‘Smallville’ ends 10-year run on CW
“This was not a show about Superman.” That’s what star Tom Welling says about “Smallville,” which has spent 10 years charting Clark Kent’s progression from his teen years into young adulthood, putting the native of the planet Krypton at the brink of becoming the Man of Steel. A landmark show for the then-WB Network before it merged with UPN to become the current CW, the DC Comics-inspired adventure wraps up its run with a two-hour finale Friday, May 13.
Many details are being kept under wraps, but wedding thoughts are certain since Clark (played by Tom Welling) is on the verge of marrying his true love, reporter Lois Lane (Erica Durance). However, his mind also is on two foes: the powerful Darkseid and the sly Lex Luthor, the latter played again by former series regular Michael Rosenbaum (now a co-star of Fox’s “Breaking In”).
“We shot the actual finale as our third-tolast episode,” reports Welling, who also has been a “Smallville” executive producer and the director of six episodes. “We shot two more episodes, then shot the first part of the finale last. It gave us the opportunity to take a look at what would be the last image of the show in post-production and make any changes or adaptations to it. It didn’t necessarily take the emotional pressure off us, but the time pressure.”
Even if the very last scene was done weeks before production on “Smallville” ended, it still had its impact on Welling.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” he says. “As we were shooting it, everyone’s senses were heightened. People were flying up from L.A. (to Vancouver, where the show has been made) to supervise and make sure everyone who had to make a decision was there. Everybody was just really excited, and the energy level went up.
“I would imagine it’s like the last mile of a marathon,” Welling adds, “where the adrenaline kicks in and really allows you to finish strong. At the same time, it was ‘Make sure the shot’s good.’ The last image, for me, sums up not only the end of Clark Kent but the birth of Superman. I hope that’s what people can take away ... that Clark is still out there fighting the good fight, but we’re just not able to go with him.” (Movie director Zack Snyder plans to change that with the projected 2012 release of “Man of Steel.”)
Its makers had plenty of notice “Smallville” was ending, since Welling announced at last May’s CW upfront event for advertisers that the series’ 10th year would be its last. “From the global aspect of making sure we summed everything up after 10 seasons, there was also the attention to detail,” he reflects of the home stretch. “I think that attention has been a big component of why we’ve been able to survive for a decade.”
Gone from “Smallville” for the past three seasons, Rosenbaum initially claimed he wouldn’t return for a final round of Lex versus Clark, but he ultimately relented.
“It was fantastic,” Welling says of the reunion. “It was like he’d been gone forever, but it was also like he’d never left. The scenes I had with him were all done in one day, and it was probably the most fun I’ve had in a long time. He and I have a great relationship.”
Allison Mack closes out the role of Chloe Sullivan, since Welling reasons, “She’s a big component not only of the show, but of Clark’s trajectory, so it was important for her to be there.”
However, Kristin Kreuk doesn’t reprise the part of Lana Lang.
“When her character left Smallville, I think everybody knew that was kind of it,” Welling says. “As exciting as it might have been for Clark to walk into the Daily Planet and see Lois and Lana having a conversation, and as stressful as that could have been for him, it just didn’t come together.”
For some time, “Smallville” producers stated the show’s viewers never would see Clark fly nor wear the Superman suit under the so-called “no flights, no tights” rule. Well, they’ve now seen him fly, so it remains valid to wonder if they’ll see him in the legendary blue-and-red uniform with the big “S” on the chest before the series signs off.
“To me, and to a lot of people connected to the show, that’s not what the show is about,” Welling maintains. “Maybe we leaned that way sometimes because it was easier to go that way and it would be easier to write about, but to me, the integrity of the show was about Clark Kent in Smallville. Even when he made his move to Metropolis, the essence of the character before he became Superman was always important to me. That’s what I found interesting, that’s why I signed up 10 years ago, and I think it’s a big part of why people watched.”
Still, Welling knows “Smallville” also has had to service a much bigger mythology, especially since he considers working with the late Christopher Reeve — a four-time movie Superman and two-time “Smallville” guest star — a highlight of doing the show.
“I think they do a great job with Superman in films,” he says. “They spend a lot of time and money, and to be honest, they put a lot of restrictions on our show as to what we could do with Superman. We always had to check in with DC Comics, and everything had to be OK’d through them. There were limitations in doing some things we wanted to do, but other limitations were self-imposed.”
Also seen in the movie remakes of “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “The Fog” during his “Smallville” tenure, Welling hopes to keep working for The CW as an executive producer of the series “Hellcats,” which hadn’t yet been renewed for a second season at this writing. For now, he’s satisfied with the way “Smallville” is leaving the network ... and fans.
“Smallville” concludes its 10-season run with a two-hour finale Friday on The CW.