To put it plainly, if obviously, launching ‘Smallville‘ – a TV series about a young Clark Kent – was considered a super idea from Day 1.
“Having been a fan of the comic books, the original ['Superman'] TV series – I remember watching [Lois Lanes] Phyllis Coates and Noel Neill – I loved all of it,” Warner Bros. Television president Peter Roth shared with Fancast at a party celebrating the 200th episode of the CW series. “So when I first heard the notion of a live-action story about Clark Kent coming of age, I thought, ‘This is brilliant. We are absolutely doing it.’”
Tasked with bringing the Young Man of Steel to small-screen life was director David Nutter, whose resume at the time included the pilots for ‘Dark Angel‘ and ‘Roswell,’ many episodes of ‘The X Files‘ and, yes, the syndicated ‘Adventures Of Superboy‘ series from the late 1980s.
“We walked blindly into the fire and we had a firm step,” Nutter says of ‘Smallville’s maiden flight. “We had a great script and some great talent, and I felt really confident in the story we were telling. This was a time to make Clark Kent a real person, a teenager that other teenagers could actually relate to.”
Giving the saga of a teen coming to terms with his extraterrestrial origins and abilities “a sense of reality” was of utmost importance to Nutter. “Too many times shows are so fantastic there’s no bedrock of believability,” he notes. “I started with ‘X Files,’ which was always based in reality and fact, and then I worked with James Cameron on ‘Dark Angel,’ which was all about science fact and making it as realistic as possible. So I brought all of that to ‘Smallville.’”
Of course, Clark Kent might not have ever gotten off the ground (so to speak) had ‘Smallville’ not found the right actor for the lead role. “I knew Tom Welling was the perfect guy when Clark runs into Lana Lang (played by Kristin Kreuk) for the first time,” says Nutter. “Lana of course had a kryptonite necklace on her neck, so Clark tumbled onto the ground, dropped his books…. That’s when I said, ‘That’s him.’”
WBTV’s Roth remembers watching the ‘Smallville’ pilot for the first time and “almost weeping, I was so excited. That pilot was magic for us.”
MORE POWERFUL THAN A LOCOMOTIVE
‘Smallville’s long run would prove magical, save for the very rare bump in the road. Roth says that other than “keeping this extraordinary group of [actors] together,” the only memorable obstacle was the episode “Jitters,” which “we really didn’t get it right and needed to reshoot multiple, multiple scenes.” As a result, Season 1, Episode 8 carries the dishonor of being “one of the most expensive in the history of the show.”
Ultimately, as lore demands, Clark would need his Lois. ‘Smallville’ executive producer Kelly Souders was an executive story editor at the time Erica Durance was cast on the series, to first appear in the Season 4 opener, “Crusade.”
“There were a lot of wonderful actresses who came in for the role but I remember … sitting and watching her tape and everybody was like, ‘That’s her. There’s no question,’” Souders shares. “She had attitude but at the same time was totally lovable. And she’s just been blossoming and growing ever since.”
As has ‘Smallville’ itself, despite the occasional cast and time slot change. That the show is hitting such a landmark tally gives most everyone associated with it pause. “In my heart, I’m still an unemployed actress in L.A. pounding the street, so it’s amazing to me that we’ve made it this far and that we are where we are,” shares original cast member Allison Mack (who plays the currently MIA Chloe Sullivan). “I’m constantly pinching myself that we’ve managed to do it.”
When asked for his original prognosis for the show, WBTV’s Roth must defer to his star. “My friend Tom Welling claimed at Comic-Con this year that I told him the show would go 10 years. I don’t remember saying that,” Roth admits with a laugh, “but he swears it happened.”
WAITING FOR SUPERMAN
As with many a milestone episode, ‘Smallville’s 200th is super-ambitious. Airing Friday, October 15, it sends Clark and Lois to a Smallville High homecoming dance. While that sets the stage for old memories to be easily revisited, some hard realities are also faced, thanks to a ‘Christmas Carol’-like tour through old times led by Brainiac 5 (James Marsters). Add the return of Bugboy (Greg Arkin) into the mix, and you’ve got a “jam-packed” hour, promises executive producer Brian Petersen.
So momentous and resonant is Episode 200 that Welling calls it one of favorites to date. “Clark is shown the past, the future and the present, as Brainiac tries to give him perspective on where he is and where he needs to go,” the actor previews. “It was a good reason for Clark to reflect … and think about what’s to come.”
As a result of this walk down memory lane, Clark “comes out the leader that we know Superman to be,” Souders says. “This is a very pivotal moment.”
Speaking of pivotal moments, it has been well teased that Episode 200 serves up quite the closing scene involving Clark and Lois, though specifics are hard to come by. (EP Souders says that “hours of discussion” went into deciding exactly what the much-anticipated moment would entail.).
We asked Welling: Might the L-word get tossed around ‘tween the two – if not in No. 200 then at least at some point during this final season? “Love? I would think so,” he answered. “I’m not sure what exactly they have in store for them, but Lois is definitely a part of Clark’s future.”
Lois herself, aka Erica Durance, tells us that her favorite moment from Season 10 thus far is the one in question, the top-secret treat that has every “Clois” fan’s heart preemptively aflutter. “I did a scene at the end of the 200th that was magnificent and fun,” she teases.
And yet no one will spill on what takes place…? As Durance says with a wink, “Well, that means people will have to watch it, right?”
The CW’s ‘Smallville’ airs its 200th episode on Friday, Oct. 15, at 8/7c.