Lex Education: Jon Cryer Reveals the Inspirations for His Lex Luthor

Jon Cryer may not have been the conventional pick for the role of Lex Luthor, but his introduction in the latest episode of Supergirl cemented him as one of the great incarnations of the character. Unapologetically evil, but keenly aware of the tragedy surrounding his decisions, Cryer's version of Lex feels incredibly true to the source material while still carving out a borderline chilling take on the character.

CBR got the chance to attend a Q&A with Cryer and Supergirl executive producers Robert Rovner and Jessica Queller, where the actor opened up about why he decided to take the role, what inspirations he looked at while determining his portrayal of the character and how this "redeems" him after his role in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

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Carving Out Lex

Cryer was the first to admit that he was surprised by his casting, but Rovner and Queller were both adamant about him taking on the part. Rovner explained that "when we were thinking about who could play Lex Luthor ... what we really needed for Lex Luthor is a villain that you love to hate, and that needed a brilliant actor."

Queller added that, "[Cryer] was the first choice, and the only choice."

While he didn't immediately have a direction for the performance in mind when he agreed, Cryer leapt at the chance to find one. "Five minutes in I was like, I've got to do this," said Cryer. "Just because I loved it so much. I loved the comics as a kid."

Preparing for the part meant revisiting those comics, including more recent fare as well. When asked what Lex-centric comic books he particularly cared for, Cryer said, "I loved Red Son, but that's a bit of a departure. All-Star Superman, there's one that's just Luthor, that one's terrific. I'm in the midst of reading Forever Evil. It's really fun, really well done. There are so many that I love ... It's a fun excuse to go back through the archives."

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When asked if the previous takes on the character came up in discussion while filming, Cryer admitted, "we talked about who we loved. Obviously [Gene] Hackman, and I was a big fan of Michael Rosenbaum from Smallville. It was never quite articulated, it was always left up in the air and said 'let's see where this goes.'" But for Cryer, taking on the part had an even more personal motivation.

Cryer infamously played the part of Lenny Luthor in the much maligned Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, a bumbling teenage henchman to his Uncle Lex. Cryer still feels disappointment about the experience, at one point even describing Lenny as "a branch of the family tree that fell off pretty early and was rotting on the ground for a long while."

But his motivation for joining the film in the first place speaks to his love for the character of Superman, and how much he wanted to be a part of that world.

"The reason I joined Superman IV was because the Superman movie," Cryer explained. "The first one changed my life. I was 14 years old and the tagline was 'You will believe a man can fly,' and boy I bought it."

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"So a part of me, Superman IV had very high hopes but unfortunately was very disappointing for people," said Cryer. "And that always sort of hurt me, in a very 14-year-old boy way. I thought this was my way to do this right ... I feel like [Supergirl] was my chance to reclaim it and do it more justice, or injustice as it were."

Airing Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW, Supergirl stars Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers, David Harewood as Martian Manhunter, Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen, Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers, Katie McGrath as Lena Luthor, Jesse Rath as Brainiac-5, Nicole Maines as Nia Nal and Jon Cryer as Lex Luthor.

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