The stars of Smallville — the WB's new series about Superman's early, formative years — don't get out much. Mostly they're stuck where they are, up in chilly, drizzly Vancouver, where the show is shot on a schedule that runs almost nonstop. But, of course, they hear the news. "We hear it from agents and managers and publicists," says Tom Welling, who plays young Clark Kent. And what they hear is that Smallville is one of the few breakout hits of the season, drawing 6 million viewers weekly and trouncing almost everything else in sight, that the WB has already ordered up another season and that the three of them will soon be immortalized in plastic as action-figure toys. This is heady stuff, of course, and if Welling, Kristin Kreuk (who plays Lana Lang) and Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor) were making the show in L.A., it would undoubtedly go right to their noggins. Pretty soon they'd be hanging out at Skybar, knocking back highballs with various sluts, sycophants and shoplifters out on bail.
But such is not the case, at least not yet.
"We're really kind of sheltered here, which is good," Welling says one afternoon on the set. "I mean, I've been working the last five Saturdays until dawn.
"But it kind of keeps us — well, it allows us to maintain our focus and to really just concentrate on what we're doing."
Mainly what they're doing is putting a new spin on the early years of the Superman saga. In the WB's version, Clark doesn't wear a cape, doesn't cavort in a unitard, doesn't even fly yet. He's just a teenager who is developing some extraordinary powers while suffering the usual hideous agonies of adolescence and the occasional bout of kryptonite allergy. Of course, he's got a bad guy to battle every week. But the real heart of the show lies in Clark's unrequited love for Lana Lang, his odd, amusing friendship with bald bad boy Lex Luthor and his relationship with his folks, who are always good for some moral guidance. Plus, he's dealing with the guilt he feels over the way he arrived on Earth: in a meteor shower that killed Lana's parents, stripped Lex of his hair and in general turned Smallville into a weird place to live. It's a unique, inventive and often moving mix; and a number of highbrow types have praised the show for its "soul" and its "intuitive feel for the zeitgeist," and sensed in this particular Clark Kent a new kind of hero for the post-9/11 world.
Naturally, Welling and Company don't spend a lot of time pondering this stuff. Mostly they're too exhausted. Plus they've got a show to create. At the moment, Kreuk is in the makeup chair, while Welling and Rosenbaum rehearse a scene, the two of them ambling around a battered Porsche, practicing their lines.
"Don't you remember anything about the accident?" Rosenbaum asks Welling.
"I remember pulling you out," says Welling. "That's all."
"You sure you don't remember anything?" asks Rosenbaum. He pauses. He lifts an eyebrow. Finally, displaying his own intuitive feel for the zeitgeist, he says, "My ass was sore afterward. You sure you didn't give me a superfuck?"
The director steps forward and says, "Well, yes, that was very good, very professional."
Rosenbaum is chuckling, and Welling is looking kind of embarrassed. As well he might. Being the new kind of hero and all.
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