So when I talked to Justin Hartley about tonight’s episode of Smallville, “Dominion,” which also happens to be the actor’s first directing effort, he was excited, to say the least. You wouldn’t think that this was a freshman director poised to make his big debut with one of the final episodes of a decade-old cult television show. But it’s Hartley’s passion that makes me think we’re in for a real treat tonight. And hopefully after reading this chat with the 34-year-old actor/director — where he talks about everything from his biggest challenges to his character’s return — you’ll agree. (And hopefully I’m not the only one who sort of swooned when he used the word “nesting” to describe Oliver’s life with Chloe.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was it like taking your first turn in the director’s chair on one of the last episodes of Smallville ever?
JUSTIN HARTLEY: For me, it was a bit scary. [But] as soon as I stepped on set, from the very first moment, I was very comfortable. I realized that’s because that’s where I’m comfortable. It’s the prep — the meetings, the tone meetings, all that stuff — that I’m not that familiar with. That was a bit intimidating at first. So I’m thankful that it was one of the last episodes because I got an opportunity to watch more closely each director leading up to my own. I actually went to Vancouver — I live in L.A. and wasn’t in the episode previous to “Dominion” — way before [I directed]. Mike Roland is one of our directors and I watched a lot of what he was doing. I’ve seen the episode and it’s pretty phenomenal. All Smallville episodes are “epic,” but I don’t think this was one of the “big deal” episodes, and I think it turned into one. Hopefully I had something to do with that.
Did you face any surprising challenges while on set?
One of the things that shocked me the most was the clock. The minute hand turns into a second hand. You call ‘Actions,’ your first shot of the day, you take a breath, and it’s lunch time and you don’t have anything done. So I had the fortunate event of telling people it was going to happen in advance. But the pace of the day — you go through a 12-hour day in what seems to be like a half hour and you’re absolutely exhausted. But I get a rush from that. I really enjoyed it. I hope to do it again, actually.
[Jokingly] Season 11!
I’m just kidding. I’m kidding.
So I’ve seen some clips. It looks great, and you’re right, it turned out to be an epic-looking episode. What’s going on between Oliver and Clark here, though. Clark’s not so happy about Oliver’s presence in the Phantom Zone.
Clark has basically been given this information in the beginning of the episode, in the teaser. Somebody has messed something up and he has to go fix it. Oliver comes back into town, and he’s ready to help. He’s been, like, nesting with Chloe. He’s probably just bored out of his mind — ready to lift some weights and shoot some bad guys. And he comes back into town and Clark doesn’t really get conned into letting Oliver go. Oliver sort of just sneaks in there. So then Clark’s gotta deal with this. So it’s like, “Not only do I have to protect Earth, I have a bigger problem: I gotta protect this stupid ass who can’t protect themselves.” It’s a really, really neat episode [because] you see the evolution of their relationship — what their relationship has become. There are a lot of trust issues and life and death situations. They’re placing their lives in the other person’s hands because Clark doesn’t have superpowers in the Phantom Zone. You know, my neighbor is listening to this and he probably thinks I’m an absolute nutjob right now. “Superpowers?!? Why’s he talking about superpowers?”
Sorry. Anyway, it’s one of those situations where you have no choice but to put your safety into someone else’s hands and you’re not sure what they’re going to do with it. We find out at the end what happens, and there’s actually a nice little cliffhanger that leads into the last two episodes.
That was my next question, actually. How does it set us up for the last stretch?
It’s key. You have this situation where Oliver is branded with this Omega sign and we’ve seen that throughout the whole season. We paid attention to it a lot, then we got away from it, we came back to it, and then Oliver was gone. The whole thing gets wrapped up in the finale. I mean, obviously, you have to wrap everything up. But the information given in “Dominion” makes you sit there and go, “Oh, God. How are they going to deal with that?” Because what you thought was fixed is not at all. In fact, it’s gotten worst. It’s pretty integral in telling the story of the final episodes. In [episode] 20, Oliver goes on a quest to find this thing. It leads it into that.
Obviously it plays a huge part in that storyline. What about as far as the Superman mythology? Anything cool in this one?
You know what it is? You want to see — I know it’s Smallville, it’s not action all the time — but it’s action. You want to see Clark fighting. You want to see him beating up the bad guy, and the cool twist is that he’s, essentially, a human. He’s stripped of his powers, and he’s gotta fight. And, gosh have we seen… let me put it this way: He might have to fight somebody who has more skills than he does as a human. It’s pretty interesting.
Do you mean Zod?
No. I’m not talking about Zod. I’m glad I didn’t say anything! But Zod is there, too. Speaking of which, Callum was unbelievably good! He’s such a nice, warm, funny, gentle, smart guy. And [on screen] he’s this smarmy little f–k. You want to beat the s–t out of this guy within 30 seconds of seeing him. Then they call cut and he’s like, [says something inaudible in heavy English accent]. He’s an amazing person.
I only hope that if I ever do this again, I only hope it’s half the amount of fun I had on this thing. I knew I wanted to try it. I didn’t know if I would like it. I love it.
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