The Texas Department of Transportation is not usually in the business of distracting drivers, but that's the hope with Jensen Ackles at the wheel of its latest campaign.
The Richardson-reared actor is the spokesman for "Heads Up, Texas," the organization's effort to educate Texans about the dangers of distracted driving.
"They reached out. I said, 'Absolutely.' There you have it," he said via phone.
His answer is laconic. But one doesn't have to wonder long why TxDOT chose him for the role: Ackles spends a lot of time behind the wheel of a beloved 1967 Chevy Impala as Dean on The CW's long-running hit Supernatural, which returns Oct. 11 for its 14th (!) season.
"We've been going for quite a while," Ackles said and laughed. "I'm very happy I still like telling this story, I still like playing this character."
In Supernatural, brothers Sam (another son of Texas, Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester battle the forces of evil by hunting them down and destroying them.
When Ackles isn't on the set in Vancouver, he takes a break from the battle by easing into home. That's even though he's "enjoying the nice weather up here in the Pacific Northwest."
"While I'm working, while I'm filming, I'm back home either every weekend or every other weekend," he says. "It's a pretty well-oiled machine."
That's the hopes for the TxDot campaign, too. Ackles understands that he "was kind of a good fit." After all, he was "born and raised in Texas. My family lives in Texas. I now live back in Texas."
He, his wife and their three children live in Austin, where he also co-owns a brewery. He says he and his brother-in-law started making their own beer in the backyard.
"It was crap," he says. But they enjoyed the process and it kept getting better. So ... brewery, because "at the very least, we'd have some good beer to drink."
In his role in the campaign, he's educating, too. Here are his tips:
- Put it in the glove compartment, put it in the console, put it in your pocket.
- Keep the ringer off.
- Utilize the technology [to disable the phone while you're driving]. It's there for your safety.
And he's holding himself to the rules, too. And has been for a while.
"Of course, I've been guilty of it. I've become more aware of just how distracted you can be," he says. "Back when the show started in 2005, cell phones were around but it was flip phones. They weren't these smart devices that you become incredibly attached to. There was quite a bit of film we did on the show where my character was on the phone. As the smartphones became more popular and that issue became more of an issue, we actually made a conscious effort and I personally made a conscious effort to not do that on the show anymore. I just don't want to promote that kind of thing."
So for now, like his character on Supernatural, he's busy saving lives by promoting the other thing: Distracting Texans from their other distractions, one driver at a time.