Twenty years ago Smallville, starring Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum, redefined the origins of the world's greatest superhero and entertained a new generation of fans. Now, in honor of the remarkable occasion, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is releasing Smallville: The Complete Series 20th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray for the first time ever on October 19th. All 217 episodes are here, as well as more than 28 hours of bonus footage, from Krypton refugee Kal-El's arrival on Earth through his tumultuous teen years to Clark Kent's final steps toward embracing his destiny as the Man of Steel. 10 years' worth of fantastic adventures, teen romance, and imaginative takes on well-known DC characters are now available for viewing on that high-def TV that you spent some of your stimulus money on last year. In observance of the longest-running superhero television series turning 20, Welling and Rosenbaum sat down with Bleeding Cool to chat about their superhero influences, hanging out with fans at conventions, and whether or not Tom is still doesn't like being called Superman.
"Smallville" was instrumental in ushering in the age of superheroes in pop culture. We didn't have a lot before that outside of comic books and a couple of movies. The series itself ushered in superheroes to a new generation of fans. What was it that you guys latched on to as kids that brought you into the superhero world?
Michael Rosenbaum: I was always a big Christopher Reeve fan. I love Superman, but I was never a big superhero fan. I was a big horror movie fan. When I found out that I got Lex Luther, I love Gene Hackman, but I knew I couldn't play it like he played because he's great, sort of a caricature. I knew if I played like that, I don't think it would have longevity. I had to bring more of a grounded feel to make the show feel more grounded… and I shaved my head, and a lot of people still to this day asked me, Did you actually shave your head? 'Yes, every day.'
Tom Welling: I didn't grow up watching any superhero stuff, and that helped me playing Clark Kent because I didn't know who Martian Manhunter was, I really didn't know who Lex Luthor was. I was aware of him, but I was learning as Clark was learning. So I think it was very helpful, to be honest. I was like, I have a job and I don't want to lose my job and I want to make this as awesome as I can. I tried to keep that and I still try to keep that. I was trying to play a kid in high school trying to figure out who he was.
Did it make it any easier to have a more experienced cast around you?
TW: Thank Jor-El for putting these people around me. With John Schneider, Annette O'Toole, John Glover, Michael Rosenbaum, even Kristen (Kreuk), and I trying to figure this stuff out. Thank you, Al (Gough) and Miles (Millar) for creating this world for me to learn in. Absolutely.
Is it true, Tom, that up until recently it kind of bothered you a little bit when people refer to you as Superman instead of Clark Kent?
TW: Well, I mean, I've been called worse. You know, I have a very good friend of mine who still will call me Superman. I'll be like, Dude I played Clark Kent. He's like, "Would you shut the F up? Tom, get over it, you were Superman." No, I didn't. That's what kept Clark, who he was for 10 years, in a sense. Maybe I'm softening a little bit, but I still never played Superman, unless that moment [mock ripping open his shirt)].
MR: You told that to Christopher Reeve, and Christopher Reeve said you were the best Superman ever. [Tom] goes, "Well, I'm not. I'm not Superman." "Well, you should be" Christopher Reeve told him, which I think is cool.
Michael, on your podcast and other media it sounds like you loved playing Lex Luthor on "Smallville." What's your relationship to that character?
MR: You know, it was the first time someone actually gave me a shot to see if I had the acting chops. I was playing a lot of goofy characters that weren't necessarily grounded and they were more comical. This was the first time they gave me an opportunity to be a real actor and show my chops. So I'm forever grateful for that. It was a complex character that I got to explore and I got to see some backstory and watch him evolve. When I got to explore, it was another level of him. It was never really boring for me. I enjoyed playing the character.
Do you guys get a jacket like the "Five-Timers Club" or are there hangouts for Clarks and Lexs when you go to DC parties? Do you guys gravitate together?
MR: I always just feel like other actors have, surprisingly, as I've witnessed, always respected the work that I put in. Which means more than any of them will probably know. I was interviewing on my podcast Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum, Jason Alexander, George Costanza from Seinfeld. (He said) "You were the best Lex Luthor." Hearing these things just resonates and makes me feel so much better about myself and what I did with the role.
"Smallville: The Complete Series" is coming to Blu-ray and you mentioned everything's remastered, What do you think is going to surprise fans the most from this new version or this remastering
MR: It's getting to see the show, how it should be seen. If you watched it on DVD or on TV you're not seeing the show the way it was meant to be seen.
TW: We have really brilliant cinematographers that stayed with the show that set the tone and the vision. I think that the Blu-ray, I'm hoping because I can't wait to see it too, is just going to make all that pop. I can't wait to see it.
You guys like to go to the cons and hang out together. You mentioned Jason Alexander, but what about when the fans come up and tell you how much Clark or Lex has meant to them?
TW: It means more than you would think. When somebody says, "I grew up watching this show with my dad and he passed away last year, can you sign this?" It's mind-blowing because [On the set] you're just trying to get through the day or you're trying to make your scene good. I was in the airport one time and this guy came up to me in full fatigues, a soldier going to Afghanistan. And he was saying, 'You that Superman guy? My sister sent me a box of DVDs, and I swear it was the last thing that we watched. Man, thank you. We're totally into it now.'
MR: That got him through, whatever he was going through.
TW: Yeah, I get chills right now, like those guys are protecting us. It's very different than just doing a press tour. When you're at the fan stuff, it's all love. It's like, all happiness. I wish everybody could feel it.
MR: Yeah, we go to conventions and we do a thing called "Smallville Nights" where I wear the ball cap, Tom wears flannel, and we read scenes and interact with fans. They'll get to read scenes, It's hilarious. We do that at a lot of cons and the fans just eat it up. They get to see us back together again. To see that mutual appreciation of them and us, you can't ask for anything better.
Smallville: The Complete Series 20th Anniversary Edition soars onto Blu- ray for the first time ever from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on October 19, 2021. The ultimate fan features all 218 episodes along with over 28 hours of bonus features from all 10 incredible seasons, plus Digital Copy (US Only).