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Tuesday, August 3, 2004

SMALLVILLE AT COMIC-CON

SAN DIEGO -- For the third consecutive year, The WB staged a Smallville panel at Comic-Con International, and the panels' attendance continues to grow substantially in size each time.

This year's panel was in the second larget hall at the Convention Center. Executive producers Al Gough and Miles Millar returned, and were joined this time by John Glover (Lionel Luthor) and supervising producer Jeph Loeb, and fresh off a flight from Vancouver, Erica Durance (Lois Lane) and Allison Mack (Chloe Sullivan) joined the panel in time to be part of the question-and-answer session and signings after the panel.

Following is an edited transcription of the question-and-answer portion of the panel.

Question: Will Clark have anything to do with Lex evolving into a villain?

Millar: Absolutely, Clark is instrumental in why Lex becomes a villain. In our mythlology, absolutely. The relationship between Clark and Lex in the show is crucial to how they become ... how Clark becomes Superman and how Lex becomes Lex Luthor. So for us, it's very important.

Question: What kind of influence has DC Comics been with the series?

Gough: I wouldn't characterize it as arguments. We've had discussions. The biggest one was bringing Lois Lane onto the show for 13 episodes. And that was a conversation and it just took us a little while to figure out what the parameters were going to be on that. The other things we had to deal with were no other Kryptonians in Smallville. The reason you hear Jor-El's voice but we don't see Jor-El also came out of things that they were doing in the movie. But now that that version of the movie is dead, and Bryan Singer has his own version, we don't know what other affects that will have on us at this point.

They have been good and understand the importance of Smallville, obviously, for keeping the legend of Superman alive for this generation.

Question: Season 3 seemed to be a lot about Clark and Lana. I'm worried how people react to her.

Millar: Season 4 that's about to change. I think you'll see a whole new Lana and a whole new set of characters that we're really excited. I think people react to the character she is. She comes back changed...

Gough: ...And they'll react differently.

Millar: It's something we've been working on for a long time.

Question: Will Tom Welling be playing Superman in the movie?

Gough: No.

Question: Is there any truth to the rumor of doing a couple of episodes with the Bruce Wayne character?

Gough: We had talked about that early on in Season 1 and Season 2. But with Batman Begins coming out next summer, that really got put on the back burner since they are in the process of making a Batman film that really deals with Batman's origins. So it won't be happening, unfortunately.

Question: For John Glover, which part was better for you: Batman and Robin or Smallville?

Glover: Well, I was kissed to death by Uma Thurman. (Laughs). If they would let me kiss a little on Smallville... (laughs)

Question: Are we going to see Clark Kent and Lana Lang back together again?

Millar: No.

Gough: No.

Question: If Clark and Lana Lang are done, will they come full circle?

Millar: Eventually. For the next season at least, they will not be together and we will not play that relationship. We introduce two new characters in the first episode: Lois Lane, and Jensen Ackles is joining the cast, who's a great, great actor.

Gough: He'll be playing Lana's new love interest, who she meets in Paris.

Millar: He brings a whole new element to show. We also introduce a new link into the mythology that will unravel throughout the season. We're sort of putting the cave to rest and Jor-El to rest, and put new things in the show, which should be exciting and fresh.

Gough: A new piece of the Superman mythology that you all know, love and have memorized.

It's also their senior year, so they're finally going to graduate. He's 27 years old, so we figure it's time for Tom to graduate. (laughs).

Question: What other characters from the DC Universe will we see this season? And what's up with Pete?

Gough: Pete is gone. He's moved to Wichita. You may see him in a couple of episodes come back as a guest-star. And we're actually talking to DC about a couple of other characters that they will release from the dungeon of feature film development to let us use on the show. But none that we can announce right now. But there will be a couple and we would rather use them sooner rather than later.

Question: For John Glover, do you have a favorite Lionel episode or moment?

Glover: Well, "Memoria" is great for Lionel and Lex because you can see the love they have for reach other. (laughs). You laugh, but I'm serious. It's all based on love. Don't forget that. Lionel is your friend. (laughs).

Question: So you don't see Lionel as evil?

Glover: Lionel is not an evil man. He is driven, but he is not evil. Some of his choices may be wonky, misguided...

Question: John, how did you feel about shaving off all your hair in the season finale?

Gough: That was John's idea.

Glover: Yeah, I offered it up. Don't I look great?

Question: Are we going to see any reccuring villains that have been mutated by Kryptonite?

Millar: We've always wanted to have recurring villains, but it's been tricky. We did a couple of last season. And I think this season we're going to do a few.

Question: As you said, they're in their senior year. Do you see it going on after this?

Gough: They'll graduate high school and in Season 5 some will go to college at Metropolis University. Clark obviously needs to stay around to help run the farm, so he can go to community college or the University of Kansas-Smallville. There are ways to keep them around. Lex isn't in school, and neither are any of the adult characters. I don't think that it will be that huge of a transition for us, but what I think it will do is open some other story areas and we can get to Metropolis a little bit more.

Millar: And this season is going to have much more fun. We're going to deal with some teen issues. We're going to see if Clark can have sex and the affects. I guess the cool graduation year of them experiencing what it is like to be a teen. Clark will be much more popular as well.

Question: There seemed like a trend in third season to overuse Kryptonite, like the Kryptonite car bomb. Are we going to see more of that?

Millar: That wasn't one of our finest moments. That's not one of our favorites. I think the thing is, with having to do 22 episodes of television a year, it is very difficult to maintain the quality. I think if you look at the 22, we have a very good batting average, but I think we have three or four clunkers a year, which any show does. You look at our track record, and it's pretty good. But it's almost impossible to maintain the quality that length of time and for that many episodes. It's just such a grind to producer the show in terms of maintaing the quality, getting cool effects and just finding good storylines.

We always feel really bad when we have bad episodes. We know it's coming and we can see it.

Question: There haven't been used for the female characters the past season. You have really good actors in Annette O'Toole and Allison Mack. What kind of stories do you have planned for the female characters?

Gough: You're going to see more of Martha. She's a huge element, and Annette O'Toole is great. She has a huge role in episode 1 because, quite frankly, she's one of the last of the Mohicans in terms of who's not dead, in a void or in a coma ... or in prisons. She's going to take a more active role. She and Mr. Glover will have more scenes together. I would say Annette's been the most underused resource on the show and we definitely are going to fix that in Seasons 4.

And you having Lana coming back with a new attitude. And you have Lois. So I think there's going to be a lot more girl power this season.

Question: At the beginning of Season 3, you had Clark under the influence of Red Kryptonite go to Metropolis. Why was his stint there so short?

Millar: It was about three months.

Gough: He was there three months. We did it in one episode because, quite frankly, we wanted to get him back to Smallville and get him to be Clark. And on a production level, we have sets that we need to shoot on, none of which are Metropolis. So you get a taste of that and you sort of see his dark side, but then it's about getting him back to a place where he could stay on this positive journey.

Question: After three years of pushing the Clark-Lana relationship, you've gotten to the point where you've said you're not doing it any more. What exactly is the point of that?

Gough: It's over for the season. In Season 1, it was Clark trying to attain Lana but he couldn't because Whitney was in the way. Season 2 was his secret was in his way. And then this season it was "I can't be around Lana because people around me get hurt." The classic super-hero dilemmas. Lana spent eight episodes waiting for him, spent eight episodes with Adam and then spent the last part saying, "You know what? I don't need to define myself by Clark Kent and I'm going to go off and get my own life." That's why she goes off to Paris.

I think Lana's had a very good progression in Season 3. And coming into Season 4, she has a new attitude and there's someone new in her life. And the Clark-and-Lana bit will come back around again. It's just something that, with that relationship, all the cards are on the table, so now we need to sort of introduce new elements to help reinvigorate these triangles, which is what Lois does and what Jason does.

Millar: Going on with Clark Kent, as he is, is a comple nightmare. He's a psycho. He's always in danger, he's crazy...

Gough: And sometimes he's on Red Kryptonite and you're like, "Dude, what's your problem? You're an asshole."

If you look at it from Lana's perspective, she's tried very hard. Because he can't explain who he is, he's always...

Millar: A freak.

Gough: A freak. Hot. But a freak. And hot forgives a lot, let's face it. (laughs)

Question: Chloe was always like the Lois Lane on the show. With Lois now on the show, what's Chloe's role?

Millar: Very good question.

Gough: Very good question.

Millar: We have Lois for 13 episodes, so it's a good balance. We'll have her for chunks and blocks. She has a very different attitude than Chloe. She's very skeptical. She doesn't want to be a journalist at this point. She has a very opening attitude. I think you'll see, hopefully, the contrast between the two.

Question: It seems like the only way you see to keep Clark and Lana interesting is with love triangles and will-they-won't-they stories. What do you hope to accomplish by introducing Whitney 2.0 and Lois and these love triangles?

Millar: The thing that warns us is Lois and Clark, which got canceled in its fourth season because they put Lois and Clark together and they got married. And once you took the mystery out of the relationship, it's over. You have to keep these two apart.

The idea of them getting together and having an actual relationship -- we did it for two scenes at the end of Season 2. When they had a picnic under a tree with a horse. It was beautifully shot, but it was so boring. The idea of these two beautiful people sitting under trees, that's not dramatic.

Question: You've put twists on the Superman mythos in the show. Can you talk about more coming iup?

Gough: That's why we have Lois Lane. She's not Lois Lane the reporter. She's a year older than Clark. She has no interest in journalism. She is slightly neurotic.

Durance: It's true to life...

Gough: And we get to meet her father, General Sam Lane, who is this sort of Great Santini like character. And you get to see that father-daughter dynamic played out, which is something we haven't really done on the show before. We've had a lot of fathers and sons, but never any fathers and daughters.

Millar: We're also wondering how did they meet. We know Clark and Lex met in this lineage, and how Clark and Lana meet, and we came up with a really cool way how they meet. The first introduction of Lois and Clark is really interesting.

Loeb: Also, you can imagine with this acting troops, which is an extraordinary group of actors that have been together for 66 episodes, that's a long time, three years. For Erica to come into that and just basically start Day 1 in Season, you guys are not going to believe how well she blends right in. It's like a breath of fresh air.

Glover: I played with her on Wednesday...

Durance: (laughs) He certainly did!

Glover: ...and she's a lot of fun to play with. I think she could be an interest for Lionel. She's old enough, right? Chloe wasn't old enough.

Question: Why do you make Jor-El seem like an evil bastard?

Gough: Well, again, like Lionel Luthor, I don't Jor-El is evil. I think Jor-El has a plan for his son that his son basically doesn't want to follow. All Jor-El said basically was, "Come to me," and Clark said "No" and runs away. He tries to blow him up and then run away and he spent the whole season dealing with that before he finally did the heroic thing to save Jonathan and gave himself up to Jor-El. I think the question is, what did Jor-El have planned? Which I think we'll see at the top of Season 4.

Also, for us, you've always seen him as sort of the benevolent character. Obviously, (he) loved his son and sent him to Earth as the sole survivor. But was there a darker agenda there? Again, giving us somebody to play. And, also Clark searched for his real parents, and his real parents were monsters.

Question: When is Clark going to fly?

Gough: You'll get a taste of it in the season opener. That's all I'm going to say about that.

Question: Will you ever show Clark with his Fortress of Solitude?

Millar: I expect it will happen. That's something that we definitely want to do. The new mythology this season will lead toward something. Graduation means something, and we'll see it sooner than later.

Question: You guys have had a lot of "S" images in Season 3. Will there be more in Season 4?

Millar: We've always put "S's" in the show throughout since the beginning. There's always been "S's" and red capes and red blankets and caps. And we always play with bird imagery. And the pallette of the show has always been blues and yellows and reds. Whenever we can slip it in there, we do.

Question: Is it true you planned the Smallville story arc to be five seasons and if it is true, will you have enough time to tell the story?

Millar: We've always had the five-year plan. We're on year four now, so we have one year left for the plan. But with us, we'll just see how far we go. It's obviously up to you guys to watch it.

Question: Allison, I would be interested in comments on yoru character.

Mack: I don't think it's right to speak negatively of the dead, so ... I think she did what was best for her, and I think that's the way any normal teenager would behave. I don't think she always made the best decision, but I think she tried her hardest to correct any wrong decisions that she made. One of things I loved most about Chloe when she was on the show was that she was flawed, she was real. She made mistakes and admitted she made mistakes and she tried to make up for them. I did't think she always made the best decisions, but I liked the fact she didn't make the best decisions.

Question: Once Clark relocates to Metropolis, will you change the name of the show?

Gough: Clark isn't going to relocate to Metropolis. He's going to change in Smallville because he'll be running the farm. He's not somebody who can just pick up and head off. He has familial responsibilities to take care of.

Question: In the upcoming season, will there be more racy issues?

Gough: Yes, there will be. We'll deal with that. Can Clark have sex? This season we're going to get into more of these things.

Question: Will Christopher Reeve return?

Gough: Yes.

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