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Welcome to The Torch!
This is the thread with an exposé highlighting each actor from the show every month!
Fun Fact: The name of the school paper for Smallville High is a reference to the high school paper a young Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (creators of Superman) worked at, the Glenville High Torch!
This thread will contain spoilers and discuss the series as a whole.
Michael Rosenbaum: Not the Villain of this Story
Lex Luthor has had many iterations in his long existence from evil scientist to corrupt businessman turned politician, but one thing has always been consistent, he’s the bad guy. So when Smallville instead chose to make him friends with his future arch enemy they had quite the tall order to fill. For one thing, Lex can’t be completely evil out of the gate or else why would our favorite farmboy ever associate with him? But if he’s good enough to be friends with Clark, how could he ever become the villain? And furthermore, what actor could possibly manage to balance the nuance in this character, and more importantly, would he be willing to go bald?
Born July 11th 1972 in Oceanside, NY, Michael Rosenbaum grew up in Newburgh, Indiana as a quick witted but awkward kid, often feeling out of pace with his peers and struggling in school with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Just like Lex, Rosenbaum had a difficult relationship with his father and his parents’ relationship was tumultuous, divorcing when he was 14. He found his outlet in theater, being a fan of horror films his whole life, and hit his stride at Western Kentucky University studying theatre arts. He was in many independent films in his early career and this training, paired with his own talent positioned him perfectly for the role of Lex Luthor. Lex has lengthy dialogue monologues and tête-à-têtes with his father Lionel played by the legendary John Glover. Rosenbaum delivers these flawlessly but admits he had to work hard to memorize his lines and often struggled internally with anxiety and self doubt. Rosenbaum was able to deliver a serious performance and stay true to his character and yet be silly and animated off screen with his costars. He and fellow castmates had fun together on set while still working long and difficult hours and to this day he is still close friends with Tom Welling (the focus of last month’s Torch article below). So in our reality their friendship does become the stuff of legends!
Rosenbaum was very happy to be able to reinvent Lex Luthor and give him a sympathetic arc rather than starting off as the predictable foil to the protagonist. In S2 E12 Insurgence, Rosenbaum advocated to change the delivery of his lines to better suit his character. In the scene, Jonathan is losing his cool with Lex and yelling at him. Originally Lex was to yell back at him, leading to a blow out, but Rosenbaum felt it would show Lex’s ability to control situations and display the true hurt he felt by delivering the line calmly and sensitively insead. It ends up being a heartbreaking scene for Lex and once again we can understand, sympathize and even root for him which makes it even more tragic as his character chooses the path of darkness throughout the series.
Rosenbaum played Lex Luthor for 153 episodes and is regarded as the best depiction of the character to date. He has an extensive filmography as an actor in movies, tv and animation in addition to accolades in writing, producing and directing including S6 E125 Freak. He has had a successful voice acting career including his performance as Wally West/Kid Flash and the Flash in Teen Titans and Justice League/Unlimited. Recently he has had success with his Podcast - Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum, where he talks with other actors about their lives, careers, and struggles with issues like mental health, addiction, and divorce. This is Rosenbaum as his most honest and authentic self and it’s where you can see how his real life in many ways has parallelled his character’s, although moving in the opposite direction to a better person, not the evil mastermind of the world. Rosenbaum and his guest stars are candid about their flaws and hangups and the efforts they put into finding their true self. Introspection and dedication to self improvement are core to who Michael Rosenbaum is, and everything Lex Luthor was not. Michael Rosenbaum is an incredibly talented and fascinating individual. He enjoys playing hockey and is a fan of the NY Rangers. He is left handed, Jewish, color blind and his favorite band is Guns N’ Roses. There are so many interesting things about him you can never really feel like you’ve figured him out, and it seems he’s still working on that for himself too.
Do you have more trivia about Michael Rosenbaum you would like to share? Tell us more in the comments below!
Archived Past Articles:
Tom Welling: Man or Superman
In season 1, we are led to believe our main character of Clark Kent is nothing more than an awkward freshman reduced to a shy bumbling fool around his crush Lana. The reality dear reader is much more…old? Tom Welling was born in Putnam Valley, NY on April 26th 1977, which makes him a whopping 24 years old when portraying our supposed 15 year old freshmen. Fooling no one, the show runners found they couldn’t put Clark in a suit without completely shattering the very thin veil that he was supposed to be a high schooler. In fact the show runners were very keen to get the cast out of high school as fast as possible as each season it became harder to convincingly pass their characters as anything close to teenagers.
Welling has had a very interesting career starting with modeling in 2000 for Tommy Hilfiger, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Calvin Klein. His first major role was in 2001 on 6 episodes of Judging Amy before taking on the role of our favorite farm boy. In 2003 he was apparently not busy enough on the set of Smallville and joined the cast of the movie Cheaper by the Dozen as the oldest son Charlie Baker. When modeling, acting in TV, movies, oh and a music video, simultaneously wasn’t enough, Welling added quite a few directing credits to his name as well. Welling directed 7 episodes of Smallville including S5 E106 Fragile, S6, E120 Hydro, S7 E150 Apocalypse, S8 E173 Injustice, S9 E186 Absolute Justice, Part 2, S10 E205 Patriot and E214 Booster.
Welling appeared in every episode (that’s 217!) of the entire series and is the Guinness World Record holder for portraying Clark Kent for the longest continuous period of time from 2001-2011. When Smallville said “no tights, no flight” they really meant it, Welling is the only live-action Superman to never be seen wearing the full suit. You may think Welling would have been upset about this, that he earned the moment to wear that cape after 10 years but it’s more interesting than that. Welling actually refused the concept to suit up for the series finale, insisting to stick to the show’s initial purpose of no tights, no flight, literally ending the series as Clark, and opening the comic as Superman.
“I said, ‘That’s not our show.’ He’s like, ‘No, it’s going to be great’ and I go, ‘Yeah, but just think about what we’ve been doing. If we just jump into that, we haven’t earned it.”
This position is consistent with Welling’s commitment to Clark as a character instead of Superman. Throughout the show Clark struggles with his destiny and heritage, wanting only to be a normal guy. Unlike his costar Annette O’Toole (Marktha Kent) Welling isn’t a comic book reader, and uses this blind spot of the Superman mythos to his advantage when portraying Clark. Fans on the other hand were not as committed to this and had been eagerly awaiting the moment to finally see our man become Superman. When casting began for Superman Returns (2006) while Smallville was still going strong, fans campaigned to get Welling cast but it wasn’t meant to be. Ironically, Brandon Routh who got the part, had auditioned to play Clark in Smallville! Guess it’s a small world after all.
In 2019, Smallville fans were delighted to see Welling reprise his role as Clark Kent in the Arrowverse: Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event. Stop reading and go watch the clip if you haven’t yet, major spoiler ahead! Taking place on Earth-167 (based on the year show creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar were both born, 1967) we meet a retired Superman living on the family farm enjoying a peaceful life with his wife Lois, their daughters, and no powers other than the uncanny ability to channel Jonathan Kent (John Schneider) and punch out a Luthor. And after 18 years we finally get the answer to Lana’s question from the pilot episode.
“So what are you: man or superman?”
The answer, is yes.
Additional info about Mr. Welling submitted by our reader @Reaganfan78:
Tom Welling is in the movie Draft Day which stars Kevin Costner who played Jonathan Kent in The Man Of Steel.
Between seasons he made Cheaper by The Dozens 1 & 2 starring Steve Martin.
Other movies he was in that I like was Parkland, which was about President Kennedy assassination. He played Secret Service Roy Kellerman who sat in front of Governor Connelly.
Those are my movie facts about him.
Oh and when Smallville was in a final season he produced another show on CW called Hellcats!
~Thank you for your letter to the editor @Reaganfan78!
Do you have more trivia about Tom Welling you would like to share? Tell us more in the comments below!
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