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Tom Welling talks to the NY Times about Hellcats! - I worship at the television altar — LiveJournal
Tom Welling talks to the NY Times about Hellcats!
Wow, I'm impressed! The NY Times interviewed Tom Welling about Hellcats!

Superman Enters Phone Booth, Exits a Producer
Published: August 20, 2010

THERE is one superpower the actor Tom Welling, who plays a young Clark Kent in “Smallville,” would love to have in real life.

“I wish I could split into two people,” he said on the phone recently, running late after wrapping a scene. “I desperately want to be in two places at once.”

Mr. Welling, 33, was referring to two specific places, both of them in Vancouver, British Columbia: the set of the show he stars on, “Smallville,” now entering its 10th and final season, and the set of “Hellcats,” a new CW drama beginning Sept. 8 on which he is an executive producer.

“Smallville” — and Mr. Welling — started on WB, a now-defunct network that became a teenage-programming destination with shows like “Seventh Heaven,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” When CW absorbed WB, “Smallville” stayed on the air, its wholesome earnestness somewhat out of place among the new network’s stable of scandalous, sex-obsessed hormonal dramas. So network executives didn’t expect a pitch for “Hellcats,” a cheerleading story with the tag line “Hell hath no fury like a cheerleader scorned,” to come from Mr. Welling.

“I was surprised that this was something he was interested in,” said Dawn Ostroff, the president of CW. “But whether or not it’s his personal taste or instinct, he knew it would fill a niche.” “Hellcats” joins a CW lineup that includes “Gossip Girl” and “90210” — and like those shows, it features a gorgeous ensemble cast, sharp-tongued writing and a carefully tailored cool-kids soundtrack.

It also has something those shows lacked when they made their debuts: stars. Whereas CW dramas tend to make celebrities out of their casts, “Hellcats” has two leads who are already well known to the young audience the network covets: Aly Michalka (“Disney 365,” “Bandslam”), who is best known as half of the pop sister act Aly and AJ, and Ashley Tisdale of “High School Musical” fame.

If Mr. Welling has been watching his network of nine years evolve into a teenage-soap stronghold, he doesn’t let on. “In some ways, I don’t have the best perspective on that, because I’m always on set,” he said. “I’m kind of in the eye of the storm.”

But the amount of time it took him to get “Hellcats” from idea to completed pilot — less than seven months — speaks to his understanding of CW’s programming appetites and his standing with the network’s brass. (He has directed one “Smallville” a year since 2006 and added an executive producer title this season.) “He grew up with the WB, has been with the CW from the beginning, and just has a great sense of what we want,” Ms. Ostroff said.

Of course, many actors on long-running series garner producing credits, some more or less symbolic. “There’s a huge difference between being the lead of a show and being its leadership,” said Kelly Souders, an executive producer on “Smallville.” “But Tom’s an extremely hard worker, and as he took on more responsibility and grew this understanding of what it is to get a show off the ground, he still wanted to be more and more involved.”

Ms. Souders, who works from Los Angeles, said she knew Mr. Welling was serious about directing and producing when she began to notice him in the background of her video-conferencing screen. “I’d be in a production meeting with people in Vancouver, talking about an episode he wasn’t directing,” she said, “and I’d look up and he’d be sitting on the end, just listening in.”

Crammed as his agenda already was, Mr. Welling could not resist a book that landed on his desk several months back from his agent. It was “Cheer!,” an exploration of college cheerleading by the journalist Kate Torgovnick. Mr. Welling found himself captivated by the athleticism and competitive subculture. “There are people who stay in school just to cheer,” he said, “and I didn’t know that existed.”

With Warner Brothers on board, Mr. Welling and his production company assembled a team: Kevin Murphy (“Caprica,” “Desperate Housewives”) would write and produce the pilot; a crew stocked with “Smallville” veterans would help shoot it; and Allan Arkush (“Heroes,” “Crossing Jordan”) would direct. “Tom is very detail-oriented,” said Mr. Arkush. “When you shoot a pilot, you’re working so fast, it’s easy to not see that person in the corner of the frame doing something wrong. Tom’s not afraid to point it out.”

Mr. Arkush added that since Mr. Welling himself is the lead on a series, his input in casting Marti, the reluctant cheerleader at the center of the series, was invaluable. “It’s not just about the right actor,” Mr. Arkush said. “The lead has to be the type of person you’d want in your home.”

The role ultimately went to Ms. Michalka — but not before she completed a second, more physical round of auditions. “Every time you watch ‘Hellcats,’ you’re going to see a performance,” Mr. Welling said, adding that the response to shows like “Glee” inspired him and the show’s other principals to make explosive cheer-routine scenes a centerpiece of the show. He wanted to be sure each actor could “dance, sing and act — like in classic films, where the spotlight was on performance.”

If Ms. Michalka’s audition was grueling, it was nothing compared with her workload for the pilot, which called for running, biking, jumping and flipping more typical of an action movie than a teenage drama. “We just put her through hell,” said Mr. Murphy, also an executive producer. “She had bruises head to toe. Having Tom there to say to her and to all of the cast, ‘I’ve been there, it’s going to get better,’ was of incredible value. As far as reassuring presences on your set go, you can’t do much better than Superman.”

A version of this article appeared in print on August 22, 2010, on page AR15 of the New York edition.


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26 comments or Leave a comment
jeannev From: jeannev Date: August 20th, 2010 07:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very nice. Is it just me, or do people speak of him in a very "awe" like way?

I hope its a success for him. I really do.
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: August 22nd, 2010 08:46 am (UTC) (Link)
There is no doubt that Tom makes a unique impression. I suspect we're not the only ones who think he is an amazing man.

I think he and his team have done everything right on this project. I hope it all pays off.
ladygawain From: ladygawain Date: August 20th, 2010 08:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's it. He is Superman.

He's so inspiring. I'm in awe of him and everything he's accomplishing. Go Tom, indeed. Thanks for this :)

Edited at 2010-08-20 08:00 pm (UTC)
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: August 22nd, 2010 08:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Who would have dreamed back when Smallville started that he would come so far? I'm so happy for him. And this is so much more than a simple interview, it's an entire feature story all about Tom and his accomplishments. In the New York Times!
duskwillow From: duskwillow Date: August 20th, 2010 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ms. Souders, who works from Los Angeles, said she knew Mr. Welling was serious about directing and producing when she began to notice him in the background of her video-conferencing screen. “I’d be in a production meeting with people in Vancouver, talking about an episode he wasn’t directing,” she said, “and I’d look up and he’d be sitting on the end, just listening in.”

Tell me more, tell me more! Today has been a great day for Welling tidbits!
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: August 22nd, 2010 09:02 am (UTC) (Link)
I know! That quote from KS was so intriguing. I think Tom has been like a sponge on set from day one, soaking up every aspect of production, and always seeking new challenges. I love that his involvement with Hellcats is affording us new insights into this fascinating man.
chris_43 From: chris_43 Date: August 20th, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
What an awesome interview. I'm thrilled to read these little insightful tibits about Tom in his role as an EP and even more excited to hear from Tom. I'm always so impressed!!
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: August 22nd, 2010 09:29 am (UTC) (Link)
I feel the same way. I'm really looking forward to Hellcats, but the best thing about the show just might be the new access it has given us to Tom. To hear him articulate his thoughts and feelings about the project and the story they're trying to tell has been a rare gift.

What I love most is that this article isn't about Hellcats, it's about Tom. I'm just so impressed that the NY Times found his story newsworthy, and took the time and trouble to truly explore what makes him so special, interviewing his fellow EPs on both shows and the head of the network herself. And of course everyone had wonderful things to say about our guy.
la_belle_isa From: la_belle_isa Date: August 20th, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Isn't this article just great? I'm happy that it will also appear in the print version of the NY Times. It's not "just" the internet. Go Tom!
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: August 22nd, 2010 09:32 am (UTC) (Link)
I was so thrilled to reach the end of the article and see that notation that it would appear in print as well. This is a big deal, and I couldn't be happier for Tom!
carolandtom From: carolandtom Date: August 20th, 2010 10:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm so happy Tom is getting some of the attention and recognition he deserves. It's always thrilling to learn those tidbits about him and how he works. Great article! Thanks!
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: August 22nd, 2010 09:42 am (UTC) (Link)
I love that this article recognizes and explores Tom's many different talents. From the beginning of his career, Tom has made his choices carefully and deliberately, and now it's all coming together for him. He may be the star of a genre show on a tiny network, but he's becoming a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry. I'm so happy for the respect and admiration he has earned from his peers; no one deserves it more.
jude_judith82 From: jude_judith82 Date: August 20th, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Who would of thought him being a producer would have taken him out of being a hermit. Love the interviews. Wooooooo.
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: August 22nd, 2010 09:55 am (UTC) (Link)
Even Tom doesn't say no when the NY Times comes calling! :) Seriously, though, I would be a Hellcats fan for the way the show has brought Tom out of hiding alone. We've been spoiled by his public appearances in recent months, and the wealth of interviews he gave at SDCC, and it looks like the new media-friendly Tom just might be here to stay.

But what I love more than anything else is how happy our boy seems. ♥
jlvsclrk From: jlvsclrk Date: August 20th, 2010 11:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow, what a fabulous article. I'm so glad they were impressed by our lad.
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: August 22nd, 2010 10:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Isn't it wonderful? What I like best are all the quotes, both from Tom and about him. The more I learn about him, the more impressed I am.
tjw_jaypat From: tjw_jaypat Date: August 21st, 2010 01:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Aww, I feel like a proud father when I read such stuff... LOL

Seriously, who knew that this "don't want to go to college like all my siblings" boy would end up as the ultimate "I've got it all" man? Go Tom!
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: August 22nd, 2010 10:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I know what you mean! It's so cool to see him receive this kind of recognition.

I think a lot of people have underestimated Tom over the years, assuming he couldn't be very intelligent simply because he's so beautiful, or because he himself has said he wasn't an outstanding student in school. In reality, he has it ALL: he's smart, funny, gorgeous, charming, and talented. Plus he's just an incredibly nice guy. I'm sure his leadership skills, business savvy, and creative vision will take him wherever he wants to go. I'm so glad he had the courage to follow his dream, and find his own path to success.
starry_dawn From: starry_dawn Date: August 21st, 2010 06:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Aw, what a great article! I was beaming all the way through to the end! :D
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: August 22nd, 2010 11:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Me, too! All those great quotes about Tom! Every one of them illustrates how special he is, and it's cool to get some insight into Tom as a producer.

I was intrigued by the quote from Tom that said everyone had to be able to sing. Did they actually have to sing as part of their audition? And if so, why? I thought the fact that Aly and Ashley were accomplished vocal artists was just a coincidence.
el_elle_8 From: el_elle_8 Date: August 21st, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is a great article, with some nice tidbits about Tom behind the scenes and as EP. Nice to see Tom get some recognition for his hard work!
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: August 22nd, 2010 12:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think a feature article about Tom in the NY Times is quite an honor, and I appreciate that the piece is so thoughtfully written and thoroughly researched. I especially enjoyed reading all the quotes. I can just see Tom in those early years, quietly setting out to learn everything he could on the Smallville set, and now look at him!
whimsywinx From: whimsywinx Date: August 22nd, 2010 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
That was very nice profile.
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: August 23rd, 2010 01:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Tom's moving up in the world!
tasabian From: tasabian Date: August 22nd, 2010 07:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
He's completely repositioned himself, hasn't he? Used to seen by the media as just a pretty boy actor, now he's a mogul and a force to be reckoned with!

Good for Tommy!
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: August 23rd, 2010 01:34 am (UTC) (Link)
I love that he's being taken seriously. Maybe not by everyone yet, but this article is a testament to the reputation he is now beginning to command in the entertainment industry. And if Hellcats does well, he'll earn a whole new level of respect.
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