In his complex, tormented role as a best friend destined to become Superman’s lifelong nemesis, Michael Rosenbaum has managed to become the WB’s only hairless heartthrob, Lex Luthor. The 30-year-old New York native — who also appeared in last year’s ”Sorority Boys” and voices the Flash on Cartoon Network’s ”Justice League” — tells EW.com about ”Smallville”’s May 20 season finale, the challenges of playing a bad-guy-to-be, and his response to fans who think Lex and Clark want to be more than friends.
So what can you reveal about the finale?
Everything’s coming out now. There’s twists that I don’t even get — like, 10 twists per show. We’re finding out more about Clark, [father] Lionel took the company from Lex — s—‘s coming down. The finale is huge. It’s the unexpected, I mean, REALLY the unexpected. When I read the script, I was like, ”WHAT?” I kept going to the writers, ”Well, what happened?” I can’t tell you too much, but when you talk about cliffhangers, let’s just say the cliff is very high. It looks like time is going to elapse [between seasons]. There are big changes.
What’s it like to play a character who has to gradually, bit by bit, turn into a bad guy?
I know that we probably have three years left of ”Smallville,” three or four years tops. So I’ve got a lot of time. When something’s written a certain way, I’m supposed to play it a certain way that makes it more ambiguous. Friends and family members call me and say, ”What are you doing? Why’d you look at him like that?” And that’s how I like it — always keep ’em guessing. I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but it’s little things along the way.
What’s the hardest part of that journey?
There’s that desire to be a little more evil, to give it a little extra look, and I have to fight that. I have to try to make him more passive and ambiguous, to keep him more mysterious. There’s some times I just want to be evil, and I just can’t do that.
How’s the cast getting along — do you guys hate each other yet?
Well, I ran into Kristin [Kreuk today], and we SQUEEZED each other. It’s that kind of camaraderie, that kind of closeness that I think successful shows need. We get along brilliantly. We love hanging out and trying to make the show better. We’re all up in Vancouver — one of us lives there. The rest of us are there on vacation, and we don’t know when the vacation is gonna end. So it helps that you’re there with people you like.
There’s certain fans who see a gay subtext in all those long, intense gazes between Lex and Clark. What do you make of that?
[Laughs] I love it. In fact, if there’s a line where I look at Clark and I say [with intense gaze], ”If you need me, I’m there,” we laugh our asses off. It takes us 10 takes to get it out. Let the audience think what they want to think. If they watch the show, they have their own views on which way it’s gonna go, and I love that. I don’t want to give the answers away, because the answers lie in their minds.
You seem to be kind of a wise-ass, and you did ”Sorority Boys.” Are you more into doing comedy than drama?
I love comedies. I think I’m extremely funny. [Laughs] I think my knack is comedy. I love making people laugh — that’s what I was born to do. So it’s so funny that I’m doing this serious, intense role.
Are you in danger of being typecast as Lex?
Nah. Look at this [removes baseball cap]. I got my hair back — I’m a force to be reckoned with.
Are you ever worried it’s gonna be like the ”Seinfeld” episode where the guy shaves his head and can’t grow it back?
I was scared in the beginning. But it grows back nice. I got a lot of — what is it that makes hair grow? Testosterone.