For Jon Cryer, joining the cast of Supergirl as one of DC Comics’ most iconic villains is part of a personal redemption arc 32 years in the making. The actor previously portrayed Lex Luthor’s nephew Lenny in 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, an experience that didn’t quite live up to expectations.
“Part of the reason I did Superman IV was because Superman: The Movie changed my life. I was 14 years old, and the tagline was ‘You’ll believe a man can fly,’ and boy I bought it,” Cryer told reporters ahead of his debut as Lex on Sunday. “Superman IV had very high hopes, but was unfortunately very disappointing for people. That had always hurt me in a very 14-year-old boy way, so I thought this was my chance to do it right.”
(Fun fact: Executive producer Robert Rovner revealed that Supergirl‘s fourth season finale, as an homage to Cryer, is titled “The Quest for Peace.”)
Cryer also admitted, “This is one of the few roles I took without reading it. [Executive producer Jessica Queller] had told me a little bit about what they wanted to do, sort of bare bones, but … I really had to wait until I got the actual words. We’ve talked about who we loved — I loved [Gene] Hackman, and was a big fan of [Michael] Rosenbaum from Smallville.”
Rovner is credited with the idea of casting Cryer, but as the actor recalls, it was Queller who greased the wheels. Cryer said he received an e-mail from Queller’s boyfriend, Big Bang Theory EP Bill Prady, that simply read, “I’m hearing rumors that someone wants to cast you as a character whose name rhymes with Shmex Smuthor.” Then came a text message from one of Cryer’s old summer camp friends — also a friend of Queller’s — informing him that the producers of Supergirl wanted to get in touch with him. “I’m the stalker,” Queller admitted, “but it was Robert’s idea.”
“My first question was, ‘Why Me?'” Cryer said. “They had to assure me that that would become clear when the script was written. … I was very excited about working with Katie McGrath, and I love the whole story that they’ve set up for the season. I felt like Lenny was a branch on the family tree that fell off pretty early and was rotting on the ground for a long while. I feel like this was my chance to reclaim it and do it a little more justice — or injustice, as it were.”
Cryer’s unique approach to playing an admitted sociopath also includes a loose understanding of the Big Bad’s point of view. “I do believe that if the human race was faced with super-powered aliens, it would be deeply threatening,” Cryer said. “I don’t see that [Lex is] completely wrong … except the sociopath part, but that’s also part of his intellect and his narcissism.”
Hit PLAY on the video below for a sneak peek of Sunday’s Supergirl (The CW, 8/7c), then drop a comment with your thoughts on Cryer’s casting.