Though his nonprofit charity Random Acts, Supernatural star Misha Collins was able to provide rural families in Nicaragua with the means to travel to get the secondary education they’d otherwise be unable to access. However, a school bus was just the first step – this year, Collins and Random Acts have set their sights much higher and are intent on building an entire school complex.
In an exclusive chat with PEOPLE, the actor, 40, reveals why the mission is so important to him and how having two children of his own – West, 4, and Maison, 2, with wife Victoria Vantoch – has altered his perspective when it comes to his charity work.
Collins also discusses his character’s storyline on Supernatural and what it’s like to work with Jared Padalecki, whose on-set antics are the stuff of Supernatural legend. (“There are times,” Collins acknowledges, “when Jared is not somehow molesting me below the [camera’s] frame.”)
So, you’re hoping to build a school in Nicaragua. You’ve done work there before; can you tell me what’s important to you about that place in particular and the cause?
There are places pretty much in every corner of the world where we could be doing something that would benefit someone, but one of the criteria that I have been trying to use is selecting places where we have relationships with people who are native to the area and who know exactly what is needed and how to navigate the system there. Otherwise, it’s almost impossible to give something useful.
Nicaragua is the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and there is a tremendous amount of need. In the rural community where we’re working, these kids live too far away from public schools, and the government does not provide adequate schooling nor adequate transportation. So, we’re building a school complex that is going to service this rural community, and it’s going to be free to students.
You have two children yourself – has that changed your perspective at all when it comes to helping children in need?
Having kids has helped me realized how lucky we are. Looking at these kids in Haiti, for example what they have to endure is so tragic, and we are afforded such great luxuries and have so much. It’s really something to be grateful for. Having a kid and then seeing another kid who is deprived not only of adequate food and shelter but sometimes a parent or any kind of love and affection in their lives is really, really hard to see.
The first kid that was brought into the orphanage/community center/school that we built in Haiti had been he was 2 years old, and his mother had died. When his dad had to go to work, he chained his kid to a table. At 2 years old. That was his childcare. That’s just incredibly hard to see and not be impacted.
The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, or, GISHWHES, has opened registration for its fifth consecutive year. How many sign-ups would you need to build a school in Nicaragua?
Well, GISHWHES is a for-profit and Random Acts is a nonprofit. GISHWHES is really expensive to run; if we were to run that as a charity, it would be a really inefficient, terrible charity. So, we run that as a for-profit and we donate what we can to Random Acts. Last year we ended up donating $50,000 to Random Acts. We hope to do better this year!
I’m also organizing a trip to Nicaragua and the first 25 people to raise $5,000 apiece can join that trip, and the money for that will go to the school, as well. We are at around $70,000 for the school now, but our target is around $500,000. Hopefully we will get there this year.
Moving on to Supernatural, Castiel and Sam have been working more closely together lately. Given that Padalecki is notorious for trying to make his scene partners laugh, what’s that been like?
It’s actually been great working with him! You may have noticed the tone of surprise in my voice, there. Probably should work on that a little bit. But it’s been great, and I think it’s time for our characters to get to work with one another. There are times when Jared is not somehow molesting me below the [camera’s] frame, and there are times when we get a shot off without laughing. They are few and far between.
I’ve noticed that a few things help. If Jared is tired, if his kids kept him up late or if he’s hungover it tends to go a little better if he’s worn-down. Then he has less of his impish antics. If he’s well-rested and feeling fit, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’m in for trouble.
So, basically, you’re telling me that you know how to sabotage his life so that you can get through a take.
Castiel has been a little bit lost this season. What does he need to get back on track? What’s next for him?
What’s most important is his evolving relationship with Claire Novak (Kathryn Newton). I think that it is providing a conduit for humanity that is new and more important than anything he has ever experienced. He feels a real sense of responsibility for her, and it’s almost a familial kind of dynamic for him, and that’s very new and captivating for him.