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Smallville’s Tom Welling And Michael Rosenbaum On What They Remember Most About Filming The Pilot Episode

Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum on Smallville
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

On October 16, 2001, the now-defunct channel known as The WB welcomed a new show called Smallville. The show centered on the formative years of Clark Kent, the young man who would one day be known as Superman. In time, the project would gain a massive fanbase, one that included superhero, science fiction and teen drama fans alike. The show, which ran for 10 seasons, is currently regarded as a seminal superhero production that many still revisit today. Now, fans will be able to do so in glorious fashion, as the complete series is headed to Blu-ray for the first time ever. And to mark the occasion, lead stars Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum shared their memories of filming the pilot.

It’s honestly hard to believe it’s been two decades since Smallville first landed on our TV screens. Many viewers can likely still remember some of that first installment’s biggest moments. But what still stands out for the cast themselves years later? Well, Michael Rosenbaum and Tom Welling have positive thoughts on shooting that initial episode. Rosenbaum remembered being in awe of the scope and incredibly excited to have landed a major TV gig:

I think for me, it's like, ‘Holy crap, I'm on a really good show. Look at the production value of this show. Wow, they are going nuts, they're spending money. And I gotta be good, I gotta be great. … All the pieces are together, and I can't be the one that brings down the ship.’ So it felt like a lot of pressure. It felt like I had to be really, I just do my job and be there and be as present as I could. And you know, I was just a kid and [Tom Welling and Kristen Kreuk] were even younger than I was. But it was just ultimately an exciting time in my life. I hadn't done anything as large, as grand as Smallville, and it was a lot of excitement.

The series, overseen by the creative duo of Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, was truly ahead of its time, as it provided some of the most impressive visual effects on TV at that time. That, paired with the fact that it was a new iteration of one of the world’s most beloved comic book characters, was surely daunting for the cast. When discussing his first time on the set, Tom Welling recalled his naïveté while joking about that of his co-star:

I remember being very young and very inexperienced, but I do remember thinking that Michael better not screw this up [laughs]. He’s playing Lex Luthor. I might be playing this Clark Kent who doesn't know anything, but Lex needs to know what's going on. And thank God he was able to figure it out.

Most are sure to agree with the actor’s sentiments, as his colleague would go on to define the iconic character for a generation of viewers. Likewise, the Clark Kent actor would also become the Man of Steel audiences needed in a post-9/11 world. When discussing his personal favorite moments from the pilot, Tom Welling named some of the episode’s signature scenes: 

But the two things that stand out for me is ripping the door off and saying, ‘I’m Clark Kent, and you’re in Smallville.’ That was a big moment. I felt, as a human being, ‘This is awesome.’ And then saving [Lex] from the Porsche, that was a big moment. Lana... just the way that Kristen and I sort of melded, in the cemetery, talking to each other, like that vibe. There's just… I was a part of all the moments, you know, like [Michael was] part of it. ... I actually saw it all come together more than anybody else. Not like I'm like a wizard. But like, I worked with [Michael]. He was awesome. It was awesome, [working] with Kristen. Everything I was doing, I was like, ‘Oh my god, is it always this awesome when you're on a TV show?’

But while the experience was unforgettable, it was also filled with hard work. The two stars were honest about some of the rougher days on set. Michael Rosenbaum, while stressing how grateful they were for the jobs, talked a bit about just how much effort went into making the series what it was:

It turns out to be and again, we're grateful and all that, but it is work. It is not as glamorous as you think. When I bring people to set, they're like, ‘Oh my gosh, she's still doing this scene after six hours?’ They don't realize how much work it takes and how much time in each moment, each scene. And we spent a lot of time trying to make the show as good as it could be.

Considering the fact that we’re still talking about the show today, I’d say they did a pretty good job. Their efforts, along with those of their castmates and crew, allowed Smallville to become a well-rounded show filled with action, humor, heart, tragedy and pure comic book goodness. Superman fans are certainly grateful for the iconic series, and I think I speak for many when I say we’d love to see Tom Welling, Michael Rosenbaum and their co-stars add even more to this canon someday. 

In the meantime, you can revisit the show by picking up Smallville: The Complete Series when it soars onto Blu-ray on Tuesday, October 19.

Erik Swann

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.