Michael Rosenbaum Online
The time has come for a Smallville reboot. Why now? Well, there are a myriad of reasons. Would this be a Superman television show featuring his origin story? No, this would be a straight-up reboot/revival of the original, and this is how and why it should happen.
First things first — why is now the right time to revive Smallville? DC Comics are going strong on The CW, and the network is not planning to slow down on its superhero slate any time soon.
A Smallville reboot would mean existing outside of the Arrow-verse. Black Lightninghas proven that existing in a solo universe can be done successfully. The rebooted Smallville would take place in the same world as the original and therefore function as more of a revival than a reboot. How and why?
Well, this Smallville reboot would take things back in time a little, and it would not focus on the characters you may expect. Instead of focusing on Clark Kent/Superman, this series would focus on the Luthors — specifically, Lex and his dad, Lionel Luthor.
Yes, The Luthors would be the name of this proposed reboot. No, I am not getting ahead of myself (okay maybe just a little).
Why the Luthors? Because they were two of the best parts of an overall fantastic show, which honestly had no bad ones. Lex and Lionel Luthor’s relationship brought a rich dynamic to the original series. They were the exact opposite of Clark and his father, Jonathan Kent. Lex felt unloved by his father, while Lionel felt like he loved his son in a way that made him “stronger.”
Neither character was an out-and-out villain; rather, the epitome of complicated. Where the Kents were the heart of Smallville, the Luthors were its conflicted soul. When the series lost them, it lost a vast portion of itself and nothing ever filled that void.
If Smallville were to come back, the dream scenario would be for it to focus on the Luthors. You may be wondering: didn’t we already see their story? Yes, but not from their perspective. This revival would not be about the Luthors in the context of their juxtaposition with the Kents. It would be about them independent of the shadow cast by Superman and his family.
Do not get me wrong. I loved that angle of Smallville. However, you cannot rehash past magic; you have to rediscover new aspects to it. So many of the complaints surrounding retreads of any sort is that they are an unnecessary continuation of something that has already been done. In the case of a Smallville revival approached this way, it would be different. The blend of something familiar with a twist of something new.
The CW has told a lot of its stories from the perspective of its heroes, which makes total sense. Telling one from its “villains” would set this project apart. Of course, going this route, the Luthors would not be portrayed as villains. It would keep them close to the moral fiber they demonstrated earlier in the series’ run.
There would be no time table necessary to make that happen on this proposed Smallville revival. By not having Superman present, there is no pressure for Lex’s identity to be dictated, and him to become Clark’s enemy in a certain period.
Given how Smallville left Lex and Lionel’s stories, you may wonder how any of this would be possible. After all, Smallville ended its run with a clone of Lex becoming President of the United States.
To explain all of this, the revival could take things back in time. How far back? Way back, as in Lex being institutionalized far back. Explaining this shift could be done via alternate timeliness or some other plot device. There is a specific event that could serve as the jumping off point for the revival.
The Smallville arc where Lex is committed to Belle Reve and given the electro-shock treatment that wipes his memory would be ideal. Those episodes of Season 3 (Episode 8 and 9) were two of the series’ absolute best. They contained defining moments for all involved, especially Lex and his father.
There was also no going back after those episodes. Lex was on a collision course to becoming Clark’s enemy. In the mythos for this proposed Smallville reboot, let’s imagine a world where Lex did not return to Smallville following his release. Rather, he went to Metropolis and made a life for himself there. The show could pick up an indeterminate time after the events of that episode.
The show could go full-tilt into Lex’s life as a businessman replete with boardroom showdowns and potential takeovers. There would be no shortage of stories to tell in that vein. Let Lex live his lavish life the way he did in the original, devoid of Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen’s broody approach. Let Lex be more of the anti-hero than the villain.
Lex being haunted by what he can and cannot remember could weigh on him. Such a twist could provide the underlying drama that is revisited time and again. That is not entirely necessary though.
The dream would be for the original cast to return and for Michael Rosenbaum and John Glover to reprise their roles as the Luthors. Both of these extraordinary actors brought so much to Smallville.
Personally, Michael Rosenbaum’s performance as Lex Luthor is the gold standard. No one else has brought what he did to portraying the character in any medium. He found the complexity so inherent in Lex, and no matter the storyline, always played it with profound sincerity.
Likewise, John Glover brought a gravitas to Lex’s father that was always multi-layered. It was hard to ever agree with Lionel. However, Glover’s performance always made you willing to hear Lionel out. Glover and Michael Rosenbaum’s portrayals of Lionel and Lex were the exceptional epicenters that drove a great deal of Smallville.
If Tom Welling or anyone else were willing to come back for a Smallville revival that could work too, and it would be amazing. One of the great parts of bringing the show back to this point in its history is that it would allow for fan favorites to return. John Schneider’s Jonathan Kent is among the many that could make an appearance. In this timeline, he and others could still be alive.
Smallville was such a special show and to have it revisited in any form would be exciting. Even if it is as a limited series or (hopefully) something longer-term, it would be marvelous. If it were to ever happen, this or something along these lines is how this fan would like it to see it come to fruition.
Lex Luthor is a tough act to follow, a notion that isn’t lost on actor Michael Rosenbaum who portrayed the iconic Superman villain for seven of Smallville’s ten-year run. It was at that point, after having extended his six-year contract by one, that he set out on his own path, believing, as proud as he was of the Luthor role, that he had even more to offer the audience, particularly when it came to humor.
He got a chance to test that theory in the short-lived 2011 series Breaking In, but has really come into his own in Impastor, which is embarking on its second season. Rosenbaum plays Buddy Dobbs, something of a slacker with a gambling debt that is proving detrimental to his health. Running out of options, he’s ready to end it all by jumping off a bridge, but is saved by a young gay reverend who, while doing so, accidentally plunges to his own death. Suddenly Buddy is given new purpose: to take the reverend’s identity and proceeding to the small town the reverend was appointed to that has no idea he isn’t who he claims to be. What follows is his immersing himself in this new life, always looking over his shoulder for the moment when the truth becomes known and he has to flee. Think of it as The Fugitive, but with weed, sex and political incorrectness.
There seemed to be something surprising in you doing a series for TV Land in the States, but here you are, going into your second season.
That was my reaction when my agent gave me the script. He said, “It’s written by Eric Tannenbaum and it’s for TV Land.” I go, “TV Land? Look, man, I love I Dream Of Jeannie and I’m a big Gilligan’s Islandfan, but I don’t want to do a show on TV Land. I don’t want to do that kind of fluff stuff.” They’re, like, “No, they’re changing their network.” I said, “I’ve heard that they’re changing and then you go in there and you can’t say ‘damn.’ You have to say ‘crap.'” But then I read the Impastor script and realized it was really good and we say “cock” on page eight, we say “shit” on page twelve. Buddy’s banging a prostitute. He said, “They want to do the show. They want to make it edgy, they want to make it fun, they want it to be serialized, shot like a movie, not a sitcom.” I went and had a conversation with Eric, who said he wanted me to executive produce the show with him. His words were, “Michael, I want you to be part of the creation. I want you to be part of the casting I want you to be involved in everything.” I didn’t believe they would, but they picked it up.
And then they picked it up for a second season.
Right? And I admire them for being patient and really believing in a show that is, I feel, unique and unlike anything on TV. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, it still has edge, it surprises you, the characters are fun, it’s shot beautifully, it’s serialized, it’s quirky, it’s Fletch-like, it’s easy to watch and it’s only twenty-two minutes of your life. I think that getting people in this oversaturated business where there’s a billion shows, is amazing. Getting people to watch it is the hard part, but when they do, then they tell other people. The truth is, you have only ten episodes nowadays and it’s hard to keep an audience. You come back a year later and try to get the same audience to come back and hope that it grows.
The advantage in the shorter season model in that, yes, you’ve got the opportunity to craft ten really solid episodes, but maintaining that audience is a challenge. On the other hand, much like you had with Smallville, there’s the twenty-two episode season run, which oftentimes has so much filler that it can dilute the dramatic thrust of the season.
How did they do it? How do you write twenty-two episodes a year? That’s ten months a year we’re working. We had freak of the week on Smallville for a while, but how couldn’t you? You can’t write twenty-two brilliant episodes a year. You just can’t do it. It’s hard to write tenbrilliant episodes a year, but if most of your episodes are compelling or good and keep the audience engaged, then you’re in good shape.
In some ways it seems like a tough premise for a series to sustain; the rug could be pulled out from under him at any second.
How Buddy got to this town is the most ridiculous thing you can imagine. He could always just split, but something’s keeps him around. He’s got this house, the town is so small and the people actually believe he’s this guy; they didn’t do any research on him and, on top of it, he’s starting to like some of them. And he’s, like, “Wow, this is the best scam I’ve ever done. I’ve got this prostitute on the side, I can steal some weed, I have to do these crappy sermons every once in a while, I have this beautiful house, I’ve got this assistant who will do anything for me.” At the same time, the keys are always in the ignition, he’s always ready to go if something happens, but there’s something keeps him there. Call it divine intervention, call it whatever you want, I think it’s fun. There’s an article on Zap2it that I always loved because I’m a huge Chevy Chase fan and it said he has a Fletch-like twinkle in his eye … It is kind of an edgy Fletch.
It seems that Buddy is evolving the longer he’s involved with these people, despite still being a bit of an asshole. Do you feel that he’s changing?
I think that Buddy’s so used to getting shit on and then shitting right back on people as a defense mechanism. It’s like when someone says, “Screw you,” you say, “Screw you” back and you get so used to that that he just expects that out of people; he doesn’t expect good out of people. Then he comes to this town and meets someone like Dora, played by Sara Rue, who’s awesome in the show. You know, “There’s just no way she’s this good. Something’s messed up, she’s not this good.” But then he starts to realize that there are good people out there and that kind of messes him up a little bit, because he’s not used to it. Then he starts realizing that some of his actions are actually hurting people. Does that stop him? I don’t know if it stops him, but it might make him… pause. I mean, the guy does have feelings. I think that he doesn’t want to hurt these people, and even wants to bang a few of them.
I also think he wants to make a little money and try to live the high life until he is forced to get out of there or he gets caught. He’s not really a bad guy, I just think he grew up in a bad part of town, he didn’t have a mom and dad around, he didn’t have good role models, and he’s just kind of looking out for himself. If he doesn’t look out for himself, no one else will. If he has to take advantage of something and it hurts someone else, he doesn’t feel great about it, but he tends to do it.
You’re so enthusiastic talking about Impastor but it really has been something of a bumpy road career wise, hasn’t it, since you were so determined to get off of Smallville after season seven?
I remember sitting with Peter Roth, the president of Warner Brothers … I’ve never really told this story. Everybody has an ego and I think everybody likes to get their way. Peter took me to dinner, because he tried to get me to do two more seasons of Smallville. I was very polite and respectful. I said, “Peter, my grandma thinks I’m funny and I’ve always wanted to do comedy, and I started out in comedy, and I was doing tons of comedy, and then I was catapulted into this role that I love and it’s been great, but I was contracted for six years to play Lex Luthor, I did seven, and I’m just ready to move on and I’m just ready to take a new step.” He looked at me and says, “You know, Julianna Margulies, she turned down millions of dollars to stay with ER and look where she is now.” It wasn’t two or three years later where she just made a fortune with The Good Wife and all of that, and her career just took off. I said, “I’m going to bank on my talent. I’m just going to take a chance on me. I think I’ve done this long enough, I did this character for seven years and I just don’t feel like shaving my head for two more years.” I came back for the finale, but at the time I just wanted to take a chance.
The transition was what I thought it would be. I remember Greg Beeman, who directed License to Drive, The Wonder Years and a lot of Smallville episodes, said, “You realize, dude, you’re the only person in the cast that looks different. Once you grow your hair out, you won’t look like you.” I hadn’t thought of that. I called my agent and said, “Hey, set up general meetings with everybody. They need to see me with hair.” We started doing that and then I was cast on Breaking In. Then I directed my first feature [2014’s Back In The Day] with Morena Baccarin, Nick Swardson, and Harland Williams. I couldn’t have done more … Again, I think you really have to know your ability and you have to know who you are. It wasn’t ego, it wasn’t, “I’m not doing Smallville because I’m too good for it.” It was more, “Hey, I’ve got more to offer.” Look, luck is a commodity of preparation and opportunity and I feel like I’m always prepared when that moment comes. I think it comes down to just believing in yourself.
You mentioned that you appeared in the last episode of Smallville. What was your feeling about the way the show ended?
Here’s the thing: I didn’t watch the last three seasons, because I wasn’t in it. Call me egotistical, call me whatever, but that’s the reason I didn’t watch the show. I was working and getting my shit together. But I finally called them up and said, “Hey, look, it’s the last episode ever. I’ll do it, you’ve got me for one day next week.” When I got there I was, like, “What’s happened since I left?” I had no idea what was going on. There were moments where I just didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. I liked my scenes with Tom Welling, but I felt like the show was, for me, done when I left in season seven. Then I sort of did it for the fans and did it for me for closure and to say, “Hey, I did come back.” I did do it, and that’s ultimately why.
Do you realize that this is Smallville’s 15th anniversary?
Holy shit. You just made me feel really old, but I’m proud of it. I have fans all over the world because of that show and I love them. I go to Australia, I go to England…people just embrace it. You can’t be luckier as an actor or as a human being to feel that sort of accomplishment, and if that’s all I did — if I was just Lex Luthor — it would be enough. It really would be enough to go back home to New Berg, Indiana, where there are, like, 3,000 people in the town and where I wasn’t supposed to do anything. To say you were this iconic, legendary character for seven years. I would’ve mowed my lawn with a smile on my face.
For the better part of a decade he was the universally recognised Lex Luthor, one of the most enduring villains in the DC Comics universe known for his brilliant strategic mind as much as his penchant for brutality. He also voice The Flash in several cartoon series – Justice League, Justice League Unlimitedand Teen Titans among them. Then there was the short lived Breaking In, which probably never aired in Australia, but the Wikipedia entry describes his character as having a “jock-like personality” and sells his own urine. And let’s not forget his sole appearance on cringe comedy It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, playing Dee’s smug and sleazy boyfriend/burglar.
Sure, there’s plenty of other stuff that Michael Rosenbaum has done, and I’m definitely self-selecting (for the purposing of a long and winding set-up), but does Michael Rosenbaum gravitate towards jerky characters?
“Well, it’s not fun to play a jerk when they’re just a jerk, but if you look at the characters like Lex Luthor…he started out as a good guy, but his history, his father, that was his evolution that turned him into a bad guy,” answers Rosenbaum. “If you watch the first three seasons of Smallville, you’re like, ‘Oh, he’s the good guy!’ Inevitably, we know what he becomes, but that was what was interesting – why does he become bad? Even Dutch from Breaking In, even though he was kind of a loud, douchey character, you saw that he had a good heart. I don’t choose a character based on whether they’re evil, but there has to be something interesting about him”.
With a career that, while varied, is dominated by science fiction and fantasy-type roles, Rosenbaum is no stranger to the pop culture convention circuit. For those yet to witness a Q&A session with a star at such events, it can be a confronting experience. The talent sits on a stage with a microphone as one person after another lines up to ask them anything. At best it is a moment for heartwarming connections between fans and the objects of their adoration, at worse they are sterile, awkward train wrecks where time itself slows down. For his first appearance at Australia’s Supanova Pop Culture Expo, Michael has come prepared.
“I think it’s my gift, I just feel like I know how to make everybody feel comfortable,” he says, with such confidence you can’t be sure if he’s joking or not. “I’ve always been like that, I have a crazy family and they all hate each other, but when I am in the room I try to make everyone feel comfortable.
“And for the people at Supanova, I just want everyone to know that I’m a real guy, I grew up in a small town…I think people see, ‘Oh, he’s just not that guy on TV’, I think I’m very approachable. I love the fans, if they weren’t there, I wouldn’t be talking to you from my house. I’d be talking to you from my apartment, or my grandmother’s house!”
And when the questions inevitably skew towards the super technical – those conspiracy theories about the DC Universe, questioning the science behind Superman’s Kryptonite-based weakness – can Rosenbaum hold his own?
“I answer what I can. Hold my own? I don’t know. I wasn’t a big comic book fan when I was younger, I was into horror movies, action figures and Star Wars. So that world I can definitely do. But with Smallville, I had to learn a lot of stuff on the fly. I knew Lex Luthor was the bad guy that Gene Hackman played, but that was about it.
“I always look at people that know everything about the comic book mythology and I respect it. Yeah, they’re nerds, and I’m a nerd with horror movies. Can I hold my own? Probably not. These people really know there shit!”
This year’s Supanova lineup runs the spectrum of pop culture as ambitiously as ever, from iconic comic book artists to TV stars to the delightfully kitsch (The Hoff, anyone?). As much as these conventions are about looking back on past achievements, Rosenbaum is hopeful to insert a few mentions about his more recent and future activities. In 2011, he launched his own production company Rose and Bomb Productions, and the small smattering of films released under that banner – a murder mystery, a tear-jerker and a rom-com – suggests that Rosenbaum is playing the field at the moment. He wrote, directed and starred in his latest film, Old Days, in an action that is referred to in ‘the biz’ as ‘Afflecking it’. Despite prematurely aging about a decade in the months it took to film, Rosenbaum is still chuffed at the experience. (To clarify, I’m more than certain no one calls it ‘Afflecking it’…and they won’t let me anywhere near ‘the biz’.)
“I always said I wanted to go to Hollywood to make movies, but to be able to write, direct and star in a movie with your friends, in your hometown, it doesn’t happen very often. I am very lucky to have that happen. And I’m also very lucky that I didn’t die in the process, because it is a shit tonne of work!”
Our time has come to an end, and there are still so many questions to ask. What does it feel like to wear a bald cap for most of your adult life? When you’re doing voice work for cartoons, do you bother wearing pants? And what of these whispers of your involvement on Marvel’s big screen adaptation of Guardians of the Galaxy? Well, I’ve got to leave some questions for the fans to ask at Supanova, right?
BY MITCHELL ALEXANDER
Michael Rosenbaum will be appearing at Supanova, which runs at the Melbourne Showgrounds from Friday April 12 to Sunday April 14.
Source: beat.com.au – Michael Rosenbaum
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