In the Smallville episode “Luthor,” premiering on December 3rd, Tess (Cassidy Freeman) acquires a Kryptonian box that once belonged to Lionel Luthor (John Glover). When Clark Kent (Tom Welling) accidentally activates the box, he’s transported to a parallel universe where Lionel found Clark in the cornfields instead of the Kents. In this universe, everything is different – Clark Luthor is a murderer and Lois Lane (Erica Durance) is engaged to Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley) – and Clark Kent must figure out how to get back to Earth where Clark Luthor was transported in his place.
Now in its 10th and final season, this modern retelling of a hero’s legendary origins is upping the stakes for everyone, as it nears its series conclusion. In a recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Cassidy Freeman, who plays a character that walks a fine line between good and villainous herself, talked about how surprised she’s been by Tess’ emotional depth over the last couple of seasons, how incredible it was to find out that Tess is actually a Luthor, what it’s been like to work with Tom Welling as both a co-star and a director, and the fact that there are qualities in Tess that she both admires and would like to change. She also said that there are some things that she’d definitely like to take with her from the set, once the series is done. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
Question: How did you originally get involved with Smallville? Since you came into it after it had been on the air for awhile, had you been familiar with it at all?
CASSIDY FREEMAN: I was not familiar with it. I shot a pilot with Justin Hartley, three years ago. We shot a pilot together, for The CW, that didn’t end up getting picked up, so I got to know him before Smallville. He’d already played Green Arrow in two seasons, sporadically. I just went in to audition and got the part somehow, and then realized that he was also going to be coming in as a series regular, so it was exciting to get to work with a friend.
Did you have any idea how big a part of the story Tess would become, especially in the last two seasons?
FREEMAN: I had my hopes. But, of course, I didn’t know until it happened.
How surprised have you been with your character’s story arc, since you started out on the show? Could you ever have predicted that she’s end up where she has?
FREEMAN: No, I couldn’t. To be honest, I didn’t really have a lot of previous ideas. I thought it was going to maybe be a job that lasted one year, so the fact that it lasted three, and the fact that I got to become a Luthor (she discovered on a recent episode that she was born Lutessa Lena Luthor to her father, Lionel) is incredible. I had positive expectations, but nothing specific, so I am pleasantly surprised.
What were you most surprised to learn about Tess, as a character?
FREEMAN: Her emotional depth was something that was a little bit surprising to me. On a show where a lot of these characters are comic book characters, and they’re predictable in some ways, whether that’s bad or good, Tess really surprised me and others, in being a really human character that had deep emotion. You never really knew what she was going to do. With a villain, you always know they’re going to do bad. With a hero, you always know that they’re going to at least try to do good. Those moments where you can play against that are the interesting moments. With her, you never know, so I found that to be my favorite part about her.
What can fans expect from this week’s episode, entitled “Luthor”? Is there anything you’re excited about fans getting to see, as far as Tess is concerned?
FREEMAN: Yeah, I’m really excited for people to see a different side of Tess. Just getting to play a different side of her was really fun and explorative. The ability for her to play with her father and know who her father is, was also really exciting. I think fans will like that. And, you get to see a different side of Clark, which is always fun.
How was it to have John Glover back on the show, and have some of the other characters come back for the last season?
FREEMAN: It has been a lot of fun. It’s like a reunion, of sorts. I think that Brian [Peterson] and Kelly [Souders], and everybody, did a really good job of bringing people back, tying together storylines and having it feel like a big bow on the end of 10 years of television. I don’t know if it would have been as good without that.
Was it fun to have one of the show’s executive producers (Kelly Souders) make her directorial debut with this week’s episode? Is it nice to have a director who knows the characters so well?
FREEMAN: Yes. Kelly came in really prepared and really available for interpretation, and I think that was really important for this episode, in particular. Because she knows the characters so well, she knows exactly what she wants to see. Unlike other directors, where maybe their job is on the line, Kelly had a lot of freedom in that, and I think it shows in her directing. It looks really, really good.
Are there qualities that you most like about Tess, and are there qualities in her that you wish you could change?
FREEMAN: That’s a really good question. I love her strength. I love her sense of self. If people don’t agree with her, she kind of goes her own way, which is really inspiring for me and is something about human nature that we can all learn from. As much as there may be a norm, the only thing you can do is be yourself. I think, though, that sometimes that also means that she takes a low road when she could try to take a high road. That’s probably something I’d change about her.
How has it been to work with Tom Welling over the years, as both a co-star and a director?
FREEMAN: Tom is a really great guy, for someone who has been on a television show for 10 years. That can go a lot of different ways, but Tom is really, really down-to-earth. He loves directing, he loves doing and he loves succeeding, and I think that shows in his work. He’s a very giving actor, and he’s a really, really calm and supportive director. That’s incredible.
Looking back on it, what do you think your strongest memories of having been a part of this show will be?
FREEMAN: I think, overall, my strongest memories will be the conditioning this show has taught me. I’ve never been a regular on a show before. I’ve never worked with the same people, in and out, for three years. I’ve never had to pull four 16-hour days in a row. I think that that’s something that few actors get to experience, and I’m very thankful to have done that because it’s a conditioning that you have to get used to. I always equate it with grad school because your learning curve just shoots straight up, in that kind of situation.
Have you given any thought to where you’d like to see Tess end up, by the end of the series?
FREEMAN: Yeah, I have given thought to it. I haven’t given too much thought to it because I know that I don’t really have a lot of say. But, I do think about the fact that the writers and producers have two ways to go with her. I don’t want to see her wishy-washy, at the end. I want to see her either good or really, really bad. As much as I really enjoy playing the softer side of Tess and the good side of her, because I think it speaks more to her human side, I think that creatively it would be more of a shocker and more interesting if she went evil. But, I have no idea what they’re planning, so I can’t think about it too much ‘cause I’ll get frustrated.
Is there anyone on the show that you wish you’d gotten to work with more, over the seasons?
FREEMAN: Yeah, it’s characters that aren’t really on the show regularly. Regular characters, I have gotten to work a lot with, and I like that. Erica [Durance] and I don’t work all that much together, and we have a lot of fun when we do, but women on Smallville aren’t buddy-buddy unless they’re cousins. But, I got to work with Martha Kent, who’s Annette O’Toole, last year and that was really great. I probably would have liked to work with her a little bit more.
Is there anything specifically associated with Tess that you would like to be able to take home from the set and keep as a memento, once the series is all done?
FREEMAN: My entire wardrobe. My goodness, this character dresses better than I’ve ever dressed in my entire life. I’ll try on a jacket and be like, “Where did you get this? I’ve never been able to find stuff like this!” But, that’s a really good question. I’m going to think about that. I know that, in my Daily Planet office, I have cards that are made for me that say, “Tess Mercer, CEO.” I’m definitely going to snag one of those and put it in my scrapbook.
With the series in its last season, have you given any thought about where you’d like to see your career go next? Would you like to do another TV show, or are you looking to do film roles?
FREEMAN: I’d love to do a film. I’d love to play a character that I know the beginning, middle and end of. It’s sometimes difficult, when you’re playing a character that you don’t know where you’re going to go next week, to be able to justify things. So, creatively, that would be really fun to do. But, the medium doesn’t matter as much to me as the part and the people. I just hope that I get to work with good people again and get to do an interesting part. Whether that’s on a stage, on cable, on a network, in a movie or on a street corner, it doesn’t really matter to me.
When you work on something the caliber of this show, with the level of talent both in front of and behind the camera, does it raise the bar for you, as far as the type of projects you want to be involved with and the quality of work you want to do in the future?
FREEMAN: It absolutely does. I think that that goes along with the conditioning that I talked about. When you get used to something, you don’t want to go back. I’m definitely reaching further upwards for my future.