This Sunday, the Two and a Half Men alum will make his debut as Superman’s greatest foe on the CW superhero drama; however, this isn’t the first time he’s played a Luthor. As most fans know, he played comedic relief Lenny Luthor in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, which is widely regarded as the most disappointing entry of the original Christopher Reeve-led series (EW’s own Darren Franich ranked it as the worst Superman movie ever). Given both of the film’s less than sterling reputation and Cryer’s love of the first Superman movie and the comics, he wanted the opportunity to do the Luthor name justice.
“Part of the reason I did Superman IV was because [Superman] changed my life,” Cryer told reporters at a screening of Sunday’s episode “O Brother, Where Are Thou,” on Friday. “I was like 14-years-old and [Superman‘s] tagline was, ‘You will believe a man can fly,’ and boy, I bought it! I totally bought it. Superman IV had really high hopes, but unfortunately, it was very disappointing for people and that had always sort of hurt me in a very 14-year-old boy way. And so I thought, you know, this is my chance to do it right.”
So far, the experience of both playing Lex and returning to the Luthor family has been pretty “lovely,” he said. “I had a certain amount of familiarity. I was very excited about working with Katie McGrath and I love the whole story that they’ve set up for this season. Yeah, I felt like Lenny [was] a branch on the family tree that fell off pretty early and was rotting on the ground basically for a long while…So I feel like this was my chance to sort of reclaim it and do it a little more justice, or injustice, as it were.”
Supergirl showrunners and executive producers Robert Rovner and Jessica Queller have also been very pleased with Cryer’s performance so far.
“I am in awe of Mr. Cryer. I don’t think we could have possibly done better in our casting, and I mean, we’re just thrilled,” said Queller. “We were so excited when DC gave us permission to use Lex Luthor. It’s something the show has wanted to do since the onset and it’s always been a very emphatic ‘no’… This was a huge gift to get to create our Lex, and we really wanted to have a singular Lex Luthor that paid homage to the other famous iconic Lexes.”
The duo revealed that Cryer was their first choice. “We were thinking about who could play Lex Luthor, and then I saw Jon’s picture and then it struck me, ‘Lenny Luthor!’ Then, it seemed like what we really needed in a Lex Luthor was a villain that you love to hate and a brilliant actor, and so it was like, ‘Oh my god!’ It felt very serendipitous at the time.” said Rovner.
In Sunday’s episode, Lex is secretly furloughed from prison because he’s dying from an illness and needs his sister Lena’s (McGrath) help to find a cure. From there, the episode dives into the sibling’s dynamic.
“I think Lex is a sociopath. He’s an actual sociopath, but he does have a link he can’t break with her. And also to some degree, he gets that she’s got an incredible gift as an intellect and as a scientist. So, his narcissism, I think, kicks in and he can find that to love about her,” said Cryer. “She’s like me, that’s why I love her. So he understands that she’s a formidable person and I do think that his really twisted family history does come into play. Although, by the way, I don’t know the entirety of the entire twisted family history because there have been hints, but I don’t yet know it all. I think that’s for the best because I’m on Twitter too much.”
He continued, “As anybody who has lived with an entirely toxic human being in their life understands, you keep them at arm’s length, and that is what Katie’s character Lena has done beautifully is just, ‘I get that you’re there, I get that I have to deal with you, but I’m not going to let you hurt me.'”
Looking ahead, you can expect the supervillain to have an impact on the rest of the fourth season. “I think [Lex’s introduction] energizes the second half of the season because his presence in the show and in the story that we’re telling really creates a singular villain that drives everybody’s agenda moving forward.”
Supergirl airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on The CW.