Showrunners Brian Peterson and Kelly Souders Interview SMALLVILLE Series Finale

     May 11, 2011


The story of Clark Kent (Tom Welling) culminates in a two-hour finale this week, as the shy teenager from Smallville, that viewers met 10 seasons ago, finally takes the last steps to becoming the Man of Steel. Of course, with any finale, it’s difficult to please all of the fans, but when dealing with a mythology as popular as the story of Superman, it’s nearly impossible. However, executive producers/showrunners Brian Peterson and Kelly Souders are clearly proud of what they were able to do, in wrapping up as much as they could – whether it was with a Lois (Erica Durance) and Clark wedding, Clark’s friendship with Chloe (Allison Mack), the relationship between Chloe and Oliver (Justin Hartley), the threat of Darkseid and Apocalypse, and the return of Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) – and hope that the fans who have followed the series will get what they are looking for in this final Smallville episode.

At a recent press event for the finale, Brian Peterson and Kelly Souders talked about viewers finally getting to see the finale, balancing wrapping up the various storylines of 10 seasons with the journey of Clark Kent, the return of Lex Luthor and how close it came to not happening, the possibility of future glimpses of the characters, special features and extras that will be on the complete series DVD box set, and the emotional impact of the final moments of the series. They also said that, although there has been no talk yet of any spin-offs, they do think there will be a Smallville comic book, at some point. Check out what they had to say after the jump.

smallville-poster-01It’s one thing to talk about the final episode for so long, but how do you guys feel, now that it’s upon you?

BRIAN PETERSON: It’s a wash of stuff. This was a huge endeavor and had a lot of challenges, so there’s a big weight that’s been lifted. To be honest, I think we won’t know until it really airs and it’s done forever.

KELLY SOUDERS: It’s strange.

PETERSON: It’s very strange, but most importantly, I think we’re really proud. Everybody put 110% into the finale – all the actors. People did things they probably wouldn’t have done before. Visual effects has thrown in some extra stuff. Everybody’s gone above and beyond the call of duty.

Besides the plot elements you have to hit, what were your favorite smaller moments to include?

SOUDERS: There are actually a couple moments in the church. I’m not saying what it is, but there’ e one when Lois is about to walk down the aisle. And, there’s just the whole aisle. I have a couple great favorite moments, just on the aisle.

PETERSON: And, there’s a very good scene with a door that is probably one of everybody’s favorite scenes in the show. There’s one shot that is the Smallville shot. You’ll see it and you’ll be like, “This is what we needed in the finale.” You’ll know it the second you see it.

What can you say about the return of Lex Luthor?

PETERSON: Well, as he already revealed, we only had Michael [Rosenbaum] for one day, so there was only so much we could do with him in the story and we really wanted to keep this Clark’s finale. But, Lex plays a very interesting role and there are a couple big twists with Lex.

SOUDERS: The other thing that’s interesting, obviously because Rosenbaum hasn’t been on the show for the last couple years, was that we needed to tie up the last couple years and the season. We had Darkseid looming out there, but when we were thinking about Rosenbaum coming back, and the Smallville Lex and what his purpose was, it was always not quite what you expected, and much more human and emotional than any of us starting out on the series would have expected. So, we really went back to the pilot and we thought, “There’s that guy who showed up and was totally personable and super sympathetic, and just wanted to thank a guy for saving his life.” When we looked at having him back in the finale, it was the same thing. They’re going to go on to be huge enemies, so it was about what’s pivotal at this moment, for our Lex Luthor and our Clark Kent. We had to wrap up a relationship that has been so complicated and so mixed with emotions for 10 years.

Smallville castHow down to the wire was it, in finding out that he was coming back? Did you have a non-Lex version of the finale as back-up?

SOUDERS: It was over the wire. It was past the wire.

PETERSON: We had prepped an entire finale without him in it, not that we didn’t want him, but we just thought that was never going to happen. Honestly, there were a couple things we had planned on planting in the season that we didn’t because we didn’t know if we were going to have him. So, we wrote the scenes, I won’t say hurriedly because we spent all weekend writing these two big scenes for him, but it did change a couple of the other storylines a little.

SOUDERS: But, we were very happy to do it.

PETERSON: Yeah. Don’t get me wrong, we were thrilled.

Did you have versions for if Kristin Kreuk came back, or any other versions?

PETERSON: Well, we were told at the beginning of the season that Kristin would never be back. I think her role would have been much better in the 200th episode because it was about reunions and high school, and all that. Once that passed and we realized we weren’t going to get her for that because she just wasn’t available, we didn’t follow the Kristin thread. But, we always kept the Lex thread partially alive.

What would the alternate Lex story have been, if Michael didn’t come back?

SOUDERS: In some ways, it was pretty similar. It’s just that he would’ve been a little bit of the puppeteer behind the scenes.

PETERSON: You just wouldn’t have seen him as much.

SOUDERS: We would’ve known he was more involved in Tess Mercer’s (Cassidy Freeman) life and, obviously, with Lionel Luthor (John Glover) coming back.

PETERSON: It just would’ve been more of a reveal at the end of the show, rather than seeing a good scene with he and Clark.

SOUDERS: If that was ever going to happen, we wanted to save that for the finale.

What was it like to finally get Clark Kent (Tom Welling) in the costume? Did you take extra time for that special moment?

SOUDERS: The finale is two hours, and we had to cut quite a bit out, actually. It is jam-packed. You won’t sit there and go, “Okay, nothing’s happening. There’s no relationships going.” Hopefully, you won’t feel like you’re just waiting for the last two minutes of the two-hour. A lot of prep went in. It was a really challenging episode. It was challenging when the first script came out, and people just kept adding and bringing more to the table. Our crew and our cast were just tireless about making it the greatest it could be. I would say pretty much every moment in this had a lot of hours behind it, not just that one.

PETERSON: It’s fair to say that we thought, at one point, that we might not have enough footage for the finale, so we wrote a couple extra scenes with some of the Darkseid mythology, and with Granny (Christine Willes) and Godfrey (Michael Daingerfield), which ended up not making it into the final cut because the original script did fit. So, those might end up showing up on the DVD or somewhere. They fleshed out the story a little, but because they weren’t our main characters, they were the first to go.

Was this two-hour finale done like a feature?

PETERSON: I’m always scared to say feature because that’s probably 20 times our budget, and that’s probably conservative. I don’t want to be compared to a feature after seeing Thor.

SOUDERS: Peter Roth has been the biggest fan of the show, from the beginning. It’s usually not the network’s job to pitch in on that stuff, but everyone gave us a lot of support because no one wanted to leave things off the screen.

PETERSON: It definitely has a feature scope and feel. There’s a plane and the Apocalypse heading to Earth. There’s probably just fewer of those shots than you would get in a movie.

Will we have any explanation for how Jonathan Kent is back?

SOUDERS: Yeah, I think it’ll be really clear what role Jonathan plays and why he shows up the way he does, in this episode. Every time I see certain moments with Jonathan, I definitely get a tear in my eye, after all these weeks of watching the footage.

PETERSON: We very purposely platformed his role in the finale with what we did in the premiere this year, with that final scene that Clark has with him in “Lazarus.” The whole point was to bookend the final season with Jonathan. He’s introduced in that same type of way.

Were there any things you thought you’d be able to do, in the beginning of the season, that didn’t work out?

SOUDERS: I think we probably would have liked to see the [Justice League of America] a little bit more this season. John Jones (Phil Morris) was somebody we really wanted to bring back. What it just came down to was that the finale had a lot of people in it. At a certain point, you tip the scale and you’re not servicing the people that are on screen. There were a lot of beloved characters that we wanted to see again that we didn’t get quite to bring back, but in general, we were pretty happy with everything we were able to do.

PETERSON: It’s always hard when another hero shows up because every minute that other hero’s on screen, it takes time away from Clark, just by its nature. The [Vigilante Registration Act] was supposed to be a vehicle to get as many people back as we could, but with the 200th episode and the finale, our resources were maxed out.

Will selling the farm and pulling away from Jor-el be a problem for Clark?

SOUDERS: Sometimes your mentors and the people that you look to for help can also be holding you back, or it can be your imagination that they’re holding you back. I think it’s about that final step of trying to figure out, as an adult, whether you are friends with your parents, or if your parents are still your parents. Clark is really trying to figure out all those last relationships, as he finally takes this step into complete manhood, or shall we say, Supermanhood. I think it’s still a complication in his life that he has to make peace with, in the finale.

PETERSON: Finding problems and character flaws for Superman has always been a challenge of this show because he’s perfect. What we purposely chose to be his stumbling block this year is the fact that he’s actually trying too hard to be a hero and trying too hard to force his destiny. So, some of the problems that he’s facing, at the top of the finale are about him trying too hard to decide who he is, and to be a hero, and to not let it happen at the pace it should.

SOUDERS: One of the things that’s difficult, and it really started a bit in the 200th episode, is when you’ve seen your future, how does that start adjusting what you do, on a daily basis. You have a mind-set of, “Oh, I’ve got to do this,” or “I’ve got to do that, to be this person.” I think all of us would have that. If we just jumped 10 years into our future and spent a day there, I can’t even imagine what sort of impact we’d come back with. It’d be a real challenge, just to stay in a present mind-set. That’s not easy.

How will you wrap up the Chloe (Allison Mack) storyline?

PETERSON: I don’t want to give anything away. Allison was doing a play, so we got her for half of the show. I think there are a lot of different ways people want Chloe to end, and I think we service her character in a way that is right for who she was and who she’s becoming. She has one big moment with Clark, where we get to see her shine.

SOUDERS: I will say that Chloe fans should definitely stay tuned through the whole show. There’s a jewel.

PETERSON: There’s a certain thing that we give her, that nobody got.

And, what about with Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley)?

PETERSON: Because Oliver came in so late in the series, we wanted to service him, but this show is about Clark. It started as one thing, and we wanted to end it there. He has a big heroic moment. He has a big arc, and he has some complications, clearly.

SOUDERS: One thing that I really enjoy about watching Justin [Hartley] and getting to wrap up the Oliver Queen story is that you really see what an impact these heroes coming together has made on him, and having Clark as a friend. It’s very clear, in this episode. It defines that relationship and what it means to both of them. There’s a really great moment that you just see their friendship and that bond, and that’s what’s going to get them through a lot of hard times, in the future.

PETERSON: We purposely had the last couple episodes be a little Oliver heavy because we knew we wouldn’t be able to have as much time for him in the finale. So, the one that Justin directed, called “Dominion,” and “Prophecy” had a lot of Oliver in them. Hopefully, people feel satisfied with a little conclusion in the finale.

Will there be any flash forwards or any glimpses into the future?

PETERSON: That will be answered in the first five minutes of the show.

SOUDERS: That’s good. I like that answer.

Is there anything that you were surprised hasn’t leaked about the finale?

SOUDERS: I’m surprised everything hasn’t leaked, to be honest.

PETERSON: Given how much leaks about this show, I can’t imagine how the Amazing Race does it. They must have ironclad contracts. I wasn’t surprised that there’s one shot that leaked, in the Fortress, because it’s a great shot.

SOUDERS: But, we didn’t like that it leaked. There are a lot of moments, all the way throughout, that we wanted to be sure that people were watching it for the first time and they weren’t seeing so much. Once you see something, and you see one shot or frame of it, then you start speculating and everybody has an opinion about it, and then you get to the moment and it may not be anything like what was represented in that shot, so that’s part of why we’ve tried to be really careful. It’s the last two hours, and we just want people to enjoy it.

PETERSON: Rather than being on top of it, before it even airs. And, the real honest answer is that half of them are visual effects and they’re not done yet, so luckily, they can’t leak.

Will there be any more mentions of the Legion of Doom in the finale?

PETERSON: We saw this last run, not as individual episodes, but as a lead-up, so we wanted to not try to pack everything in the finale. That was our cap-off of villains, so we could have the villains in the finale be Darkseid, and Lex and Lionel [Luthor]. That was to show that villains will go on, heroes will go on, Kara (Laura Vandervoort) will go on to her destiny, and wrap up all that, to protect Clark and everything that was in the finale.

How long did you know you were going to have Apocalypse come into the finale?

SOUDERS: A long time. In the writers’ room, Darkseid and Apocalypse were what we were all talking about, at the beginning of the season. They go hand-in-hand. It was something that just slowly evolved.

PETERSON: It was part of our pitch. Every season, we have to pitch the arc to the studio and the network, and it was part of our initial pitch.

Given how long the show has been on, and how a lot of fans have been watching since the pilot, did you feel additional pressure trying to reconcile what you felt fans might want versus what you wanted versus what the source material says happens, in that last two hours?

PETERSON: Well, the good thing is that we’re as big of fans as anybody else.

SOUDERS: The answer is yes, there’s a lot of pressure. Just to do a finale every season takes everything out of everybody who’s working on it and people just collapse. The next day, everybody is on planes trying to get to a beach, as far away as they possibly can. So, to try to do that for 10 years, and really wrap up 10 years, there was a lot of pressure.

PETERSON: We know we’ll never hit everything. It’s impossible. But, I think the finale hits 80% to 90% of what everybody is going to want, more than almost any other episode we’ve done.

SOUDERS: I should say the pressure is just between us. There was nobody calling us going, “You better do this.” We just don’t want it to suck, at the end of this run.

Was there anything that you wish you could have gotten to in the finale, but couldn’t?

PETERSON: The biggest part is that we really wanted a little bit more John Jones (Phil Morris) and a little bit more JLA in these last few episodes, but it’s not their story. It’s Clark’s story, but it would have been great to pull in a couple of people from the past. That’s really it. I think all the other moments with Clark and with Chloe and with Lois and with Lex and with Lionel are all there. I don’t think there’s anything that was skimped on or sacrificed there.

Was there anything from the time you started the show where you thought, “Oh, we’ll never get to do that,” that you actually got to do, over the years?

SOUDERS: Lois and Clark together. That was the big one. That was probably the biggest, out of all of them.

PETERSON: The “S” shield. I didn’t think we’d ever have access to that.

SOUDERS: Some of the characters from the DC world, like Metallo, Darkseid and Zod, were not something that we really approached in the early seasons, so we weren’t sure if that was ever going to come to fruition, but DC has been very excited to have us use the characters, and they’ve been great for us to get to play with.

When was the last time you guys went back and watched the pilot? Did you watch it recently, since the finale is basically a bookend to it?

PETERSON: We’ve seen a lot of episodes recently. Honestly, you would be hard-pressed to say anything from the pilot and I wouldn’t be able to say exactly when that happened and where it happened. We’ve seen it so many times. We’ve never wanted to lose track of where we started, so we went back to the pilot at least once or twice a season.

The series has veered off the path of the comic book a bit, like with having Lois and Clark together before he becomes Superman, and he’s just started wearing glasses. At this point, do you not have to reconcile the two?

SOUDERS: I’ll just say that some things get reconciled, and then with some things, we worked with DC and DC said, “This is Smallville.” There are a few things that don’t quite get reconciled because it’s its own mythology.

PETERSON: That’s the whole point of the idea of reconciliation. From every movie to every comic book, there have been different Earths and there were many crises. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly one thing that you’re supposed to line up to, so we’re just one more of those different variations, but we, along with a lot of the movies, have been very reverent to the source material. Even though we’ve taken slight liberties, we haven’t gone way off the path.

A lot of the CW’s promotion has used the John Williams score. Will that be in the finale?

PETERSON: That will be answered in the last five minutes.

What is the emotional impact of the final moments of the last episode, and how did that affect you?

SOUDERS: At this point, when I see the footage, even though we’ve seen it a hundred times, I still get really choked up just because it feels like there’s such a history, and obviously we have such a history with it, too. It feels like high school, like you’re ending a whole period of your life that you know you will never, ever get to go back to, that had highs and lows, but was just so spectacular, in every way. It just won’t ever be duplicated, in that same way, so it’s pretty emotional.

PETERSON: We also didn’t want to just do an ending. We wanted to do a beginning, a little bit. So, what we were aiming for was giving people the emotion of knowing what’s to come. The end of this show lines up with every movie, a lot of comic books, and a lot of other things. Unlike a lot of shows, we know where this story goes, so it’s a hand-off to those other pieces of canon and mythology, rather than just an ending.

How did you celebrate wrapping the show?

SOUDERS: Brian was on set, but I was not there.

PETERSON: I got on a plane from set and had a Scotch. What’s hard was that everybody trickled out. A lot of the actors had gone. It wasn’t just this big moment on set where it was the final scene because of the way the schedule was, so you had a big moment with this person, and then they left. Annette O’Toole would wrap and you’d clap, and then she’d go. And then, [Allison Mack] would wrap. Poor Tom [Welling] was like, “Everybody’s gone, for my last moment.” But, he was a trooper. He had to work the second to last day.

SOUDERS: And, Cassidy [Freeman] was there the last day.

PETERSON: And, he sent a nice email to everybody and said thank you. He’s a mensch.

What will you guys be doing on Friday for the finale?

PETERSON: We’re just having a few really close friends over to my house, and maybe taking the writers out for a drink.

SOUDERS: It’s strange because the bulk of the people who work on the show in production are all in Vancouver, and then our office down here is 30 people. It’s a small office. We wish we could all be together, but that only happens about once every two years.

Are there plans to continue in any other mediums, after the series ends?

SOUDERS: I think they’re planning to do a Smallville comic book.

PETERSON: Beyond that, I don’t know. Their hands are very full with a lot of features right now, over at DC.

Have you thought about doing a spin-off at all?

SOUDERS: We haven’t talked about it, actually. To be honest, we’ve had our heads pretty buried in the show, especially this last year. There wasn’t much time to even think about it. But, obviously, it’s a bunch of beloved characters, otherwise they wouldn’t have been around all these decades.

PETERSON: I’m actually glad, at this point, that nothing has been spun off because, when that starts to happen, a lot of the focus goes to that, rather than the actual source show. I’m glad that we don’t have that right now, honestly. If something does happen, which we’ve had no conversations about, it will be its own thing.

What special features and extras are you planning for the final DVD set?

SOUDERS: Oh, my gosh, this DVD set is insane. I think it’s the biggest one Warner Brothers has ever put out, for the whole series.

PETERSON: It’s really cool looking. They’ve gone back and interviewed people that were on those first seasons with us, like Al [Gough] and Miles [Millar]. Some of the stuff is still in negotiations right now. They did two featurettes that are going to go on this season. There’ll be lots of extra features.

What do you want the one thing people take away from the show to be?

kristin_kreuk_allison_mack_erica_durance_michael_rosenbaum_tom_welling_smallville_imageSOUDERS: Honestly, I think it’s probably the theme that emerged this year, which is believe in heroes. I think that has become incredibly important to us that we were able to work on a show that had such a positive message. The fact that we have such hardcore fans that have followed the show, I think that’s why they watch. It’s not because we’re going to have the biggest visual effects they’ll ever see on a screen and it’s not because of really anything other than I think they want to believe in the heroes.

PETERSON: I think Superman was born out of a very tumultuous time in our history and I think we’re facing a lot of other challenges right now and we will in the future. To me it’s inspiration for sure.

How do you want Smallville to be remembered?

SOUDERS: What I would hope is that what Smallville did was make one of the most recognizable heroes in the world accessible and made him human to people, so that they could relate to him and be inspired by him. That would be my hope.

PETERSON: With Batman, we see his angst on a daily basis. He literally wears it on his sleeve. Superman is this larger-than-life, poppy, red and blue, almost perfect inspiration. So, for me, it’s that we got to see the immense struggle it took to get to that point because he doesn’t wear it on his sleeve every day. We filled in the space from when he arrived on Earth to the point that he decided to be that inspiration for people.

Have you considered going to Comic-Con to celebrate the finale of the show?

SOUDERS: That would be fun.

PETERSON: That would be awesome.

SOUDERS: If we get an invitation, we’ll show up.

PETERSON: Maybe we could promote the series box set. I don’t know.

What is your favorite memory from working on the show, for so many years?

PETERSON: The 100th episode, just personally and for the show and for Clark, with the moment that Jonathan died and then his scene with Martha afterward. And, the end of the finale.

SOUDERS: I’m right there with you.