How ‘Supernatural’ Star Misha Collins’ ‘Nomadic’ Childhood Shaped His Parenting Style

Fans have come to know Misha Collins as the lovable, determined, sometimes naïve, trench-wearing angel Castiel on Supernatural. The character quickly became a fan favorite onscreen and Collins was turned into a series regular. Like Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, he’s loved off screen too and is part of the larger Supernatural family.

Family. It’s one of the overarching themes on the show, but in real life, Collins is a dedicated family man with a wife and two children. He recently penned an essay on what it was like for him growing up with his single mom and brother, and admits that although life was somewhat “adventurous,” it’s affected how he parents.

Misha Collins
Misha Collins of ‘Supernatural’ | Getty Images/Gary Gershoff

Collins had a storied childhood

The actor wrote a piece for The New York Times and shared that he and his family would sometimes live in the woods in a tent. Because his mother would frame things in a whimsical, fun way and they were young, he didn’t really realize they were on occasion, homeless. If they weren’t in a home, Collins and his family would be camping out in a car (or tent), jumping on freight trains, or hitchhiking, bouncing from place to place.

“Instead of passing the time with Play-Doh and papier-mâché crafting like other families, we made cardboard signs that read “No Nukes” and carried them proudly at marches all along the East Coast from Washington, D.C., to Seabrook, N.H.; along the way, we learned about the Cold War and civil rights and chanted, ‘Power to the people!’

We hopped into slow-moving, empty boxcars on freight trains and scored hot meals at soup kitchens. Occasionally, on our journeys, the kindness of strangers would bring unexpected bounty.”

Moving around often meant Collins had difficulty forming lasting friendships, but he still went to school and hung out. He mentions it was hard to call a place home.

Why he felt some parts of his youth were ‘dangerous’

Now that Collins is older, he feels his childhood wasn’t always the safest, and compares some of his experiences to that of his own children. He feels some aspects of his youth were frightening.

“At 9 and 7, my kids still find most Pixar movies too scary, but when I was 10, I was getting sunburnt working on a cucumber farm and was haunted with recurring nightmares about nuclear holocaust after watching apocalyptic movies at the art-house theater with my mom.”

“Mom didn’t have money for babysitters, and sometimes when I was as young as 6, I was left alone to watch my little brother. We survived, but in truth, 6-year-olds make pretty terrible babysitters. I once sent my own 6-year-old downstairs alone so I could get another half-hour of sleep, but I was soon awoken by a high-pitched scream. My daughter, set on making me breakfast in bed, had coated the kitchen floor with olive oil so that she could rollerblade more swiftly while making waffles.”

He’s more conscientious of what could be considered risky for his children, and spends more time interacting with them so they can avoid what’s “dangerous.”

Still, Collins found lots of love, happiness, and warmth in his upbringing

One of the things that sticks out to Collins the most from those days is that in spite of their circumstances, his mom always made sure they had a warm meal. Upon reflection, he discovered that it was something that kept their family close and as kids, gave them a sense of safety and home.

“Whether she was cooking chicken soup on an electric hot plate or we were sitting on a log eating eggplant parmesan prepared on a campfire, Mom fed us with thoughtful attention. She showed her love daily through the food she cooked.”

Those memories and the hustle and bustle of his adult life made Collins stop and think about what his own family has been missing when it comes to the magic of a family meal. He’s chosen to practice new habits with cooking and sharing food with his kids, and that’s now culminated in a new book co-authored by his wife, Vicki Collins. The Adventurous Eaters Club hit stands on Nov. 5.