The Cast of Smallville Reflects on NYCC on What Made This Superman Different
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The smallville cast can’t stop talking about Michael Rosenbaum. Although the actor who brought Lex Luthor to the small screen was not present at the Smallville cast reunion at New York Comic-Con, many of the panel’s anecdotes, jokes, and plugs were about him. Moderated by Walt Disney World entertainer Cameron Matthews, the panel welcomed John Glover (Lionel Kent), Erica Durance (Lois Lane), Kristin Kreuk (Lana Lang), as well as Clark Kent himself, Tom Welling – who hosts a smallville rewatch podcast “Talk Ville” with Rosenbaum. “Michael’s an idiot,” he said, “so it’s a lot of fun.”
Looking back on the series, which has run for 10 seasons and more than 200 episodes on The CW, it’s impressive that the show stuck to its character-based storytelling for so long and stuck to its “no flights, no tights” policy. Twenty years later, the public expects that superhero shows will reach the suit, the crossover event, and immediately reveal the great evil. As Welling told the other cast members onstage regarding the phrase “no flights, no tights” he wrote in his contract, determined that “we wouldn’t have lasted 10 years had we donned the suit in season 1. ”
It gave them the freedom to slow down, be a drama series, and not “behold” (Woordens Welling) to a particular comic book arc. Even a character like Glover’s, who could so easily be a campy villain, was humanized in the series. (The actor said the biggest compliment was when people stopped him in the street and asked if he should be a good or a bad guy.)
Refusing to take that easy route “made the show focused on what it should focus on,” added Durance, who was the geek on set and well aware that Lois at this point in Clark’s life according to the mythology. (Meanwhile, Welling later admitted that even though he knew who Lois Lane was, he didn’t realize until later in the series that Lana Lang was a cartoon character.) Durance’s high energy was such a change of pace that the writers began her incomplete and lapsed sentences. in the script to reflect the way she talks. Welling remembered asking him about it and said, “Why are they doing this? I can screw up these rules all by myself.”
The overall tone was funny and jovial, with Kreuk and Durance ribbing Welling and Glover all three. A running piece was that Welling was responsible for casting the show, when in reality – ironically, as an actor playing Superman – he wasn’t always aware of the power he had on set. “I didn’t want to cast Rosenbaum,” Welling joked, citing “his attitude” as the reason. “I just didn’t know we would click.” Durance said he is the only person she has ever sworn to on set. “Honestly, he isn’t,” she said.
“It’s nice of him,” Kreuk joked. ‘It’s nice of him. He pushes.”
One thing Welling (lovingly) pushed was jokes. Welling thought a few times about messing with Rosenbaum in later seasons when he was producer and director on the series. When Lex Luther was supposed to give a speech as President of the United States in Season 7, Episode 18, they wrote a two-page speech for Rosenbaum to recite what they knew wouldn’t make the episode, and didn’t tell him until he was on set that there was no teleprompter. “Didn’t someone put him in a green screen suit too?” Kreuk asked, and Welling sheepishly raised his hand and explained that they made him dance like smoke in a tight-fitting suit.
However, the temperature in the room became considerate when a fan asked about working with Christopher Reeve and Welling told a story about shooting with the late Superman actor in his last on-screen appearance before his death in 2004.
“Me and Greg Beeman, who was the showrunner at the time, flew to New York,” Welling said. “We had one day of shooting. Chris was only supposed to be there for about three hours and I think he stayed about six and a half […] The idea was that we would film all his coverage, he would leave, and then I would record all my stuff with someone else. But he wanted to stay with me, and it got to the point where his nurse said to him, “I’m going to call the police,” and he said, “Whose?” and she’s like ‘On you. You’re done. You can’t be here.’ He just wanted to be there and I think it turned out great. I didn’t know what to expect, but one thing he didn’t want you to feel was feeling sorry for him.’
Ultimately, that dedication was something the entire cast can relate to, and one that they think the show will hold up to all these years later, even without tights or flights. “Family,” Glover said. “It’s about family. It draws everyone in. We all have families, and this one was special because there was a very special boy.”
“I think it’s the craziness that makes you special,” Kreuk echoed. “Everyone has that desire, that thing that makes them a little bit strange or different is what really sets them apart. It’s kind of an ambitious dream.” It’s comforting to see stories where those values prevail when the world or someone’s personal life is tough. For Welling, it’s the simple concept of identity that makes superhero stories so much fun: smallville recognizable to everyone, no matter who they are: “Who am I? Why am I here? What should I do?”