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The cast of Supernatural before all the fame

Supernatural crept onto TV screens like a ghost, amassing a small but dedicated fanbase in its initial seasons on the air. Despite rocky ratings, the show held on for dear life. This tenacity paid off: The fourth season proved to be enormously popular. Supernatural conventions started popping up all over the world, the actors gained sizable fandoms of their own, and the city of Austin, Texas even declared June 23, 2018 to be "Supernatural Day."

But where was the cast before all of this fame? Which of these actors took part in a cringe-y indie movie before coming onto the show? Who never planned on being an actor at all, but crashed an audition that ended up changing their life? Much like the show itself, many actors who snagged a part in the 15-season series have a host of twists and turns in their careers. Really, their stories have all the makings of a pretty good Supernatural episode. We're here to uncover the lives of the Supernatural stars before they were slaying demons, raising (sometimes literal) hell, and hanging out with angels in trench coats.

Jensen Ackles

Before Jensen Ackles was saving people and hunting monsters on Supernatural, he had a variety of credits to his name. Back in 1995, the star made his TV debut on Wishbone. The Austin, Texas native's big break came on the long-running soap opera Days of Our Lives, in which he played Eric Brady for 54 episodes. Ackles also had a recurring guest role on the biggest teen drama of the new millennium, Dawson's Creek. He left the world of soaps behind in 2000 for a significant role in James Cameron's TV series, Dark Angel. The two-season Fox show familiarized him with the world of sci-fi, which he continued to explore in a 22-episode arc on Smallvillein which he played assistant football coach Jason Teague. This 10-season Superman-centric drama was, at the time, the longest show in The WB's history ...  before Supernatural obliterated the record upon reaching season 11. 

While fans can't possibly imagine Ackles as anyone but the scruffy older Winchester brother, he actually tried out for Sam before snagging his iconic role as Dean. Talk about a fated decision.

Jared Padalecki

As it turns out, Dean Winchester isn't the only Dean in Jared Padalecki's life. Before he started slaying demons as Sam Winchester, the actor played Dean Forester, Rory Gilmore's first love on Gilmore Girls. He was part of the show from the 2000 pilot through 2005, briefly coming back to Stars Hollow for the reunion series, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Thus, both Ackles and Padalecki had a working relationship with the WB-turned-CW prior to their respective Supernatural roles.

In 2004, Padalecki starred in the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen film New York Minute, playing the love interest to Mary-Kate's character Roxy. Stepping away from his more comedic roles, Padalecki then played John Davis in the desert island film Flight of the Phoenix. Right before his Supernatural debut, he starred as Wade in the horror film House of Wax, a part that prepared him for his career as a ghoul-hunter in the creeptastic world of Supernatural. Action, horror, romance — this is one actor who's done it all.

Misha Collins

Misha Collins brought a boatload of new fans to Supernatural with his season four debut as Castiel. Before that, he made his mark on Hollywood with a range of roles. If any Supernatural fans are planning an original Charmed binge, they may want to pay attention to season two's "They're Everywhere," in which Collins proves that he is, in fact, everywhere with a baby-faced cameo. Charmed is, in many ways, a major precursor to Supernatural, making Collins a true champion of dark fantasy on TV. In case you didn't get enough Collins in that genre, or of Lucifer and Castiel on-screen in Supernatural, both appeared in an indie film called Moving Alan in 2003. It's a truly bizarre watch for Supernatural fans: Collins' stoner character gets into endless mischief, while Pellegrino's Alan gets carted around in clown makeup.

Between portraying Alexis Drazen on 24 and appearing in procedurals like CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationERNCISCSI: NY, and Without a Trace, Collins kept plenty busy. He also starred alongside Laura Prepon in Karla, his most regrettable film to date. Collins played Paul Bernardo, the real-life serial killer that inspired the movie. Between shady comments made by the director and the film unleashing a side of himself that he disliked, Collins flat-out tells fans at conventions to avoid the movie. Happily, Collins himself is nothing like the character, having started the charity Random Acts and running GISHWHES, a hugely popular (and hugely charitable) international scavenger hunt.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Before Jeffrey Dean Morgan (literally) made heads roll as Negan on The Walking Dead, he played Sam and Dean's revenge-driven father on Supernatural. But even before that, the actor already had a host of acting credits to his name. Yet Morgan didn't always dream of being an actor. Unlike most Hollywood origin stories, acting basically fell into Morgan's lap when he helped a friend move to Los Angeles. While in the City of Angels, Morgan decided to meet a casting director, who convinced him to go out for an audition. As luck would have it, the newly-minted actor ended up starring in a Roger Corman movie. If only it were that easy for all Hollywood hopefuls. 

Following his debut as Sharkey in Uncaged, Morgan went on to appear in TV series like Walker, Texas Ranger (no, not Padalecki's reboot), ERAngelCSI: Crime Scene InvestigationStar Trek: EnterpriseMonkThe O.C., and Weeds. That's a lot of guest star roles. His movie credentials are just as vast: In the '90s, he played Todd Hunter in Legal Descent and Bobby in Road Kill. Acting isn't Morgan's only passion, either. He and his friend Paul Rudd co-own Samuel's Sweet Shop in Rhinebeck, New York. That's right: Negan and Ant-Man co-own a candy store. The duo saved the shop from closure when the owner passed in 2014.

Samantha Smith

When Samantha Smith took on the role of Mary Winchester on Supernatural, she likely expected her first week on set to be her last. Not many characters who die in the pilot episode end up coming back, after all — especially not ones who get burned to death. Yet Smith's warm and compelling performance as Mama Winchester cemented her as a fan-favorite, and the writers kept finding new ways to write her back into the show. 

But before she brought the OG Winchester hunter to life (and death), Smith had a vast number of acting credits to her name. In the early '90s, she scored TV roles in SeinfeldPacific BlueFriends, and Two of a Kind. She then kicked off the '00s with her role as Kate Wilton on Profiler. Before Smith became Jensen Ackles' TV mom, she even starred in an episode of Dark Angel, just six episodes before Ackles' own debut. What a missed moment for the pair.

Jim Beaver

Jim Beaver's performance as Bobby Singer, a surrogate father to the Winchester brothers, resonated immediately with many fans, allowing Bobby to survive longer than any other major guest star in the show's history. However, before Beaver donned a wardrobe's worth of plaid and baseball caps to hunt monsters, he had already amassed a whole slew of acting credits. 

Before Beaver became an actor, he entered the US Marine Corps just months after his high school graduation in 1968, going on to serve two years in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971. Following his return to the US, Beaver scored his first acting role in 1977 on Semi-Tough. He went on to guest star in Westerns like Dallas and Gunsmoke: To the Last Man before earning significant roles in shows including Santa Barbara, Reasonable DoubtsThunder Alley3rd Rock from the Sun, and The Young and the Restless.

Like his future co-star Jensen Ackles, Beaver had a significant run on the soap opera Days of Our Lives. After his eight-year term on the show as Father Timothy Jansen, Beaver starred in Deadwood from 2004 to 2006, ending shortly after his run on Supernatural began. 

Genevieve Padalecki

Supernatural has brought a lot of couples together. One particularly prominent one emerged when Genevieve Cortese was cast as Ruby in season four. She and Jared Padalecki ended up finding love in a demonic place: Today, they are married with three children.

But before the couple was canoodling on-screen (or in real life), Cortese earned a bundle of acting credits. The actress had stints on Death ValleyThe Dead ZoneKids in America, and Salted Nuts, beginning in 2004. A year later, Cortese landed a 51-episode lead role in the TV series Wildfire. She played Kris Krillo, a troubled young woman who navigates a new lease on life at a ranch after a stint in juvie. 

While the Padaleckis have spent over a decade happily married, Cortese wasn't the first girlfriend the actor starred alongside on Supernatural. His ex-fiance Sandra McCoy played a seductive crossroads demon in the season three episode "Bedtime Stories." Padalecki may have a thing for demons, but only Cortese got a happily ever after with the Supernatural star. 

Danneel Ackles

While Jensen Ackles and Danneel Harris (now Ackles) didn't find love on the Supernatural set, she was a late addition to the series in season 13. She plays Sister Jo, a vapid angel disguised as a healer. Prior to landing her arc on Supernatural, Harris had significant guest spots on TV series like One Life to LiveWhat I Like About You, and Joey, the Friends spinoff no one seems to remember exists. However, Harris' biggest claim to fame was her role as Rachel in 51 episodes of the CW teen drama, One Tree Hill

Though Ackles and Harris had previously met, their relationship bloomed after they starred in the indie film Ten Inch Hero. The film chronicles the lives of sandwich shop workers, featuring a delightfully feminist Ackles as Priestly.

Following this film, Harris played a few small roles on various TV shows before landing a larger part in the short-lived show Friends With Benefits. As far as movies are concerned, she had parts in The Back-Up PlanThe Roommate, and A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas. While pregnant, Harris also had a role in Misha Collins' bizarre video short, "TSA America: Suspicious Bulges." The title is pretty self-explanatory on that one.

Felicia Day

Before Felicia Day played Charlie, Supernatural's hacker-turned-hunter, the actress had already carved out a significant corner of the nerd culture sphere. Though she'd had a few small prior roles, her eight-episode arc as Vi on the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer put her on the map. Day went on to star in Bring it On: Again and had a variety of smaller roles in shows like Monk and Undeclared. She landed her second Joss Whedon project in 2008 when she played Penny in the cult-classic Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

In 2007, Day created The Guild, a web series inspired by Day's love of World of Warcraft. Day even created a music video for the project, "Do You Wanna Date My Avatar," which riffs off the idea of becoming an idealized (and often unattainable) version of yourself online. The short series garnered a devoted following of fans who show up at conventions and tune in for virtual reunions. From 2009 to 2010, Day appeared in two episodes of a third Whedon project, Dollhouse. Now that's consistency.

Kim Rhodes

In case anyone didn't catch it, when Dean mutters, "the sweet life of Zach and Cas" as the angels hold him hostage in "Lucifer Rising," the show is making a playful pun to honor Kim Rhodes, then a new guest star. Dean is, of course, referencing the Disney Channel show The Suite Life of Zach and Cody which Rhodes starred in from 2005 to 2008. But before either role, the actress had a long list of acting credits to her name. 

Rhodes first made waves as Cindy in Another World, a character she played again in As The World Turns. From there, she landed a series of guest roles in shows like Martial Law, Star Trek: Voyager, Touched by an Angel, Without a Trace, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. A year before her stint on The Suite Life of Zach and Cody and its follow-up series, The Suite Life on Deck, Rhodes had a small role in Christmas with the Kranks. However, Supernatural fans will always love her most for her role as Sheriff Jody Mills. 

Kings of Con

Rob Benedict, Richard Speight Jr., and Matt Cohen made a splash at conventions together back around Supernatural season five. Despite having only appeared in a few episodes at the time, their dedication to the fans made a major mark. Rob Benedict's band, Louden Swain, has since become a staple at conventions, and no one throws a costumed karaoke shindig like Speight Jr. and Cohen. Benedict and Speight Jr. even created a series together called Kings of Con, in which they chronicle convention shenanigans, often alongside Cohen. But where were they before they became Supernatural icons? 

Speight Jr. came onto the acting scene in 1984 with the TV movie Love Leads the Way: A True Story. Later, he earned roles in shows like Freddy's Nightmares, Band of Brothers, The Agency, and Jericho.

Benedict formed his band one year after his first acting gig in 1996 on Beverly Hills, 90210. Like Day, he had a stint on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but instead of playing a slayer, Benedict played a vampire. The actor also played significant roles in Felicity, Birds of Prey, Come to Papa, and Threshold before snagging the role of Chuck, AKA God, on Supernatural

Prior to his 2008 Supernatural episode, Cohen launched his acting career in 2005 with the TV movie Complex. He earned a 42-episode arc on South of Nowhere before landing spots on The O.C., Boogeyman 2, and Medium

Mark Pellegrino and Mark Sheppard

You can't have Lucifer without Crowley, and you can't have Mark Pellegrino without Mark Sheppard. Before the duo's battle for the title of King of Hell, however, Sheppard and Pellegrino enjoyed vibrant careers in Hollywood.

Launching his acting career in 1987, Pellegrino's big break was playing Billy Phelps in Lethal Weapon 3. From there, he went on to projects like Midnight Witness, The Big Lebowski, and A Murder of Crows. By the '00s, Pellegrino had already amassed dozens of roles, going on to star in Say it Isn't So, The Best, NYPD Blue, and his role in Moving Alan alongside future Supernatural co-star Misha Collins. Before taking on Lucifer, he appeared in eight episodes of Dexter and two episodes of Prison Break.

Before signing onto Supernatural in 2009, most fans probably recognized Mark Sheppard from his appearances on like-minded shows including Charmed, Star Trek: Voyager, and Firefly. Sheppard got his start before those series, however, in 1992, as Eddie Bryce in the TV series Silk Stalkings. He went on to appear in 20 episodes of Soldier of Fortune and had numerous roles in shows like Sliders, 24, and Battlestar Galactica.

Alexander Calvert and Ruth Connell

Supernatural has gone through more than its fair share of major guest stars, but few have made quite as big of a splash as Alexander Calvert, who plays Jack, the son of Satan. Calvert won fans over instantly, amassing a sea of immediate Jack stans. But before Supernatural, the actor got his start in 2005 with a small role in The Dead Zone. His career immediately took off, earning him guest roles on shows like Psych, The TroopHuman Target, and Bates Motel. He went on to play larger roles in The Returned and Arrow before landing Jack.

While Ruth Connell's Rowena, a witch who frequently helps Jack, is her most well-known role to date, the actress came onto the acting scene in 1998 in a short called The Soldier's Leap. From there, she landed the role of Merida in a variety of Disney properties including Disney Infinity: Marvel Super HeroesDisney Infinity 3.0, and Sofia the First. She has also had roles in Folklore, A Perfect Ending, and Meth Head before joining the ranks of beloved Supernatural guest stars in 2014.