Justin Hartley On Smallville's 300-Flavored Fight to the Death: Fans Are Gonna Go, 'Whoa!'

This Friday on Smallville (The CW, 8/7c) Clark’s journey toward his destiny takes a detour when a most unexpected reappearance by General Slade necessitates a trip to the Phantom Zone. Clark, though, doesn’t go it alone –- rather, he gets an unsolicited assist from Oliver. But could Green Arrow have missed the mark by deciding to tag along? Especially when a revenge-thirsty Zod (guest star Callum Blue) takes the gents prisoner?

Justin Hartley, who directed the action-packed hour, shared with TVLine how he got several super assists in his debut behind the camera, previews how things will end for Oliver and Chloe, and IDs the choice keepsake he wasn’t able to grab after shooting the series finale.

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TVLINE | So tell me, what brings Oliver to the Phantom Zone?
Basically what happens is Oliver worms his way in – literally, through a wormhole! Clark winds up in the Phantom Zone, looks up, and there’s Oliver: “What, are you kidding me?! You can’t be here!” Their friendship is put on the line, and tested…. I can’t tell you exactly how, but there’s a moment where you’re literally going to drop your drink and go, “What… the… f–?!”

Watch the heroes arrive in the Phantom Zone:

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TVLINE | I guess Oliver and Chloe have an “open” marriage, that he can run off to a cosmic wormhole at a moment’s notice.
[Laughs] “Hey, I’m going into this wormhole, I’ll be back for dinner!” I think she probably is of the understanding that he’s not a typical 9-to-5er.

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TVLINE | What surprised you most about your directing experience?
I don’t know why I was surprised, since I know these people, but I was surprised by how much help everyone was. Tom [Welling], Erica [Durance], Cassidy [Freeman], the DP, my AD, the writers….  [Executive producers] Brian [Peterson] and Kelly [Souders] came to set, and they really don’t have to do that. They can kind of just go, “Here, do your thing,” but they worked hard to make sure that I was successful. Tom was really great in letting me do a couple of things with him, and as a result there are moments where Smallville fans are going to go, “Whoa!” I was like, “Hey, dude, will you wear this? Can I get you to do this?” And he did everything. I owe him a lot. But that’s just how all those people are – the grips, the prop guys making sure the blood was perfect, everyone making sure that I would be seen in the best light I could be seen in. It was touching, really.

TVLINE | The promos suggest a 300-style look to the action sequences. Was that something you had in mind, or did it come from the producers?
I’m glad that you saw that because it is something I had in mind. We had this unbelievable DP with a really great eye, so I knew I was in good hands there, but because of the budget we came up short on the whole weapons thing. I’m sitting there going, “We have a gladiator episode, what are we supposed to do, step into the arena and argue with each other? ” So one of the guys had this brilliant idea. [The 2006 Zack Snyder film] 300 was a Warner Bros. production, and we got a ton of stuff from them to use — the masks, the armor…. And then our wardrobe lady built this other stuff out of, like, hockey gear. It turned into something a lot bigger than it was originally.

TVLINE | Looking ahead, what are Oliver and Kara (Laura Vandervoort) up to in next week’s episode, “Prophecy”?
They are caught up in trying to figure out why each other is looking for the Bow of Orion [which Oliver believes will remove the Omega symbol from his skull]. Then they sort of realize that they should pool their resources and try to find it together.

TVLINE | With Allison Mack back for the series finale (airing May 13), will we get a sense of what Oliver and Chloe have been up to as marrieds… and what destiny awaits them?
Yeah, it’s all wrapped up really, really nicely – and it sort of sets [their romance] apart from what you’ve read in the comics. You’re not going to watch it and go, “Oh, this doesn’t make any sense because of what I’ve read in the comics.” It’s a separate story that allows the comics to breathe kind of their own life. It’s not something that contradicts all the mythology.

TVLINE | What keepsake did you grab before leaving Smallville for good?
You mean, did I steal anything?

TVLINE | “Steal” is a strong word. Thought maybe you’d grab the random bow, arrow….
No, no…. What I wanted was to take the one Green Arrow suit that I wore and auction it off for charity, but I think that’s been put in an archive. I took a bunch of production stills, and I got a really great gift from the producers after directing “Dominion” – it’s like a movie slate in a frame. But no, I didn’t really take much.

TVLINE | And any plans for the summer?
No, I’m just going to chill out, look for something good and play it by ear!