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Smallville: 10 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About The Superman Prequel Series

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

It’s been 20 years since Smallville first made its television debut, but the love for the show seems to be stronger than ever. The Tom Welling-led series helped to usher in a new age for comic book storytelling on the small screen, as it delivered intricate story arcs and impressive action sequences. The drama established an interesting mythology for itself, though longtime fans may be equally intrigued by some off-camera information. A lot went into making the Superman prequel, and you may be surprised by some of the secrets that await behind the scenes. 

The DC Comics series has been off the air for over a decade and, in that time, fans have gotten more insight into its inner workings. And, even during its run, a number of significant tidbits were made known. So without further ado, let’s check out some behind the scenes facts you may not know about Smallville.

Erica Durance on Smallville

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Smallville Creators Alfred Gough And Miles Millar Originally Pitched A Lois Lane Prequel Series

Creative duo Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, who’d contributed to films like Lethal Weapon 4 and Shanghai Noon by the early 2000s, were the minds behind the hit superhero show. Like many people, the two scribes were fans of the Man of Steel and as a result, wanted to do a show connected to his world. However, their first idea actually centered on his iconic love interest, Lois Lane. 

The two revealed this in a featurette on the making of the show’s first season. The idea was to create a series that followed the would-be journalist during her college years. According to Gough, the project was envisioned as a mixture of Ally McBeal and Nancy Drew. Meanwhile, her heroic lover would’ve been an unseen character, and would’ve theoretically been a mysterious internet pen pal known only as “CK.” The idea is intriguing, but it’s safe to say the writing pair struck gold with their eventual story. Plus, with the proposed project, fans may not have gotten Erica Durance as Lois Lane.

Brandon Routh in Superman Returns

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Superman Returns’ Brandon Routh Auditioned For The Role Of Clark Kent

As you can imagine, the producers auditioned plenty of young actors for Clark Kent. Some, like Supernatural’s Jensen Ackles, were experienced, while others were a bit green, like Tom Welling himself. Another who fell into that latter category was none other than Brandon Routh, who, today, has a firm place within the DC Universe. The actor reflected on his audition during an appearance at Motor City Comic Con in 2019:

So when Smallville came around, I had an audition for that. This was 2000, 2001. I had that audition, and then I had a callback and I was like, ‘oh, this is gonna happen, right?’ Very naive. Then it didn’t go any further and I was pretty crushed.

The disappointment might have been sharp at that point, but the actor would eventually find his way to the iconic role when he was cast as the lead in 2006’s Superman Returns. Of course, today, Brandon Routh is known to many as Ray Palmer/The Atom in the Arrowverse, though he did get to don his cape once more during the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover.

The loft set on Smallville

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Three Of Smallville’s Main Sets Were Housed In A Former Meat-Packing Building

Smallville, like many other TV shows, made heavy use of sets, especially during the later seasons. Nevertheless, many of them were quite impressive given the constraints of network television. There was the crystal-clad Fortress of Solitude introduced in Season 5 as well as the large Daily Planet set that would be a mainstay in the last stretch of the show. But, what you may not know is that three major sets were actually housed in an unusual location. 

The interior sets for the Kent house, the family barn and the Luthor mansion were all located in a Vancouver building that used to house a meat-packing operation. In an early 2000s special, titled Superman: The Early Years, journalist Andi Peters explored the making of the show, which included checking out the building and the sets it housed. It may seem unconventional, but it was ultimately believable.

Luthor Mansion on Smallville

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Exterior Location For Luther Mansion Was Also Used For A Major Marvel Franchise

The program also featured a number of visually striking exterior locations, such as the Kent farm, which actually stands in Vancouver. But, it’s hard to top the beautiful place that served as the Luthor household. The actual location is Hatley Park National Historic Site, which is located in British Columbia. According to Alfred Gough and Miles Millar in a Season 1 featurette, they wanted the Luthors to live in a place that resembled a castle. It’s a cool place, and one that was later used in the X-Men franchise as well. 

That’s right, Hatley was also used for the exterior shots in the Marvel movie series, starting with 2003’s X2: X-Men United, and would later appear in 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, as well as 2016’s Deadpool and it’s 2018 sequel. The building also influenced the alternate versions of the school that existed in other installments in the series. Needless to say, this place has deep ties to comic book lore.

John Schneider and Tom Welling on Smallville

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

John Schneider Drew From His Relationship With His Son To Form The Bond Between Clark And Jonathan Kent

The role of the stern, but loving, Jonathan Kent needed a very specific actor, and John Schneider rose to the occasion in a big way. Finding the motivation to be the parent to such an extraordinary person could be difficult for many actors. But, as explained during a Season 2 featurette, Schneider actually drew on his relationship with his own son, Chasen, to inform his character’s parenting style:

My son, Chasen, has a thing called Asperger’s Syndrome, which now is pretty much you can’t even tell. But when he was seven/eight years old, there was a lot of working with him. Having a special needs child made me realize that Clark Kent was a special needs child. So I worked with Chasen to get the relationship right between Clark and Jonathan. That is actually Chasen and John’s relationship.

It’s certainly an interesting perspective, and one that does seem to have helped him play the role. The father-son relationship was incredibly important to the series, which made it all the more tragic when Jonathan Kent passed on in Season 5.

Ian Somerhalder on Smallville

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

A Smallville Season 3 Character Is Rumored To Have Originally Been Bruce Wayne

Numerous DC Comics characters appeared on Smallville over the course of its run, especially during its later seasons. However, one that ultimately eluded the show is the eventual protector of Gotham City -- Batman. Though Bruce Wayne never popped into the show, one of the show’s “urban legends” asserts that resurrected teen Adam Knight, played by Ian Somerhalder in Season 3, was originally meant to be Bruce Wayne before plans change at the last minute. 

While the show’s creatives have never confirmed this, there are a few elements of the character that imply that he was, at the very least, a tribute to Bruce. For starters, like Wayne, Adam was an orphan. He was also fluent in martial arts and was a capable computer hacker. Many also believed his name was a combination of late Batman actor Adam West and the character’s nickname, the Dark Knight. Even Ian Somerhalder stated in an archived interview that his character’s arc was changed close to filming. We’ll probably never know for sure what the exact plans were, but there’s certainly evidence to support the theory.

Allison Mack on Smallville

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Lois Lane’s Introduction In Season 4 Shot Down A Wild Fan Theory About Chloe Sullivan

Many were undoubtedly excited when it was confirmed that Lois Lane would be entering Clark Kent’s life in Season 4, and Erica Durance ultimately knocked the role out of the park. The character was established as the cousin of Clark’s longtime friend, Chloe Sullivan and, as it so happens, Lane’s introduction did one major thing. According to Alfred Gough in a Season 4 featurette, it shut down the idea that budding journalist Chloe would somehow become Lane:

People kept going, ‘Oh, she’s going to turn into Lois Lane.’ We’re like, ‘No, she’s Lois’ cousin.’ They’re like, ‘No, she’s going to turn into Lois Lane, and you’re tricking me.’ We’re like, ‘No. Dude, seriously, she’s Lois’ cousin.’

It was definitely an odd theory, one that would’ve been weird had it panned out. But if anything, it shows just how beloved and popular Lois is among fans.

Margot Kidder on Smallville

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Superman Icon Margot Kidder Quit The Show After Christopher Reeves’ Death

Smallville welcomed a number of notable guest stars over the years, such as Wonder Woman icon Lynda Carter and Supergirl actress Helen Slater. Beloved Superman actor Christopher Reeve also appeared as Dr. Virgil Swann, a scientist who helps Clark learn more about his Kryptonian heritage. And, in a sweet twist, he was joined by his former Lois Lane, the great Margot Kidder, who was being set up for a major role before she left. 

The actress played Virgil Swann’s assistant, Bridgette Crosby, who appeared in Season 4. Following the death of Christopher Reeve, the producers opted to kill off Swann and wanted Crosby to deliver the news to Clark. Kidder reportedly found this to be a “tacky” way to approach the character’s fate and felt it was disrespectful to Reeves’ memory. With this, she departed and her character was later killed off screen. Some fans likely still wish they could’ve gotten more of the actress on the show.

Laura Vandervoort on Smallville

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Laura Vandervoort’s Supergirl Was Originally Going to Be Similar To Paris Hilton

After a misdirect in Season 3, fans were finally treated to the real Kara of Krypton in the seventh season. Laura Vandervoort’s Girl of Steel quickly became a fan favorite on the show and received her fair share of heroic moments. However, had the producers gone with their original plans, her trajectory would’ve been quite different. 

Craig Byrne, the author of the Smallville official companion books, revealed in an interview for a Season 7 featurette that the show’s version of Kara was initially going to be a bit more shallow. The creative team envisioned her as a “Paris Hilton type,” who was likely deeply interested in pop culture. Ultimately, Laura Vandervoort’s delivery encouraged them to change their minds, and I think we can all be grateful for that.

Justin Hartley and Erica Durance on Smallville

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

A Metropolis-Centric Spinoff Starring Green Arrow And Lois Lane Was Once Being Developed

The Superman prequel series introduced a number of characters who could hold their own, so there was plenty of spinoff potential. One series regular that seemed more than set for his own series was Justin Hartley’s Oliver Queen/Green Arrow. And Hartley actually revealed a few years ago that the producers proposed a spinoff called Metropolis, which would have centered on Oliver and Lois Lane. 

However, the project didn’t gain any momentum, and the two characters remained on the series. I’m glad that the two ultimately stuck around on the parent show, but it’s hard to deny that the spinoff idea sounds intriguing. 

There’s so much to love about this show, and the cast and crew all deserve credit for making a complex and compelling show that still holds up two decades after its debut. You can revisit the superhero series, and check out the aforementioned featurettes by picking up Smallville: The Complete Series on DVD and Blu-ray now.

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.