Superman & Lois star Erik Valdez unpacks that 'pivotal' Kyle twist
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Tuesday's Superman & Lois, "Loyal Subjekts."
The Cushing family's life just got even more complicated.
The latest episode of Superman & Lois revealed that Kyle Cushing (Erik Valdez) went behind his wife Lana's (Emmanuelle Chriqui) back and underwent Morgan Edge's (Adam Rayner) X-Kryptonite procedure. In other words: There's now a Kryptonian sentience in his mind, and it's threatening to take over his entire body.
Kyle's superpowered passenger emerged toward the end of the episode when Kyle joined Emily (Leeah Wong) and another of Edge's eponymous "Loyal Subjeckts" to attack Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch). Thankfully, Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) arrived in time to defeat them all. And the next thing Kyle knew, he woke up in the middle of the field with no recollection of how he got there, which means the Kryptonian inside him hasn't assumed complete control yet, but it's likely only a matter of time until that happens. (Oh, also in the final moments of the episode, Edge met with Superman and revealed that he's his Kryptonian brother, because Clark Kent didn't have enough family drama already.)
Below, Valdez breaks down what this twist means for Kyle and his family, what it's like playing someone with superpowers, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you find out you'd be one of the ones getting superpowers?
ERIK VALDEZ: I think I finally found out what we were doing with that (I don't think it had been completely fleshed out) around episode 5 or 6. [Showrunner Todd Helbing] pitched me this idea, "Hey, I've got something we're exploring right now. What do you think of this?" At first I was like, "That could be really awesome." It's cool to get powers even if it's just for a little awhile. As it kind of got closer to the episode and drafts got rewritten, I read it and said, "Wow, this is going to be huge!" This kind of a cool pivotal moment for Smallville and for Kyle. The way it all plays out is really cool.
Did you do anything specific to prepare yourself? Like did you practice what you wanted to do with your face when uses heat vision?
[Laughs] You know what's funny about all that is I'm a preparer. I love to do research and find out as much information about things as possible. So when I read that, I literally went down a Google rabbit hole, like "What do Kryptonians talk like?" and tried to find out as much information possible about the voice change, not knowing whether they would process it in post or not. I just wanted to make sure, from a performance standpoint, I was doing everything I could to have such a drastic shift in character from Kyle to this person who's been turned.
Then one of our props guys, Elliot, he has this little device: It's like glasses with these little antennae down the side with red LEDs at the end of it. So he's like, "I designed this so you guys can kind of find a focal point and focus on how to do the little head shift." It looks hilarious. I don't know if anyone got video of it. But I'm standing there practicing this voice and shifting my head accordingly to make it work. To a bystander I probably looked insane, but it was fun and it worked well. I think it plays nicely.
Wait, so did you have to wear those while shooting and they were removed in post, or only to practice?
Strictly a practice thing. I had an idea and did some research looking at previous portrayals of Superman or other Kryptonians and how they use the heat vision. Then Elliott came to me on set and said, "Well, I created these little glasses." It was before shooting. So we definitely didn't use them while cameras were rolling, but it helped for sure.
In performing, do you approach this Kryptonian personality as a completely different character from Kyle, or do you try to sprinkle some Kyle in your performance?
Initially there's a little bit of a balance, right? Because as we're starting to see how this takes shape, once you've gone through the process, so to speak, it takes a little bit of time for it to take hold of its host. In the initial bit, you don't really get much of a glimpse of him having gone through it at the performance when he's watching Sarah [Inde Navarette] and he goes up on stage and performs with her and everything. Even when Emily leaves the auditorium and he follows, I guess I played a really subtle thing in there that most people won't even get because I didn't want to give anything early. So there was a fine line in the balance of that. But no, once he's turned and once he's full-on Kryptonian, that's not Kyle at all. So it is a completely different character. I love Kyle, don't get me wrong, but anytime we can portray something so out of left field, it's a lot of fun.
What was the most useful thing you learned in your research?
There were a lot of different anecdotal bits here and there. Some of it was even misleading, especially [what to do] voice-wise. There's a bunch of different philosophies. A lot of performers in the past have used almost a British-esque voice for Kryptonians, but there was this whole article I read, and I can't remember the source, about how the written language and enunciation of certain words almost rivals Turkish to a certain degree. So I hit up Todd, "Do I need to learn like Turkish accent?" And he was like, "No, no, no. Don't even go that route." Since Kyle has got a bit of a twang to his voice anyway, it was a little bit of my natural voice, maybe slightly deeper, that I used, but the enunciation and everything is different and they add a little bit of filter in post to make us sound even scarier.
How does this twist affect the Cushing family? Things were already rocky there to begin with…
[Laughs] I read on Twitter the other day during last week's episode that somebody was like, "Man, Kyle stay takin L's." I was like, "You're kind of right. You can't win." Every time something starts to get better, something else happens. This guy doesn't have a lot of luck. In this regard, you see him really realize that he's made mistakes and he's not good at trying to be better, but he's got a great heart and he's really genuinely trying to be better for his family and girls. He's going after things with the best of intentions. He just makes really poor decisions. So at this point when the family is starting to finally come around and his daughter is starting to maybe trust him a little more, then he lets her down. He and Lana are rekindling and getting closer, and now she knows, even more than Kyle does, what this meeting with Edge really means because she's talked to Lois about it. So it's definitely a drastic shift in the family dynamic, and you'll see some of that going forward.
Superman & Lois airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CW.