“I don’t think Greg got to speak all that much,” Welliver tells TVLine with a chuckle, “because I was excitedly trying to articulate the fact that when I said I’m a big fan of the show and I read the comics, I meant it.
“I’m sure any producer goes, ‘Yeah OK, you got the job, pal,’ but I couldn’t help but take my phone and pan it around my cinema, so he could see the spines of all the books,” Welliver recalls. “Greg was like, ‘Holy s–t, you’re not kidding! There are all the Wolfman-Pérez [books written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by George Pérez], and there’s the original….’ I went, ‘Yeah, man, I am not making s–t up here. I am a longtime reader of it and into it 100 percent.'”
Welliver’s take on the iconic criminal mastermind makes his debut in the Season 4 premiere (releasing to HBO Max this Thursday, alongside Episode 2). In short: After we spy Lex confabbing with the leaders of a supernatural cult, he reaches out to Connor Kent to request a first meeting with his son, who was created from a blend of Lex and Superman’s DNA.
“It’s not like we’re pulling something directly from any of the comics that exist, and that made it really exciting,” Welliver notes. “The chalkboard was blank.”
Lex being Lex, there of course is some sort of an agenda at play, even if it isn’t overtly eeeevil.
“He’s dying. He’s got a terminal illness that even he, with all his power and knowledge, can’t stop,” Welliver previews. “So there is a burning desire for him to finally connect with Connor.”
Not that Lex is angling for a “World’s Greatest Dad” coffee mug come Father’s Day.
“This is not to suggest that this is a ‘soft’ Lex Luthor, or anything like that,” the actor makes clear. “What’s important to me when tackling something where the source material is out there, particularly with an iconic character like Luthor, is to maintain the integrity of who he is. But this is a Lex Luthor who’s examining the reality of his mortality, which is something he has probably always thought he could beat. But he has no superpowers and even his genius can’t prevent this, so he is craving this connection with Connor in the hope that, I think subtextually, is his form of restitution for all the s–t that he has done.”
Connor, in turn, feels his own need to meet at least one of his powerful pops. “There is a mutual curiosity and a gravitational pull for Connor, because Superman is so elusive for him,” Welliver observes. “And we’ve seen Connor in previous seasons display a bit of Luthor-esque behavior, so it’s not like it comes out of nowhere.”
The season premiere’s scenes between Lex and Kory aka Starfire (played by Anna Diop), and then Connor, were “really, really, really well-written” and “a lot of fun to make,” Welliver attests. “I’m really proud of the finished product; I think it will be really interesting for the fans.”
In speaking with TVLine, Welliver also confirmed that Lex’s super-beard was in fact his wish, as expressed to showrunner Walker early on.
“I had the beard, and I was committed to something that would be after this, so I kind of said, ‘Look, I could trim it…,'” Welliver recalls. “But I always think in terms of if you look at the great pictures of Walt Whitman and presidents with big beards, there’s a gravitas and wisdom that is portrayed there. So I thought that that, in contrast with the iconic bald head and with the solid black clothing, would be an interesting look for him. And I think it really worked.”