wasn’t as horrible as everyone thought it was when it happened. … The vision of that was hair-raising, but maybe it wasn’t quite as — you know, he stole Cas’ grace. Cas is still around, diminished, but come on, everybody.
He is very good at manipulating people to do what he wants. For example, he manipulates Gadreel into killing Kevin. Do you think he ever expected Gadreel to betray him?
No, I don’t think so because if you see the scenes with the two of them together, he’s talking to Gadreel — that’s where Metatron’s weakness is, is his conviction of the rightness of his path. He has a very, very strong sense of what is right, and it’s easy when you’re that invested in that kind of a feeling and you have people around you to just accept the fact that they’re going to believe that, they’re going to feel the same way that you feel. We’re going to go through all of what we’re going through and then I will be up top and you will be right next to me. You don’t think in terms of them — he’s not that good of a strategist, and frankly, he’s not that good at reading people. He thinks he is, but he’s not really.
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He lets Gadreel get captured and the way he reacts, like it was just a twist…
That whole thing in “Meta Fiction” is great, because he’s referring to everything from the standpoint of a writer, and that’s also sort of an inside joke by the writers of the show about what they do. But what he’s doing is he’s looking at it as a writer would look at a problem. It doesn’t matter that people are dying or you slammed the gates of heaven. None of that matters. The important thing is the story and whether those characters do what you intend them to do. The distance, the disconnect between Metatron and people, couldn’t be more vast, regardless of what he thinks.
In that same episode, Metatron brings back Gabriel to trick Castiel, another nod from the writers because all the fans want Gabriel back, and then there’s the whole, is he alive, is he dead?
Yeah. I mean, I’m still working my way through a lot of this stuff because I’d seen episodes of the show but I was not a fan from the beginning who watched everything, and if you don’t watch everything, it’s almost impossible to crack this mythology. It’s really hard. And I remember — it wasn’t the first one, but it was the second maybe or the third one — we were doing a night shoot, and I was with Misha, and it was the middle of the night, and we were shooting in the rain, it was horrible, and we’re in this little tent and they had just given us the next script, so the two of us are in this tent in the rain going through this next script.
I don’t even remember what the reference was, but came to a reference that just made no sense to me at all, and I said to Misha, “What is such and such?” and he went, “What?” I said, “The thing, what is this?” and I showed it to him and he’s looking at it, and he goes, “I have no idea.” Turns out there’s one guy, there’s an A.D. on the set, one guy, who, if you need an answer to a mythology question, don’t go to Jared, don’t go to Jensen, don’t go to Misha, go to the A.D. because he’s the one guy who’s memorized everything, and I’ve subsequently gone to him.
Erica Carroll and I went to him this time — I can’t remember — oh, it was another episode, and we had a question about something Metatron says, which made sense to neither of us, and we had to go to Kevin and say, “What?” and he went, “Oh, that’s because blah blah blah in season 9…,” we get the whole story, magic.
What does Metatron think of Castiel as an angel and as a leader?
I think he has a bit of a crush on Castiel in a way. I think he would love to have Castiel with him — not really with him because I think he also thinks Castiel is a little dangerous to have near him, but he wishes he would pay him the kind of respect he feels he’s owed by everyone, and the fact that Castiel will never do that is probably a bit annoying to him. I think he respects him. I think that’s why he cares enough, is that he really does respect him. I don’t think he respects the Winchesters at all. They’re just obstacles to be overcome. Castiel’s a little different because he also knows Castiel has that magnetism, that charisma, that can draw an army to him. That’s why he thinks he’s dangerous. The Winchesters don’t have that. They have whatever they have within their relationship and whatever powers they have at any given time, but Castiel’s really dangerous.
Is that why he offers him that endless supply of grace, to win him over?
Sure. He tries to find what he thinks — he’ll push any button to get what he wants, and that seems as good as any. The guy is dying. He’s got this stolen grace, which is running out of gas, and of course he’s trying to — he’ll do anything.
What can you preview about this next episode? The logline reads, “Hannah sees how weak Castiel is becoming as his grace continues to fade, so she makes a bold choice and asks Metatron for help.”
I can’t give you anything.
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Are you only in scenes with Hannah?
No, I’m, well, no. I can’t give you anything.
But Metatron is still locked up? She does say in the premiere that Metatron is locked up.
Yes, she does say that. And he is, at the moment, yes. I can’t say anything more than that.
What’s your favorite thing about playing Metatron?
The language. I think it’s the language. It’s so delicious. I mean, it’s funny, but really — Robbie Thompson gave me this bit about Sherlock Holmes in “Meta Fiction,” and I’m a Sherlock Holmes person, and so for me, to have that — and it was not even an “Elementary, my dear Watson” reference, it was an actual reference from a story not everyone knows, and even named a lessor known inspector. It was great, and I was so excited, and I was so worried they were going to cut it for some reason. It was the only line I’ve ever went, “Oh, please don’t cut it, please don’t cut it, please don’t cut it.” It was really nice.
Let’s move on to King of the Nerds. What about this show appeals to so many people?
A lot of it is in the casting because we cast real nerds, not actors, and these are people who are really serious, whether it’s about science or pop culture, whatever it is, their passion, they wear it on their skin. Although it is a competition reality show, it’s a comedy competition reality show, which doesn’t mean that we write more, it just means that we cast people who we have a feeling are going to give us comedy.
One of the things that we ran into a bit of a problem with last season was that the conflict between the characters was such that there was less comedy than there had been in the first season, so it began to feel more like Big Brother or something, but it wasn’t intended to be, although there were a lot of funny things last season. But this season, our emphasis is more on the comedy again and it seems to have worked out very well so far. We’re in the middle of editing now and the first episode is terrific, and it’s a great group of people.
Is there anything different about the competitions this season?
Not really. We have a new competition person at the moment because the guy who did it the first two — we weren’t picked up until late so we lost some of our crew from last year because they had to take other jobs, so a lot of the crew are different, so it looks different. Visually, it’s a little different. The competitions are a little different. But it’s all basically the same. We’re still at Nerdvana, in our Nerdvana, and everything is going swimmingly.
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Can you talk about the qualities you noticed in the previous winners?
What was great about Kayla was an absolute commitment not just to aerospace, which was her field, and Star Trek, which was her passion, but to winning honestly. She was obsessed with winning honestly, so that when she was in strategy meetings with her team and everybody was saying, oh, we want to leave so-and-so in because as long as he’s in there, he’s making it hard on them, she’s the one who’s sitting there going, but I don’t want to win that way. I want to win by winning, not by screwing the other people by leaving in somebody who’s making it difficult for them. That was her view and her view alone and I think ultimately by the end of the series, people had begun, even on her team, to see the value in that. That was what I loved about Kayla, is that there was a straight arrow element to her in the way that she played the game.
Celeste, in the first season, what was amazing about Celeste, and it was a good and a bad thing, she sort of came out of nowhere, because everyone saw her as the shy, cute Asian girl and nobody was realizing that the shy, cute Asian girl was actually playing the shit out of this game and no one was paying attention. They were so distracted by Danielle and Genevieve and Joshua and all the drama that was going on with those three that they were missing entirely what was happening with Celeste until she pops up at the end as the winner. That’s pretty good game playing, and she was a gamer.
…We didn’t want a repeat of Celeste, because if you start getting into that thing, that’s when like with Survivor where people are studying it at university — they have classes in that show, so people know how to play the show and every time there’s a new season … everyone knows what’s happening. We never want to get to that point, and this is what’s happened in the third season. The third season comes in, they look at the previous two seasons, they think they’ve got it sussed, and they don’t, because this time we’ve learned our lesson. We’re keeping one step ahead of everybody.
How did you narrow down the contestants?
It’s a combination of a lot of things. We need the chemistry. We have to think in terms of all those people in a house and how that’s going to play, so some of them, we want to do a mix of hard science and pop culture, that’s part of it. We want to have accessible people that the audience can relate to, and sometimes that’s hard because you’ve got people who are so into their head that they don’t reveal a lot. It’s just really a matter of when it comes down to it, you have 20 people. It goes from hundreds, literally hundreds weeded out down to 20. And then you bring those people in and you talk to them.
And then on top of that, you bring 15 of them to California, but you still, even the night before you start filming, have two or three extra people because in the meantime, they have to go through psych exams, physical exams, and sometimes people drop out for that reason. We had a guy this season who we really loved and it turned out he was a stand-up and he was trying to get in because he wanted to further his stand-up career. He wasn’t really a nerd at all. … So those kinds of things happen, you think you’ve got a perfect person and then you find out he’s playing you. Or we’ve had people with physical problems that we felt uncomfortable with the challenges. Haven’t had a psych problem so far, despite what people think. [Laughs]
Do you have any other projects coming up?
At the moment, aside from Supernatural and King of the Nerds, I’m also doing Zooey Deschanel‘s show, New Girl, and that started at the same time Supernatural did. I’ve done fewer of them, but that’s been enormous fun. And American Dad, I’ve been doing since the first season so that’s nine seasons. I’m on a lot of long-running shows at the moment, and that’s kind of gratifying. At this stage, actually in my life at this stage, to be doing four TV shows simultaneously, unheard of, for me. Many other people do it, it’s new for me.
What are we going to see on New Girl?
Again, I don’t really know. I’ve done a couple this season and it’s going to be more focused on the school, as opposed to the home life, which is all I know. That’s what they told me, but I don’t know any more than that.
The other thing that I do want to mention, though, about King of the Nerds is that there is a change in day and time, which we’re trying to get out as much as we can, which it used to be Thursdays at 10pm. It’s now Fridays at 9pm, and that’s going to be a big deal to get that word out.
Supernatural season 10 airs Tuesdays at 9pm on The CW. King of the Nerds premieres Friday, January 23 at 9pm on TBS. And New Girl season 4 airs Tuesdays at 9pm on FOX.
(Image courtesy of The CW)