SMALLVILLE 20th Anniversary Exclusive Interview With Stars Tom Welling & Michael Rosenbaum

To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Smallville and the release of The Complete Series Blu-ray box set, we got to sit down with stars Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum to talk about the seminal DC series.

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To commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Smallville and the long-overdue release of Smallville: The Complete Series 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray box set, we got the chance to sit down with series stars Tom Welling (Clark Kent/Superman) and Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor) to talk about their time on the beloved DC series.

We spoke at length about the legacy of the show, their memorable portrayals of the two iconic DC characters, that potential animated revival, reconnecting with former friends and castmates through the Inside of You podcast, introducing the show to new generations, what they're working on now, and a whole lot more!

Check out the full video interview below and keep scrolling for the transcript!


ROHAN: It’s been ten years since Smallville ended and I know you guys have both been active on the convention circuit. What is your perception on the series’ legacy now after meeting so many people - like myself - that grew up watching the show versus when you guys finished filming?

TOM: "For me, I’ve grown more of an appreciation for being on it. Talking to people who’ve seen it, and watched it with their families, their fathers. I had no idea that was what people were feeling, so my appreciation for Smallville has increased since we stopped."

MICHAEL: "I feel the same way, I think you go to conventions or wherever, you see the people that it made a difference with and it really resonates. Now, that you can watch the show on Hulu, it’s pretty much universal, seeing new younger audiences, it’s awesome. It’s an amazing thing to have a show stand the test of time and we have. It started in 2001 and now we’re talking about it in 2021, that’s a good thing."

TOM: "That’s very true, and by the way, it’s quite rare that a show lasts that long and it has a resonance that allows us to come back and revisit it and then allows us to now be in business together to create another show based upon…"

MICHAEL: "Yes, life and the history that we have, we’re working on stuff together and we’re working on a Smallville animated series with the creators and hopefully, we’re getting that going soon and we’re working on a show that I wrote that Tom and I will hopefully star in. It’s funny cause on the show, we were friends, I mean not Lex and Clark, but we were friends as Michael and Tom, but we never hung out because the last thing Tom wanted to do after working all damn day was hang out with anybody and now that it’s over, we have time to sort of…"

TOM: "Do this."

MICHAEL: "Yeah, do this! *Tom laughs* Here we are at my house, in the Hills, and we’re enjoying it, so thanks for having us."

ROHAN: Tom, you were in a unique position where, as the lead of the show, you must've had some say in how or when the series ended, sort of setting the precedent for the Supernatural and other DC TV guys. When did you know that Season 10 was the end of the road? 

TOM: "Listen, I respect your question, but that’s not what happened."

MICHAEL: "What happened? Because I don’t know!"

TOM: "We ran out of stories. It wasn’t me raising my hand and saying I’m done, it really wasn’t, it was a collective experience with even Peter Roth, who was head of Warner Bros. at the time, who I spoke to, and I wrote the ending of the show with him and part of it was like, “Dude, Clark has to go on, he has to move on.” We ran out of story."

MICHAEL: "And Tom wasn’t a boy anymore, he was getting older!"

TOM: "And I was like 47 years old by the end of the show."

MICHAEL: *laughing* "Not that old."

TOM: "But, I respect your question, but the show had literally just run its course and it wasn’t me wanting to leave, it wasn’t anything else, it was a collective thing, and very rarely does a television show know it's coming to an end and we had that gift. They were like, “Okay guys, this is the last season, let’s go out with a bang.” And that’s what we did."

MICHAEL: "And for me, Rohan, a lot of folks thought that I quit the show and that wasn’t the case at all. My contract was through six years, I did seven, I did an extra year and I just felt like I wanted to explore other worlds and I felt like I had done all I could with seven years and 160 episodes of Lex and I came back for the series finale, which was really rewarding. Not only for me, but for fans, and the crew, it was awesome."

ROHAN: Tom, you are the only Superman actor ever to have worked with Christopher Reeve... did you ever ask him anything about playing the character or do you remember any advice he may have given you?

TOM: "I remember him just being one of the most gracious, awesome people I’ve ever met in my life. He said to me, “I’m so glad that they chose you to be the next Superman.” And I was like, “Well, they didn’t.” *laughs* Because he was talking about the movie and he immediately said, “Well they should have.” And this was after filming with him for six hours and I think I was, I’m in awe, I’m a fan.

MICHAEL: "I was jealous!

TOM: "Obviously when you say Superman, that’s who I think of, so I was very much in awe and it’s treasured in my heart, that experience for sure.

MICHAEL: "I wanted to go, I was like, “Can Lex go? Can Lex show up in Dr. Swann’s office? That would be cool"

TOM: "That would’ve been very interesting."

MICHAEL: "I was just a huge fan, I’m a big fan of Christopher Reeve.

ROHAN: Tom, a photo of you with Brandon Routh and Tyler Hoechlin went viral not too long ago, and Michael, I've seen you interact with Jon Cryer on social media - what kind of conversations, if any, have you two had with your successors? Have they ever reached out for advice?

TOM: Well, no one’s asked me anything. *laughs* No one’s reached out.

MICHAEL: Jon Cryer has been just extraordinary, I mean he posts that he thinks I was the best Lex Luthor and I am just in awe and honored and it’s really sweet.

TOM: When I did the thing, it was like the meta-verse?

MICHAEL: Oh, the multiverse!

TOM: And I walk up to him, to Jon Cryer, and he goes, “I’m Lex Luthor,” and I say, “You’re not Lex.” That was such an easy line, you know what I mean? Because to me, this is the guy. *points to Michael* It was so easy to look at somebody, like if you were like “My name is Tony” and I’d be like, “Nah, you’re not Tony.” *shaking his head* So, this is my Lex. *pointing to Michael* There may have, I mean Gene Hackman was great and whatnot, but Jon Cryer, God love him, I hope he was here when I’m talking about this, but he’s not Lex. Not to me, not to my Clark.

MICHAEL: Not to his Clark, yeah. And Jon does a fantastic job and it’s just when you’re working with someone so well together and so long together, that’s always, he’ll always be my Clark, I’ll always be the Lex and that’s the chemistry we have on- and off-screen.

ROHAN: Michael, Lex is such a complex character, but you play him with such charisma and delivered a performance that, to this day, most still dub the definitive portrayal of Lex Luthor. What was it about your audition or what did you understand about the character that others didn't?

MICHAEL: First of all, I was nervous as hell, I thought everybody, all these fans are going to hate me and I’m not going to do well, do this character right, do it justice and we weren’t really around social media then, so it was great that I didn’t have to have the internet to go through, and go, “Oh, you’re messing it up! You really suck!” I didn’t have to deal with all that, but I sort of approached it as whatever anybody else did, that’s what they did, let’s be real, let’s be grounded, learn your lines, hit your mark, trust the writing, trust the direction, trust the creating and then I got lucky, I just stuck to my guns where I’m not going to be too evil. I’ve learned a lot of things to be deep and I have -

TOM: It was a story before the story

MICHAEL: Story before the story, before he becomes Superman, before I become evil Lex Luthor that everybody knows, I had a long way of sort of develop my character and we had backstory and I think it was the most detailed character.

TOM: The idea that we had multiple episodes over the course of all these seasons, you get into the actual character, where the films don’t allow that, the film is more about plot, getting it done.

MICHAEL: Evil Lex!

TOM: Television does allow you to delve into character and it’s something that’s lacking in the films now, but that’s not the film’s fault, it’s just—

MICHAEL: It is.

TOM: Okay. *laughs*

MICHAEL: I think that the character development in any movie, any TV show, any project, whether it’s a play, if you can see where the character is coming from, and understand his upbringing, something that makes you feel for a character, that goes a long way and I think that a lot of movies, not saying superhero movies, but we don’t care about people and you need to care. We had a long time to develop that, but I think backstory is huge and character development is huge.

TOM: We also had time to work together, all of us, we ended up caring about each other and that feeds into the character development.

MICHAEL: Yeah.

TOM: Like there’s Kristen, or Erica, or you or John Glover, we care about these people and we care about the characters. In a film, you see somebody, maybe you see them in four scenes in the movie, you don’t even have time to know their last name or if they had kids or not, but on a TV show, you get to know people and that transcends. 

ROHAN: Tom, you have two young sons, who are eventually going to grow up and realize that their dad was Superman. Have you thought about how you're going to broach that subject and introduce them to the show?

TOM: Well, I’m just going to say I played Clark Kent.

MICHAEL: *laughs and imitates Tom* I wasn’t Superman, kids.

TOM: I wasn’t Superman, I was Clark Kent. That’s how I’m going to lead and I’m sure they’re going to be like, “No, no” But yeah…

MICHAEL: It’s going to be a lot of fun for you watching them.

TOM: It’s going to be a lot of fun for them and it’s going to be fun for me because, at the time when we were doing Smallville, I didn’t necessarily enjoy that aspect and now that I have kids and I see that they’re gonna, I see them watching things and I’m like, Man, when they figure this out, it’s going to be— 

MICHAEL: Exciting!

TOM: Hopefully, exciting. 

MICHAEL: Yeah, I think it’s going to be great.

TOM: Or they’re just going to be like, “Eh, I don’t know” But, we’ll see. 

MICHAEL: I try to let my dog watch the show but there’s not a lot of input. *Tom laughs* I don’t have any children, so what’re you going to do.

TOM: My sons are going to be like, “You were Lex Luthor?” *laughs* 

MICHAEL: Sometimes my friends will come up to me, like years later, and be like, like Chris was like, “Dude, you were the best Lex Luthor.” And I’m like, “Why didn’t you tell me this while I was working on it?!” And he goes, “I just always really loved your performance.” I think friends are weird about stuff or like opening up and I was just, “Dude, that means so much to me!” Definitely when your peers and family like something you do, it’s good.

TOM: Well, you know, as a writer, like you write something and then like somebody’s like, “Dude, I just read that shit, that was awesome!” And you’re like, “Thank you!” And then they wait a while and you’re like, “Well why didn’t you tell me that a little while ago?”

MICHAEL: Instant gratification! We are actors, we are artists! We need that! 

TOM: It’s the same thing! *laughs*

ROHAN: Michael, I'm a huge fan of your podcast, which has really allowed us fans to get more insight about all of you - Tom, Erica, Kristen, Laura, John Glover - and learn more about you as people. It's rare that a cast stays this close so long after a show ends, but you seem to really cherish these relationships and have really made an effort to stay in touch. What has the podcast allowed you to learn about your friends that you maybe didn't realize when you were working opposite one another for most of a decade?

MICHAEL: I have ADD, so it’s hard for me to concentrate and focus and when I put those headphones on and I sit there and talk to someone, I’m just enveloped in the moment and I think that’s what happens is I just really focus, I’m zoned in on that person entirely and when actors or writers or whoever is a guest on the podcast open up and give some insight into their world and we see what makes them tick and we see how much adversity they faced or they get anxiety like Stephen Amell had an anxiety attack on the podcast and you see that they’re human, the human element in these podcasts, that is what makes me happy. I think podcasts are best then.

TOM: But I also will say that I feel, and I’ve been on your podcast multiple times— 

MICHAEL: You’re going to be on next week too.

TOM: And I watch it, you’re genuinely interested. 

MICHAEL: I am.

TOM: And that comes across like he’s genuinely interested. Like I’ve tried to watch other podcasts and people are just throwing questions out, and it’s “Eh,” but he’s genuinely interested like you can’t [frick] with him. Like he actually is listening to you, he’s paying attention to what you’re saying and he’s going to keep you on-point. 

MICHAEL: I try.

TOM: There’s a genuineness.

MICHAEL: Thank you!

TOM: Is that a word? Genuineness?

MICHAEL: Yeah! Why isn’t it a word? And by the way, the podcast is called “Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum,” so please subscribe and listen, and Rohan, thank you for that. I really appreciate that. Tom, you’re next week and it’s been almost a year, maybe you should come over to the house and do an episode and we’ll have it for December.  

TOM: I’d rather not. 

MICHAEL: Okay. Great. Thanks. 

ROHAN: You mentioned the potential animated revival earlier... are you allowed to say anything else about that yet?

MICHAEL: Not really. I mean, Tom and I—

TOM: It’s happening! *laughs*

MICHAEL: We got this going and I’ve hired artists and we got the boys Miles and Al, who created the Smallville involved, and we’re waiting for the right time. They’re doing the Tim Burton series right now overseas and when they get back, we’re taking all these meetings and we’re going to hopefully—

TOM: It’s happening!

MICHAEL: We want it to happen, it’s a great idea, the people behind it are great, so hopefully Warner Bros. will see what we see and work with us. It would be a freaking delight.

TOM: The idea is that we get as many of the original cast voices from the characters. 

MICHAEL: Like Erica to play Lois, and John Glover to play my father.

TOM: Kristen!

MICHAEL: Bring in guests and new guests, and new people from the DC world and really create a new world and I think it would be a lot of fun.

ROHAN: Awesome, yeah HBO Max, man!

TOM: Actually a very good place for it.

MICHAEL: Yeah! I think that would be great. 

ROHAN: Tom, I have to ask, were you ever asked to return for the final season of Lucifer?

TOM: No, I mean, not to… no. 

MICHAEL: The answer’s no. He did a season, he did an arc! 

TOM: I did an arc, they actually wanted five episodes and then I was like, “Well, if I’m going to do five, I might as well do ten.” And, they said okay and so that the third season that I’m in, that was all on purpose and I wish they’d asked me back, but they have not. It was fun, you would’ve loved it too, that set, like Lauren and Tom, ran it like we did, in a sense, like welcome, have fun, but get it done. So, I was like this is fantastic and I was a fan of the show before anyways.

MICHAEL: That’s great!

TOM: Yeah, I don’t know why they didn’t ask me back, maybe it was something I did wrong. 

MICHAEL: I don’t think so, I think a season of you with an arc was what they wanted and that’s what they intended to do.

TOM: There’s your answer! *laughs*

MICHAEL: They wanted five episodes, you did ten. I was going to do six seasons, I did seven seasons of Smallville. It’s the same thing. There’s no rhyme or reason. It’s just like, “Hey, this is what it was.

TOM: By the way, it’s never really up to us. 

ROHAN: Both of you have experience directing some of the best episodes of Smallville - Michael, you've also directed a feature -  have you guys thought about getting back in the director's chair?

MICHAEL: Yeah, I would, I’m looking at some stuff now. I’m a big horror movie fan and I got a couple horror movies written and I’d like to direct and I did my own feature, this raunchy comedy called Back in the Day, and made it for pennies and I just did a couple shorts and I really enjoy being in control behind-the-scenes and sort of make everything better.

TOM: And navigate the tone.

MICHAEL: Navigate the tone, I really enjoy that and I know Tom does too. I think he’s really great at it, so you should definitely do it.

TOM: Well, we’re working on something that we’re going to do about characters that maybe just finished being on a successful or relatively successful television show, but I think that’s something where you could direct that.

MICHAEL: You could direct that easily.

TOM: Well, I could direct it, but you’d be better at it.

MICHAEL: No way! I’d be— anyways, we love directing. That’s what we’re trying to tell you.

TOM: It’s fun to be apart of, it’s all storytelling, as long as you’re making everything better, it’s good. 

ROHAN: Tom, you seem more inclined to do something like Professionals, and I know you were developing another spy drama, Section 13, a few years ago at CBS while Michael, you seem to lean more toward comedy with a show like Impastor. You've alluded to working on multiple projects together, but what would you say. is maybe the project best suited for both of your talents?

MICHAEL: I mean, the one we’re working on right now is called Zeroes and I won’t tell you anything else about it, but it’s just a world that would be fun to do everything, direct, it’s fun to write, it’s fun to act in it with Tom, and other — it’d just be a really great time, so we’re developing that, we’re pitching that, we have a pitch meeting coming up in two weeks and we’ll see what happens, but we’re going to keep going forward and moving forward trying to do things, tackle things that we have passion for that we want to do, that we want to enjoy because I think you have to have an element of fun in everything you do and so that’s kind of, at my age, that’s what I look at, what I look for and that’s finding something that I can have fun with.

TOM: By the time you turn 30, you’re going to accomplish it. 

MICHAEL: Oh yeah, when I hit 30, man, I will be going backwards quite a few years. *both laugh* Well, thanks Rohan! This was great!

ROHAN: I know we’re out of time, but before we go, I just wanted to say that you guys really meant a lot to me growing up. The show ended when I was 19, at the end of my freshman year of college, and Clark’s story of being an outsider and finding his place in the world really resonated with an Indian kid in high school, who despite not really looking like Clark - you know, I was an average height and was more ruggedly handsome than classic All-American and funny in a non-obvious way - and I was born-and-raised here in America, on the East Coast, but still often felt like an outsider trying to figure it out, and I guess I still am. So I just wanted to say, this has been so freaking awesome. You guys are the best!

TOM: Al and Miles, without them, you gotta talk about them when you’re talking about us.

MICHAEL: Yeah because I think without their vision and without their tone, without them casting us, I mean there is no show, but I appreciate that. I appreciate that a lot of people come to us and say, “Hey, I was just trying to navigate high school and figure myself out,” It makes us feel good, so I appreciate that.


SMALLVILLE: THE COMPLETE SERIES - 20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION Blu-ray box set is now available!

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