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Smallville - Annette O'Toole and Michael McKean Interview

Real-life marrieds Annette O’Toole and Michael McKean return to Smallville tonight to reprise their roles as Martha Kent and Perry White. Fittingly, they resurface with a romantic twist in tow, since it’s clear these two love each other, love to laugh, and love their place in the Superman universe.

Welcome back!

Michael McKean: Thank you very much.

How did they pitch this to you guys?
Annette O’Toole: [Executive producers] Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson called me, and I’d heard that there was some interest in bringing Martha back, but I said ‘you know, I really don’t want to.’ The last two years, I’ve been devoting myself to theater work. And they said ‘oh please, here’s our story.’ And I hemmed and hawed, did another play, and then they came back and sent me an outline for what they had planned. And then when they said they wanted to bring Michael back, I thought ‘well, this would be fun. That could be a nice week in Vancouver.’ And mostly, they worked me hard, which was the best part! We had a great time. They wrote a wonderful script, I worked a ton and so did Michael. It was really fun to go back and really work, rather than be frustrated by just serving the coffee.

And to bring you back as couple, is such a cool twist!
O’Toole: Semi-couple! [Laughs]

How did they meet?
O’Toole: Well, Martha and Perry have a longer history than anyone thinks. When Perry first came to the farm, I had this whole idea—I can’t even remember if I pitched it to [former EPs] Al Gough and Miles Millar—that Martha had a crush on Perry when she was in college, that he had come through as this dashing, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and I had taken a lecture of his or something. So when he came to the farm the first time, I knew who he was. There would be this pull. But we never had any scenes together, which I thought was not very nice! [Laughs] So now in this episode I say to Tom [Welling, who plays Clark] early on that we ran into each other at some committee meeting. And I have a feeling that I was the one who approached him…it’s not a “relationship” relationship. It’s more of a “let’s see what happens.”

And Michael, we’ve been waiting for Perry White to return, since the Daily Planet is practically a character on the show now. Do you get to have those kind of great, iconic newsroom moments with Lois and Clark?
McKean: Well, it’s more of a domestic kind of thing. The first time we see them together is at the dinner table, and here’s this surprise couple of Clark’s mom and this odd ex-drunk he helped rescue from the garbage pail…and they’re together? It’s more of an in-home thing than anything iconically Superman.

But you do get to the Daily Planet, right?
McKean: Oh we get to the Daily Planet, absolutely!
O’Toole: And you’re working together there, with Lois.
McKean: That’s right. Lois [Erica Durance] and I hook-up for this story and I got to be at the office there. It’s fabulous. I have this nice kind of moment where I’m walking up the stairs and it’s kind of like, 'Someday, I’ll be the editor of the Daily Planet.'

Is that groundwork set down in this episode?
McKean: Oh no, this is just what the actor is thinking. And like most actors, I know nothing! [Laughs]

Now, Annette, Brian and Kelly told me that this Martha returns ‘having evolved herself.’
O’Toole: Yes, she has. You know, it’s been two years and she has thrown herself in to this work because she’s devastated by the loss of her husband. So she’s really turned to the job…which is something she probably should have done all along, she should have had something like this to do. And she talks about that in this episode. She has some really nice moments with Lois where they discuss that. Yes, this Martha’s uh…hmmm, what can I say?

So she also has a secret side that we’re not aware of yet.
O’Toole: You know, Martha has always had sort of a secret side. She’s had to cultivate one because of this huge secret about her son. But that doesn’t mean you’re [dramatic voice] ‘a bad person.’ It just means you have stuff you’re protecting.
McKean: Another secret is that Martha has been putting hashish in all of her baked goods.
O’Toole: [Laughs] Mikey!

How was it working with Tom and Erica again?
O’Toole: It was fabulous. More fun than ever, especially having gone two years not even seeing or talking to them. So to come back and fall into each other’s arms? We really had a good time. Our first scene was all four of us together around the dinner table…it almost felt like no time had passed. They don’t look any different, except that I love Erica’s hair. I love that she has dark hair now.
McKean: Yeah!
O’Toole: It’s her own color now. I’m my own color, too, although it happens to be mostly white. [Laughs]

So you have a lot to do in this episode.
McKean: We sure do!
O’Toole: We loved it.

I hear you stir up enough trouble that your storyline impacts the finale.
O’Toole: We do? [Laughs]
McKean: Guess we’ll see!

Do they bring up the Valentine’s Day phone call Martha got from Lois about the wedding dress?
O’Toole: It’s not the dress itself we talk about, it’s an announcement that was in the newspaper about an engagement. And I say to Perry ‘oh no, we weren’t going to talk about that.’

Michael, did you shoot any scenes with Allison Mack?
McKean: No, she was actually among the many people I didn’t get to see. I mostly work with Erica, but also with Tom. And I had such a nice time working with him. He’s just one of those guys who’s really friendly, and when push comes to shove, incredibly hard-working and talented. He’s effortless, it’s great.

What is the intrigue that surrounds your returns?
McKean: Well, it’s this big, big, big story I am working on that seems to dovetail with the story that Lois is working on. And we just start comparing notes and thinking in terms of pooling our resources on this one…share that Pulitzer. [Laughs] It’s that kind of Woodward-and-Bernstein investigative journalism. Of course, we’re in the realm of fantasy, so we’re ripping the lid off of renegade aliens rather than duplicitous politicians.

Aside from the identity of her son, is there anything else Martha may be hiding from Perry?
O’Toole: Oh yeah.

Something his investigation may expose?
O’Toole: All these things you’re thinking are very smart. [Laughs]
McKean: I can tell you this: Rosebud is a sled.

Were you surprised to come back and see that they have gotten so close to the Superman story?
McKean: No, that’s kind of where it has to be headed. I grew up in the 50-s and was a big comic-book reader. My Superman…this is not your father’s Superman, as the Oldsmobile commercials used to say. But comic-book reality is like Silly Putty, it can be whatever you want it to be. I don’t think that Siegel and Shuster are turning over in their graves. I think they’d like the idea of expanding. And I happen to know a lot about the old-time history of Superman—for instance, did you know that Kryptonite was invented for the Superman radio show?

McKean: Yes. It wasn’t in a comic until it worked as a device on the radio show.

Every age has their own Superman. Or Batman. It’s meant to be current, it’s meant to be new, even though it’s old.

O’Toole: And it should be. That’s what attracted me to the show in the first place. I grew up with Superman, too. I loved Superman. And of course, I was in the movie…so when I read about Smallville, I thought ‘oh no, are they going to do this again?’ Then I saw the pilot, because I wasn’t in the original pilot, and I thought ‘oh my god, I’m doomed…I have to be a part of this!’ I just love it, and I love that we have this wholly America hero.

And you guys got to play such iconic roles in the mythology, I mean, Perry White is the Daily Planet. And Annette, you’re the mother of Superman. That is so cool!
O’Toole: That’s right!
McKean: It is, it’s great. It makes me feel better about not getting to play Muhammad Ali in that movie. [Laughs]

Source: TVGuide