Superman on Television

Interview with "Smallville" Actor Michael Rosenbaum

Titan Magazines contacted the Superman Homepage to pass on an interview with Michael Rosenbaum (who plays Lex Luthor in the hit TV show "Smallville") as a preview for what we can expect from the release of the "Smallville Yearbook" which goes on sale on May 25, 2004.

Michael Rosenbaum Michael Rosenbaum explains how he got involved in the show:

"One of my first jobs was on a sitcom for the WB. The WB was a very new network at the time - it was a good six years ago or more. It was called The Tom Show, with Tom Arnold.

"I was sixth lead character - I was a regular but I had about five lines per show. I was in every episode, and Tom took a liking to me, and so did the producers. They kept me around, and it got me to LA and I built up a relationship with the WB.

"I'd done three sitcoms, so they knew me as a comedic actor. That was what I did. If that's all they see you've done, they don't really know what you can do. That's kind of the reality of Hollywood. If you don't show them what you can do, they don't know, and they don't want to take the chance.

"My manager said, 'Do you want to go on this Superman thing at the WB?' I said, 'You know what? I haven't been that successful at shows for the WB. I'm really unsure if this is the way to go, to do a Superman show. I'd have to shave my head and all these things, and this doesn't seem like what I want to do.' The first time I went in, I didn't know my lines, I just didn't take it seriously. About two months later, they called and said they really wanted to see me again. My manager said, 'I really think this would be a good thing to do. I think you should look into it. It's supposed to be really good. It's their baby. This is what they want to really make the network a real network, something that was credible. Something that gives them a signature.' So I decided to go in, and I actually learned my lines for the audition.

" They'd gone through 700 other actors for the role, so I wanted to know what they [the other actors] weren't doing that I needed to do. That was my note to my manager to ask the producers. They said, 'We want some edge, we want some comedic timing, we want that brooding undertone, that menacing undertone of Lex.' So I literally went through the two and a half pages of dialogue, and went, 'Here I'll be funny, here I'll be charismatic, and here I'll be a little menacing.' I went into the auditions and just took over. I felt really confident, because I had nothing to lose.

"They called my manager and said they wanted me to meet the producers. I said, 'I'm not going to do better than what I just did. I don't want to go in there again. Tell them that's it. Rewind the tape! I'll never be that confident again.' It was amazing, just one of those cathartic feelings. So that's the game my manager played - 'He's not going to come in again. Rewind your tape and if you like him, you like him.' That worked. They said you're the guy."

Michael Rosenbaum Michael Rosenbaum on Lex, Gene Hackman, and the original Superman movies:

"Oh, I knew who Lex Luthor was. All I could think of was Gene Hackman. Am I going to play this caricature of Lex Luthor, be this wild, crazy guy, and play it over the top? The producers said, 'This is just what we don't want.' I didn't want to make Lex a stereotype of everything that's ever been written or documented or taped or filmed about Lex Luthor. This was the first time. I wanted people to like him, and I think that's what the producers wanted.

"I loved those big Superman movies. I loved Gene Hackman , always idolized him as a kid, Christopher Reeve obviously. As a kid, everybody wishes they could fly. They want to be like Superman, and put on the cape at Halloween. Other than that - well, I can't say I was a regular kid. I've always been a little bit of an extrovert to say the least. I was a fan, at least as much as you can be without buying the comics and doing all that stuff."

Michael Rosenbaum discusses Lex Luthor's journey to the dark side:

"I'm finding out the journey along the way. I know some things that others don't, but I promised Al and Miles I'd never say, so I can't tell you those things! I know what ultimately breaks him apart. Ultimately, along the line, the friendship between Lex and Clark goes away. Something happens. It's got to be devastating, it's got to be big. It's what everybody is waiting for."

Michael Rosenbaum reveals the strengths of Smallville:

"The characters are the most important thing about Smallville. If you don't like a character, or you don't understand a character, or don't sympathize with a character, I don't think people will watch a show. I think that's vital in a series. People tune in and tune out really quickly. The audience is very smart and I've seen the message boards - they know the show better than any of us. First and foremost, the character is the first thing that a writer writes. It's Clark and Lex and Lana and the relationships.

"I think the show is successful for many different reasons. I think the audience has fallen in love with the characters, and the stories that have been told. And it's the story that hasn't been told. This is the first time we've seen the story told this way. People want to see the special effects, they want to see the different things. They want to see the bus hitting Clark and what happens.

"I think you have to have little elements of each, but ultimately I think the characters are the most important part of the show. Without a doubt."