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Why Supergirl Should (& Shouldn’t) Cast Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor

by  in Lists, TV News Comment
Why Supergirl Should (& Shouldn’t) Cast Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor

With the fall TV season nearly in full swing, plenty of fan-favorite shows are coming back to the small screen. Among them will be the return of “Supergirl” for its second season, also marking its debuti on the The CW. “Supergirl” had strong initial numbers behind it, but still had a tough time with audiences as its freshman season continued on CBS.

RELATED: “Supergirl”: 10 Things We Want From Season 2

Now with a new network (and one that’s no stranger to DC Comics-based series), the show appears to have a lot more primed for its second outing. After plenty of Superman teases in Season 1, fans wanted more than a shadowy vision or an instant message conversation. The new season will kick off with Tyler Hoechlin donning the red cape in “Supergirl” Season 2.. It was also confirmed that Lena Luthor, Lex Luthor’s younger sister, would also be involved in the latest season. This has many viewers wondering if the elder Luthor could possibly make an appearance. The next logical question is, who would play him? The casting of Hoechlin as Superman has effectively quashed any hope for Tom Welling to reprise his “Smallville” role, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see another “Smallville” return. Many fans are holding out hope that Michael Rosenbaum will return to the DC fold once again as Lex Luthor.

After considering this scenario, CBR looks at some reasons why Rosenbaum should return to the iconic role, as well as why he should maybe hold off on that buzz cut for a while.

SPOILER WARNING: Minor spoilers for “Smallville” follow.

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10. YES: He’s Done It Before, and Very Well

Rosenbaum took on the daunting role of a younger Lex Luthor during his run on “Smallville,” and most fans agree he excelled in the part. After all, he was playing a character with a lengthy comic book history, and was previously brought to life by the great Gene Hackman. To say there was pressure when the Superman-centric series debuted is a bit of an understatement, but Rosenbaum still managed to pull it off. Through several seasons he struggled to find out Clark’s secret, fought to control LuthorCorp, clashed with his equally corrupt father, and finally dedicated himself to tearing Clark down. Even though he was playing a younger Lex, he was able to capture the brooding, snide, evil mastermind we all knew and loved to hate.

Rosenbaum returning to the role, even in a brand new “Supergirl” CW universe, would be fantastic because he would know what the character needed to be. He’s had years of practice and understands how Lex plays within the “Superman” story. He certainly wouldn’t go off the rails with hard candy and giggle fits like another Lex iteration, but instead play the character as he is intended: a manipulative, cerebral and downright mean villain.

9. NO: A New Actor Deserves a Chance

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“Supergirl” is definitely traveling in a direction not beholden to the plot lines of its super predecessors. With the recent casting of Tyler Hoechlin as Clark Kent, “Supergirl” has shown it’s willing to try all new things as it forges its own path in the CW’s DC TV universe. Since Hoechlin is being given a shot to create his own on screen iteration of Superman, shouldn’t someone else new be given a chance? Hoechlin is someone we’ve never seen before and may be able to really give a new spin on Clark Kent and the Man of Steel. Who’s to say someone else shouldn’t have the same opportunity with Lex?

Having Rosenbaum back would mean potentially missing out on another actor that could knock our socks off as the iconic villain. Granted, other previous “Smallville” stars have appeared in “Supergirl” like Laura Vandervoort, but she’s done it as villainess Indigo, a completely new role compared to playing Kara on “Smallville.” In this case, Rosenbaum might be better off returning to the world as a another character that could be fun and allow him to show his range. After so long as Lex Luthor, maybe it’s time he officially moved on.

8. YES: He Hasn’t Gotten Too Big for Television

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Michael Rosenbaum has found success past “Smallville” in other realms, mostly in voice acting. He’s no stranger to DC stories, having voiced the Flash in a number of animated forays such as “Justice League: Doom” and the “Justice League” animated series. In live-action he currently plays the lead on TV Land’s “Impastor” series, which kicks off its second season this September.

The point being is that Michael Rosenbaum could easily return to the role of Lex without any huge issues. While some actors exit the television world and never look back, Rosenbaum has stayed within the realm and could feasibly return to the role. Yes he is already the lead in another show, but a bit of creative scheduling can easily be done there, as opposed to months at a time being occupied if he’s working on a film. If his Twitter post earlier in the year is any indication, he probably wouldn’t mind another go in the shoes of Lex on the small screen. Even better, he could join the likes of Dean Cain and Helen Slater, both actors whom have made returns to the Superman world through “Supergirl.”

7. NO: It Might Hurt Lena Luthor’s Debut

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As far as we know, “Supergirl” will see Lena running things at LuthorCorp instead of Lex. She will likely have an uphill battle in her efforts to turn around the apparent massive amounts of bad PR surrounding the LuthorCorp name due to her brothers’ so-called “evil infamy.” Having Lex present at all might massively take away from her characterization in this, and even more so if Rosenbaum reprises the role. Lena herself will likely need a more encompassing introduction as a new character to the show, so having her brother around may easily overshadow any interest gained in her.

Once word got out that Lex would be played by Rosenbaum again, it would become a point of interest among fans. Anything that Lena accomplished in the show would just be pushed aside as just another step toward the elder Luthor’s debut on “Supergirl.” Even if Lex never comes to be anything major, the fans will wait with baited breath for a return from the “Smallville” alum as the main event of the season and Lena will be left by the wayside. This would be a massive injustice to the character, as she has the potential to be a very polarizing addition to the series.

6. YES: Getting Older Makes Him Closer to the Middle-Aged Character We Know From the Comics

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Since “Supergirl” is set in a somewhat new universe, unattached to “Smallville’s” plot lines, it’s safe to say this introduction to Lex on the CW series will be as a relatively new character. This means that he could debut as the older Lex many Superman fans are familiar with, as opposed to the younger TV version Rosenbaum played. He’s 44 years-old now, which is a more accurate age range for Lex as we know him in the comics and animated series.

Past iterations of Lex always painted him as an aging mastermind, on par with Superman; part of this is due to his age commanding a bit of respect. Lex wasn’t a new kid on the block, he had years of experience manipulating people and planning schemes behind him. Early details of the upcoming season include Lena Luthor arriving to National City after her brother Lex is incarcerated. This further nails why Rosenbaum would work. Not only is he older but, in the continuity of “Supergirl,” his character has been up to no good for some stretch of time. Rosenbaum would be able to fit this well since he’s played the villain for a while and could bring that ‘veteran evil mastermind’ feel to the new series.

5. NO: A Small Role for Luthor Might be a Waste of His Talents

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Rumors and theories aside, none of us really know in what capacity Lex Luthor will appear on the show. He could be his usual big, bad self, priming for an escape from jail to eagerly take back the reigns of LuthorCorp. He could be a one-off appearance for a few minutes in a middling episode. Or he could be referenced in name only, never to making a full appearance (a la Superman in Season 1) on the show. If either of the last two are true, tapping Rosenbaum to play Lex again would be an incredible waste.

Fans of “Smallville” certainly want the return of their beloved iteration of Lex to “Supergirl’s” realm, but most definitely don’t want it to be a throwaway. Like the reprisal of Mark Hamill as The Trickster on “The Flash,” Rosenbaum would deserve a hefty couple of episodes to merit a “super” homecoming. If he was nothing more than a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo, that would be much better suited to a new actor that has fresh expectations from the audience, as opposed to the large ones that would be set should Rosenbaum reappear.

4. YES: His Presence Could Enhance Lena’s Introduction

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Let’s not mince words here, “Supergirl” will likely focus more on Lena than Lex this season for a number of reasons, with producers already promising that Lex is locked away in a cell and Lena is running the show at Luthor Corp straight out of the gate. Where this could really be fantastic though, is utilizing Lex as a way to bolster Lena’s character. In “Supergirl” Lena is trying to turn things around after her brother’s misdeeds (whatever they are) and buffer the Luthor name. Lex could very well be the thing she revisits throughout the season, through flashbacks or literal jail visitations, to affirm her mission or possibly change it.

This is where Rosenbaum could come into play. He’s shared the small screen with a number of fantastic actors such as Tom Welling and John Glover, utilizing his character to play off well with others. Lena will be portrayed by “Merlin” star Katie McGrath in the new season. If Rosenbaum returned to “Supergirl” he could do well opposite of McGrath while not stealing every scene. He can play up his intensity as a seasoned mastermind villain and ultimately use it to enhance her character, rather than pull focus from her. He’s had past experiences of shaping up other powerful characters in a given show, so he could easily do the same here.

3. NO: It Wouldn’t be the Same

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Like peanut butter and jelly, chips and salsa, or spaghetti and meatballs, there’s just no denying that with Michael Rosenbaum on the screen, folks expect Tom Welling not to be far behind (or vice versa).

Given that Superman will be played by Tyler Hoechlin, having Rosenbaum return without the “Smallville” Superman just wouldn’t be the same. Welling and Rosenbaum played across each other as the iconic hero and villain for more than half a decade. Their chemistry on screen was great, they shared scenes well, and they still remain strong acquaintances to this day. That kind of acting dynamic just doesn’t happen in a couple of episodes, and certainly wouldn’t happen right away with “Supergirl” should Rosenbaum return opposite Hoechlin.

Even if Hoechlin could get that type of on-screen rapport with Rosenbaum (which he very well could), it might not feel the same, and Rosenbaum’s inclusion in the series could set the dynamic up for failure. To have one half of the core “Smallville” hero/villain dynamic would just feel off-putting from the start.

2. YES: He Could be the Shot of Intensity the Show Badly Needs

"Cure"-- Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor in SMALLVILLE on The CW Network.  Photo: Marcel Williams/The CW © 2007 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

“Cure”– Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor in SMALLVILLE on The CW Network.
Photo: Marcel Williams/The CW © 2007 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

There’s a lot of hope for “Supergirl” Season Two. The first batch of episodes were funny, quirky and had a real sense of adventure, but sometimes lacked any real intensity. Many of the cast were getting their proverbial feet wet with the initial debut, so hopefully next season things will be locked in with the series ready to take on more thrilling moments. Having Rosenbaum return as Lex Luthor would help fill this gap, since he can bring on the intensity and suspense that “Supergirl” seems to be lacking.

If his time as Lex Luthor was any indicator, Rosenbaum knows how to play up the drama with his character. Whether it be for a minor development or a major plot point, he brings a tense performance that truly engages the audience. This is the kind of edge-of-your-seat feel that “Supergirl” desperately needs next season, especially as it joins shows like “Arrow” and “The Flash” on The CW.

1. NO: His Lex is Too Dark for “Supergirl”

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Rosenbaum made a great Lex on “Smallville,” which had its fair share of dark and sinister themes. “Supergirl” is pretty much the complete opposite, largely dwelling in bright and chipper settings. Even when coming up against devastating villains like Livewire or Non, the characters in “Supergirl” always maintained an unwavering and sunny disposition that even gave the happy folks on “The Flash” a run for their money.

We remember Lex on “Smallville” as slowly embracing his own personal darkness and committing some pretty dreadful deeds in the process. He sought out ways to ruin Clark’s life (as well as others), destroyed the Fortress of Solitude, and murdered his own father. That’s a far cry from Cat Grant’s shrewd glances and small efforts to try and expose Kara’s identity. Quite honestly, Rosenbaum’s darker, brooding Lex just might not fit in “Supergirl’s” happier world. If the show continues to maintain its brighter world and superhero outlook, a new actor for Lex might be able to adjust better to it.

Are you in or out on Rosenbaum’s return as Lex Luthor? Cast your vote in the comments.

“Supergirl” Season 2 premieres Oct. 10 on The CW.

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