The end is near for “Smallville.” The two-hour series finale this Friday brings an end to the decade-long saga of Clark Kent, as portrayed by Tom Welling, a young man in search of a future that is, well, super. The rural youngster has grown up — he’s even sold the family farm — and the show’s final flight will be a major moment for The CW. Our Geoff Boucher caught up with executive producers Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson to talk about a show that is going up, up and away.
GB: This must be a bittersweet week for you. You must be going through a lot of complicated emotions right now.
BP: That is absolutely correct. It’s very sad to see it go but also there’s just great pride in seeing what everybody has accomplished in 10 years and over the course of the whole show — people who are here and people who may not be here right at the very end but have been a part of it.
GB: The show had different chapters to its run and as it went on we saw a widening of the hero and villain ranks with more and more characters from the DC universe. What were the challenges as you went along?
KS: The challenge is trying to bring two-dimensional characters to life. Sometimes it’s more successful than others. It’s very difficult to make a costumed character who can fly — or whatever it may be – seem organic to a television show that is being filmed on Earth with gravity and things like that. Luckily, we have been able to rely on our amazing wardrobe department and our incredible cinematographers that we’ve had and fantastic directors and fantastic actors who could really get in the head space of making this a real world. It’s one thing to sit there and imagine what Metallo is going to come to life as but it’s very different to see it on a screen and it’s always a huge risk and we’ve been very lucky to have great people we can lean on to make it fantastic and somewhat believable.
GB: The show moved away from “Smallville” in emphasis quite a while ago and even Tom Welling has said that the show’s title could have switched to “Metropolis” in a way. Was that a concern as you balanced your brand with the necessary trajectory of the story?
BP: In a weird way “Smallville” wasn’t just about where it was set even though he did live on the farm for almost the whole series. It was more about the coming-of-age birth of a hero and the spirit and growth of a hero. He was not ready to become the hero that everyone knows as Superman. We tried to stay true to a lot of the themes and the visual palette of the pilot but as he grew and Clark became a different person and came into his own the show had to do the same. We took all of that in. In the finale, in fact, Lois calls him [by the nickname] “Smallville” again.
GB: What sort of pressure did you feel as far as this finale — did you feel the need to put Clark in the Superman suit and tie up every single loose end or did you approach more from the idea of “What’s the best story we can tell?”
BP: At the heart of it, it’s always about Clark and his journey so that took the forefront of any other issues. But I think that, facing the finale, we had the season to wrap up, we had the series to consider and the more earnest, farm-bound origins of the show; and then we had to think about where do we fit into the greater mythology. At the heart of it, luckily, was Clark and Tom was a really good partner with us in finding that balance.
GB: Superman has become like “Swan Lake” or Shakespeare, every generation revisits, remakes, revises and revamps the source material again and again. There’s going to be a new Superman film coming but then also a “Justice League” film and there may be a Superman television project down the line that connects back into this one. Would you be surprised if you saw Tom Welling in one of these other endeavors wearing the red-and-blue suit of Superman? Or do you think he will walk away for good?
KS: It’s funny I actually never think about the two [television and film] crossing over, in a strange way. “Smallville” had such a life of its own. So oddly, I never really think of it in that way.
BP: It’s interesting because he makes such a great Clark Kent and would make a great counterpart as well but I think he’s dedicated 10 years of his life to this era, in that story, and I feel like with this finale he’s really done it justice.
GB: He’s owned the role of Clark Kent longer than anyone, which is interesting since, onscreen, the character goes all the way back to the early 1940s. That’s impressive in and of itself, isn’t it?
BP: It’s not the easiest character to play. He’s the most amazing person on earth.
KS: It’s really difficult to write a character, too, that is so earnest and to do it without making him boring, honestly. I think it’s very easy to say, “Oh he always tells the truth” and “Oh, he’s always polite,” but Tom and the writers did an amazing job making him a well-rounded, three-dimensional character without making him a caricature of a simpleton. A lot of that was Tom and what he brings to it, who he is as a person. He has a sense of humor and all of those things went into making him the perfect Clark Kent and that’s something that is hard to duplicate.
BP: And the whole cast. What’s so funny is that, of course, sci-fi isn’t exactly a front-runner in the Emmys ever, but their performances have to bridge such an amazing range. They go to the Phantom Zone, they go to Earth 2, they die from kryptonite, they’re hung from wires — the range with which our actors have to embody their characters always impresses me. The way they rise to the occasion, from Erica Durance to Cassidy Freeman to Justin Hartley and Allison Mack — everybody on the show has done an amazing job.
[FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this post had an incorrect spelling of Erica Durance's last name]
– Geoff Boucher
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