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Superman role on 'Smallville' lets him portray childhood hero

Friday, January 03, 2003

By Luaine Lee, Scripps Howard News Service

When he was 5, Tom Welling insisted on being Superman for Halloween -- two years in a row. "I wouldn't have it any other way," says Welling.

Little did he know that he would grow up to play a modern incarnation of his caped hero on The WB's "Smallville."

Teenage Clark Kent (Tom Welling). strugglea to come to grips with his emerging superpowers during his formative years in Smallville, Kansas. (David Gray, The WB)
Click photo for larger image.

But it almost didn't happen, says Welling.

"I had turned it down twice because of the way it was described to me, as 'Superman in high school,' " he says. "Once I read the script and I saw that it was Clark Kent trying to fit in to be a normal kid, it became much more interesting to me with what he was struggling against."

Long before "Smallville" Welling had taken a massive risk when he left his native New York to try his luck in Los Angeles.

"I spent nine months out here going to auditions, getting good feedback but not getting a job. As time went on, money started to get more and more tight.

"I started to wonder if this was really what I wanted to do, and that's when I got the role on 'Judging Amy.' "

The part came almost by default, he recalls. "Because the guy they had chosen couldn't get someone to watch his kids that day. So they had remembered me."

"I was signed for three episodes and after the three aired, the viewers wrote fan letters, and it influenced the show, and so they called me up and said, 'Look, we're really getting a great response, we'd love you to come back for three more.' So that was great.

"I remember doing the last episode of 'Judging Amy' and talking to Amy [Brenneman] about this TV show, which was 'Smallville.' I had no idea it would turn into this."

The 26-year-old Welling, who started as a model, says finding himself the object of adoring teenage fans can be a little awkward. "It's something that's completely out of my control," he says, shaking his dark curly hair.

"If people like what you're doing or like you, that's not such a horrible thing. I'm recognized a lot more than before I was on 'Smallville.' Yeah, I mean, it's not something that hinders me from going on and living my life. I would never let it."

Married for a year and a half, Welling is singled out by his co-stars for his courtly manners.

"I think I was brought up in a respectful household," he says, remembering an incident in which his father got very angry with him.

"And what it was was referring to my mother as 'she.' Like, 'She said it,' instead of, 'My mom said it.' And my dad turned to me and said, 'No, you don't refer to your mother as "she." ' I got the point."

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