The popular CW series Smallville is currently in its 10th and final season, pulling out all the stops to go out with a bang for its loyal fans. In this week’s episode, “Patriot,” there are life-and-death stakes once again, as Oliver (Justin Hartley), aka Green Arrow, decides to register for the Vigilante Registration Act, which turns out to be a trick to lure superheroes to an undisclosed location where they can be confined to a jail and subjected to brutal tests under the supervision of Col. Slade (Michael Hogan). As a result, Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, returns with his new wife Mera (Elena Satine) to team up with Clark Kent (Tom Welling) to free Oliver.
In this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Alan Ritchson talked about the journey his character has taken over the five years he has recurred on the series, working with Tom Welling as the director of this episode, and his hopes for the remainder of the final season. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
How did you originally get cast as Aquaman on Smallville? Had you been familiar with the character, or did you give yourself a quick crash course on him?
ALAN RITCHSON: You pretty much said it, as well as I could say it. I didn’t really grow up a comic book fanatic. I was a big baseball player and my passion in life, in third grade, was collecting baseball cards. That was my childhood thing. So, when this role came up for me, it came through some meetings. I’d worked on a movie and met some people that wanted to introduce me to some people at Warner Bros., and they were in the middle of casting this role and couldn’t find anybody, and suggested me for the part, so I went for it. It was just that one thing led to another. When I got the offer to do the role, it was just a matter of me doing research for this role, as I would any other. I read as much literature as I could, on his story and his background, and familiarized myself with him, and then went from there.
What can fans look forward to with this week’s episode, as far as your character goes? What brings him back to Metropolis and Clark Kent?
RITCHSON: That’s an interesting question. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll be careful with what I say. He’s been gone for awhile, and I know a lot of people have been wondering what he’s been doing in the meantime, and we will touch on that briefly, in the episode. He resurfaces and they crash back into the story in Smallville, present time, and move forward. It’s a very present episode, and I like that. I like that they don’t really dwell on where he’s been ‘cause the story is not really about that. But, he’s been off doing his work and there’s a very real need for him to come back. He knows things that Clark doesn’t, and has to get that information to him. It’s a life-and-death issue for Clark and all the superheroes, so he has to come back and deal with them together and share that information with them. That’s what brings him back.
Is there anything you’re particularly excited about fans getting to see, as far as what’s going on with your character in this week’s episode? Were there any fun stunts that you got to do?
RITCHSON: There was some cool stuff that we did, but on the scale of stunt work, this episode was like a 1, for me personally, when in the past, it’s been a 10. There’s some stuff that I’ve had to do on the show that almost killed me, but I got off easy, this time around. I was suspended in the air by some chains for a couple days, which was not easy. That’s not easy on the wrists. But, other than that, it’s a fairly straightforward episode. It was fun for me because it was more about his presence on the show and a dialogue, rather than action, which is not something we’ve seen so much of before. There are some cool stunts and effects on the show that A.C. has a hand in, but not specific to that character. He gets captured and that sucks.
Since everyone is getting a bit of a new look to their suits for the final season, will you have a new look as well?
RITCHSON: Yeah, Aquaman dons a new suit. You definitely see a glimpse of the old, but you see a new suit and it’s very stealth and dark. It’s a black suit with a hint of the orange. It’s very high-tech looking. It was something I actually asked for, and they were one step ahead of me. I wanted that, and they had it ready to go. It was a really cool change. I like seeing the show grow up with its characters, and I think they’re doing a good job of that, especially through the costumes. You see the character growth on screen and in what they’re wearing and they’re looks, which is important, but more so, the evolution of these characters as people is happening right before your eyes and I think that’s really cool to see and to be a part of. Hopefully, that came through with my performance, this time around. That was definitely the goal. But, I’ve noticed that on the show, on this season so far, and that’s been interesting.
Are you surprised at all with the direction the character has taken, since the first episode you did?
RITCHSON: I wouldn’t say I was surprised by it. I’m delighted by it. I think it’s a great transformation. Anytime you have an opportunity, as an actor, to really grow along with your character, I think that’s a real gift. Starting out five years ago on this show, as a young man, just as happy-go-lucky as A.C., and to see in my own life, as my own responsibilities increase with the weight of the adult life in L.A., you see a very parallel world with A.C. He’s learning about the responsibilities of his world and learning about his past, and what he’s been called to do is his destiny. You see that in his eyes and the way that he carries himself. It’s a really cool transformation. To be able to bring that to a show is a rare opportunity. It’s due, really, to the longevity of Smallville and its success, but is a real gift to me, as an actor. I hope the audience enjoys that transformation.
What was it like to have the addition of a wife for your character? What did that female energy bring to your performance, and was it fun to establish that relationship between your characters?
RITCHSON: It was. We didn’t have a lot of time to establish that relationship. We only had moments on the screen to let the audience know a lifetime of information about who these two are. I hope we captured that. I think we did, and it’s really cool. The energy between them is just perfect. It’s a great blend. They are such perfect counterparts for each other and balance each other so well. It’s a really cool match. It’s neat to see them together, so hopefully we conveyed that well, in our performances. As far as the characters go, I hope the audience enjoys what they’re all about.
What was it like to work with Tom Welling, as a director? Did you ever get more nervous about delivering on your performance, when it came to having him not just as your co-star, but also your boss as well?
RITCHSON: That’s a great question. It’s really up to the individual, as to how much pressure they would put on me, or I would put on myself. He is not the kind of person that I would ever feel pressured to be working with. He’s such a giving person, by nature, and that translates into his directing. I’ve experienced it with his acting as well. He can put anybody at ease. His presence, his energy, just being around him, you just feel like everything is going to be okay. Even if other people on the crew are running around screaming and trying to get stuff done, he’s always just in control and calm. It’s such a necessary and perfect energy for a set, that the leader is able to put everybody at ease, and he’s very good at that. There’s definitely no pressure. That type of energy makes you want to perform better, but in a good way. He really knows how to bring the best out of you, as an actor, and really in every capacity, for those involved with the show. He was great. I wasn’t apprehensive about that at all.
RITCHSON: No. I had a feeling that the character was so large in that world that he would be back, but I didn’t know for sure. It’s not like I signed on for several episodes or seasons, but it’s been a pleasant surprise, every time I’ve had the opportunity to come back.
Were you thrilled that to learn that you’d get to return for the show’s final season?
RITCHSON: Being on the final season is such a gift. It’s 10 years of a show. Being on for a couple of years is not as significant, although it would still be nice. But, to be a part of a 10th year of a TV show is just absolutely epic. I feel so fortunate to have been asked to come back for this. I know they want every episode to be larger than life, now more than ever, so to be a part of that is just fantastic.
Do you keep up with the series, even when you’re not on the show? Is there anything you’re hoping to see happen with the story or the characters, before the final season is over?
RITCHSON: I don’t really follow the show when I’m not working on it, unfortunately. I know a lot of people are going to hate me for saying that, but it’s true. I have two or three shows that I follow, and even those are few and far, when I can see them on Netflix. I don’t really watch anything on TV. It’s not really a priority for me. But, I do have hopes for where the show is going to go. I’ve always wanted to see the Justice League come together and really go out and just hit hard. I want to see some heavy action, on the part of the Justice League going at it. I hear the chatter from the fans and I know that they’ve been wanting that for a long time as well, and I share that sentiment. I hope that happens. I get the sense, being a small part of the season so far, that that’s where this is going, and I hope it continues in that direction, but I guess we’ll have to see.
Do you think Aquaman might return again, or is his storyline wrapped up with this episode?
RITCHSON: They do a good job of leaving it open-ended, so if they want to bring him back, they can. They haven’t said a final goodbye. They didn’t kill him off or anything, so there’s always a possibility, but your guess is as good as mine, as to whether or not I’ll be back on the show. We’ll see where the storyline goes. I think it’s building towards something like that, but we’ll have to wait and see.