Brian Wayne Peterson and Kelly Souders Interview – SMALLVILLE

     August 27, 2008

As I said when I posted the interviews with Allison Mack, Justin Hartley and executive producers Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer, I’m really looking forward to season 8 of “Smallville.” The reason is…with the departure of Kristin Kreuk (Lana Lang) and Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor), the show can now tell new stories involving new people. We’ll no longer have to watch a very drawn out love triangle between Lana, Lex and Clark. Finally, Clark can start to use the Metropolis backdrop to fight more super villains and interact with new characters.

This season really does have tons of possibilities, and after speaking with the new executive producers – Brian Wayne Peterson and Kelly Souders – I think they get it and have some great ideas.

During our roundtable interview, they discussed their plans for the show and they also talked about what would happen if this ends up being the last season. I also asked them why their finales and premiere’s are always so good and we also talked about guest writers. If you’re a fan of “Smallville,” you’ll really enjoy this interview.

Question: Are you loving Comic-Con?

Kelly Souders: Yes. We all came 4 years ago when Al and Miles were doing one of the panels and I have to say, Comic-Con is just exploded just even in 4 years. We’ve been walking around and having a fantastic time.

Brian Wayne Peterson: What’s great is we get all these letters from fans and we read them all and to actually see them and put faces out there. It’s really fun.

How long have you guys been executive producers on the show?

Kelly Souders: This is our 2nd season as executive producers, but we’ve been with the show since season 2. We started as staff writers and we started the same year that Todd and Darren started, so the 4 of us have been like a unit just moving up through the ranks.

Brian Wayne Peterson: We’ve usually done about at least 5 episodes and covered at least 5 more so we’ve usually been on like 10 episodes a year since season 2.

I’m curious this season with the changing of the guard behind the scenes and changing of the guard with the cast, how is that almost freed up the show to start a new angle and get new plot lines, new devices going for the characters?

Kelly Souders: Well, I think that for the 4 of us, and I know for the writing staff as well, it was really hard to see John Glover go last year, you know? We knew it was coming but he’s such a fantastic actor and was so fun to work with. Kristin will be back for some episodes this season, which helps soften that a little bit because she’s been a very interesting actress in that she really sort of grew as the role grew. She started out one way and you look at her arc and in some ways she’s had as great of an arc as anybody else on the show. And then Michael Rosenbaum, obviously, we’re very supportive of him going out the pursuing his other interests. But we loved working with him. He was always fascinating to watch on-screen. Always brought more to a scene and to the role than you can ever imagine writing, but obviously with that said, it made us all sit around and start digging really deeply as to what’s a new take and what’s kind of keeping “Smallville” Smallville, but looking at a way to challenge ourselves and to challenge the cast and the writers and production and really keep it fresh and new because…when you’re looking at a season 8, a lot of shows things start getting incredibly stale and that was not something that any of us wanted and we knew our fans didn’t want that. So oddly having that much change has like forced us to kind of reinvent parts of the show and look at things that we wanted to do with the characters that we haven’t really had a chance to because you kind of were more….

Brian Wayne Peterson: I would just add what’s been really successful for us is instead of looking outside the universe, we kind of look back on it, so what were the roots of “Smallville” and so this year is going to be very much about DC comics characters that are coming in that are part of the mythology. The Lois and Clark relationship and the Daily Planet which when we’re watching dailies is amazing. The 2 of them are great together. And then the Chloe/Clark relationship that continues and they continue to have adventures together as the 2 of them really grounds the show and the same “Smallville” everybody is used to seeing.

I’ve always felt that almost like you weren’t giving the keys to the kingdom on the show because of DC for whatever reason not having more characters and stuff. Has it almost opened up with this season? Have they said oh, you can use more stuff? Are you allowed to use more characters?

Kelly Souders: DC’s always been great to work with. I think that because there were always so many characters to service of our own characters and we wanted to make sure all of our actors and all of our cast was moving forward in their roles, that just by the nature of that we weren’t kind of looking outside as much as we are now. So that’s kind of opened up that door more than anything.

Brian Wayne Peterson: I think as the show has evolved it’s evolved into something that people didn’t really see. We’ve grown beyond “Smallville” beyond meteor freaks, beyond what was kind of originally envisioned and that’s why the DC Comic villains are coming in and making a lot more sense right now because it’s organic to the storylines.

You mentioned this is season 8 and you guys are still a very highly rated show on the CW. Are you guys arcing for season 9? I’m just curious about the contract situation. Does Tom want to do another year and all that stuff?

Kelly Souders: Everybody who’s involved in the show believes in the show even more in season 8 than ever which I think is also….if you go up there it feels like you’re on a pilot season as far as excitement from the cast and from the writers and from our crew. Everybody’s working harder than I’ve ever seen them work before, so I think everybody’s hoping for a season 9. What we are asking is that if it’s going to end—whenever the show ends—that we get some lead time to write to that. Because there are visions that Al and Miles had and collectively the group has that we want to be able to service and we know that it’s not like other shows where fans don’t know how it ends. Like this show, unlike any other show on television, fans know what the ending of the show is. They know what Superman becomes. They know so much more mythology that it would just feel like a real cheat if we couldn’t sort of lead up to that, so that’s the one thing that we’ve asked.

What is the plan like where do you want to end it?

Brian Wayne Peterson: That’ the one kind of thing that we need to be Al and Miles and not give up the end game, but definitely we all know who eventually becomes Superman and so that final transition…it will have something to do with that final transition.

Can you tell us what you showed us in the clips between the new villains in the panel?

Kelly Souders: You see Tess Mercier who emerges as this very mysterious figure to run Luther Corp. You see the beginnings of her introduction into the show. She is just as much of an ass kicker as Lex Luther was but she’s very different in her personality and the one thing that you’ll find as you start watching the first several episodes is that she has this real chameleon aspect. She is whoever she needs to be in the scene to get what she wants. Whereas Lex Luther was like very strictly one person and sometimes someone else with Lana, occasionally. Tess Mercier is everybody to everyone as long as it gets her agenda across.

Brian Wayne Peterson: And we have a lot of the “Justice League” characters in the premiere, so you see Green Arrow, Black Canary, Aquaman. We kind of tease that and show people a little piece of that. And we showed Chloe—what ended up with Chloe. She’s trapped somewhere trying to escape. Lois in her French maid outfit—always a crowd pleaser. And Clark being trapped in Russia where we find him.

So were there multiple villains that you showed in the sneak peek clips?

Kelly Souders: Just Tess and then Davis.

Brian Wayne Peterson: Tess and then Davis. We really wanted to tease Davis, so you get a quick introduction and clearly an ominous ending where you know that there’s one person on earth now who’s destined to kill Superman.

You guys always seem to have such good premieres and finales. I want to know is the budget on those episodes 2 or 3 times the normal budget?

Kelly Souders: No, but they are higher. We very much plan when we look at the budget for the season to give….to really start out with a bang and end with a bang and then there’s several episodes throughout the season that we kind of focus on as being bigger episodes—what we call the tent pole episodes—but I wish if we had 2-3 times the budget…wow.

Brian Wayne Peterson: We’d have a feature movie.

I’m also curious, you guys say that you’re going to plan for the end and want to have some leeway. How many episodes do you think that’s it’s going to…do you need like 4 or 6 or 8 to start like really getting to the end? Did you tell the network what you need?

Brian Wayne Peterson: We haven’t yet per say because we’re really hoping to get a season 9, so we don’t really want to put that out there because I really believe a season 9 is very possible. But I think it would probably take at least 5 episodes to kind of create an arc that would get to where we’re trying to go.

Can you tease at all the episode that Jeff Johns is going to be writing?

Brian Wayne Peterson: Yes, he is working on a Legion of Super Heroes which we’re really excited about. We’re thrilled because Jeff is, I don’t know if you know him, but he’s the greatest guy to work with.

Kelly Souders: And we’ve been wanting to have him come in to do freelance for awhile and we’ve known him through Jeff Loeb actually, so we were really thrilled that timing wise it all worked out for him to come and do it this year.

Was it a case that you wanted to do a Legion of Super Heroes episode or…

Brian Wayne Peterson: He actually brought the idea to us.

Kelly Souders: We kind of figured he’d have a lot of ideas and that we should just throw him whatever he wants.

What about other guest writers? You mentioned…are you trying to go after anybody else like any other comic book people that might want to do something?

Brian Wayne Peterson: He’s really the one we were looking at because we have a pretty strong writing staff as it is and it is a little hard time for somebody to come in and get caught up in where we are with all our storylines because “Smallville” is a little serialized.

Kelly Souders: And it’s very time consuming for people because it usually takes a week and a half, sometimes 2 weeks, to break a story. Then you pitch the story, then you get to do outlines and you do….re-conceive any issues and then you get the first draft in and then you….so you’re kind of asking somebody….you need to find somebody who can take like 5 weeks out of their life and there’s not that many people who can just drop their job for 5 weeks and come on over but we’re always looking for ways to tie people in.

So for the fans, what’s the big storylines for the season that you guys are going to be doing?

Brian Wayne Peterson: Definitely Clark’s double-identity. Clark pursuing his double-identity and exploring that.

Kelly Souders: And really when you look at double-identity for the season it really sweeps through the entire cast. Like everybody all the characters have sort of a double-identity of some sort going on this season or a lot of them do. Chloe has some issues. Davis Bloom has some issues. Tess. You find out a lot about Oliver Queen. We’re really sort of playing with the Green Arrow. There’s one person, Oliver Queen, we start to get to know him a lot better and sort of more of his motives and his spark as to why he started pursuing this Green Arrow character and world.

Brian Wayne Peterson: And I’m really excited about the Doomsday situation because we tried to do a mirror to Clark in the first season realizing he’s a super hero and what would it be like if you realized you had special abilities and realized that you were the ultimate villain. So to mirror what happened on the journey for Clark but with the villain I think is going to be a really interesting storyline.

What about guest stars?

Kelly Souders: It’s so early in the season for us.

Brian Wayne Peterson: We’re working on Supergirl. We’re working on Supergirl again.

Kelly Souders: And bringing her back. I will just say that Brainiac has a way of never disappearing completely.

I know you’ve got to go but one last thing. What script are you up to with the writing process?

Brian Wayne Peterson: We are…Pitching 6 this week and we’ve got a lot done on 7.

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