'Supernatural': Richard Speight, Jr. Returns, But Not As You Think

Supernatural Richard Speight

On tonight's (December 2) episode of ' Supernatural ,' everyone's favorite archangel will make an appearance. Well, sort of. Richard Speight, Jr. , who played Gabriel/The Trickster on the hit CW show, makes his network television directorial debut tonight. That's right, Gabriel is directing Sam ( Jared Padalecki ) and Dean ( Jensen Ackles ) in ' Just My Imagination .'

For those of you who need a brief refresher, Gabriel was 'murdered' by his big bro Lucifer towards the end of Season 5, and we're still not entirely over it, TBH. Assuming he's been dead all this time, everyone was taken aback when Gabriel showed up in a later episode in Season 9, confessing to Castiel ( Misha Collins ) that he'd been hiding in Heaven, and wanted Castiel's help in defeating Metatron ( Curtis Armstrong ).

Unfortunately, Gabriel appeared to be just an illusion created by Metatron. However, when Castiel bluntly asked Gabriel, 'Are you dead?,' the archangel gave him this, 'Oh, puh-lease' look, wiggled his eyebrows and vanished.

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After learning that Speight was directing tonight's episode, MTV News hopped on the phone with him to discuss how the process went, whether there were any pranks on set, and if we can expect to see Gabriel in a future episode.

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'It’s a substantial difference in workload,' Speight began, referring, of course, to the difference between acting and directing. 'There’s a lot more to do as the director. Regardless of how big your part is as an actor, there’s many, many, many, many elements that had to be decided and kind of built and designed way before you ever showed up to do your scene. So... it was a monumentally more difficult task to direct than it was to act on that show.'

Difficult... but still really awesome.

'Now all that said, I loved it,' he continued. 'I love that process. I love being that deeply involved in it. I loved getting to be a part of the creative process from start to finish... Getting to direct 'Supernatural' was a longtime dream of mine.'

This 'SPN' episode marks Speight's first time directing on network television, and he didn't hesitate in reaching out to stars Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins for directing tips. (Ackles has directed five 'SPN' episodes so far, including one earlier this season , while Collins directed one episode for Season 9.)

'I had very in depth conversations with Jensen [and] with Misha,' he said. 'I shadowed three different directors up there: Tom Wright, Bob Singer, and Phil Sgriccia, all of whom have directed many, many episodes and are fantastic directors. It was great to talk to Jensen and Misha because they both come from my world. They both came in the actor’s door, and it was interesting to hear about their experiences.'

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And before you ask, no, the famous on-set pranksters Jared and Jensen didn't pull a fast one on their director. But according to Speight, that's actually for the best.

'I'm glad that they didn’t short-sheet my bed or put a whoopee cushion in the director’s chair, or [pull a] run me out of the set kind of thing,' he explained. 'As funny it would be to retell, at the moment, I don’t think it would’ve been the greatest thing for me.'

In fact, Jared and Jensen were regular -- wait for it -- angels throughout the entire ordeal.

'They were very, very gracious and very helpful throughout this process,' Speight continued. 'They knew the enormity of the task before me, and they understood that it had been a two-year journey for me to get that opportunity, and they truly were respectful of the work I put into it and the work I was putting in the actual shoot.'

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Probably one of the best things for Speight about coming back to the 'SPN' set was getting to see the fantastic crew again. Thanks to various conventions the 'SPN' squad attends throughout the year, Speight's able to catch up with his fellow hunters, angels, and demons fairly regularly. But the show's crew is a completely different story.

'I just love that crew,' Speight gushed. 'That is the nicest group of people... Part of the reason why that show is so successful is because of that crew. It’s just an amazing group to watch work, and to be a part of it and work myself into the fold this time as the director was an awesome opportunity. It was great.'

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Tonight's episode will give us more background into Sam Winchester's past. We get to meet his childhood imaginary friend Sully (played by Nate Torrence ), but the fact that an imaginary friend isn't really imaginary isn't the main point of the episode.

'The heart of the episode isn’t that [Sam] has an imaginary friend, it’s why and what they do with each other now,' Speight said.

And in case you're able to handle anymore excitement about tonight's episode, Speight shared that 'there’s... equal parts fun frivolity and a heartfelt journey, and that’s what made it, for me, a very exciting journey, and will hopefully make for a great episode for fans.'

We seriously can't wait for Speight's network TV directorial debut, but we're also still deeply curious about whether or not Speight will return in front of the camera anytime soon. As mentioned earlier, Gabriel's fate appeared sealed for several seasons, but that brief Season 9 tease still has fans up in arms about what's going on with the tricky archangel.

'In my opinion, when Gabriel was asked by Castiel if he were dead, Gabriel’s non-answer was louder than anything he could have shouted,' Speight said. 'The eyebrow wiggle and the furrow, to me, tell the whole story. What that means in terms of Gabriel’s reappearance to battle and/or count down to The Darkness, I think some things are better left to be revealed as the show unfolds.'

Well, it sure sounds like there is serious hope fans that will see the beloved Gabriel again at some point in the near future, and we're crossing our fingers and toes that it's sooner rather than later. Until then, we'll enjoy tonight's episode, knowing Gabriel Speight is just beyond the frame.

Bettina Strauss / The CW