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Smallville Vets Flash Back to the Pilot: Who Was Nervous? Who Found the Experience Daunting?

Prior to Smallville resuming its final season on April 15, The CW this Friday will rebroadcast the series’ 2001 pilot, which presents a teenage Clark Kent largely unaware of his legendary destiny. To mark the occasion, I wanted to share a few excerpts from a series of interviews I conducted on behalf of CBS Watch! Magazine, for a Smallville oral history featured in the upcoming May issue.

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Fitting given the pilot’s encore airing, it was barely 10 years ago that production began on that seminal outing — a nearly month-long Vancouver shoot directed by David Nutter (Roswell, The X-Files). Of course prior to that, a while was spent culling the right cast – and some of that time was spent coaxing one Tom Welling into auditioning for what at that point was a project veiled in some secrecy.

“They weren’t forthcoming at all as to what the nature of the show was going to be, and they weren’t releasing a script,” Welling tells me. “At that time, I was given some advice that it could be a warning sign — that the project wasn’t completed.”

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Fortunately for those who would become fans of the show, Nutter stepped in to soothe Welling’s concerns. “[He said] it was going to be about Clark Kent before he became Superman, and I found that to be a lot more interesting [than an Superman series],” Welling says. Still, to assume such an iconic role “was a fantastic opportunity, but at the same time daunting,” Welling admits.

Nutter smoothed out any bumps during the shoot as well, working as he was with such a predominantly young cast. As Kristin Kreuk (Lana Lang) remembers, “I was 18, just out of high school, and as I had so little experience in the business… I was a slightly nervous. [But I] felt very comfortable with David Nutter, and am so grateful for his kindness though the process.”

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Though Allison Mack (Chloe Sullivan) was also but 18 at the time, she had 14 years in the biz under her belt as she hit the Vancouver set. As such, her expectations were in check. “I had already done four pilots that failed and two shows that had been on for a season,” Mack shares, “so I was jaded. Like, ‘This is lovely, but… we’ll see.’ It wasn’t until David Nutter put together a screening of the pilot on a big screen on the Warner Bros. lot that I was like, ‘Ohhhh…. This is different than anything I’ve seen before.’”

Of course, the man you most want to impress is your studio chief, and no decade gone by can temper Warner Bros. TV president Peter Roth’s enthusiasm over taking that first trip to Smallville. “That pilot was magic for us,” Roth recalls fondly. “I remember watching it in my office, almost weeping because I was so excited.”

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Are you excited to rewatch the Smallville pilot this Friday at 8/7c on The WB The CW?

Again, the above is a small excerpt from the oral history of Smallville I compiled for CBS Watch! For much more from Welling, Mack, Kreuk and other series vets — including very interesting casting anecdotes, frank talk about the show’s tricky transitions, tributes to the fans, and teases for the May 13 series finale (Did someone say “goosebumps”?) — watch for the May issue of CBS Watch!, which is sold at Barnes & Noble and Hudson News, and available for free subscription at CBSwatchmagazine.com.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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53 Comments
  1. Elizabeth says:

    Wow, been dying to see a Smallville retrospective since I’m more of an old-school fan and miss the early years a lot. So excited for this, definitely going to try to track down a copy when it comes out. Thanks Matt!

  2. Silvia says:

    This sounds like a really cool piece. Can’t wait to read the full article and thanks for the excerpt Matt.

  3. Jacob says:

    I miss the good years when I actually liked Smallville. I’ll definitely tune in… 10 years ago I was nine. Good times.

  4. Jenny says:

    Cool! Hope that the Luthors (John Glover & Michael Rosenbaum) are in the oral history too!

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      There is a sidebar on Villains, and quotes about both the casting of Lex and Lionel and Rosenbaum’s exit.

  5. Amy says:

    I know the guy who played Pete Ross has had his problems in years since, but was it really necessary to not show him in a S1 promo photo? He was a big part of the show in that era, and Pete Ross is a character with a long comics history.

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      Sam Jones III, John Schneider and Annette O’Toole are in the full-size version that will be on the homepage Friday morning. Blog photos run a set width, and this shot did’nt allow everyone to fit without teeny-tiny pinheads.

    • hahaha says:

      The parents got cut too. One side of the photo was going to get cut, would you have rather it been Chloe’s side? LOL. I wouldn’t have minded that! But oh the hellstorm of complaints by her fans! LOL.

      • deedeedragons says:

        Alison Mack cut out on TvLine? never, they would cut Welling out before her.

        • arrowK says:

          LOL, you are so right matey.

          Allison mack is the media worshipped goddess, Tom welling the lead would have to go first before she can even be gone. Notice how she is doesnt really fit into that picture at all. They should have cut Allison/chloe from that picture, and allowed Tom welling full biceps to show. It would have been more appropriate anyway to include clark parents,since they are standing right next to him. but no We have to show how important chloe really is to the series.

          • Sam says:

            God, you’re pathetic! I imagine you’re the same people who cause a riot when anyone dares to dislike Lois/Clois.

            Get a grip! It’s Clois fans showing their crazy here. Refusing to watch the Pilot because of no Lois. Not the other way around.

  6. dodi says:

    Lana Lang/Kristin Kreuk <3

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      KK was really fantastic about participating in the CBS Watch! piece. She shared nice anecdotes about the pilot shoot and about a memorable fan encounter.

      • Mary says:

        Thanks Matt! Good to hear it. I love the entire cast. I was thrilled to hear that Erica Durance and Kristin were making a little project together. Love both of those ladies. Both gorgeous in their own way and both sweethearts.

        I really hope we hear more from Tom in the article. He is a class act and extraordinary in so many ways.

  7. Mikaylah says:

    I got choked up reading them recall memories of the beginning of the series. Smallville is one show that is very sentimental to me, and many others I would assume. I love comics and super heroes, but Smallville really took the whole story of Superman to a whole new level. The entire cast has just been fantastic through the whole run.

  8. Jo says:

    I sincerely hope that those watching enjoy the pilot episode. For my part, I only started watching the show in Season 4, when Lois Lane appeared, and I’ve only ever watched episodes with her in it; so without Erica Durance, Pilot has zero interest for me. Sorry.

    • Michael says:

      Me too. I just found a show about Clark Kent without Lois Lane weird. At least when she did appear, the show was lucky enough to have found an actress who would develop into a great one. Anyway, enjoy the nostalgia!

    • Kathy says:

      Lois is my favorite character in the Superman-verse, but trust me, SV was at its best in seasons 1-4. Not watching the first three seasons just because there is no LL yet it kinda lame. It’s actually cool to see Clark develop and have experiences that kind of shape him into the man he is with Lois now.

      • Mary says:

        I think the early seasons and later seasons of the series are equally good for different reasons. Seasons 5-7 are where I think the show lost focus and struggled a bit. I like Seasons 1-4 because i love the Kent family dynamic, the early Clark/Lana stuff and I love Clark’s changing relationship with Lex. The middle seasons, to me, felt like they were losing the heart of the show and getting too caught up in stale storylines. I actually left the show for a while there. The later seasons 8-10 are a return to good storytelling and I think they all have strengths with the focus on the Clark/Lois relationship, the addition of Tess Mercer, Green Arrow and Zod. I actually think both the beginning and end of the series is awesome. It’s the middle that I think struggles.

        • ff says:

          Don’t hate me for this, but this is smallville not the Lois Lane show, honestly I like the character a lot but she is way too overrated she hasn’t really done anything in the story except for being Clark girlfriend. And people complain of Chloe´s fans they are nothing compared to Clois fans, they even make me to dislike her at times. Take again Chloe for example she has done more for Clark than anyone else she is to unconditional to Clark like in the episode when Clark lost his memory and she was helping him to remember, these are the kind of stuff that make her character special, something that Lana and Lois don’t have.

  9. Ray says:

    I still love Smallville, but I miss the early years with Clark and Lana. It was easier to see them as a couple, Lois and Clark seemed pushed together. I even think Clark and Chloe make more sense the way the show has progressed. Also, the freaks of week were better in the beginning.

    • Mary says:

      I disagree completely. I thought Clark and Lana were very sweet in the beginning and their relationship was a nice vision of teenage romance. But I never believed that what they had together was mature enough to last. But I did like their relationship and I appreciated that time in Clark’s life and what Lana brought to it. Truly, I have to ask what show you’ve been watching if you think Clark and Chloe make any sense as the show has progressed. In 10 years, Clark has never shown that had any feelings for Chloe outside of friendship. That is the show canon. In later seasons, he has moved farther and farther away from her to stand on his own. They make zero sense as a couple, in part, because Clark didn’t love her and love (call me crazy) is essential for a relationship. Clark and Lois shared hundreds of scenes together over Erica’s 7 year period on the show and their evolution from rivals, to careful friends, to real friends, to lovers was deliberate and slow and real. It was, imo, the most organically developed relationship on the show because we literally got to see how their feeling changed and why. But again, I think ALL the relationships have their place. I think Clark/Lana have their place and I think Clark/Lois have their place. Both make sense in terms of where Clark was in his life and in his development. I always tune people out whenever they try to dismiss one or the other.

  10. Rosie says:

    Oh, the memories this brings. Love both Kristin and Allison. Can’t wait to see what the rest of the cast thoughts on SV.

  11. STARK says:

    To watch the first episodes of Smallville after seeing what it has become now, it´s like watch old episodes of Bones with Zach in them an then watch the new ones… They are good but not like in the beginning

    • Elle says:

      That’s a matter of opinion. There are things about the later seasons (particularly Season 9) that I think are better than the early seasons. There are things about the early seasons (like the bigger budget/location shooting) that I think are bette than the later seasons. The pilot is one of my favorite episodes of the series. But then again, “Salvation” and “Homecoming” are also in my Top 5 and they are from the later seasons. It’s just not so easy as to say that the beginning or the end is better. There are merits to both. I prefer Clark’s maturity in the later seasons and the season long villian arcs to the freak of the week format. But I do love the pilot and I’ll look forward to watching it again!

  12. Robert says:

    OMG. . . I CANT WAIT I’M SO EXCITED I AM TOTALLY GEEKING OUT RIGHT NOW

  13. Hamza says:

    I think Smallville got much better when Lois appeared and Clark/Lana ended. But especially the improvement in the story came when they stopped showing every single ‘meteor freak’ in each episode.

    Now it hasn’t been about the ‘freak of the week’ but a continous storyline which I think is great.

    • Dee says:

      It’s always interesting to read comments like this. On the internet a lot of people say this but the ratings never align with this train of thought.

      The show was much stronger in its first few years. The ratings up were up in the 8 million range in the show’s second season and now it averages 2 million something viewers- that’s a drop of about 75%. I understand that some may prefer Clark with a particular character rather than another, but I don’t agree with them blaming one couple for a show’s decline.

      …but I digress, to each their own. Thank you TVLine for writing about the actors and their experience during filming the pilot.

      • Hamza says:

        Yes, the ratings factor is true. But Smallville has seen the ratings decline right from Season 1 when they were pursuing the initial storyline for many seasons.

        • Hopeisgone says:

          WRONG,,,, SV 2 was the HIGHEST rated season ever in the show and it was heading towards a CLANA full blown story,,, it reached to 9.4 millions in the middle of it!

          tell me again, what is the highest rated episode in season 9 and 10? a.k.a clois enduced seasons?

          how about not going to that far back…. how about CLANA arc in season 8 and clois arc in season 9? CLANA arc still harbored 4-3.6 million viewers when season 9 with a full blown clois barely hanged on the thread of 2 millions, and only got 3.75 when it aired a back to back episode about justice league! and ever since it has been swinging between 2.2 and 2.5 mostly,,,

          to me that only means that the show did end when CLANA ended and clois began!

      • Mary says:

        Dee, there are serious logic problems with your post about the ratings though.

        First off, in the last 10 years, the series has switched timeslots multiple times and it has switched networks (from the WB to the CW) with the later network having a smaller affiliate than the previous network. Now, the show airs on Friday evenings and it’s still one of the highest rated programs on the network.

        You also have to take into account that 10 years ago people weren’t using DVR’s or downloading episodes like they are now. Ratings are down all across the board for EVERY show and EVERY network because the way we watch television and how we access entertainment has changed so drastically in the last decade.

        It’s simply unfair to try and compare the ratings for the series when it was brand new and on a bigger network without the advent of DVR 10 years ago to the series now, 10 years later, on a smaller network, airing on FRIDAY nights with such a huge portion of people downloading or DVRing the episodes. It’s like night and day and an unfair comparison.

        Smallville has held steady in the ratings for it’s entire 10 year run. It’s still considered a huge success for the network. Right now, the ratings show that people will tune in for the mythos centric episodes. The highest rated episodes of the last few seasons have been Clark/Lois centric. But it’s unfair to criticize the ratings now due to what they were 10 years ago in a very different TV climate.

    • Hopeisgone says:

      oh you mean you started watching in season 9 and 10 only? because you know that CLANA lasted throughout MOST of the show’s airing? and you call yourself a FAN?

      um ooouukkkkay!

  14. Mary says:

    As per usual, the comments on this Smallville article are predictable and expected as bitter shippers come out of the woodwork attempting to appear “objective” by insulting the current cast. I’ve been watching Smallville since the pilot and I’ve gottne used to this by now. Matt has also been around Smallville fandom….I doubt you are fooling him either. :)

    I’ve watched Smallville since the pilot episode. I think the entire journey has had ups and downs—great moments and bad moments. I think Clark’s entire journey has made sense and has fit well with the time in his life that the story was covering at the time.

    In the early seasons, I think Clark’s innocence was relatable and understandable. His relationship with Lana was sweet in the beginning and a nice representation of what it means to be young and in love….although perhaps unhealthy. The relationship was sincere but became more and more unhealthy as the series progressed. Clark’s friendship with Chloe was also a relatable experience because many people have been in Chloe’s position where you have feelings for a friend and they just don’t return them in the same way. Clark’s relationship with his parents was also a touchstone in the early days and really played up Clark’s youth and how unsure of himself he was.

    In the later seasons, it’s been just as much of a pleasure to see Clark grow and mature and learn to stand on his own. It’s been a pleasure to see him move beyond young love and discover a more mature, real love with Lois—a love that made complete sense to this viewer of 10 years and one that I could see coming a mile away from the minute Lois first came on the show. And that does nothing to diminish the genuine feeling that existed between Clark and Lana as teenagers. One does not have to diminish the other.

    It’s been a pleasure to watch this journey from beginning to end. I’m always skeptical when people try to make these huge claims that that bash the later seasons of the show or take shots at Erica Durance. Frankly, I think every season has had ups and every season has had downs. There are things about the earlier seasons that I love and there are things (like Clark’s maturity and the Lois/Clark stuff) about the later seasons that I think trumps everything in the early seasons. There is good stuff to be had throughout the entire journey and I’ve been happy to see it all unfold. I’ll miss the show and the actors. I will not miss the bitter fandom. Thanks for the article Matt.

    • Hopeisgone says:

      are you sure you dont see yourself among those BITTER shippers, who turned this debate about the PILOT where it has nothing to do with clois, into a ONE comparing CLOIS TO CLANA?

      if you read TOM WELLING’s lines carefully, you know he only agreed to working on this show because it was BEFORE superman, a.k.a before DP AND BEFORE LOIS LANE, and to me that what USED to make the show a LOT more better than it is now!

      now it is neither comics, nor SV, it is in a weird place where the current producers want lois and legalize her prescence by saying it is an alignement to the comics, when it should not, and an AU where he is not superman yet!

      so really, if anything, I might agree that BOTH fandoms are bitter, the cloisers are bitter because whether it is a show about Clark BEFORE or after, lois should be there like a FACT, like a MUST when it is not the case,,, the show was perfect UNTIL she came in and the show lost its view!

      Clana fans are bitter for the way the new show has degraded and demeaned and brushed the impact that this couple has had on the show!

      and all I read in your post is your personal opinions, no facts!

      • Mary says:

        LOL. Well, I’m glad that you found all opinions in my statement because I never tried to pass them off as anything else.

        And…no. I’m not bitter about anything. (Nor as clearly unstable as you seem to be.) I truly believe that every season of the show and every relationship on the show has had wonderful value. I truly believe that it’s possible to appreciate the beautiful moments between Clark and Lana in the early seasons and still love that Clark has grown up and formed a relationship with Lois in the later seasons. I don’t think that one has to be at the expense of the other. I love both for different reasons.

        I also love the fact that Smallville is it’s own universe. The love the fact that the core elements of the characters have all remained true to the Superman mythos but the timeline for EVERYTHING (Lois is just the tip of the iceberg) has been changed. And I think that’s really cool. I love that the characters are ones that I recognize from the Superman mythos and I understand who they are as people but the timing is a bit different. I think it’s fantastic.

        I have genuinely enjoyed so many moments and so many characters and relationships on the series and I feel no sense of bitterness about anything. I just think it’s been fun to see the entire journey unfold and I see good and bad things about every season. I think the show has had many wonderful highs and many low lows…but I’ve loved being a part of it. But thanks for proving my point and showing how incredibly unstable you are.

  15. Tiva4Life says:

    I am going to miss the Pilot to me S4 Lois Lane appearing is my Pilot that’s when I started watching Smallville =) to others enjoy the episode.

  16. John Berggren says:

    I’ve lost track of Smallville in recent years – but don’t feel comfortable jumping back for the finale.
    At some point I think I need to rent the end of season 8, then watch 9 and 10. At least Netflix has the blu-rays.
    I don’t see myself rewatching these – though I own the initial seasons on DVD.

    • Mary says:

      The end of Season 8 was upsetting to many people. But I encourage you to push through and move on to Season 9. Season 9 was, imo, one of the best seasons in the entire decade run. Season 10 has had some wonderful moments as well although I do think at times the show has tried to just fit too much into the final season. The Clark/Lois stuff in Season 10 has been great. The villian arc has been, imo, a bit messy. But Season 9 is wonderful and def. worth a watch. Callum B. was fantastic as Zod and the resolution to the Clark/Zod plot is one of the best episodes of the series. Cassidy Freeman is a great addition to the cast as Tess Mercer and the Clark/Lois/Blur triangle in Season 9 is classic Superman and fantastic romance.

  17. bill says:

    for all the fans who come on here and say they don’t watch the show no more why come talk about it. fine if you don’t wan’t to watch the last eps don’t but i can tell you right now that the 2 to last eps will have superman before the last eps watch and see.

  18. michelle says:

    Let’s all go back in time & re-live the day CLARK, LANA, Lex & Chloe came in to our lives. PILOT re-airs tonight. The series’ glory days. How I miss the old Smallville. :’(

  19. Geff says:

    Wow 10 years ago I remembering seeing an ad for “Smallville” on the WB. The weird thing is that at the time I was already 12 years old and I instantly became a fan. I’ve sat though all the Clana moments, the freak of the weeks and various possessions. The show was a big part of my growing up. I’ve been here since the start and I’m happy to have enjoyed the ride. I’ve been rooting for Clois since season 4, it’s was a long time coming for those two. But here’s to 10 years of Smallville and now I’m 22. Thank you for the amazing years.

  20. robinepowell says:

    I’m going to have to see if it’s sold anywhere in Canada. :)

  21. Angel says:

    Whitney!

  22. Nick says:

    awesome can’t wait

  23. Carrie says:

    I’m ridiculously excited to watch the pilot tonight, especially considering the fact that I can watch it any time I want on DVD. There’s something special about the fact that they’re re-airing it on TV in anticipation of the series finale. Can’t wait! It’s still one of the finest pilot episodes I’ve ever seen.

  24. Sounds good! says:

    Matt, you do so much for this show. You rock bro! And Smallville = BEST SHOW EVER!

  25. Kurt says:

    No Clois = WIN

  26. Nathan says:

    It’s really nice to look back and see just how much the cast has grown along with the show. Many may disagree but I think that the show has really matured especially in the last 3 seasons. I cannot wait to see the finale. But I’ll be sad to see the show go.

  27. robinepowell says:

    I actually made a point of watching the pilot last night and really enjoyed seeing them all as freshman again.

    It was a good way to show how Clark Kent has come a long way in the past ten years. I can’t wait for the finale. ;)

    Now I just hope that CBS Watch! Magazine, gets back to my e-mail about Canadian distributers.

  28. robert says:

    WOW. . . looking back to this it was exciting and it was like the first time watching it over again till the end where i started to remember the next season and the next till i rmeber now the present, and wow. . . thats really all i could say. 10 years. . . thank you Smallville and Tom Welling and cast and crew and workers and fans like me out there