[Date: September 8, 2008]
By Steve Younis
A: The time for me to feel daunted was so short. There wasn't much time from when I heard the great news to when I came up to Vancouver to start working, and in that time I was just so excited and thankful. When I got here is when I realized what a well oiled machine it was, and how much I was one of the new kids. However, everyone was so welcoming and wonderful, that any hesitation or anxiousness vanished pretty rapidly and we've been working hard and happy ever since.
Q: Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your background?
A: I always wonder what 'little' bit people choose to tell about themselves...y'know? Like do you start with where you're from or whether you like breakfast better than lunch? Let's see what comes out today: I was born in downtown Chicago. A city I love and I rarely get back to. I have an incredible family...for many reasons. Two of which are that they make me laugh, and they support my craziness ten fold. My dog is a Swiss mountain breed that few people can pronounce, and I think that fact makes her feel pretty special. I've lived in a lot of places and called them all home, but feel that home is where we're happy. (I prefer both breakfast and lunch to dinner).
Q: How did you go about becoming an actor?
A: I've been acting in some way or another for many years, but am excited to be working on my first series as a regular...and as a villain. When I was a lass my dad threw me (and my two older brothers when they were lads) into the Lyric Opera of Chicago. I'm now however wondering if it was my father's encouragement or our requests. When you're a kid, it never seems like your doing, does it? In any event, I started playing the kids in operas and at a young age got used to being in a theatre, around actors and singers and make believe. My two older brothers are also actors, among other things, and so I had plenty of inspiration at my fingertips. From there I just kept finding a way to the stage: dance, music, acting, etc. I went to conservatories in Chicago and New York, went to college in Middlebury, VT for acting, and worked in the theatre wherever I could, doing whatever came my way. After graduation, I moved out to LA...joined the acting army, and now know the appreciation of a car with good gas mileage. sheesh. I continue to study at Playhouse West, which is not only a great school, but an incredible family as well.
Q: Tess Mercer is stepping in for Lex Luthor to take control of his estate in Smallville. What can you tell us about the character that fans might not already have heard? What are you most excited about?
A: Well, Tess is not as simple as evil. She has a past full of vulnerability, strength and growth. I'm most excited about getting to live with this woman for such a long time. It is not often that an actor gets to embody a character actively for the better part of year, and I'm excited to get to see where she goes. Believe me, usually the fans know about things before I do!
Q: How did you get the role of Tess Mercer? Did you need to audition? What was that process like?
A: I got the role actually from one of those quarter machines with the plastic eggs that you see outside supermarkets! If only it were that easy...supermarkets would be trampled by all of greater L.A. I had to audition, the whole kit 'n kaboodle. You first go in for a casting director, and then you might get passed on to audition for producers or directors. Each process varies slightly, but generally you keep going in to audition for more people until they 'test' you for the network and the studio. I've heard stories where men who have fought in the army say that they'd rather be back in combat then have to 'test' at a network. Not sure I can comment on that since I've never been in the field, but let's just say when the congratulatory call comes through...it's a good feeling.
A: Joy. I may have screamed. I may have scared someone next to me in the parking lot I was in.
Q: Where you a fan of "Smallville" previously? Had you watched many episodes?
A: "Smallville" started when I went to College, and since I didn't have a TV, I did not watch it. But I've done some catch up and I am a new avid fan.
Q: You've been shooting episodes for Season 8 for a little while now. Has the job met your expectations? Was there anything that surprised you about the cast or crew?
A: I'm not sure I had many expectations when I got this job. I was moving to another country, a different city, a whole new group of people. In times of great change, I try not to have too many expectations, because things rarely work out the way you think they will. But I will tell you that the kindness and down to earth-ness of this cast and crew pleasantly surprised me. I'm having a wonderful time, with wonderful people.
Q: Do you feel any added pressure, since you are basically replacing Micheal Rosenbaum's Lex Luthor as the show's big bad and will basically be seen in many of Lex's sets? The fans are going to be paying close attention to you.
A: Are they? Well, fabulous! I'm not sure anyone could add up to Michael Rosenbaum or his Lex Luthor, and that's not my job. You can't replace something so unique, but you can take the outline, said sets, and create a new big and bad, and that's what I hope to do...for the fans and for the story.
Q: The name "Tess Mercer" is apparently paying tribute to Miss Teschmacher and Mercy Graves, both loyal assistants of Lex from the movies and "Superman: The Animated Series", were you aware of this? And if so, have you based any of your character's mannerisms or traits on either of these two characters?
A: I was aware of this. And I am familiar with these two characters. I like to be informed about all the background or possible inspirations for characters I play, and I'll watch old movies, shows, interviews, read books or articles, what have you. But once I've done that, I think about it, and then I throw it all out. This character has to come out of me if she's going to be true, and relatable. But that knowledge is still in there, informing my choices.
Q: From your time on the show so far, who is the hardest worker in the cast? Who is the joker? Who is deadly serious about their work? Who have you most enjoyed working with?
A: The hardest worker? Well, we all work our butts off, from security to production to acting to catering. Obviously Tom is in almost every scene, sometimes, as we know from the past, he plays both characters in the same scene. But I have to say from what I've seen day to day, it's not a member of the cast that works the hardest...it's those who make ALL of us look the way we do. Our hair and makeup artists are there before we show up, and after we go home. I am in awe of their stamina. I heard that the joker on set was Michael Rosenbaum, so I think we're all just acting a little wacky to see who's going to rise to the occasion. And in terms of who I've most enjoyed working with? I'm thankful to say that I can't think of anyone I haven't enjoyed working with.
A: I will definitely be watching! How can I not? It's going to be so much fun. I understand that some actors don't like to watch themselves, but I think that's a little unrealistic. You learn by watching yourself. You grow, as an actor and an observer. And you have to support those who you work with. So much work goes into every single aspect of a show, the cinematography, the sets decoration, the editing, each director's vision, music, etc. You have to watch.
Q: After your first episode will you be browsing the internet fan sites to see what the fans are saying about your performance or do you prefer to stay away from it all?
A: Well, my dad googles me enough for the both of us, so I'll just get forwarded the good stuff and smile knowing that everyone is welcome to their opinion, and art and entertainment is up for interpretation. But it's good to know what's coming across, again, just another way to learn. All with a grain of salt, I say.
Q: Are you a Superman fan at all? Have you read any comic books or watched previous TV shows or movies?
A: I'm a fan of fantasy. I can't say that I ever had any comic book collections, but my brother's did, and the trickle down effect did have me watching X-men every Saturday morning and reading (and sometimes wearing) Superman and Spider-man paraphernalia.
Q: Lightning round: What bad habits, if any, do you have?
A: Cronic nail biter.
Q: What is the best advice anybody ever gave you?
A: Wherever you are right now, is exactly where you're supposed to be.
Q: Who would you most like to sit next to on a long airplane flight?
Q: Who would you least like to sit next to on an airplane flight?
A: Someone who's eating something that smells foul.
Q: What is the one thing you can't live without?
Q: If you were down to your last $10 how would you spend it?
A: Is it sunny? Maybe a hat... and a hot dog. Chicago style.
Thanks for taking time out to chat with the Superman Homepage. Best of luck on "Smallville" for Season 8. Hopefully we can catch up with you again towards the end of the season?
A: Absolutely... thanks.