Smallville@CBR: Alfred Gough reveals new JLAer

In this first of our new monthly feature Smallville@CBR, "Smallville" co-creator Alfred Gough talks with CBR News about the show and reveals that a new member of Oliver Queen's young justice team is coming to Kansas. And we haven't seen the end of Bizarro yet, either.    

How can you get involved with Smallville@CBR? It's easy, simply e-mail Jonah Weiland with the subject line "Smallville Questions" and we'll consider your questions and remarks for inclusion in next month's edition.

Why was it time to introduce Kara/Supergirl, played by newcomer Laura Vandervoort, on "Smallville"?

The main reason was to give someone to illuminate Clark's Kryptonian past, which we touched on with Jor-El in the Fortress and stuff, but to have a sort of flesh and blood relative there who was actually alive on Krypton and knew Clark's parents and some of the other goings-on in the House of El, which we are going to find out about essentially around episode 6.

And also for Clark, Jonathan's dead, Martha is in Washington, we are still very much a family show so it was nice that he had some family but again, this is real, flesh and blood Kryptonian family rather than his adopted parents.

It also puts Clark in less of the child role and more of the mentor role.

Tom does it really well. He has had such extraordinary growth as an actor over the course of the series. And that's him. He's a very giving, helpful person off the set, with other actors, and so I think that is just part of who he is, as a person. And it really comes through in his character.

Have you been surprised with Laura Vandervoort as well?   

We are pleasantly surprised with Laura. You always cast people and hope for the best and she has more than surpassed our expectations. She is really giving that character a much more nuanced performance in the first few couple of episodes that she has been in than we were expecting. It's always a learning curve with these shows, especially coming into an established show and she is really doing a terrific job.

For fans of Lana (Kristen Kreuk) and Chloe (Allison Mack) and Lois (Erica Durance), is the introduction of Kara going to push any of those characters into the background on "Smallville" or will that all work itself out?

I don't think so. Kara is in 12 of 22 episodes. Lois is in 12 out of 22. You know Lois has already, certainly in the first two episodes, had lots to do. And Lana has just got back into town. Her story is going to get more interesting and a little darker. What you are going to see after episode 8, Kara gets benched for a couple of episodes, and you will see why, I won't spoil anything.

It's always a balancing act in the show. Even though it's a Clark-centered, Clark-driven show, there is the ensemble aspect of it as well. It's trying to really service the storyline so everyone has something to play. I think, what's good about the cast we have and the characters that they are playing, we don't have any characters that will be sort of popping in for one scene. And certainly with Martha last year, she had her own story. You want to avoid the Pete Ross problem. So when you see the characters, in the episode, that's part of the story, and something to pay attention to and not just something to serve as filler to the "A" story.

I don't know if this was intended or not, but last week's episode reminded me of one of your classic done-in-ones from the first season. Were you cognizant of that, and if so was it used as a tool to showcase Kara and give her someone to fight and someone to win against?

It was definitely that kind of vibe, yes. And I think it was because Kara is a new character and you are trying to introduce her into the world. And give her a story but also that there is an ongoing story, you know, the thing she found, the Kryptonian SOS comes back into the show. But yeah, it was weird because we all felt the same way and I think part of it is when you are integrating a new character into the show, it's making sure that they get a proper introduction over a couple of episodes but finding stories because they can't plug too deeply into the mythology up front. You know what I mean? After the first episode, even last week with Kara, putting a little lightness into the show is not a bad thing.

You will see episode 5 is more of a stand-alone story. A film crew comes to Smallville to shoot the "Warrior Angel" movie, the comic book in our mythology. It's kind of fun because it pokes a little fun with our own fans, quite frankly. And with fans, with comics being translated into movies but again the longer a show is on the air, the more serialized it inevitably becomes. But I think with "Smallville," what we have always tried to do, for better or worse, is when you tune into episode, there is pretty much, a beginning, a middle and an end.

Some episodes, feel more serialized than others, but I think otherwise, if you get too much on the mythology crack-pipe, I think you can burn out. And I think that's a problem for some people. I look at "Heroes" this year and I know when I go on the boards, there are a lot of people complaining and saying, "It's moving along too slowly." Well, they've got to set up the story. People need to be patient but once you have given people that crack-pipe – this is what our show does – it is literally, a serialized drama every week.

And last year [laughs], I could completely feel for their situation. You can't always do big turns at the end of every episode or you would have nothing left.

"Heroes" is a great example from last year to this year, because for me, the pacing is the exact same, except we didn't know anything last year, so everything was a "big turn." Now we know, at least a bit, what's going on. It was just exciting to see the plots and characters introduced last year.

Exactly, now you know the rhythm and the pace and again, we see the say the same thing every year. This is the first time we have ever done a seventh season of a show. Last year was the first time we had ever done a sixth season. Doing 22 episodes of television is hard and you have to find ways to naturally slow down your storytelling. I think for us, last week was really about giving Kara her own story with a dilemma she could solve, basically. This week, we get back to Clark and it's a bit more of Chloe story too, which is good. So as the show matures, rather than gets older, you earn the right to tell other characters' stories that are not necessarily Clark-centric. You never want to do it to the detriment of Clark. You always want to do it where it will emotionally land on him, but he doesn't have to be the center of every story.

The tricky part with Clark is, I guess, that he could just come into any scene and overpower everyone and the story would be done.

Sure, he can overpower it sometimes, which is always tricky. We are not like a crackling mystery show. We can have a few things, but he is going to get onto things quickly and then once he is on to it, it's done. It is a dilemma. We look at the boards, but I am so used to the rhythm of the complaints or who is saying what and who hates Lana or who hates Lana and Clark or Lex and Lana together, or why hasn't Clark already started his training. Then he would just be standing in the Fortress being lectured to. We could just show test patterns [laughs]. That's another reason why it's great to have Kara. Why it is great to have family but she's a blessing and a curse to him. It's great to have a family and a connection to Krypton but she is also a problem Clark has to manage.

Yes, we are definitely going to see that heat up.

Tough choice for Jimmy? Supergirl is kind of hard to walk away from.  

I know [laughs].

You probably get asked this the most, but since you have over the years introduced The Flash and Aquaman and Green Arrow and again, we have Supergirl this year but is there any possible way you will ever be able to bring Batman to "Smallville?" And if not, would you love to do it?

Of course, we would. We have been talking about it since Season 1. But we can't. Some dreams have to die unfortunately.  

When you finally announce you are going off the air, hopefully DC will sweep in and give you one.

Yeah, they will give us one or something like that. By the way, we always ask, every year. We always ask for Batman, and then the next one is Wonder Woman.  

Just in case you catch someone sleeping one day?

You never know but we are going to have Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley) back, around probably episode 11 and there will be a new JLAer introduced in January, who we have not seen before on the show.

And one I am sure people are eager to see?

I certainly hope so [laughs].

Certainly through the end of November, we will be laying some groundwork. Some stories will be tied off like the crystal story will be explained. But that's going to bring in something else. And you haven't seen the last of Bizarro. It's kind of the season of reversals. Clark was the child and is now the mentor. Chloe was the freak hunter and now she is a meteor freak. Lana, who was always complaining the Clark kept secrets from her, is now keeping secrets from him. I think, like I said, are a lot of relationship reversals this year. That kind of drives the bigger story lines. And Kara and Krypton and all that stuff, plays a bigger role as we delve into that a little more, as well.              

That's great you mentioned that Bizarro is back because it leads nicely into my final question. Is the biggest reaction you and Miles Millar get to "Smallville" when you introduce these classic DC characters into the show? Because no matter what the naysayers say online, for the most part, people have to be pretty psyched when you announce, "we've got Supergirl." Or, "here comes the Justice League!" 

Yes, people do. And the numbers show it. We went up last week and quite frankly, we are doing even a little better than we were last season. I think, again, in hindsight, we showed incredible restraint, that we didn't go to the DC toy box too early in the series. We waited until Season 4 to introduce Lois and The Flash. And when you do these things, as he gets closer to the Clark Kent that we know from the comics, Superman, I think we have, sort of, earned the right to introducing characters. And sometimes we want to introduce them and then it takes us a season or two to figure out how we are going to do it. Because we couldn't have introduced Bizarro in the Season 2, that would have been ridiculous. It was too soon. Some of these things you have to earn and how do they play into a season arc.

Absolutely, the fans appreciate and we love doing it. It's a great way to see how these characters play in real life, because most have only been seen in comics or animation. No one has ever really done a live action Green Arrow or a live action Justice League, which they are now going to do.

Except for that pilot from the 1980s that was so bad it was brilliant.

You couldn't actually achieve it up until now. You wouldn't have had the technology to achieve it week to week on a TV schedule like you could today. But again, we want to use the JLAers judiciously. We don't want to go to the well, too many times. But I think it something the fans appreciate and it gives us great story energy, as well.

Now discuss this story in CBR's TV/Film forum.

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