Actor Misha Collins just released the audio version of his bestselling poetry book Some Things I Still Can’t Tell You. We spoke to Collins about the book, and we’re sharing this exclusive interview to celebrate the fact that fans can now pipe Misha’s poems, in his own voice, directly into their eardrums.
Misha Collins is best known for his 12-season Supernatural stint as the angel Castiel, but it’s well-established knowledge among his fans that poetry has always been one of his other creative callings. Collins had two poems published in the 2008 Columbia Review, fans were well aware, and the conceptual idea of a Misha Collins poetry book had been batted back and forth between the actor and the Supernatural fandom for many years: a theoretical “someday.”
Someday finally became reality when Collins ended up sitting down and collating his some of his poetry, old and new, into a 135 page volume that he deemed worth releasing. It was eventually picked up by publisher Andrews McMeel, and he settled on the title Some Things I Still Can’t Tell You.
The book, which was officially announced in July 2021 and came out in October last year, was a hit. It sold out several print runs and was named a bestseller by USA Today and Publishers Weekly. It also hit the New York Times Best Seller list at number #4 in the paperback category, remaining on the list for an additional week.
At the time of publication, there was no announcement about whether an audiobook version would follow up the paperback and e-book, but last month, Andrews McMeel finally listed the much-requested audio version of Some Things I Still Can’t Tell You for pre-order, and the audiobook — read, of course, by Misha Collins himself — was released this week, on April 12. Fans can purchase the audio version via Audible, Google Play, Apple Books, and more outlets found on Andrews McMeel.
Apart from his ongoing involvement in his personal creative and charitable organizations (GISH and Random Acts) Collins has a very full schedule these days. His next big role is Harvey Dent — the Batman villain Two-Face — in the new DC show Gotham Knights, which is currently filming in Toronto. (For those keeping track, this brings all three Supernatural leads home to the CW — Collins for Gotham Knights, Jared Padalecki for Walker, and Jensen Ackles as the creator and executive producer of Supernatural prequel The Winchesters, also currently filming.)
The Gotham Knights role may delay or rule out a second season of Roadfood: Discovering America One Dish at a Time, the food and travel series that Collins filmed for PBS this winter. The response to Roadfood was… let’s just say… more than PBS was ready for, and it was rather amusing to watch the show’s social media folks weather the demand for access from Misha Collins fans worldwide. (Roadfood is now available internationally via PBS Passport.)
At some point, Collins will be heading back to a mic to record season 2 of Bridgewater, the paranormal fiction podcast written by Lauren Shippen and produced by Aaron Manke’s Grim & Mild. Collins stars as protagonist Jeremy Bradshaw and the show picked up the Best Fiction Podcast award at the iHeartRadio Podcast awards earlier this year. He’s also producing a documentary alongside that will tell the story of Daryl Davis, a Black pianist who has used music to forge bonds with members of the Klu Klux Klan, ultimately resulting in getting over 200 Klansmen to hang up their hoods.
Collins has also undergone a number of huge personal changes in the past year or so, including recovery from major hip surgery, selling his house, and splitting up with his partner. His author’s note in Some Things I Still Can’t Tell You mentions that many of the poems, written at various stages of his life, were inspired by his relationship with his wife Vicki, who he met in high school and with whom he shares two children. Together, they penned the family cookbook The Adventurous Eaters Club, which was released in late 2019 (I spoke with Collins about that book at the time, and you can read that interview over on Hypable) and they were a couple over thirty years before recently separating, a fact that Collins revealed in the acknowledgements of his new book.
All of this to say: my interview with Misha Collins about Some Things I Still Can’t Tell You has been a long time coming, but for plenty of good reasons. I initially sent Collins a list of twenty questions — some long-winded and probing — and asked him to answer them in his own time. With all of that going on — not to mention flying all over the USA and to Europe for fan conventions — I’m just grateful he wanted to fit me in.
Collins was able to sit down with my questions a while after the release of Some Things I Still Can’t Tell You, but due to various scheduling conflicts, we decided to hold on publishing and save it to coincide with the release of the collection’s much-anticipated audiobook version. So when reading, there’s a little bit of timeline context needed, because this interview is in conjunction with the release of the audiobook, but it does not feature questions specifically about the audiobook recording process, because Collins had already finished his answers before the audiobook was announced. It also took place before his role as Harvey Dent on Gotham Knights was confirmed, but he went back and made an edit in order to reference it after the fact.
I also want to share a bit of context about the format and the approach of this interview, because it’s rather unusual, and truth be told, I was a little bit anxious about it. You may read the actual interview and feel this level of disclaimer was unnecessary or unwarranted, but I am making it anyway.
My aim was to do a bit of a Misha Collins deep dive based on the idea of the book’s title: Some Things I Still Can’t Tell You. Given that this is the most personal work that Collins has ever put out, these are some of the most personal questions that I ever would ask anyone in an interview. However, also it’s very in line with our mission statement here at Subjectify. I know that the Supernatural cast has gotten some doozies before, particularly at conventions, but I also know that in writing, things can feel more confrontational or lacking in tone, so — although I wouldn’t usually do this — I’m going to share some details from my personal approach to this interview as well.
Having covered his career both on Supernatural and off it since 2016, it goes without saying that I am very fond of Misha Collins. I respect him immensely, and I have interviewed him several times before. Collins was aware of my plan for this piece before seeing my questions, and he chose which parts he wanted to engage with. If we’d done this in person, I would have given him a safeword in order to move on from anything he didn’t want to answer. We applied the same logic to the questions in writing. I asked him to feel free to pick and choose which ones he most wanted to answer or felt he could be the most honest about.
“If you do not want to, or literally cannot, answer some of these — I get it. I am 100% sure you will not answer ALL of them anyway,” I told him. “I wanted to ask a bunch of questions that might be challenging, but that all come from a loving place. But the angle is to find out exactly what you can and can’t (or will and won’t) reveal. No hard feelings if you don’t answer. Hope you have no hard feelings that I asked.”
As mentioned, I sent a total of twenty questions — all personal, but ten that I felt were fairly “safe” and then ten that were decidedly more difficult. Everything here was asked entirely in good faith. He chose to answer fifteen — in one way or another — and chose to skip five. Any italics in the answers are his own emphasis.
Here’s what Misha Collins was willing to tell me.
The prospect of putting out a book containing dozens of moments that you know will be studied en masse by an audience that’s already closely invested (and sometimes inappropriately speculative) in the details of your life is a much more terrifying prospect, in my opinion, than putting the same book out to a random readership with no context about the author. This volume seems incredibly personal about your relationships, negative thoughts, mental health, secrets — among lovely positive things as well. How does it feel to have so much of your inner life on display to not only your friends — who know you, but maybe don’t know about everything in every nook and cranny of this book — but to your fans?
Shit. I hadn’t considered that! I clearly hadn’t thought this through, but it’s too late to back out now.
It is a personal book. The poems were written at different stages in my life, so it serves as something of an emotional time capsule for me. It feels a little strange to share my inner thoughts publicly, but for some reason I was compelled to have this printed anyway. I think there’s something that feels good about unmasking and making myself vulnerable at this stage of life.
I’m not an exhibitionist and many poems I liked were redacted from the final manuscript because they were too personal—so there really are some things I still can’t tell you.
Somewhat related: In my review, I was honest with the fact that I’m terrible at applying the concept of Death of the Author. I can generally only apply art to myself — use it to feed me, if you know what I mean — when I don’t have any context or investment in the original writer or their story. So to me, your poetry book will always be about you. When I read the poems, I am not thinking about them as universally relatable, I am thinking about them in terms of caring about you, specifically. I doubt I’m alone in that. You’ve said that this is an autobiographical work, but how do you feel about the fact that many of the book’s readers will be reading it more as a memoir of you than as a piece of art that will have new meanings to new people? (I plan to combat this by gifting the book to people who don’t know who you are. I am wistful for the experience of encountering this book on its artistic merit alone — it deserves that chance and that audience — but I wouldn’t trade that for my investment in you as a person.)
I hope some people find universal ideas in it and don’t just think of me when they read it, but I know some people will connect them to me. That’s really my own fault for putting my name on the cover.
Honestly, I don’t mind if someone reads it and thinks of me. It’s about me and my life. But every person’s relationship with media is subjective and personal to them, I just hope people take something from the book. If the poems feel personal to someone who reads them and they have no idea who I am, that’s great. If they contextualize it as being written by a beatnik kitten in a turtleneck sweater, that’s great, because that was actually my intention when I wrote them.
Whether anyone connects it to me or not, I hope people get something from it — even if it’s just paper for origami.
You’ve said that one of the poems in the book is from Castiel’s perspective. (My #1 guess is The Mother Of Learning, though I have some others: Downpour. Clasped. Reread. These Hours. Is one of these correct? I know you won’t tell me.) My actual question is: Cas aside, do you write poetry from other experimental points of view? Is every other poem in the book about you, Misha Collins? Or do you ever write other totally invented perspectives just to explore the idea of another’s experience or voice?
You’re right. There are some things I can’t tell you. And some I won’t.
Given that GISH and Random Acts both often feature acts of leaving random notes and creating anonymous art: have you ever given your poems to strangers, posted them anonymously, or left them to be found? (I have a friend who’s a huge GISHer, who used to leave letters and poems and things on trains with an anonymous email for the finder to write back responses. Some of the emails back were wild.)
No. I haven’t.
When it comes to poetry, do you find you’re more likely to set time aside with the intent to write, or are you more of a sudden inspiration kind of writer? What’s the oddest moment you’ve had to grab a random piece of paper and jot something down?
I would say it’s been a mix for me. Some poems came to me almost fully-formed when I was running and some poems came when I forced my ass into a chair in morning writing hours. There’s no real formula.
Connecting emotionally is obviously a huge part of acting, and a huge part of poetry. Do you have any thoughts on how these things overlap for you, or do they exist as wholly separate things?
I think they are all different facets of the same stone. If you are an artist and interested in expressing yourself, you’re basically doomed to try to connect.
A while back, you did an Instagram Live event with Yung Pueblo where you read each other’s work. Did having someone else read your words aloud give you a new perspective on your own work?
Diego read them beautifully. It was lovely to hear them in someone else’s voice, with different inflections and emphasis, and made me wish I’d chosen words that were harder to pronounce so it would be more challenging for him.
In some videos posted during lockdown, you said you’d discovered you were more extroverted than you thought — that what you thought was introversion, particularly at conventions, was in fact just sheer burnout. Now that in-person events are coming back, how are you finding that things feel or how they’ve changed for you, your castmates and the fans?
I’m definitely more extroverted than I thought I was, but I’ve also discovered that I may need to become resocialized. I’ve been traveling for some conventions and for Roadfood, my PBS television show, and it’s strange to be in the constant presence of other people. I find myself being overly demonstrative. I met my friend (and Bridgewater podcast co-collaborator) Aaron Mahnke, in the woods in Massachusetts and I tackled him like an overeager puppy. I need training—and maybe a shock collar.
The Ackles family, among other Supernatural cast members, shared a lovely post about reading the book. The book contains several poems about people from your life whom we’re aware of, like Darius. Who, of all the people that we might recognise from your life — your castmates, family, friends — were you most nervous about reading the book? Had anyone seen your work before? Who were you most eager to show it to?
I was most nervous to show it to my mom. I was also most eager to show it to my mom.
The title of the book is Some Things I Still Can’t Tell You. Are there things that you have told us (us being the public, fans, conventions) that you now wish you had not been so open about revealing off the cuff, either because things have changed, or because you don’t want to keep being asked about it? Are you worried about being asked about things in the book?
Yes. And no. That’s a really insightful answer, isn’t it?
I recall your story about how, when you started out at conventions, you decided to try a “persona,” and immediately found it ridiculous. Instead, you’ve become known as one of the most open celebrities on the internet — all of the Supernatural leads have, but especially you. You still hold back for personal privacy, but comparatively, you’ve given a lot of yourself to the fans over the years and I’ve listened to interviews where you’ve said that’s been draining, or caused parasocial issues. At the end of the day, do you feel good about taking that tack? Is it a net win?
I mostly feel good about it. In retrospect, there are things I would probably have been more guarded and judicious about, because there have been a few scary moments. But overall, I’d rather be myself, and I feel lucky that for some reason a few people connected with that.
You’ve said that you aimed to be an actor and get famous in order to use any platform or following that you established for good causes. Now that Supernatural is over, do you feel like you’ve achieved that to a degree you feel satisfied with?
Now that the book is here and Roadfood is under way, what is the next hands-on creative project that you think you’ll be doing? The Daryl Davis documentary, or something else?
I’m hoping to take a nap. Beyond that, I have a few irons in the fire, one of which, as you know, is that I’m portraying Harvey Dent in the upcoming Gotham Knights, so I’m really looking forward to showing off how two-faced I can be in that role. (I should probably just answer every question with the title of my book.)
You said you’ve written creatively about Castiel in this book. You also said once you had planned to write kind of a personal essay about Cas’s love story, and then decided to pass on that. Was that due to backlash? A lot of queer fans, myself included, really support you saying what you want to say. (I’d especially love to know about the lead up to episode 15.18 airing for you, any thoughts you had about what that episode was going to do, in terms of confirming and validating the queer lens that viewers that had been belittled and shamed for applying to the exact story that you ended up landing.) What kind of feelings do you have about Castiel becoming a queer icon?
I like that Cas is a queer icon. I’m proud of him and his journey, and honored that so many people seem to have found something in his story that resonates with them. But no, deciding to hold off on writing about the experience has nothing to do with backlash. If I ever do that, I want to make sure that what I’m saying is well thought out and it brings something of value to the discourse, and I’m not sure centering my voice is the right thing to do just because of the platform when there are so many queer voices that I could amplify instead. But I might write about it anyway. I don’t know.
How are you doing at the moment? Filming the new TV show, selling your home, going back to in person conventions with your cast, hip injury recovery, separation, kids, all of it? How are you feeling about this very juncture of your life? I very much hope your answer includes “loved and supported.”
“Loved and supported.”