SMALLVILLE Producer Reveals the Secrets of the JSA.
By Bryan Cairns
posted: 02 February 2010 05:22 pm
Over the course of nine seasons, Smallville has put its unique spin on some very familiar DC Universe heroes. So far, there’s been Flash, Green Arrow, Cyborg, Black Canary, the Legion, and most recently Zatanna. Now The Justice Society of America is getting the royal treatment in a two hour event airing on February 5th, penned by none other than wunder scribe Geoff Johns, and directed by Glen Winter and Tom Welling. According to comic book lore, the distinguished JSA has always been inspirational to the current crop of heroes and the Absolute Justice event will capitalize on that legacy.
“The timeline might be slightly adjusted but I know Geoff did a very good job in lining everything up as is his way,” explains Executive Producer Brian Peterson. “We definitely take the legendary status of that group and hold it up as a model to our virgining motley crew of heroes. We pay homage and there’s a scene where I get chills every time I see it.”
“The Justice Society differs from the Legion because they are older and a little more world weary,” adds Winter. “Not so much Stargirl, but Hawkman and Doctor Fate. The Legion were modern day fanboys, but the JSA are more of a mystery of a bygone chapter. How it connected with our Smallville universe was we have a hero on the rise, finding himself, and discovering what being a hero is all about. For Clark, it’s about interacting with these characters who have already experienced what he’s experiencing, but in a different era. Plus, they were outed very disrespectfully. It fit perfectly where Clark is in his journey right now. He is able to learn a lot from these guys and the way Geoff was able to weave them into the universe was really well done.”
The two hour episode revolves around the Justice Society converging on Metropolis to solve the murder of one of their own yet with such a large colorful roster, it was difficult deciding which teammates to showcase. Ultimately, Johns settled on Doctor Fate, Hawkman, and Stargirl.
“To be honest, we really left that in Geoff’s court,” reveals Peterson. “Obviously some of it played into what characters would probably play best on the small screen. A lot of it was personal interactions and who could impact our characters the best. On one level, I’d like to say it was production oriented but on a more important level, it was who tie in best to our current cast.”
It’s not all hugs and bonding though. One released photo features hotheads Green Arrow and Hawkman at each other’s throats while Stargirl and Doctor Fate also receive their own shining moments.
“There are a couple of scenes that really hit this in the show,” states Peterson. “One of them is the relationship between Stargirl and Chloe. They have this amazing scene where they discuss the kind of team they want. They talk about family versus duty and the way they view how their interactions with the heroes impact each other. And obviously if you have a magical character like Doctor Fate and one like Clark Kent, there‘s some really good opportunities there.”
In terms of Doctor Fate, it’s Kent Nelson under that yellow helmet of Nabu.
“Kent Nelson is a troubled soul in our episode,” explains Winter. “He has voices in his head. He has a duplicitous life where he’s this somewhat schizophrenic troubled individual who has a higher calling. The helmet speaks to Kent and he tries to keep it at arm’s length. He’s completely transformed and becomes this all knowing, all powerful individual which is fascinating. Some of his journey was set up and then half of it got taken away for the second script. I was actually able to play with Kent Nelson as opposed to Tom who already had him transformed into Doctor Fate.”
Acting as a catalyst for this monumental team-up is the frosty Injustice Society member Icicle.
“We’ve given him a very personal motive,” reveals Peterson. “It’s not really just about the Icicle, but who he is allied with that really elevates and gives a different thrust to the back end of the season. Not to give away too much, but his powers go through a bit of a metamorphosis part of the way through that episode.”
In most cases, Smallville has strayed away from any spandex threads while opting for more functional street wear. This time around, they are sticking closer to the traditional outfits, right down to the colors, cape, and wings.
“We had a lot of discussions behind the costumes and it’s always definitely the riskiest decision to go closest to the costumes because people have them engrained in their heads,” offers Peterson. “We just felt that these are such iconic characters and costumes that you can’t really veer off of the source material. We just embraced it full on and our costume department just knocked it out of the park. You will literally see these characters come off the page and onto the screen.”
Arguably, the most difficult hero to get off the ground was Hawkman.
“It was really hard when you have a guy with wings flying or swooping down,” agrees Winter. “I got to tease a lot so I got to show Hawkman’s outfit revealing itself for the first time in a giant cabinet. We could do things with lighting and camera movement to really tease the audience.”
“As far as the challenges for actor Michael Shanks, it was hard because I had a few scenes where I had to hang him off wires,” he continues. “The wings could only be in certain positions. There were wires that were going straight up his helmet that would get tangled. He could only turn his head a certain way. When Michael had his flying goggles on, he literally couldn’t see anything out at all so we had to direct him which way to turn his head. I know it was uncomfortable for him but Michael was a total trooper.”
Initially, the JSA adventure was slated for only one episode but with so many characters and plot points to service, it quickly expanded into a two hour extravaganza.
“It’s one big story but the second act introduces a couple of complications,” reports Peterson. “Tess Mercer gets involved, Lois Lane enters the picture, as well as these allies of Icicle. That part of the story really answers a lot of questions.”
While the Legion shook up Clark and company’s lives, the Justice Society will lead them into further becoming the world’ finest.
“We’ve come a long way with Clark and Oliver since the beginning of the season, but they’ve created a gentleman’s agreement where they still do their own thing,” says Peterson. “No one has really embraced the idea of team work so that’s something they absolutely have to learn before moving on to the next phase of their world. That’s something they learn from the JSA.”