21 years after Smallville aired on The CW, actor Tom Welling is still an active name in the industry. From his podcast with Smallville co-star Michael Rosenbaum to roles in Lucifer, Professionals, and The Winchesters and to making convention appearances throughout the year, Welling continues to be a name many recognize.
One of our editors had the chance to chat with Welling about doing conventions, the Smallville legacy, his recent involvement in The CW’s Professionals and The Winchesters, and more.
Note: This interview was edited for clarity.
Nerds & Beyond: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me this afternoon, I appreciate it. Starting off with conventions, which you’re doing Fan Expo San Francisco in a few weeks — what’s your favorite part about doing these conventions?
Tom Welling: To be honest, for years, I was reluctant because I didn’t know what they were. And it always kind of seemed like, if you could actually still work, you didn’t do conventions. But over the years, that changed, where it became much more acceptable. My friend Michael Rosenbaum, who was also in Smallville, he’d done a lot of them, and he was like, “Dude, I know you … trust me — it’s fun because everybody you meet is happy. Nobody’s gonna stand in line that doesn’t like you.” So it’s a very positive situation. It’s not like a press junket, no offense to you, where people are trying to get under your skin or get you to mess up or something. These are fans, and they’re all so much fun. You get to hear them ask you questions here and how you get to hear whatever show or performance you did and how it affected other people’s lives, and that’s something you just don’t get to hear all the time.
And it’s especially true with a show like Smallville. It’s a family show, and people watch it with their parents and their kids, and now years later, they’re showing it to their kids. It’s a multi-generational experience, and you don’t get from a lot of other shows. Conventions are like going to a sporting event — people dress up, they cheer for the team, but everybody leaves as a winner, as cheesy as it sounds. That’s the way I look at it. There’s no losers. Everybody’s just happy to have a great time.
Nerds & Beyond: Conventions are definitely the place to go if you want to have fun. You kind of touched on my next question: Smallville is 21 years old this year. A lot of people who connected with the series back then continue to connect with it now. What do you think it is about the series that has had such a lasting effect?
Tom Welling: I think that it’s funny because I do this podcast with the guy I mentioned, Michael Rosenbaum, called Talkville. We were joking the other day that it’s taken me 21 years to be able to go back and really enjoy the show because … we were filming it. It was very, very work-heavy. And we didn’t get much time to appreciate or enjoy it or even to reap the benefits of its success. Michael talks about how he would be flown to Paris and London, and he would get 15 passes to Disneyland with a guide thrown in, and I was like, “Wow, no one even offered me that.” He’s like, “You were working all the time! You never got to see any of the fun stuff that came from it.”
I watch the episodes now, and memories come back. As I watch it, there’s a lot of fun that comes to mind. I know a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff because I was there all the time. But if you were to tell me the name of an episode, I’ll come up with 50 different stories from that shoot because I was there.
To answer your question, I’m rewatching the series now, and I think that, hopefully, that’s what the fans are doing, too — and that they’re able to look back at it and really appreciate it. And 21 years later, we are all at different stages, so we look at it differently versus if you watched it in high school, and now you’re out of college, and maybe you’re married, maybe you have kids, and you’re gonna see it differently. But I think that it holds up. One thing we discuss in the podcast is that the visual effects are still pretty good for being 21 years old. I think the storyline is about heart, it’s about family, it’s about identity, and I think it’s still very watchable is the short version.
Nerds & Beyond: I can absolutely agree that Smallville holds up, as someone who watched it recently. What do you miss most about portraying Clark?
Tom Welling: This is a horrible answer, but I don’t miss him. It’s not something I would lose sleep over, wanting to go back and do it again. In fact, to be completely egotistical, when I watch it, I’m like, “I did a pretty good job for having zero experience.” And I mean that with respect. I don’t mean that I didn’t like it — I actually enjoy watching it now. I don’t think I could have watched it 10 years ago and enjoyed it. But I’m older, I have kids now … my little boys have seen me on TV. I wouldn’t have had that 10 years ago, so I’m really enjoying it now.
Nerds & Beyond: That’s got to be so special to watch your sons watch you be Clark Kent.
Tom Welling: It’s really cool. And then my oldest boy is like, “Dad, that’s really cool. But I like Batman.” And I’m like, “Yeah, me too.”
Nerds & Beyond: To get into a little bit of your more current work, in Professionals, you play the hero of the story. But for a hero, Vincent really isn’t, and I mean this in the nicest way, he’s really not likable — he’s not someone that I would want to be friends with, particularly, but you find yourself rooting for him still. I wanted to ask you what was it like stepping into a that role?
Tom Welling: Well, you hit on a couple of reasons I liked it: he’s not likable. He’s not trying to be likable. What I like about him is that he still has a good moral compass — he doesn’t do bad things to people, he doesn’t hurt people. He’s actually trying to protect people. The character that stood out to me was Brendan’s [Fraser] character because that was not written likable at all. He was just supposed to be some rich, pompous billionaire — and then Brendan comes on. And in the performance, I fought to not like his character too much, and I kept a distance from him because he’s my boss. I’m just there for the work, and I’m just there to do my job. It became a little more challenging when Brendon came on because him and I got along so well that when the cameras rolled, I would always have to remind myself that “I don’t like this guy.” Because Brendan and I now we’re really good friends. It was challenging on set because you’re not supposed to have that connection, but you do in reality. We had a blast.
Nerds & Beyond: Did you get to see Brendan at New York Comic Con then?
Tom Welling: I did! I did; I bother him a little bit now because he’s got a chance to win an Oscar, and I texted him many months ago like, “Wow, I’m really glad that Professionals was able to put you in this position to possibly win an Oscar.” I won’t tell you what his response was … but it was funny. He’s the most wonderful person that you could ever possibly meet. He’s so gracious and kind and talented. He’s just a great person.
Nerds & Beyond: While we’re talking about NYCC, while there, it was announced that you have joined the cast of The Winchesters. Can you talk a little bit about what drew you to joining that project?
Tom Welling: Well, I got a call from an old friend of mine, Jensen Ackles. Him and his wife developed the show, so he called me, and he shared a story that when they were thinking about this character, he had said — his words, not mine — “We need somebody like Tom Welling,” and months went by, to where they finally got to testing the role, and he finally came to a conclusion. He’s like, “Why don’t we just get Tom Welling?” So he called me, and he gave me the pitch.
The character is sort of an Indiana Jones kind of guy. His daughter thinks that he left her but what he really did is he went out to try to get rid of all these bad things that are in this world to protect her. I’ve been able to shoot a couple episodes already, and the cast is so much fun, and they’re so excited. It’s great to be back on set with these guys and play a character that that has an impact on the trajectory of the storyline of the main character. It’s great. I think I’ve got two more episodes to go.
In fact, I think it’s coming up next week or the week after where on The CW, The Winchesters airs — and that’s when my character shows up — and then the next hour is Professionals. It’s gonna be two hours back to back, which I think is very funny. It’ll probably never happen again. So I’m choosing to enjoy it because it’s so weird. I’m going to be watching that night for sure. Both episodes.
Nerds & Beyond: Now that I’ve asked my more serious questions, I’d love to do what I call a lightning round if you still have just a couple more minutes.
Tom Welling: Let’s do it.
Nerds & Beyond: Perfect. So for this, I have a few questions that are like quick answer questions — I just want the first thing that pops up into your brain. Let’s start with an easy one — summer or winter?
Tom Welling: Oh, that’s a tough one, but my first reaction was summer.
Nerds & Beyond: Do you do Thanksgiving dinners? And if you do, what’s your favorite side dish?
Tom Welling: We do. My favorite side dish … well, I’m making stuffed mushrooms this year, so hopefully, that will be my favorite … but I gotta go with mashed potatoes.
Nerds & Beyond: The classic choice. Describe your character in The Winchesters in one word.
Tom Welling: Oh, that’s tough … one word. Well, I just had a really great scene where his whole point is he says, “I’m your dad, I’m supposed to protect you.” So I would say that he’s a dad. And then, second, I would say Indiana Jones.
Nerds & Beyond: I’ll give you three words. One more … does pineapple belong on pizza?
Tom Welling: You know what? I do enjoy it. I’m gonna say, yeah, why not?
Nerds & Beyond: That’s my answer, too, so no complaints from me. I really appreciate your time today; like I said, I had a lot of fun getting to talk to you a bit. We will look forward to seeing your double feature on The CW in a couple weeks and have fun in San Francisco.
Tom Welling: Thanks so much, Hannah.