Recently, I had the privilege of having a wonderful conversation with Kim Rhodes, a talented and skilled actress who plays the sharp, direct Sheriff Jody Mills on “Supernatural.” Besides being charming, hilarious, quick-witted, candid, sincere, warm and an absolute pleasure to talk to, she is one of the best conversationalists I have met in a while. I found her to be every bit as approachable as the character she plays and I have a feeling, that once people have met Kim, they don’t forget her. I know I won’t!
Kimberly was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She has one sister, Jennifer, and both she and her sister are avid “Supernatural” fans. Rhodes graduated summa cum laude from Southern Oregon University earning her B.F.A. in Acting and then graduated from Temple University with her M.F.A. She resides in Los Angeles, California with her husband, photographer Travis Hodges, and their daughter Tabitha.
Kim began her career on the soap opera, “Another World” (1964), as Cindy Brooke which earned her a nomination, along with Mark Pinter, for a Soap Opera Digest award as “Favorite New Couple.” She is best known for her work as Carey Martin on “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” but she has appeared in over forty movies and television series’ such as “Galen,” “The Suite Life on Deck,” “Without a Trace,” “A Kiss at Midnight, “Desertion,” and “House M.D.”
We first met Jody in “Dead Men Don’t Were Plaid” where she is calling Bobby out on his nefarious shenanigans. She very quickly learns the reasons for Bobby’s rather shady tactics when zombies, two of which are her son and husband, decimate the town.
She has since appeared in four additional episodes and has been one of the few female characters to survive the on show……so far. Needless to say, she’s hoping for many more opportunities to play Jody and maybe, just maybe, get to delve further into her and Bobby’s budding romance. I think it goes without saying that many fans wish the same thing.
Here’s hoping we see Kim back in Vancouver for a few more “Supernatural” episodes. Like any woman on this show, Mills is pretty bad ass and sassy which goes hand-in-hand with saving people and hunting things. I think there is a lot of Sheriff Jody Mills in Kim Rhodes and I’d love to see more of her on the series.
I hope you enjoy reading the interview as much as I did writing it. Kim talks about her career, her roles, her experiences on the set of “Supernatural” and has a special message for “Supernatural” fans everywhere.
Many, many, many thanks, Kim, for taking the time to do the interview. You are an extremely blessed individual, a lovely person and I wish you as many episodes of Sheriff Jody Mills as you want.
You have a Bachelor in Fine Arts from Southern Oregon University and a Master in Fine Arts from Temple University. So did you know at an early age that you wanted to be in acting?
No…not till I got into college. I was going to be an English teacher and I took my first acting class in college, so I could stand up in front of kids and amuse them. And so that’s what sort of started it. I was always kind of a dramatic attention seeking child, but it never occurred to me that that could actually be a career. In fact, it still kind of doesn’t really occur to me that it can be a career. [Laughs] You know a paycheck you can count on would be a really awesome thing!
But its fun acting isn’t it? You get to be so many different people, do so many different things, and go to so many places.
Well you know the interesting thing about acting as a career choice is so little of it is actually acting. So much of it is auditioning and trying to get the right contacts, trying to get the right agent, or trying to get the right opportunities. I would say that an average middle class worker, somebody who is not on a television show but who is still making it about where I am, acting takes up probably 22% of my life….of my acting career. The rest of it is head shots and advertising and auditioning and getting the call, and getting a manager and being in contact with agents, and writing and connecting, and basically getting the opportunity *to* act that takes up most of my time.
Actually its three kinds of stage combat because rapier and dagger is one thing….its knife and full knife. I laughed and wondered how anyone can get certified in just dagger. But yeah that was part of my graduate training.
I’m sure I would have to be re-certified for it since I haven’t exactly had a call to use it since then. The hand-to-hand comes in handy a lot but [for] the hand-to-hand usually you have a choreographer on set. So, for the most part, you’d be amazed how often I *don’t* get to use a broadsword in my daily life.
LOL! Well on “Supernatural” that could be another issue all together.
I KNOW! Actually it would make more sense in this day to have gun training for young actors…knowing how to pump a shotgun and get it loaded would have come in more handy.
Do you think the stage combat training is part of the reason you were selected for the role of Jody Mills?
No. I don’t think they looked at that. Jody, as far as I knew, was just a onetime shot and there were a lot of different physical types at the audition. There were 8 of us and we were all kind of an array of ages and body types and colors. So I think they were just looking for somebody who could commit to the material.
It was tough at the audition because they don’t really set it up for you. You’re in a room where everybody is on couches staring at you. It was the scene where I realize my son had just eaten my husband and I freak out. And that was the audition scene…this massive, high, emotional reaction.
In the waiting area, all of the women were sitting there at the same time and the casting director came in and one of the gals knew him and she went, “Hey, hey, hey we’re not going to use this entire scene are we?” And he goes, “Yes.” She goes, “It’s impossible. You know this is impossible to do at an audition.” And he just shrugged and goes, “Its “Supernatural”. They expect you to do it.” And when he said that, I was like “This one is mine. This is my job.” When you’re asking people to go to extremes and then go further, I’m ecstatic.
So I just went in and committed. And I think for something like “Supernatural” that’s really it, because the rest of it is done for you. The writing is great and the characters are amazing and the story line is fabulous. So if you can show up and commit, your job is halfway done. More than halfway done I’d say.
With all the background you have, having been in 5 episodes now, would you like to have Mills go down the path of being a hunter.
Would I ever! They have a new season and they are back up and running again and people are like, “Are you going to be on season 8? Are you going to be on season 8?” And I’m like, “I don’t KNOWWWWWW!” [Laughs] “Write and tell them you want me back!”
You know, they’ve got good show runners that are much smarter than I am. I can only think in my own terms but I think it would be a good thing to have Sheriff Mills back. I mean look at Sam. He’s all by himself and who else is going to help him?
I agree! Sheriff Mills is in law enforcement, she has access to information only a sheriff can get, like she did in the episodes, and she knows what is really going on. Most people don’t. I would love to see Mills back.
Yeah!! I would like to see it from a fans point of view. I would like to see them with a female, but more of a mother figure than a romantic figure. I’d like to see them with a female friend somebody who could handle her own shotgun and be a benefit…be another pair of hands for firepower.
I’ve always thought the series would benefit from having a strong female character as an associate, a friend, and another hunter. That’s kind of what Ellen was but then they killed her off.
Yeah, and I know that’s ultimately what would happen. If I do come back any more, it would be because I was coming back to get killed. But I’m okay with that. That’s a chance I’m willing to take. But I’d love to go back.
What about the role appealed to you most when you auditioned? Was it just that they expected so much during the audition or did you actually like the character of Jody Mills?
Oh, I loved the character of Jody Mills. Again, that’s what my job is, to make choices that are not written in the script. I have to go in and to try to watch what she does, to think “what is her response.” The audition scene that made it to the screen, the final take is Sam going in to finish the job. In the original scene he [Sam] said “Do you want to,” but that’s where it ended and I made the decision to respond, “Yes, if somebody is going to shoot my son in the head, it’s going to be me.”
So that right there, that polar opposite is fascinating to me. That woman is all mother. And I am a mom. I think there is no more burning, fiercely, defensive love than a mother’s love; and yet she is willing to then get a shotgun, and put her son down. They didn’t show that, but that’s what I played.
So, I love playing things that seem to be opposite. I love playing extremes and I love playing two things at the same time in ways that doesn’t get muddy, that blend together. You just want to go from one extreme to the other. And the further apart those extremes are the more exciting the role is for me usually.
Were you familiar with the series before you auditioned for the role?
Oh yeah, yeah, totally. One of them, I think it may have been the second episode I did, Jensen was actually directing. And he’d speak to me and I’d nod and nod and “yes absolutely” and then he would walk away and I’d be like “what did he just say to me?” You’re going to have to list everything he just said. [Laughs] It became a little… it was very exciting and I still get a little twittery, and squeaky and weird around them. And they know it. They teased me about it. I think it’s amusing to them. But I do enjoy it [the series].
And when I found out that they were killing Bobby, I started to cry. I actually started to cry! And on the one hand I should have known he’d be back, but I was clinging to Bobby. And I thought, “Well that sucks for me. But OMG! You can’t kill Bobby!”
You were not alone. Many fans felt the same way. In fact one of my questions was how did you feel about Bobby’s death, as the two characters seemed to be developing a close personal relationship.
Well it doesn’t appear he is off the series yet. He is still listed as a guest star. So it’s possible he will show up in season 8 yet. Only time will tell.
At the conventions, you have such positive reactions from your fans. Did that surprise you?
Yes! I still think they think I’m someone else. I’m still trying to figure out who they think I am. Because on any other show in the world, you’re up there five times [and] people don’t remember you, people don’t know who you are. It’s like “yeah, you’re there to facilitate the storyline.”
But it’s been amazing and humbling. I honestly really credit the writers for a lot of that because they‘re the ones who created a character that the majority of the fan base can really relate to. Like there aren’t a lot of women on the show that the fan base can look at and go, “Oh there I am. That’s me.” And I think a lot of the fan base can look at Jody and go, “Yes that’s where I fit into the scheme of things.”
In some of the convention footage I’ve seen, you seem to have quite a talent for comedy.
Is that your own personality coming through or is it part of your acting ability?
Oh God No! They told me I couldn’t do [comedy.] My undergrad professor actually said, and I quote, “Kim, you’re not funny. You can’t do comedy.” All through grad school, I was kind of a joke because I could not do comedy. It wasn’t until I got out of school, and did this play directed by this amazingly wonderful woman and I said to her “you don’t want to cast me in this role I can’t do comedy.” She said, “You don’t do comedy, you act.” And I thought,” Ohhhh…that’s a novel idea.”
So the personality you see is me. I know there’s a great joke, “Woo you’re an actor, are you acting right now?” Well, either I’m always acting, as are all of us in life because you want to present a certain persona, or I’m never acting unless there’s a camera on and I’m being paid for it. So I’m not sure who I am. I certainly don’t edit myself; God knows I don’t edit myself. If I did that I’m sure I would offend a lot fewer people. That’s kind of my perspective on things and I don’t hold back at conventions.
So you enjoy the conventions than?
I do. Because I come from theater, and in theater there is immediate accountability to your audience. And your audience is vital always in this concept. It’s a two-way communication. It’s just so easy to forget that you are performing a service when your audience isn’t present. It’s easy to start thinking it’s about you, it’s about the process, it’s about the character and it’s not, it’s really about the audience. Because if an actor acts in a forest and there’s no one around to applaud nobody is really acting. So the conventions re-create that accountability and the immediacy and the fact that these are the people that I am working for, and I love having that. Admittedly I love a lot of it because I didn’t know if I could play it. You know maybe if I showed up they’d go, “You suck on stage!” But for the most part it does my heart a lot of good to put faces to the people I’m working for.
When you went from theater acting to camera acting, was that a difficult transition for you?
Yes. The first camera I did was soap opera, and I kept trying to turn out towards the audience which is where all the people were standing, and then I’d lose the camera. You’ve got to find your camera. I worked with a woman, named Linda Dano, for a few weeks who would talk to my character and she would put her hand on my arm because she was moving me towards my camera and into my light. And there was another actor who stopped in the middle of the scene because there was no light on my face. So the other actors were very instrumental in my looking out for the camera and finding my light and making it look natural.
And then I did “Star Trek: Voyager” and Kate Mulgrew gave me amazing help on how to work with props and dialogue. If you set silverware down, you make sure you’re setting it down when you’re taking a breath in your line. You don’t put it down on your dialogue otherwise the sound records over your line so you have to go in and re-record it. So it’s little things like that they don’t teach you in school but I had a lot of really incredible actors helping me out in that transition. And I don’t know how I would have made it without them.
You have been in five episodes now, which was your favorite, which was the hardest for you to do?
Oh, wow, I love them all. I really love the relationship between Jody and Bobby, and I don’t remember the name of the episode but it’s when I went back to his cabin and helped kill the Leviathan [“Slash Fiction”].
I think that was my favorite episode because you got to see another side of Mills, kind of rye humor and the vulnerability that wasn’t forced. In the first one she was vulnerable because her son was a zombie and that’s the kind of vulnerability that comes from ripping your guts open. But that [“Slash Fiction”] was a really lovely voluntary vulnerability and they had some great moments together. I just thought the relationship was so lovely and fun. So I think that was probably my favorite episode to do.
I did really enjoy the first one though for its extremities; for its extreme emotional arcs, but they didn’t really blow the shit out of anything since that time, so I was like, “Aww, come on Bobby! Let me shoot some stuff!”
And then that last episode “Time After Time,” I thought that was going to be my favorite because in the original script I got the kill the bad guy. I was so fricking excited. But because I had agreed to do the episode, and because I was going to be out of town at that time, I lost two national commercials and a recurring on a television show. That’s a lot of money and a lot of jobs. But it was like “I don’t care! I get to kill a monster! Who needs those jobs! I get to kill a monster!”And then I got up there and they had rewritten the script and I was like, “Oh come on!” So, yeah, I was so happy I sent them all cookies and then I get up there and they had rewritten the script. That just goes to show you how little power I have in the grand scheme of things. I don’t even get to keep my shiny kill. I have no power. LOL
So what was it like working with Jim Beaver? Was he as polite and talented in person as he appears on screen?
Oh, just delightful! He’s so good he makes you better. He’s the kind of person that is so present and so available. You get on stage with him and [know] everything is going to be okay. He knows what he’s doing, but it’s not that kind of ‘he’s so good he makes me feel intimidated.’ He’s so good it’s kind of like “Hey, whatever is going on, I’m having a party and you’re invited. Come on in and have a drink.” It’s really an amazing, automatic collaboration with him. He’s available and present and if I have questions I always feel comfortable going to him.
The other thing is he’s so good and so out of my league as an actor, and yet when I have ideas that might be fun little things, like I said it’s my job as an actor to bring things to the script, he’s very receptive. And as early as Bobby’s place when I break Rufus out of jail, I wanted to play kind of opposite a little like, “Why would I be doing this if I weren’t weirdly attracted to this guy.” And Jim picked up on that and said, “I think we should play that. I absolutely think we should play that there is some weird inexplicable attraction between the two of us.” And in the edit of course, they cut all the moments we made because they were like, “Well that’s not the story we wrote. We’re not going to play that.” which happens to be the story of my life. But the fact that he took the toys that I brought and went, “Yes that sounds like a great game. Let’s play.” It’s really a huge honor to work with an actor of that caliber.
Yeah, well they are all great to work with. There is not a dud on that set. I’ll tell you one of my favorite stories. The very first scene I ever had to shoot was the scene where everyone I know is on a funeral pyre and we’re burning all the zombies. The town has been decimated, all of the zombies have been rounded up and shot in the head and now I’m burning everyone…including my child and my husband. So, that’s kind of a shitty emotional thing. We were doing it outside and I hadn’t really officially met Jensen and Jared but they were riding around on their little motorcycles and playing football. They were being boys! And I’m thinking,”Oh shoot. I have to ramp up this massive level of emotion and they’re being boys.” It’s their show, it’s their party, it’s their house and I don’t call the shots at all. So I’m just going to kind of breathe and know that I’m going to have to be biting the pill on this one.
And we set up for just rehearsal because they don’t technically even need to be standing there cause they have stand-ins, and they both walked over and Jensen goes, “Okay what do you need?” …and just landed such an emotional, “We’re here for you. What do you need?” And they were both present and clear and not kidding around in the least. I know that they play tricks and they joke and they have fun and they make a really amazing set, but at the same time when I needed to hit a really extreme level of emotion, they were completely willing to be of service to me.
And they had me there. I can’t think of a more generous amazing offer. And they didn’t have to be at the same level of emotion. They could have just kidded around and continued to play football the entire time if they wanted too. But they came over to me.
Fantastic story. I have heard and read so many awesome on-the-set Jensen and Jared stories. So many people say it is so wonderful to work with them.
They are unbelievable. The other thing is now that they know me a little better, they are willing to tease and joke, but they never do anything that makes it hard for me to do my job. So the questions, “Have you ever been pranked…or have you ever been …?” No…because they don’t want to make it hard for me to do my job. I really love that about them because again a lot of other actors, especially by the seventh season, PLEASE…they aren’t even on set when you’re doing your coverage. They just have somebody else read their lines and they’re back in their trailer. So Jared and Jensen do not do that. They both are there, they are present, they do their jobs and they make a team effort.
Do you prefer playing the good girl roles or the bad girl roles?
I like anything that is well written. I do Shakespeare a lot and Shakespeare heroines are so intricate and interesting and multifaceted and human. I also like playing extremes and usually the bad characters are the ones that are written in extremes. The good characters are being acted upon and the bad characters are doing the acting. And I prefer to be pro-active. But in good writing, you’ve got good characters that are being pro-active and have multiple layers and different facets and cause and vulnerability. If it’s well written, I love it. It’s the kind of thing you can just skate on. So I am fond of good writing, and which flavor the character is, doesn’t matter. If they have written it well, I’ll play it.
In the episode “Weekend at Bobby’s” you were directed by Jensen. How was that experience for you?
That’s what I was saying earlier; I kind of had to get over my star-struckedness pretty quickly. I’ll tell you this is another interesting thing. Being directed by an actor can go one of two ways. A lot of times actors think they can direct because they have been directed a lot. And what ends up happening is the technical director or director photography do their jobs for them and they just tell you which door to come in.
Jensen, on the other hand, was really very good. He knew exactly what he wanted. He knew exactly where shots were going. AND, because he was an actor, we had one moment that he came up to me with the script and said, “You know this line right there? What are you doing with that?” And I looked straight at him and said, “Saying it really fast so we can get to the next line because I don’t know what I’m doing there.” And he goes, “And that’s exactly what it looks like.” [Laughs]
He goes, “Let me remind you…” And he didn’t tell me how to do it differently; he just brought up a couple of things, “remember this, this, and this,… and you do this, this and this.” And I was like “Ohhhhh…that makes total sense! Okay!” So then we went back and shot it again and then I did know what I was doing with the line, so I had control and did my thing. And then all he did was he just nodded ‘good job’ and that was it. It wasn’t like, “That’s what I was looking for! You’re a genius!” It was just ‘good job’ and it was done. I felt like “Babe.” That’ll do pig. In a good way.
Another thing that happens a lot of times when actors direct other actors, they tell them how to act the role. It’s “No, no, no, you got to do it this way. You’ve got to do it that way.” Only because that’s how they would do it themselves. And Jensen was just like “Hey looks like you’re having a little bit of a problem with this moment right here. Let me remind you of this, this, and this and that might help.” And it did.
To me, that is an ideal director. I don’t want someone blasting for 15 minutes about my character’s childhood or my motivations, and I don’t want someone who will just let me flounder and not notice when I kind of think “what is this spot?”
You have played many characters in your career. Which is your favorite and why? And you don’t have to say Jody Mills.
Oh no…It’s Viola, Viola in Twelfth Night, one of Shakespeare’s plays. I was working at a Shakespeare Festival in Spring Green, Wisconsin. American Player’s Theater, and already, outdoor Shakespeare is the ultimate experience of theater for me. The incredible use of language that came out of that playwright and then this woman who is destroyed, everything she knows has disappeared. And yet her optimism and love with the man she can never have, she goes, “I’m going to be okay. It’s just being creative and coming up with how to deal with things.” She is just such an amazing spirit, an amazing character. I really love her.
In terms of actual jobs itself however, I really would say Jody Mills. It’s my favorite job I’ve ever had. It’s my favorite television because Shakespeare doesn’t pay that much and I still have to pay my rent. It’s in Vancouver and it’s with an amazing group of people. She’s incredibly well written, nuance and subtle yet fearless. I really love playing Jody. I would be happy playing her the rest of my life. She’s a great character and I think [now] they let me do more.
When I show up they don’t just make me move around scenery. [In] a lot of shows our job as a guest star is just to show up and say, “Well you know last February when such and such happened. She said that you were going to such and such.” And that’s your job. It’s just to deliver the material that lets the real actors do their job. But “Supernatural” really lets you show up and play. I like that.
If you weren’t an actress, what other profession would you be interested in?
Well I originally went to college to be a teacher. I think I would make a good teacher. I could teach acting, I work with students. I like that. I’m afraid that the school system is set up now where it would probably burn me out pretty quickly because I have a slight issue with authority. [Laughs]
During a period of time when I wasn’t working a lot, I actually looked at my alma mater to take a teaching position there, but I couldn’t because I had never taught at any colleges.
I also think that I would truly enjoy being a dog trainer. I do work with dogs as an amateur trainer, if I could make a living at that.
I don’t think it’s any secret to anybody who’s read my blog that I reallllly want to be a writer, either. I wrote before I acted and it’s the one thing I always turn to that gives me creative joy, no matter what.
And my secret wish, this is going to sound really, really weird, but my secret wish is to be a bartender. I could really be a good bartender. I think I’m old enough now where I wouldn’t be the hot little number that the boys are hitting on, but be a maternal figure that can explain food and tell customers to bug off and they’d laugh at me. I just need sleep too much so I don’t know if I would do well with the hours. But other than that, I think I’d be a good bartender. [Laughs]
So what about you? What are your expectations for your career? Do you have any new movies or shows coming out that you could tell us about?
Well, I just shot a movie that’s probably going to be a little controversial. It’s called “Atlas Shrugged: Part 2-Either-Or.” They shot part one a few years ago and then they couldn’t get the whole cast back. They moved the writers; they did everything all over again. So now I’m stepping into someone else’s shoes and playing a role that was already established. But everybody is different so I guess that is not a problem.
It’s based on Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged.” So it will probably be controversial based just on the subject matter. But I had fun shooting it because of this director and producer that I’d worked with before. I [had] shot “Beethoven’s Christmas Adventure” with them.
It was a great experience and a very different role for me to play. I was playing a very hard core archetypal ice queen character. And that was fun.
So have you had any calls for “Supernatural” yet?
Not yet. And they are already in the first production meeting; I guess that means they would have already made calls for the first three episodes. So, no…. nothing for Jody.
Well I guess we just have to see if and when Jim Beaver comes back.
Yep, that too. I don’t know…I guess the last one I was in didn’t have Jim in it. And I know they mentioned me at some point when I wasn’t even there like, “Go get Sheriff Mills if you need help.”
But, again, that was when there was a different show runner. You can have someone come in really be familiar with the show but he might want to take everything in a vastly different direction. So they are smarter than I and they owe me nothing. They have already been far more generous that I ever thought. Every time I’m asked back, it surprises me.
So while I just hope and wish and pray that I can come back… everyone hopes and wishes and prays they can come back. And if I do that will be one thing and if I don’t, I am so grateful for what I did get to do while I was there.
I think most fans hope they bring you back and maybe fans will write the series and tell them they want to see more of Jody Mills.
Yes! Let them know! Write them! Send letters! Go, go, go, remind them that I exist. They might not know.
Thank you so much for the interview. I think you are a wonderful conversationalist and I can’t wait to see you at Chicon this year. I have my photo and autograph tickets all ready.
Yea!!! Remind me who you are when we meet. This is the other thing. If I can ask any thing of my fans, when they are standing in front of me, tell me what their twitter names are. Because I get so upset when someone walks away and I’m like “Wait that’s Livvy. Wait come back! You proposed to me… on Twitter. How could you not even tell me who you are when you are standing face to face with me?” [Laughs]
There are definitely Twitter followers that I really feel like I have a relationship with. So when they are in front of me and they just had to get an autograph and walk away, I want to connect what I know of you with who you are when you are standing in front of me.
Remind me who you are. We need to click the synapses together. You know “I’m the one who said this, this and this.” And sometimes I won’t remember, because there is a lot of stuff going on in my brain at those conventions. But other times there are moments where I go, “Wait. Somebody just walked away from me that I had a really important conversation with on Twitter and I just know it was you.” And people are like, “I’m too shy to tell you,” or “I didn’t want to bother you.”
Actually, I don’t fake shit for fans. So when I say something is important to me, or when I respond to somebody, or when I interact, it really is real. So tell me who you are.
So ended an absolutely wonderful interview. I enjoyed my time immensely with Kim and I can’t wait to see her at Chicon this year and I will definitely tell her who I am!
I want to thank her again for taking the time to share her “Supernatural” stories with me and I really hope she and Bobby get to finish that romance. Truth be known, Jim Beaver made the same request at Comic Con this year!
If you would also like to see a Bobby/Jody romance, write to the series by sending your letters to Jeremy Carver, c/o Supernatural, 4000 Warner Blvd., Burbank CA 91505.
And if you don’t already know, you can follow Kim on Twitter at @kimrhodes4real.