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Smallville: Interview with Kelly Souders

I'm assuming this is real and not some April Fool's joke, but I kind of wish it were. Not the last season, Kelly? Really?! *headdesk* The only reason I rooted for a tenth season was because I thought it would be written and produced as the final one right from the start. Please, Tom, put your foot down now and make S10 unequivocally the last. The fans deserve a kick-ass conclusion to this story, and it's time to move on.

At least she didn't tease that Michael might be coming back. :P

Talking Smallville with Showrunner Kelly Souders
Posted by: Keith Chow on April 1, 2010 at 10:31 am

After a month-long break, Smallville returns Friday night with an all-new episode. In “Escape,” Clark and Lois set out on a romantic weekend “that kind of goes awry,” according to Executive Producer Kelly Souders. The episode also sees the reveal of a “new duo”—most likely referring to the recent hook-up between Ollie and Chloe—and the live action debut of the Silver Banshee, in what has become a recent trend of comic-accurate interpretations of DC villains and heroes. “We always try to give a nod [to the comics] if not more,” says Souders. “For us, it was also a conscious effort to move closer and closer to the mythology as Clark gets closer and closer to [becoming] Superman.”

The events of “Escape” also set up the action involving Zod, the Kandorians, and Checkmate that will carry through to the end of the season. Of course, speculation has centered around whether or not the endgame of season nine would ultimately be the run up to a series finale. That mystery was answered, however, when it was recently announced that Smallville would be returning for an unprecedented tenth season. Which begs the question: will season 10 be the last one?

Last week, I had a few minutes with Kelly Souders, one-half of the showrunning team, to find out.

Wow, ten seasons, huh? Congratulations on reaching such a milestone! Now that we know you’re coming back, I think the one thing everyone wants to know is if it’s the final season.
It’s funny because over each of the last few seasons, people have speculated “oh this must be the last season!” So I’ve learned to never ever bet against Smallville.

Most genre shows rarely go beyond six or seven seasons, if that. Superhero shows usually fare much worse even. What do you think attributes to this kind of longevity? I mean, Tom Welling has already played Clark Kent longer than any other actor in history.
That’s true. Everybody on our crew and in our cast approaches every season like it needs to be the best season of Smallville. And because of that passion, I think that’s why we’re still on the air. Nobody comes in thinking, “oh this is the last season, I don’t need to work that hard.” Otherwise, we would’ve ended the show years ago. But I also think 10 is a nice round number and everybody feels very thrilled and privileged to get this far, so I definitely wouldn’t assume it’s not the end just because we’ve had an incredible run.

The converse of that, though, is that instead of saying “this is the end, let’s not work that hard,” you could do what the folks over at Lost have done and say “this is it; we’re going to throw everything out there and build toward the ending.”
Yes. Definitely

And in the case of Smallville, we all know what that ending is. Speaking of which, do you already have an endgame planned? And if so, how similar or dissimilar is it to what the show’s creators—Al Gough and Miles Millar—envisioned?
Whenever the final episode airs—whenever that is—there are moments that Al and Miles always talked about, and those are moments that we want to use to preserve their vision. They’re really great steps to getting into the full Superman mythos. So what will be a part of that episode, whenever it is, will be their vision. And every season, we think of more moments that would be really cool in the final episode. So we’ve been gathering these jewels along the way each year.

How many more jewels do you guys have up your sleeves? Because I have to admit, these last two seasons have been jam-packed with iconic Superman moments. For example, fans have long speculated that the final, final scene of the series would be Clark ripping open his shirt and revealing the iconic S-symbol underneath. The thing is, you already did that this season in the episode “Warrior!” So doesn’t that just up the ante for what we can expect in the series finale? How do you walk the line between giving fans what they want without showing your hand too much too early?
That’s what’s so great about Superman. There’s always something down the road. You never really run out of things to play with!

Speaking of upping the ante, February’s “Absolute Justice” was a landmark episode for the series. Not only did it mark your first ever two-hour movie, it did phenomenally well for you. I can only assume that the eventual series finale kind of has to be a similar extended event.
Yeah. We try to up the ante every year and challenge ourselves to do something new. We’re always looking for an aspect of the show that fans haven’t seen. So [“Absolute Justice”] brought in a new level of integration of the DC world and characters [into Smallville].

That episode also set up the whole Checkmate storyline that will play out the rest of this season. And I must say there’s pretty much a consensus that believes Pam Grier as Amanda Waller is genius casting!
She’s been so much fun! I love her Amanda Waller. You never know exactly what she’s going to do. She makes her unpredictable and wonderful.

Geoff Johns was such a big part of why “Absolute Justice” worked so well, and he’s done a lot when it comes to introducing the DCU into Smallville. During your hiatus, it was announced that Geoff was named Chief Creative Officer of the newly restructured DC Entertainment. Since Geoff is part of the Smallville extended family, what will his new role mean for the show?
It’s funny because we just came from lunch with Geoff! We’ve known Geoff a long time and absolutely love working with him. It’s just been a really great working experience. He’s always been completely supportive of Smallville. Every year we work with him to try to bring in some new characters. So certainly next year won’t be an exception. We’ll definitely be taking a new step towards the goal of expanding the DC world and hopefully everybody will like what we come up with!

From what I understand, DC Entertainment was formed to act as a liaison between the comics and Hollywood.
I think that what they’re doing is trying to expand the DC Comics’ reach even further. Obviously, having Smallville on for close to a decade has shown how viable television is as far as expanding DC’s world. Now with Human Target’s success, that’s going to be a focus for them as well as the features side. We just expect that world to keep going because it’s filled with great characters and great stories that fans love seeing in multiple formats.

In the past, it seemed as if the features side of Warner always had restrictions on what you could and couldn’t show on Smallville. For example, certain characters are barred from ever appearing because of movie developments and so on. Has that changed? Will that change at all?
What’s important to the people at DC, just like any company that’s trying to oversee multiple properties, is to make sure everything lines up properly. To make sure that if something’s developing on the feature side that there isn’t a conflict somewhere else. With a lot more focus on DC, things will probably be happening that will allow for some of that. But it’s kind of complicated because we don’t really know just how things are going change that much. But I think it’s just going to be people making sure properties are protected and used in the best way.

I’ve never really understood the movie vs. television conflict anyway. I mean, Warner was able to develop, produce and release a Superman film while you guys were on the air. Now, it looks like the studio and Christopher Nolan are putting into motion another Superman feature. Will this new movie have any effect on what you do on the show?
Nobody’s called over [from the movie side] to say “hey, you can’t do that, we’re doing this over here.” You know, we’ve been on for so long that I think everybody sort of sees Smallville as its own little universe. But certainly, everyone’s big idea is to sort of string everything together.

Sorry for the brief tangent, but in talking about the Superman movies, it always frustrates me whenever I read an article about the failure of Superman as a film franchise, the writer usually bemoans the fact that as a character, Superman is inherently unrelatable to 21st century audiences. And I’m like, what about Smallville? They’ve been making Superman relate-able and appealing forever!
I find Superman to be incredibly easy to relate to. I mean, he’s alienated, he feels alone, he’s not sure he fits in. Everybody’s experienced that so for us, that’s definitely not an issue that we run in to.

Sorry for the rant. Going back to the show, and this season in particular, Tom Welling has spent considerable amount of time in the director’s chair over the last few seasons. Any more plans for Tom to direct this season or next?
Definitely. Tom’s a really great director. With his background, he really knows a lot about the other actors and finding the right motivation for a scene. And he’s really had some wonderful material to work with.

Speaking of directors, one of the show’s originals is coming back in the form of Greg Beeman. Other familiar faces returning this season include Michael McKean as Perry White and Annette O’Toole as Martha. Can you talk about what it’s like having these old school alums back in Smallville?
It’s been a blast. Brian and I have always enjoyed working with Annette. Obviously, Michael’s version of Perry White is unforgettable. He’s really brings a lot of energy and life to that character. And Greg had a lot to do with the production for many years. And while we’re not saying whether or not it’s the end, everybody knows the show is definitely in its homestretch, so it’s nice to see some familiar faces again.

Speaking of familiar faces, any chances Laura Vandervoort will be coming back as Kara? Last we saw her, she was searching for Kandor and the Kandorians have been such a major plot point this season.
Well, Laura’s on V so she’s been a little busy. But her name does come up a lot so you never know.

Fair enough. How about Clark’s glasses? Are we going to see them return? Ever since Clark showed them to Lois in “Crossfire,” they’ve kind of gone missing. Are there plans to address the iconic Clark Kent disguise?
We definitely inch a little bit closer to that every year. So without a doubt, next year we’ll take maybe more than an inch or two towards that famous Clark Kent look.

So if you do plan to incorporate Clark’s “disguise,” do you have a plan to address how no one recognizes Clark in the glasses?
That’s really the great question of all time, isn’t it? How does someone not recognize someone behind a pair of glasses? For us, it’s more about the double identity to be honest, about getting both images together.

Of course, the other disguise people are clamoring for is another one for Clark’s superhero persona. Back in San Diego, I believe Brian mentioned that the black trenchcoat look was just the first prototype. Are there others along the way before we get to the iconic Superman costume?
I think we all know that what he’s wearing now is just the interim to what he eventually wears. We’re about to get into this discussion over the next couple weeks over hiatus! So stay tuned, I guess.

What about the final Superman costume? Will we ever see Tom don the iconic red and blue?
Now that I can’t answer! People have been asking us that for years! I can’t blow it now!

Touche. So, finally, how do you maintain the balance of the original intent of Smallville without making it a full blown Superman show?
Each year, it’s a different challenge because we don’t want him to completely stall. We always want him to keep making progress and move toward becoming Superman. So at the beginning of each season, we sit down and talk about Clark psychologically. What’s going on with him, why he hasn’t put on the outfit, the lessons he has to learn. So each year, we look over what the final stages are that he has to get through being Superman 100%. You know, not just going around saving people, but actually embracing his persona and being that symbol of hope.


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Tags: interview, kelly souders, smallville, spoilers
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