“Supernatural” star Jared Padalecki has headlined the hit CW series for 10 seasons alongside Jensen Ackles, and, like many public figures, has used his name recognition and fervent fanbase to help support a number of charitable causes throughout his career, including A Dog’s Life Rescue and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Now, Padalecki has launched a T-shirt campaign through Represent.com to benefit nonprofit organization To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), which supports people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.
The CW’s actors are a philanthropic group, with Padalecki’s “Supernatural” co-star Misha Collins founding nonprofit organization Random Acts to promote and facilitate good deeds across the world, and “Arrow” star Stephen Amell continuing to raise money for F— Cancer through his own Represent T-shirt campaign. Padalecki credits Amell with inspiring him to launch his “Always Keep Fighting” shirt, which is on sale at Represent through March 17.
Variety spoke to Padalecki about his passion for the cause and his personal experience with depression. The interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity, but formatted to allow Padalecki to share his story in full.
Variety: How did the campaign come about?
Padalecki: I, for a long time, have been passionate about people dealing with mental illness and struggling with depression, or addiction, or having suicidal thoughts and, strangely enough, it’s almost like the life I live, as well. These characters that we play on “Supernatural,” Sam and Dean, are always dealing with something greater than themselves and I’ve sort of learned from the two of them that they get through it with each other, and with help and with support. And I, in the past, have had my own struggles of not [being] so happy with where I am in life, which is strange and I think it goes to show. … Maybe a lot of people don’t know this, but Season 3, we were shooting an episode and I went back to my trailer to get changed and just kind of broke down.
A doctor came to set and talked to me for about 30 minutes, or 45 minutes and said, “Jared, I think you’re clinically depressed. I think I should write you a note and we can shut down production for five days and then we can take it from there.” And it kind of hit me like a sack of bricks. I mean, I was 25 years old. I had my own TV show. I had dogs that I loved and tons of friends and I was getting adoration from fans and I was happy with my work, but I couldn’t figure out what it was; it doesn’t always make sense, is my point. It’s not just people who can’t find a job, or can’t fit in in society that struggle with depression sometimes.
Luckily, two of my great friends, Jensen who everybody knows very well, and my friend Kelly who I work with, came to my trailer to check in on me and talked to me for probably an hour or so and then, I was like, “all right guys, I’m going through a tough time right now. I don’t know what it is, but I’m just going to keep my legs moving. I’m going to keep fighting.” They let me go that day. They were like, “Hey buddy, go home. Call your family, and you’re off work. Come back to work tomorrow.” So I went home and the next day I showed up for work and just kind of gradually got better, but it’s something that I’ve been passionate about for a while. Then, Mr. Amell himself did a T-shirt campaign to raise money for F— Cancer and as soon as that happened, I think I saw him over the summer, he came to visit me in Austin and he was like, “It’s incredible. The fans have rallied around this great cause and are helping raise awareness.” Continue reading