Interview with former (possibly future) Lex Luthor John Shea!

Interview with former (possibly future) Lex Luthor John Shea!

At St. Louis' first Comic Con, actor, writer and director John Shea (famous for his role as Lex Luthor in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Kane in Mutant X) tells us about his time on the two shows, a possible return as Lex Luthor and his plans to see the Man of Steel film later this year.

[John was a very nice man and more than willing to do the interview. I learned alot from talking to him and I hope you all enjoy seeing things from the unique perspective of Mr. Luthor himself.]



Me: “You and Dean had a very compelling and interesting chemistry as Superman and Lex Luthor, was there anything in particular that happened to make it work so well that got the audience so attracted?”


John:” Ok I’ll tell you that were both naturally competitive people, I mean we both did football in college for example. He played for Princeton and I played for Bates and so if you are an athlete, you are by nature, somebody has to win. And so for me, Lex Luthor was that kind of guy who wanted to win, he wanted to beat but he was bored out of his mind at the beginning of the series because he was the richest man in the world, he was on top of the universe, he controlled Metropolis and he didn’t have any challenges until one day a guy in a cape flies under his balcony and top of his building and Luthor looks at him and says “Well ok, let the games begin!” right because now, I got somebody to, uh, who’s cooler than I am right? That said, ok, you think your so great let’s level you off so I’m gonna through you a series of curve balls, and fast balls and knuckle balls and sliders and splitters and I’m gonna, I’m gonna try to strike you out man because I’m the boss right? And yet, he keeps hitting my balls right? (laugh)”


Me: “Right.” (laugh)


John: “Out of the park sometimes right? So that’s where the rivalry comes in. Now for a guy like Superman, he’s a guy, now from Lex Luthors point of view, Superman is a trust fund baby. He’s a guy who doesn’t deserve anything because he inherited everything. He like a rich boy’s son. Luthor is a kid who came up from the streets, who earned everything he’s got just because he’s hard working, super serious, extremely competitive and totally ruthless right? But Superman, is a guy who..”


Me: ”Just kinda rolls in…”


John: “He rode in in a limo and got out with a…ya know…leap taller than the tallest building and run faster than a speeding bullet and bah, bah, bah. You know what I’m saying? So how fair is that? So Luthor doesn’t have a lot of respect for him the way a kid who’s from the streets doesn’t have a lot of respect for like a rich kid from the suburbs, who just got handed everything.”


Me: “I don’t think a lot of people have ever really looked at it that way…and it makes a lot of sense that Superman kinda strolls in and takes away from those who work hard.”


John: “That’s right.”
Me: “…and despite Luthors methods, he has a reason.”


John: “That’s right”


Me: “And it’s a reason people in everyday life can relate to.”


John: “That’s right. So anyway, that’s the way I thought of it from the very beginning. and then I brought that to our sense of competition because I thought, ok, let the best man win but I…but Luthor seriously believes he is the best man ok, for those reasons.”


Me: “Mutant X was a very successful show with high ratings. Um, just for your fans, what were your feelings when the show was cancelled?”


John: “Disappointment! Because, it was a global success, it was playing in 150 countries around the world, it was created by Marvel Comics because they had created the Mutant X/X-Men mythology many years before Warner Brothers, I think, owns Marvel Comics…and then they approached the Tribune entertainment (company), which is the company in Chicago that owns the Chicago Cubs and the um, Chicago newspapers, right?...And then those two companies went into partnership with a company in Canada called Fireworks, which is in partnership with a much larger company, and I forget the name of that company, but it was a big comedian conglomerate that had lumber, and mining, and hotels and shipping and airlines and they were worth billions of dollars so the television business was just one arrow in their quiver and after three years of doing Mutant X, they got tired of, of that part of the business. They realize, ya know, it’s more trouble than it’s worth then for whatever reason and they said,” Were gonna close our television investment branch down” and that meant Mutant X was out of luck and there was really nothing we could do about it because of the tax advantages and the exchange of the Canadian-US dollar they were, that Warner Brothers was enjoying in Canada and the whole thing got shut down and so we had to find a way to end it very quickly so that our fans would be satisfied because I was really angry for our fans. Because why would it suddenly end? When it was a success? And so the answer was things we could never really explain to our fans, financial pressures we were under. So we then tried to find a way to gracefully end it. But they also, this Canadian company, you can look it up online, they broke my contract. I was guaranteed 22 episodes in that final season and they said, and I agreed to the contract, and…and they broke it. They said “Were not going to pick up your contract at all” and I said “What?” and they said “Yea, well we wanna save money and so screw you” and I said “Really?” So I hire the best lawyer in Los Angeles and we threaten to sue them and knowing we were in the right, um they…we made a deal with them which was that I would come back in the third season of Mutant X, I think, like 12 instead of 22 episodes and the deal for me was that I could live with the writers and find a way to end the series gracefully and bring it to a logical conclusion for the fans around the world and that’s what we tried to do…They were horrible. Horrible. Greedy. Didn’t care at all about the series and um, well anyway, the actors really did (want the series back) and Warner Brothers really did, Marvel obviously did so we fought to bring it to a conclusion.”


Me: “As far as both Mutant X and Lois & Clark…would you, either by yourself or with Dean come back for, say like a tv movie a where is Superman and Lex is now or with Mutant X for…where the team is now or would you consider doing a web show?...Would you be willing to do that, is that something you might do in the future?”


John: “I write and direct films as well and I’m about to direct my next film, I’m in pre-production for it right now, a film called Grey Lady ok. It’s a thriller and, but, let me just say because I’m writing and I already have my next film that I wanna direct…after that, so I don’t have time to write something like this. So I would need someone to write it and then bring it to me or to my agents, my managers, and figure out a way to do it but yes…I’m open to anything. I work anywhere, anytime, all over the world and I work in the theatre, I work in film, I work in television, I write, I direct and I act and so I feel like, um, if somebody came up to me with a good idea about doing a webisode, let’s say with Luthor, now here we are 25 years later, 20 years later ya know? And what Luthor’s like as an older guy and ya know, what’s happened to his life. It might be really interesting. Uh, I would be happy to do it, it just has to be well written, and then bring it to me…and I’d try to make it happen.”


Me: “As far as your current projects, are there any you want to talk about or you want the fans to get to know so you can start getting more people into it?”


John: “Well I got this one card here, I can give you a copy of it, it’s opening this summer. Leah Thompson and I shot in St. Louis many years ago, like 15 years ago and she played my wife in this film called A Will of Their Own, it was a mini-series I think for NBC and it was about the women’s…movement and how the women came to get to vote. It was a historical epic with Faye Dunaway was in it and Ellen Burstyn and all these great people and…I played her husband. So, we became friends and many years later, like two years ago, she was asked to star in a film called The Trouble with the Truth and then director asked her who she wanted to star opposite of and she said John Shea. So…she and I connected and shot this film now, listen, go online and check out the reviews for this film because if you go on Rotten Tomatoes, we have the best reviews of any film in the country, with the exception I think of Argo, which is tied with us, with like 90% approval rating by audiences and critics. So it’s gonna be a hit, it’s coming out this summer and…it’s an independent film so it’s not theatrical release but people will be able to find it on Pay Per View and television eventually, and on DVD…The Trouble with the Truth. And then I’m also a new recurring character on a series for CBS called The Goodwife. The Goodwife is in its fourth or fifth season on CBS, Julianna Margulies stars in this thing and then I’m a new character on that series and I’m having fun doing that but my main artistic focus this time is the writing and directing of this film that I’m gonna do this spring called Grey Lady. G-R-E-Y L-A-D-Y and it’s a romantic thriller set on the island of Nantucket and I’m Boston and is being produced by Beacon Pictures, Beacon is like the lighthouse, Beacon right? Anyway, I’m the director and I’m in pre-production of that right now.”


Me: ” Last question, this year, their getting ready to release the new Man of Steel movie, new Superman movie, do you have any intentions on seeing it?”


John: “Yes man… you know, since I was a little kid, I was always in love with the whole Superman mythology and, ya know, later on as an adult I came to understand why we are so affected the Superman mythology and I started studying Psychology and Greek Theatre and when we studied Frederick Nietzsche, the great German philosopher, and he wrote about “Das Übermensch”, right?”


Me: “The Superman.”


John: “The Superman. The Overman. And he said that it is within the human nature always to look up to someone greater than you are, to aspire, to need to aspire and so the Greeks had this in Greek Mythology and the Romans had it with Roman Mythology and so many years later, they created the Superman mythology which is simply a modern incarnation. So, what Jerry Siegel did was that he tapped into that old concept, that old mythology, Greek and Roman and he made it a new American mythology. He made a modern mythology and instead of having Gods, like the Greeks and the Romans did like Zeus and Apollo…we called him Superman. We had him descend the way the Gods did in the old mythologies and, anyway, and so of course we aspire to be super, right? We aspire to be stronger than we are, we aspire to be a good guy the way he is…and so…when I was a little boy, I was the kid who was always hiding under the covers with a flashlight at night, my mom would say “it’s time to go to bed” and I would be under the covers reading Superman or some of the other superhero roles because I wanted to be great ya know, and so I feel really lucky to have been part of this whole mythology and certainly I’m happy, and Dean and I was talking about this today, we realize that it has been our responsibility in this lifetime to carry the torch for those years. For those during the 90’s. Now the torch is being passed to new guys and those guys will carry the torch and then those guys will get old and die and then the torch will keep on going and I’m going to predict that 100 years from now, it will be a Comic Con someplace and someone will be asking some other Lex Luther the same questions and that’s the way it goes. So it’s like you’re up. I’m it right now but the next guys are coming up fast.”


Me: “There’s always respect for the classics.”


John: “There’s always respect for the ideas, the writers, the superhero and it’ll still be here when you’re 90 years old. Respect to the master right and so, anyway, I’m so lucky to have been a part of this world and I try my best to live up to the responsibility.”


-Check out the reviews for "The Trouble with the Truth" starring John Shea on Rotten Tomatoes and keep an eye out for him on CBS' The Good Wife.
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