"It was nice ... occasionally either Erica or Tom would make some reference that would make the other one laugh, and they'd kind of fill us in on it ... it was all the inside jokes. And believe me, you're not going to hear them from us [laughs]. But it was great. The really lovely thing about this show is the real family feel to it. These people have been working together for a long time now. You get to the end of nine years on a series and either you're ready to kill each other, or you become very, very close. And it's turned out that way."
Annette O'Toole and Michael McKean Return to 'Smallville'
by Jenna Busch
posted May 6th 2010 5:00PM
It's the event 'Smallville' fans have waiting all season for: The return of Martha Kent (Annette O'Toole) and Perry White (Michael McKean).
Things have changed quite a bit since Martha's departure for the Senate and Perry's appearance way back in season 3.
TV Squad got a chance to chat with the married pair about their return and while they couldn't answer questions about season 10, they did give us the scoop on returning to the set, Perry's reporting work with Lois (Erica Durance) and how long it would take Clark (Tom Welling) to cook a potato.
How did it feel to be back on the set?
O'Toole: It felt really wonderful. I hadn't been back for two years and a lot longer for Mikey. You hadn't been there in six or something ...
O'Toole: But it was so much more fun than I expected it to be. They treated us so well, and it was wonderful to see everybody, and a lot of hugging and kissing. And catching up with people I hadn't seen in a long time. It was really, really fun.
McKean: I was a little disconcerted that Tom Welling hadn't aged at all.
O'Toole: Yeah that was a little weird.
McKean: It angered me. [Laughs] I tried to think of some way to accidentally mar his features, but ... it didn't work.
O'Toole: [Laughs] You couldn't hurt him. He's invincible.
McKean: That's right!
So what do you guys think about how the characters have progressed throughout the seasons?
O'Toole: I haven't watched the show since I was on it. [laughs] So I can't say. I'm being brutally honest. I couldn't tell you.
McKean: You know, a series is, in a sense, is kind of a stall. Any series. I'm talking about great series and the not-so-great. It's kind of a stall. The characters have gone through a lot, and they've remained true to their creators' idea, I think. I don't mean the Lord [laughs], I mean, the people who write the show. And I think that Clark is still very much Clark. Like I said, they've been through a lot and they've remained true, which is all you can really ask. That's kind of an actor's point of view. You want to be in a series that's going to put you through a lot and you're going to remain true to your original concept. I think I dodged that question. I'm just saying it's a good thing.
Now that Lois and Clark are in a relationship, what does Martha think about that?
O'Toole: I think she thinks it's positive. She's always had a really soft place in her heart for Lois. She's kind of been a daughter to her. And for a lot of them. The thing about Martha is that she's been so deprived of female companionship. [laughs] Or friends of any kind, since John [John Schneider] died. I mean, she had to turn to Lionel [John Glover] for support, which is really sad.
McKean: And then the U.S. Senate.
O'Toole: And then the U.S. Senate. There is nothing there. Nothing. [Laughs] So every woman that Clark kind of liked, except for the one he devastatingly married, if that's even a word, she's been really positive about. She just loves Lois. She just thinks that Lois is a great girl. Very independent and fun, but still very emotionally kind of needing of another woman too. So they kind of bonded. And I think she thinks it's a really good thing. It's hard for me, because I don't know what's been going on. I know they've been in a relationship, and Martha is out of it too. She's been in Washington, so I think it's okay that she doesn't know too much.
A few episodes ago, Lois called Martha and asked about a wedding dress. Is that ever mentioned?
O'Toole: No, not that I know of. They talk about something that was in the papers...a wedding announcement or something. We do talk about that in this episode. So I have knowledge of it. But the wedding dress is news to me.
Talk a bit about the relationship between your characters.
McKean: Well, Perry is one of those guys who, by virtue of his own old-fashioned view of what a newsman is, has been kind of a loner. But I mention the three ex-wives, so I guess he's kind of a serial monogamist as well. [laughs] But I think that he probably was sandbagged by Martha's honesty and her maturity. I think that this is a relationship he's not playing at. It's future is very much in question, but it's still something he thinks is worth going for. He's not giving up. I'm not going to give anything away, but there is a certain arc that happens with the relationship in this episode.
O'Toole: It's not a relationship...it's not a full-blown love affair. It's something ... they like each other. She's been alone a long time and he has too. They have some similar views. But she still has a big secret and she's not going to reveal that to just anybody ... who's a reporter! [laughs]
McKean: Yeah. [laughs]
I have to address the Red Queen issue. It's been heavily hinted at that you are the Red Queen. I mean, the red cape and all. Is there anything you can tell us about that part of the storyline?
O'Toole: Not really. I think it's one of those things where we all want to be surprised about. I understand that, in the trailer, a lot of mention is made that Martha is the Red Queen.
McKean: A hint [laughs].
O'Toole: A hint. A hint of mint. But you know, we've been told to keep that a bit under wraps. But on 'Smallville' you never know. You just never know. Something could be absolutely, completely, here it is, and then it turns around and then it's not that. Sorry to be so coy.
McKean: We were told to be coy.
O'Toole: The coyness is not our fault.
McKean: The coyness does not come naturally.
O'Toole: It does not suit us.
There is a shot out of the four of you at dinner. Can you talk about that scene?
O'Toole: It was the first scene we shot. It was really fun, because it was a little bit awkward, being back together, now that two years have passed. But I'm still serving the peas and carrots [laughs]. It was a really fun scene to do. All our scenes around the table. Because we really got to cut up while everyone else was doing their closeups. That's always fun. And it was great to sit at the table and see Tom and Erica and it really felt like we were really parental, didn't it?
McKean: Yeah. It was nice ... occasionally either Erica or Tom would make some reference that would make the other one laugh, and they'd kind of fill us in on it ... it was all the inside jokes. And believe me, you're not going to hear them from us [laughs]. But it was great. The really lovely thing about this show is the real family feel to it. These people have been working together for a long time now. You get to the end of nine years on a series and either you're ready to kill each other, or you become very, very close. And it's turned out that way. I think the people who work on this show are...they're just nice people. They're friendly, smart, talented people and you know, that's a good thing. It's always a good thing to drop into the middle of that like I am, or a returning graduate, like Ms. O'Toole.
I know Perry is working on a story with Lois. Can you tell us anything about that?
McKean: You know what? [Laughs] I had so much complicated expositio... we were tossing these ideas around and I only grasped about half of it. But I do know that it's all connected to this odd symbol that keeps turning up. And also this strange castle in the desert that blew up ...
O'Toole: Oh, I forgot about that!
McKean: Yeah! That was our scene. We're cooking up a story that will set the whole town on it's ear.
O'Toole: It was fun to see them together, especially their first meeting. It's this iconic meeting between these two very important characters in the Superman mythology and it was great to witness that. It was lovely.
McKean: Yeah. And Erica is great. Really hard working and intelligent. She's a terrific girl.
Now that Martha is back, being so important to Clark...does that make her a target to Zod (Callum Blue)?
O'Toole: I saw him briefly when he was going into makeup. [Laughs] I had nothing to do with him or to say to him. And I don't know that Martha is back. I mean, she came back for one episode, so I don't know what that means. I'm just...
McKean: She has a country to run too.
O'Toole: That's right! She has to go talk to Barack!
McKean: That's right. She has to go put Dick Cheney in jail [laughs].
O'Toole: Hey! That's my secret!
McKean: Oh, sorry! [Laughs]
So, has Clark been keeping the house clean enough for you?
O'Toole: Oh! Yes! Because you know, he can do it in like, half a second. He can make a big mess, and then he knows I'm coming and zoom! So he's done that all his life.
McKean: You know, he can cook a potato in eight seconds with his x-ray vision.
O'Toole: I love baked potatoes! He can make sour cream!
Everyone wants to know if we're going to hear some classic lines from Perry White.
McKean: Well, we do get a 'Great Caesar's ghost!' in there [laughs], you'll be happy to know. And I am called "chief"a couple of times. But I don't straighten anybody out. I think we haven't reached the tipping point with "chief." I think eventually I'll have to straighten everybody out. As far as the other Perry White classics ... you have to remember that this is all revisionism. When I grew up, nobody knew Clark's secret identity, except his parents. Nobody. And Lois never knew. Nobody knew. So things have changed. Things are a little bit different. But comic book reality is like Silly Putty. It can be anything that works. So as far as ... I don't look quite like Perry White did in the TV series.
O'Toole: And I look nothing like Martha Kent.
McKean: She was always a million years old.
O'Toole: She was a million years old, right? She had gray hair! [Laughs] So if they're playing some kind of a Rubik's Cube game with the reality that I grew up with in comic books, so be it. I think that we're on the same page as far as trying to make Perry a real guy. I think the episode we did six years ago, certainly paved the way for that. Certainly a flawed human being and not just an all-knowing boss.
I wanted to see if there is anything else you can tease for the next episode that won't get you guys in trouble.
O'Toole: Well, we can't get in trouble. What are they going to do? Fire us? [Laughs] Let me think ... it was fun to see that they built the whole Smallville street on the set. On the outside of where we shoot it.
McKean: We used to have to go to another town.
O'Toole: We used to have to drive almost to America to go to Smallville. It was a long, hour and a half drive. And now it's right there...you're makeup trailer is right there. You get to walk through Smallville where the same movie is always playing. [Laughs] And then go to work and come out. And it was really fun to see the people who were working on the show ... they've all moved up! They're all the same people, but they're all a little bit more in charge. A big revelation. [Laughs]
McKean: Oh yeah. A big revelation! A few things have changed and everyone still likes each other. I wish I had a nastier story for you, but I don't.