"I did the stupidest thing in my life," said actor John Schneider as he sat down to talk with reporters Sunday following the "Smallville" panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego. He, along with actor Justin Hartley, and producer Brian Petersen, discussed the upcoming tenth and final season of the CW drama. "I put my license up there in front of the panel," the actor continued. "I sat at a different seat because I wanted to sit next to Tom [Welling] and they came and moved the placard around, and I didn't have one, because I was the mystery guest, so I put my license up there with my address on it."
"I got a lot of fans on my front yard now!" he joked.
Schneider, who played Jonathan Kent in the program's first five seasons, returns this year in an unspecified number of episodes. "It's kind of a mystery to me. I show up where I should be on a farm, doing what I should be doing and [Clark] helps me," he said of his first scene in the season premiere. "I don't know if it is a vision. I don't know if it is an accumulated memory and something that Clark Kent needs to hear because he is in a bad state or if I am really there." Schneider called it the "best thing" he has done on the show so far.
He was unaware of how many people valued the relationship between Clark and Jonathan until he appeared at a different convention sometime ago where he received warm receptions from servicemen recently returned from the fronts in the Middle East. "They wanted to give Jonathan Kent a hug and say things like, 'I wish my dad was more like you are,'" Schneider recalled. "It's not just television."
The veteran actor, who first came to TV fame with "The Dukes of Hazard" in the early 1980s, has the benefit of a long career. Asked to compare star Tom Welling's growth at a television performer over the years, he remembered when the show began, "At first, you don't know what's going on and you're kind of like a sponge absorbing things and I watched him do that. It was great to see someone who was not only eager, but willing to learn how to do television. It's a tough thing to do. You shoot a schedule, eventually -- you hope the script is good, but you shoot a schedule -- So I watched that and then I watched him get frantic because [of that]." Ten years later, he sees in Welling, "someone who is so smart, skilled, and calm about the whole thing. It takes years to figure out what not to do. I've seen Tom learn that."
For Justin Hartley, who had the opportunity to write for the show last year, the final season offers a new challenge for him personally. "I'm going to direct this year, instead," the actor revealed. "When I leave [the show], I'm going to try to leave with as much information as I possibly can."
Hartley hopes his screen persona of Oliver Queen gets to end his character arc on a positive note. "I would like to see him with all that hate out of his heart. Maybe a couple of things go his way that don't involve money or sex. Maybe start to look in the mirror and be okay with what he's seeing," the actor elaborated. "If he can be complete at the end of the year, sit peacefully, and be comfortable with that, that would be a good thing."
Of course, the actor also hopes that resolution comes toward the end of year, as he is unsure when Ollie's story will end relative to the final episode of the show. "Normally, that would bother me, but for some reason, I'm okay with it," he said. "I've been given enough scripts that are good [and] well written as far as my character is concerned that I don't question anymore."
Asked about the various changes to the established Superman lore, including the presence of Green Arrow well before Superman, Hartley answered, "There's always the people that are die hard, 'this is the way it should be, this is how it is written' [part of the audience]. I can respect that, but 'Smallville' has always done that. They do it without disrespecting the mythos."
One rule producer Brian Petersen appears to be sticking to is one of the show's foundational concepts: "no tights." Or at the very least, they will not be a constant presence. "You see [the suit] in the season premiere a couple of times and then ... you will see some version of it again later in the season," Petersen said. While reticent to discuss the series finale, he offered a hint. "Starting from Al [Gough] and Miles [Millar], who had the original vision of how the show would end, we've taken their ideas and we have it in our heads how it's going to end -- but because it's so far from being shot, I can't say." The producer did make the following promise: "You will not be disappointed."
The overall tone of the season will be brighter than the previous one. "Last year, we got really dark and that was the whole idea; put Clark through a lot of trials -- whether they were Jor-El's trials or his internal trials -- and thus, the black cape and everything," Petersen reflected. "This year, we're going to gradually grow [away from that]. The palette of the show will grow brighter and what he wears, [from] episode 2 [is] going to change. The whole feel of the show is going to start gearing more toward his future as a hero in a different way than we've done it in the past," he explained.
When the question of a spinoff came up, the producer said, "To my knowledge, there are no official spinoffs on the show right now. Obviously, Erica, Justin and Cassidy [Freeman] and everybody could hold their own series if they wanted. All their characters have really grown and blossomed."
"Smallville" returns for its final season September 24th.