'Supernatural' at Comic-Con 2012: Jared Padalecki on Sam's year without Dean and more

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jared-padalecki-comic-con-2012.jpgWhen Zap2it broke the news that Sam ( Jared Padalecki) would have a new recurring love interest this season on "Supernatural," we did so with a degree of trepidation. Female characters and love interests typically haven't fared well on "Supernatural." Still, new showrunner Jeremy Carver is kicking off the season by introducing new character Amelia ( Liane Balaban) as an important part of Sam's life.

At San Diego Comic-Con, we sat down with Jared and asked him what makes this love interest different from the ones we've previously seen on the show. "Sam and Amelia's relationship was not at the expense of Sam and Dean's relationship, because it wasn't Sam spending time with Amelia instead of Dean," he explains. "Dean wasn't around, so we'll see what happens, and I know we're going to see more of Amelia currently. She's a lost soul and has her own issues as well... It's never going to be a soap opera about Sam and Dean's girlfriends and wives. We'll touch on that and how it concerns Sam and Dean's relationship."

When Dean disappeared at the end of Season 7, Sam was pretty hopeless. Season 8 jumps ahead one year to a time when Sam has abandoned hunting -- partly out of necessity, since he was left with no contacts and no leads last year, and partly because he thinks he's earned it.

"Sam actually got out of the life," Jared confirms. "Without Bobby, without Cas, without Dean, with no Kevin in sight and Crowley taken him God knows where -- Sam finally went, 'You know what? Everybody I know is dead. I'm gonna leave. I have nothing anchoring me back.' He didn't have a voice in the back of his head saying 'Find this,' or 'My brother is in Hell.' He didn't know [Dean] went to Purgatory. He was just gone."

In Season 1, Sam still had hope that he would one day lead a normal life. In Season 8, he finally gets there. "We see in flashbacks that he enjoyed himself," Jared says, noting that while Sam is happier than we've seen him in a while, he did grieve. "Happy has an asterisk because he lost everybody. It wasn't lollipops and candy canes, but he was moving forward. He was moving forward outside of hunting."

Unlike the last time Dean died, Sam doesn't degenerate into a life of anger and alcoholism. "It wasn't like an 'I Know What You Did Last Summer,' tortured, alcoholic existence. It was kind of like, trying to get his s*** together."

As he told us back in May, Jared liked the idea of exploring Sam without Dean for a while. "We almost talk about it like three characters. There's Sam, there's Dean, and then there's Sam-and-Dean. Sam-and-Dean is really number one on the call sheet," he says. "It's about two brothers and what they do together; that's the lead in the show... but I really always wanted to flesh out Sam. I think it makes Sam-and-Dean stronger. I think it makes Dean stronger. We didn't see a lot of Dean in Hell, but we will see a lot of Dean in Purgatory."

When Dean returns, he'll be a little bit resentful of Sam's clean break, and a little bit surprised. "Dean's kind of like, 'You didn't see all this stuff in the papers? You didn't look for our kind of stuff?' and Sam's like, 'Well, of course I noticed strange disappearances, but there are other hunters out there,'" says Jared. "He's trying to be level-headed, and not put the weight of the world on himself. He thinks he's given enough."

Check out the video below for more from Jared -- including, obviously, a very important conversation about his sideburns. The show returns October 3 at 9 p.m. EST, but in the meantime, you can catch more of Zap2it's "Supernatural" coverage here.

Photo/Video credit: Zap2it