Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer Interview – SMALLVILLE

     August 26, 2008

As I said when I posted the interviews with Allison Mack and Justin Hartley, 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 – Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer – 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. But the highlight has to be their talking about bringing in more comic book characters. While some have been on the show before, it seems like they’re going to try and get a lot of them back (Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Black Canary, Cyborg, Impulse) and also introduce new characters that we haven’t yet seen on “Smallville.”

If you’re a fan of “Smallville,” you’ll really enjoy this interview. Look for an interview with the other new executive producers Brian Wayne Peterson and Kelly Souders later tonight.

Todd Slavkin: Great to meet you guys, thank you for being so kind to the show. We were telling…the media has been really awesome. The press has been great and we don’t take that for granted.

So what’s it like getting keys to the kingdom?

Todd Slavkin: So fun. It’s great. It’s better than an E ticket at Disneyland. We’ve been on the show since season 2. We’ve worked closely with Al and Miles for what is it…6 seasons now? So the transition isn’t as severe as one would think. It’s not like we were brought in from the outside and all of a sudden given the keys. For the last few years we’ve been very involved in key story elements, key plot lines, you know, working with them. It’s more responsibility. It’s somewhat more…with great power comes a great responsibility. The Superman line? We certainly feel the burden of carrying the legacy, but I think you guys are going to love the premiere because we’ve been executing those guys vision for so long. It’s not like we’re saying our egos are like this is going to be our show now. It’s not like that at all. It’s like how do we continue the legacy and the vision. It’s going to be our own. You’ll see a little bit of…

Darren Swimmer: What they’ve established works.

Todd Slavkin: Yeah, and it’s great. And the rhythm of the show and all that stuff. We’re not going to change that, you know? It’s cool.

I’m just curious, I asked the executive producers earlier the fact that you guys are having such cast changes, to me, actually invigorates the show because you guys with different actors you can see different things. Can you talk about what you’re planning on doing with some of the characters?

Darren Swimmer: Absolutely, yeah. Tess Mercier is going to be a really interesting character. She’s got a lot of layers. She’s somewhat of a chameleon and she’s many different people all at once. You never really know who she really is. Cassidy Freeman came into that role day 1, first dailies off the floor she nailed it. We’re incredibly lucky to have found her. She’s going to be a huge star and she really brings what Michael Rosenbaum brought to the role which is….all of the innuendo and all of the different layers of things and double meanings and delivering every line with a certain amount of like double edged sword kind of…

Todd Slavkin: Don’t mess with her. She’ll kick your ass.

I guess I was also more looking at the fact that until the season finale, you guys always had to deal with the Lex/Clark/Lana situation and now that dynamic has basically been removed so there’s not always this love triangle thing going on. So I wanted to know how does that free you up?

Todd Slavkin: Well, there’s new triangles. That’s what’s great about it, right? Because the triangles are only getting crispier as we go along. She is searching for Lex. That’s kind of her MO. Where is Lex Luther?

Darren Swimmer: She doesn’t believe he’s dead.

Todd Slavkin: She doesn’t believe he’s dead for a second and he disappeared in the Arctic, well eventually she’s going to find out guess who else was in the Arctic with him. So Clark and Tess—Tess is also running the Daily Planet—so there’s Lois Lane there and Clark and Tess. Clark’s an attractive guy, let’s be honest. Tess Mercier is an attractive woman and so is Erica and those feelings will collide. This season will be all about relationships, so even though we’ll still have our cool effects and our super cool action, it’ll be much more character based. You know the character Miss Tessmacher from the movies, and I don’t know if some of you have heard of Mercy from the DC universe. We’ve kind of taken them and combined them—Tess Mercer is her name. It’s neither Tessmacher or Mercy but it’s an amalgamation of the two and it’s so fun to write. I mean, you guys you’ll see her. She’s like…she’s in the mansion you know and her eyes….she’s thinking so much you can’t stop looking at her.

Darren Swimmer: Davis Bloom…I was trying to touch on Davis Bloom, who will eventually become the Doomsday, but starts out as Davis Bloom and Chloe and Davis get along really well. They hit it off right away, so that may create different triangles with Jimmy.

Todd Slavkin: Clark.

Darren Swimmer: Yeah, there’s a lot of richness that we can do when you write. It’s fun to play these different dynamics with new characters.

How do you approach writing new characters based on existing characters? You know they exist in the comic world and then you combine the two. Is there added pressure to that? Is DC fine with something like that and obviously we all know how the story ends. So how far do you take something like that?

Todd Slavkin: Well, Tess Mercer is our own. So DC, it’s not Miss Tessmacher and it’s not Mercy, so we’ve really created this woman on our own. Miss Tessmacher in the movies is so goofy and it’s not Valerie Perrine and Parker Posey. That’s not what we’re going for at all. But just the name and the allegiance to Lex, that’s what clued us in. With Mercy, Mercy is this kick-ass woman and Mercy is a fighter and Mercy is a survivor and that’s really a lot of what Tess is all about. So it’s neither based really on the 2 of them, we just kind of took the names a little bit and then it’s fresh. So DC has been awesome. DC has been like with Doomsday we were worried, are they going to give us Doomsday? They trust us. We’ve done this for 7 years. We have a lot of reverence and respect for these characters and at the same time we make them a “Smallville” twist, you know, Lex Luther….that’s a new Lex Luther. You know Gene Hackman, Kevin Spacey is very different. Rosenbaum was able to create this character that was so 3 dimensional and had so much depth that you don’t see in the other versions.

Darren Swimmer: DC is our collaborator. It’s not like there’s DC and there’s “Smallville” and it’s…they see every script. We talk with them. They give us suggestions. There’s not a lot of like you must do this because that has to conform to the comics. We have a reverence for the comics and I think it’s fun trying….you know without the legacy of the comics there would be no show and you’re right, it’s interesting to write something where you know the ending and I think that it’s a great sort of creative puzzle to make all these new original stories blossom out of this small period of time that we’re working with in the comics.

How long would you like to see the show go on for?

Darren Swimmer: As long as it can go.

Todd Slavkin: We have a lot more stories to tell. I think people—you’ll see in season 8 when you start watching the show—it feels fresh. We’re not cribbing like here’s a Green Arrow origin and we have Maxima from the DC universe. We have Plastic from the DC universe. We have great Lois and Clark stories that will feel fresh and will not feel like you’ve seen it on previous shows. I want to tell you guys more, just because I’m so excited, but at the same time I don’t want to truly spoil it but right now we’re breaking episode 7, just to give you an….and the first 7 out of the box….I really think if you’re a “Smallville” fan then you’ll have a smile on your face. You’ll be on that ride.

I was going to say I am a fan of the show and I’m very excited about this season… because just like with “Cheers”, with the defecting replaced, you have to change cast to keep a show going. That being said, are there any characters in the DC universe you’ve been wanting to work with and now that you’re thinking okay, let’s go after them and bring them in? Besides the ones you’ve already mentioned.

Darren Swimmer: There’s the ones that we just won’t be bringing on the show like Batman, obviously.

Todd Slavkin: Martian Manhunter—he’s been on the show. We have a great idea for him this season so he’s in at least 3 episodes, probably more, and he will feel more a part of this Metropolis. We will ground him for a little bit in the show which is really interesting. He’s a great actor and he has all this knowledge that Clark doesn’t have.

Darren Swimmer: There is one DC character that we’ve always wanted to do for several seasons and we can’t say it because we don’t know if we’re going to get the green….

Can I get a maybe?

Todd Slavkin: Which one? You can say maybe.

Darren Swimmer: Well it’s a female magician. Starts with a Z.

Todd Slavkin: Yeah, we want to use her. That’s kind of it to tell you the truth. Just the thing is we have so many that we’ve already established. Like I want to see more Flash. It’s the Justice League, right? Well, in the premiere because of scheduling, we could get Aquaman, Black Canary, Oliver Queen and they rock. No complaints, but there’s these other guys. There’s Cyborg. There’s Impulse. There’s other characters that we miss and want on the show but it’s hard because the actors are busy and they’re doing their thing, but beyond those I don’t think there’s others really.

Darren Swimmer: There will be.

Todd Slavkin: There will be though. There always will.

I’m also curious, like since you guys are obviously going to go for a season 9, how challenging is it as writers to think about the arc of where the season finale is going to go because it may be the last season. It may not be the last season. So how are you planning for that?

Todd Slavkin: We have alternate endings this season. We know how this season will end if there’s a season 9, which we hope and we’re keeping our fingers crossed, and we believe there will be. And we have plans if this would be the series finale. So it’s just a matter of…right now we’re so early in the season that we don’t have to adjust yet, you know?

Darren Swimmer: But there’s an arc that either way, whether it’s the last season which it probably won’t be, or we go on—there’s still the arc….the story it’s not like we’re going to kind of have to like re-write and take out our erasers and re-write really fast. It’s going to be the same basic arc either way.

Todd Slavkin: Yeah.

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