Reinventing Smallvile with Slavkin & Swimmer

Fri, August 22nd, 2008 at 3:32pm PDT

TV/Film
Remy Minnick, Guest Contributor

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"Smallville" begins season eight September 18 on the CW network
When it was announced last year that in addition to two of its principal actors, “Smallville” would also be losing its original creators and showrunners, fans of the long-running CW series were a bit worried. Who could possibly take the place of Al Gough and Miles Miller? Well, it took four people: Todd Slavkin, Darren Swimmer, Brian Peterson and Kelly Soulder. Yesterday, CBR News spoke with Peterson and Soulder and in our final chat with the cast and crew of “Smallville” Season Eight, we catch up with the other half of the team, Slavkin and Swimmer.

Joining the ranks as writers back in 2002, the duo had risen to Executive Producers before Gough and Miller left the show at the end of Season Seven. The quartet stepped in to take their place to shepherd the series into its eighth year, sans of course two of its main characters, Lex Luthor and Lana Lang. The new producers have quickly bolstered the cast with the return of Green Arrow and the introductions of two new villains, Tess Mercer and Doomsday.

The Justice League as seen on "Smallville"

“Positive or negative, we love to hear what the fans think,” Darren Swimmer told CBR News. “We really love to see what the fans are saying. Obviously we can't respond to it, we have to do what our vision is, but by knowing how the fans are reacting it's this really valuable thing that we have now with the internet that shows didn't have before. It's amazing our fan base is so passionate, we love that.”

Slavkin and Swimmer have been part of that vision already, even more so in the last three seasons. “We’ve been involved with the show since Season Two so much of the plot elements and the key plot elements we've had something to do with,” Todd Slavkin said. “So for us it's a chance to mix things up but we really want to honor our fans. The ‘Smallville’ fan means a lot to us so it would be irresponsible for us to [say] ‘okay, let's do a show where Superman's on heroin.’ What we want to do is honor what those guys did but put our own spin on it. I think when you all see the premiere this year you'll feel the four of us. The four of us wrote the script together, which is an unusual thing, but we wanted to kind of put our imprint on it and it's similar to other ‘Smallville’ episodes but Clark and Lois together this season will be completely fresh. The fact that they're working together at the Daily Planet, we've always wanted to do that. We've always been saying, ‘guys, let's put them at the Daily Planet, and rightfully so Al and Miles said, ‘wait hold off, you've got to get there.’ But now here we are, let the fun begin.”

Miller and Gough’s presence is still felt by the new showrunners and their influence is considered when it comes to the direction of the series. “There is a certain amount of ‘what would Al and Miles do?’ Swimmer admitted. “That part of it's built-in just from working with them for so many years that we just know that Al and Miles wouldn't do something like that. All the different things that make ‘Smallville’ unique as a TV show, we adhere to that.”

Justin Hartley joins the regular cast of "Smallville" as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow

Slavkin was quick to agree. “We want to continue the legacy, we really do,” he said. “We don't want to create our new show, our egos are less important than the ‘Smallville’ vision.”

Part of that vision included Lana Lang, played by Kristin Kruek, who departed the cast last season, but it looks like fans won’t have to wait too long for her to return to Smallville. The team revealed that Lana will indeed be back for five episodes this season, though maybe not as fans remember her. “It's going to come at a very bad time for Clark,” Slavkin revealed. “It will come most likely in sweeps [and] she will look different. It will not be the Lana Lang, visually, that we are used to seeing but we're really excited about it.”

Another person who will be changing is the Man of Steel himself as he takes another step down the path to becoming Superman. “Up until now on the show, and even in the Season [Eight] premiere, Clark has basically denied that there is anything going on with a superhero in Smallville or Metropolis,” Swimmer explained. “It's just when the question is ever asked it's always just sort of this mystery, actually the question isn't even asked that often. This season goings to be fun for us because it’s going to reach a point where he can't deny the fact that there's somebody out there saving people. So I think that's like a key change in the mythology of Clark Kent that he's actually saying, ‘yes there is this other person.’”

“We like to refer to it as a red and blue blur that will happen; people are like ‘what is that?’” teased Slavkin.

Cassidy Freeman stars as Tess Mercer in "Smallville"

“So that's a big change for [Clark] to actually say, ‘Yes, it's not me but there's something out there’ and that's the beginning of his double identity,” Swimmer said.

“He's always been reactive in our show, he's always been, ‘oh something’s happening,’” Slavkin elaborated. ”His decision to go to the Daily Planet is his way of saying, ‘I can't sit on a farm anymore. I've got to use my powers to help people.”

Now that Clark is admitting to the existence of this mystery person, others will be investigating what exactly this red and blue blur is. “Jimmy Olsen does have a camera and Lois is very curious,” Slavkin said, “and if they are working side by side you can see that those worlds are going to collide.”

Doomsday won’t be the only person making the jump from the pages of DC Comics to the small screen. “Episode two is Plastique,” Slavkin said. “She is somewhat of a human bomb and we give a ‘Smallville’ twist on her, she comes in as a teen runaway and cast a great actress for that and the fans will love it.”

Also making an appearance will be the oldest child of the Royal family of the planet Almerac. “In episode four, [you’ll see] Maxima, the intergalactic sex goddess,” Slavkin continued. “Smallville’ always needs an intergalactic sex goddess.”

Sam Witwer stars as Doomsday in in "Smallville"

“She can't mate with a human, so where is she going to go?” Swimmer added with a smile. “I will leave that up to your imagination.”

They don’t look to stop there either, as the producers hope to continue bringing more and more of the DC Universe into “Smallville.” “[We have] many, many other possibilities that we are excited about but we can't say now,” Slavkin teased. “I can say there will be more [DC characters] for sure. Martian Manhunter is on the show now for at least three episodes this season, the whole Justice League, you saw them in the premiere, they will play a bigger role this season and it's going to be really exciting.”

One original character is Tess Mercer. “She's brand new from scratch,” Swimmer said. “She's a nod to both Teschmacher [from the movies], hence Tess, and her last name Mercer is a nod to Mercy from the [animated series]. So she's neither Teschmacher nor Mercy but we are taking a little bit of both. The storyline, and who she is, and where she came from, and where she is going that’s all completely new.” “Her license plate says Mercy,” Slavkin revealed.

Playing Tess will be Cassidy Freeman, who CBR News spoke with earlier this week. “She's great,” Slavkin said. “She's a young actress and what we love about that is you haven't seen her face everywhere and she's very fresh. I got goosebumps watching the premiere, just before we came down we saw a quick first assemblage, we were all so relieved and ecstatic and it really came together and she, we just can't stop watching her.”

Allison Mack stars as Chloe Sullivan on "Smallville"

With the show missing it’s main villain, Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex Luthor, the team didn’t know if they might ever find another heavy that could rival him. “[Freeman] hit the stage day one and nailed it,” Swimmer said. “Now that Michael isn't on the show, we were wondering if we could get somebody with the layers that he brings to that character and I think that Cassidy really, really does that.”

“You can never fill his shoes,” Slavkin said. “You can never be Michael Rosenbaum. You can never be Lex Luthor, but she makes it her own.”

Another pair of shoes that won’t be easy to fill is that of Clark Kent himself, Tom Welling. Fandom has been surmising that after eight seasons, he won’t be renewing his contract, thusly ending the show. So what does the future hold for “Smallville,” is there a spin off in the cards or is the show somehow able to continue without its lead? “At this point, we really want Tom to come back,” Slavkin said. “At this point, all of our efforts [are on that]. It's early in the season so we're hoping [he stays]. Contracts come up all the time for renewal we're hoping that he'll stay on. It's difficult to call the show ‘Smallville’ without Tom. You could call the show something else, and I think a spin-off could be an awesome idea and we have many ideas and we've talked about that. But ‘Smallville,’ if you take his face off the poster, it feels a little unfair to the fans.”

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