“No tights, no flights.”
It was the long-time mantra for Superman origin story Smallville, which starred Tom Welling as the future Man of Steel struggling to understand his abilities while inching closer to his destiny. Hence, fans waited desperately for the moment Welling would actually suit up, assuming it would happen in the series finale. And it sort of happened. In the closing moments of the final episode, viewers saw Welling’s Clark Kent rip open his button down shirt to see the House of El insignia underneath in an iconic recreation of the comics, but once Superman took flight, it was only shown from a distance via CGI — and for good reason.
“It was something that we discussed before we ever shot the pilot with [creators] Al [Gough] and Miles [Millar],” Welling tells EW. “We literally had a sit down where we talked about the show and I asked about the suit and the tights and the flying, and they said, ‘No, absolutely not,’ part of the reason being is that show is about a teenager trying to figure out who he is. They felt that once Clark put on the cape and the suit, life became too easy, in a sense. They wanted to focus on who this character was before that. And, at the time, because of where visual effects and special effects and stunts were, it would be too expensive. That’s mainly why they save that for movies, more or less.”
But when pushed directly on whether it was Welling’s decision not to suit up in the series finale specifically, the actor was more cagey. “It was literally something that the entire series was behind in not doing that,” Welling says. “We did things on that show where we didn’t call them powers, we called them abilities — you weren’t allowed to say powers; you just weren’t because Clark didn’t know they were powers, he just knew he had those abilities, so little things like kept us grounded and kept us faced onto the story we were telling about this character, not what he could do with these abilities.”
That said, Welling reveals there was an idea for Clark to suit up much earlier in the series finale, where fans would’ve seen the actor as Superman in all his glory — but he was instrumental in it not happening. “Our series finale was supposed to be, in the first act, Clark puts on the suit and flies around, saves Lois on a plane, and does this other stuff,” Welling says. “It was a call that I had with Peter Roth, who is the head of Warner Bros. Television, who’s a good friend of mine and we have a great relationship. I said, ‘That’s not our show, Peter.’ 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.'”
“We jumped onto this idea that at the end of the show, the idea is that Clark becomes Superman and he’s out there, and we know he’s out there, but we can’t go with him, but that we know and we feel good that he’s out there doing good,” Welling says. “That was what we strove for, and I think we hit it. I liked the ending of the series, because it’s like, ‘Yes, he did it!’ I hope the audience didn’t feel like we didn’t show them something that they needed to see. I felt like we gave them the jumping off point for their imagination as to what could happen.”
Welling will return to the Warner Bros. fold this fall — no, not on one of Greg Berlanti’s superhero shows, but on Fox’s Lucifer, where the actor will play a new foil for Tom Ellis’ titular character. However, Welling also reveals there was previous talk of joining the Berlanti-verse, specifically on Supergirl, where Tyler Hoechlin made his debut as the Man of Steel last season. “I know Greg quite well and there had been some discussion, but they’re different worlds,” Welling says. “There was an idea that maybe Supergirl, appearing on that, but it’s such a different show. I’m older now, I don’t look the same. Appearing on that show as Clark Kent or even Superman, for me, I would not want to watch me do that at all. They just have such a different tone. To me, because this is still even a DC Universe, which wasn’t a consideration in the beginning, but Lucifer is still DC, so in some ways it’s one foot in, one foot out, but it wasn’t a motivator for me to join the show. It just so happens that it was connected in that way.”
Lucifer will return Monday, Oct. 2 at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.