10 Casting Decisions That Hurt Smallville (And 10 That Saved It)

For ten years, Smallville chronicled the adolescence and adulthood of the boy from Kansas who would become the Man of Steel, Clark Kent.

Whether he was roaming the halls of Smallville High School or making a name for himself on the floor of the Daily Planet, Clark showed his superheroic tendencies from a very young age, surrounding himself with the best (and worst) of people in the process.

Some of the people in Clark's life knew him much longer than others, including some high school friends who did him more ill than good. Other people came in and out of his life, causing chaos as they went, while some would turn out to be his greatest enemies and his greatest love.

Given how much of Clark's life the series covered, hundreds of actors were cast as the people he encountered on a daily basis. However, some of those casting choices were clearly much better than others, while some of them harmed the show as a whole.

Some actors improved over time, but others took a turn for the worse and only continued to ruin each and every moment of screen time they chewed up. However, thankfully, Clark's superhero origin story managed to find a few real talents along the way.

Here are the 10 Casting Decisions That Hurt Smallville (And 10 That Saved It).

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

20 Hurt: Alan Ritchson

Smallville struggled with accepting the mantle of being a superhero show quite often throughout its run. It was an unwritten rule that the series would never go full Superman - "no tights, no flights" was the mode of operating for those in charge behind the scenes.

However, an unfortunate result of this was the series' inability to ever form a truly cohesive, believable, well-acted Justice League. One of its earliest bad decisions in that area involved the casting of Alan Ritchson as Arthur Curry, also known as Aquaman.

As played by Ritchson, Aquaman was a macho, insufferable surfer bro.

He never measured up to any of the other proto-Justice League members of the cast in any way and stuck out among the tone of the series like a sore thumb.

19 Saved: Jensen Ackles

Smallville Jensen Ackles

Sometimes, a certain actor elevates an otherwise mediocre plot to something that is worth engaging with, no matter how contrived the material may be.

For Smallville, that can be clearly seen in the case of Jensen Ackles' season four turn as Jason Teague.

As a one-note character introduced as a temporary love interest who ultimately goes bad, Jason doesn't really add a whole lot to the series other than some confusing romantic complications for teenagers - seeing as he is, at the time, much older than the people he's hanging out with.

However, future genre power house Jensen Ackles brought a gravity and warmth to the role that a lesser actor wouldn't have been able to convey.

It also set up a perfect opportunity for Ackles' talents to be seen, just before Supernatural went into production the following year.

18 Hurt: Ian Somerhalder

Some actors can turn boring villainous love interests into characters worth watching. Other actors, however... don't exactly do that.

In the third season, Adam Knight was introduced as a mysterious character that Lana became acquainted with, with romantic subtext clearly included along the way.

However, as a truly bizarre plot would reveal, Adam was in fact a zombified version of a teenager named Chad Nash, reincarnated thanks to some Luthor science.

The entire plot was a mess, and Adam was never once an engaging character. Making matters worse was Ian Somerhalder's early attempts at his future patented broody acting.

While this may have worked for vampires years later, Smallville definitely was not the place for it.

17 Saved: Sam Jones III

What good is a superhero without his trusty best friend?

Pete Ross was, far and away, one of the most underutilized characters in all of Smallville.

As Clark's closest friend from their youngest years, he was a great voice of reason and support, and one of the first people to be trusted with Clark's secret.

However, rather than allow Clark to have Pete in his corner, the series instead chose to write Pete out after he learned the truth.

It was a shame not just from a storytelling perspective, but also from an acting talent one as well.

Sam Jones III brought a natural warmth and charm to every scene he appeared as Pete, forming a natural chemistry with on screen best pal Clark that was never replicated in any of Clark's letter friendships.

16 Hurt: Alaina Huffman

Black Canary has had a pretty rough time of it in recent television adaptations. There's no way of ignoring how divisive the character of Laurel Lance was on Arrow, nor is it possible to ignore how the series struggled to retcon the existence of the Black Canary with characters such as Sara Lance and newcomer Dinah.

Fortunately, Smallville's take on the character was much more straightforward - but unfortunately, it was by no means any better.

On Smallville, the character was much more cartoonish, little more than some spiky hair and a Canary cry and a revealing leather costume.

Played by Alaina Huffman, the character was one note, shrill, and nowhere near the legendary badass the Canary always has been in the comics.

15 Saved: John Schneider

John Schneider as Jonathan Kent in Smallville

The role of Jonathan Kent was one of the most crucial ones in the entire series. Although he only appeared for half of it, it was his teachings to Clark that, in large part, that made him the good man he would become.

As later seasons show, Clark truly does become the good man that his father would have been proud of.

Much of Jonathan's strength as a character was due in large part to the nuanced portrayal by John Schneider.

The veteran star of The Dukes of Hazzard already brought down to earth warmth and good old charm due to his winning cultural icon status, but it seemed at times as though the role of Jonathan were perfectly crafted for him.

Equal parts believably stern and unflinchingly compassionate, Schneider's take on Jonathan Kent may very well be one of the best the screen has ever had.

14 Hurt: James Marsters

James Marsters as Brainiac in Smallville

Unfortunately, just because you're a star in a certain genre series and iconic role, this doesn't by any means guarantee success in another similar series.

James Marsters has long been beloved in the world of fantasy television due to his iconic turn as Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

However, in his overly extended turn as Brainiac on Smallville, Marsters did little more than chew up the scenery that was put in front of him.

In many ways, Brainiac was poorly used as a character, only brought in when a source of truly out-there conflict was needed.

Better writing and acting would have gone a long way toward creating a performance worthy of supporting the character's overall narrative time significance.

13 Saved: Justin Hartley

Justin Hartley as Oliver Queen Green Arrow in Smallville

Smallville has handled many things better than the current DC TV Arrowverse has, without question. However, perhaps the one thing they handled better than all others was their portrayal of Oliver Queen, also known as the Green Arrow.

Rather than attempt to force him to become a knockoff of Batman, Smallville allowed Oliver to be the character he always has been: charming, but guarded, and genuinely interested in helping others and not his own self.

Thanks to the winning performance by future This Is Us star Justin Hartley, Oliver became one of the series' strongest and most beloved characters, which more than explains the length of his tenure on the series as its eventual second leading man.

12 Hurt: Sam Witwer

Smallville Davis Bloome

If you're a Smallville fan and you hear the name Davis Bloome, it's likely that you're just going to cringe a lot.

The series' attempt at bringing to life the epic DC villain Doomsday couldn't have been more poorly executed, and we're not even going to try to make sense of the mess that was his dynamic with Chloe and what happened to Jimmy as a result.

Davis was never an engaging character due in large part to the awkward early acting of Sam Witwer, who would go on to show his talents in bigger and better roles both in front of the camera and behind the voice actor's microphone.

Doomsday as a character deserved much more than whatever Davis was meant to be.

11 Saved: Annette O'Toole

Annette O'Toole as Martha Kent in Smallville

It isn't just Jonathan Kent who deserves the credit for making Clark Kent the man he is, however.

In fact, perhaps even more of that credit goes to Martha Kent, who raised Clark even in Jonathan's tragic absence, and whose kind heart and earnest wisdom offered many words of comfort and inspiration to the fledgling superhero in his most vulnerable formative moments.

In Smallville, Martha was cheekily played by a veteran of the Superman franchise, Annette O'Toole.

O'Toole, of course, appeared as Lana Lang in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, which makes her casting in the key role so much better.

O'Toole played perfectly opposite both her on screen husband and son, never once missing a beat whether the moment called for heartwarming maternal comfort or heartbreaking moments of regret and loss.

10 Hurt: Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson as Whitney Fordman in Smallville

Some characters never really had a chance of being played in any likable manner, just because they were such bad characters to begin with.

One of those characters represents some growing pains on the series' part as it tried to figure out how to balance Clark's high school adventures with his future heroic behaviors and powers.

Some of the earliest episodes of the first season leaned too heavily on the high school melodrama, particularly concerning the forced triangle between Clark, childhood friend Lana, and her current boyfriend, jock Whitney.

The character of Whitney was never given much of anything to do, beyond being an annoying high school student, so poor Eric Johnson never had anything good to play and was only allowed to show off his talents at being a whiny teenager.

9 Saved: Aaron Ashmore

Jimmy Olsen has long represented all that is good in the world of Superman. Unassuming, hardworking, and kindhearted, photographer Jimmy is the perfect foil to Clark's reporter self.

Smallville even develops Jimmy beyond the goody goody that he's best known as in the comics, allowing him to have romantic relationships and truly heroic moments of bravery all his own.

Thanks to a winning portrayal by Aaron Ashmore, Jimmy became one of the series' most beloved characters, no matter the brevity of his tenure on the series and the unfortunate manner in which it ended.

Ashmore was always charming, always funny, and played off his costars with a natural ease that few other recurring characters could claim.

8 Hurt: Laura Vandervoort

Laura Vandervoort as Supergirl in Smallville

Kara Zor El is a character that can be hard to get right. She's got to maintain her naïveté without being annoying or cloying, but also has to be totally convincing as a hero in her own right.

For the most part, this is an area that the DC TV's current Arrowverse has handled pretty well, as Melissa Benoist has capably managed to be both Kara Danvers and Kara Zor El for three years now.

Unfortunately, Smallville didn't have any such luck, with the woefully miscast Laura Vandervoort landing the role and making Kara a truly unlikable, cringe-inducing character in the process.

Overly cutesy and saccharine, Vandervoort's Kara sucked the energy out of every scene she was in.

7 Saved: Tom Welling

Clark Smallville Tom Welling

It's a daunting task for any actor to take on the name and legacy that comes with being an iconic hero. When that character is Clark Kent, also known as Superman, that task becomes even more daunting.

When that actor is a relative newcomer and is unknown, there's no imagining the pressure that comes with taking on a role of such importance and visibility.

Tom Welling perhaps didn't always have the easiest time portraying Clark's emotional moments in the early run of the series, as Welling struggled to find his footing as an actor.

However, just as viewers saw Clark grow up into the man the world would come to know and love, they also witnessed the transformation of Welling into a truly talented actor - a hero in his own right, perfectly suited to the unassuming Man of Steel himself.

6 Hurt: Cassidy Freeman

Tess Mercer on Smallville

Unfortunately, Smallville struggled in a key area that lots of genre franchises have struggled with over the years: creating compelling female characters who are played by talented actresses.

Tess Mercer, from the very beginning, was never going to work as a character.

Spoiled and privileged and with a chip on her shoulder, she was meant to be, quite clearly, the show's female answer to Oliver Queen, especially given how interwoven their stories were for some time.

However, Cassidy Freeman's performance never elevated Tess' character beyond the level of a one off appearance.

Overly acted and with barely any believability in her line delivery, Freeman's performance slowed every moment of screen time to a near standstill, no matter how urgent the situations she was involved in.

5 Saved: John Glover

John Glover as Lionel Luthor in Smallville

It takes a real talented actor to make one of the biggest sociopaths in the world into a genuinely engaging, at times sympathetic character.

Somehow, Smallville managed to find just the perfect actor capable of doing this when they chose John Glover for the role of Lionel Luthor.

For most of the series, Lionel loomed large as the true threat, even more than his son Lex ever would, and he was utterly terrifying each and every time.

However, he also was capable of showing a softer side, such as in the divisive moments of his connection with Martha Kent.

All throughout, Glover's performance was nothing short of electrifying, bringing a necessary gravitas to a series struggling to keep its head out of the clouds.

4 Hurt: Kristin Kreuk

Kristin Kreuk as Lana Lang in Smallville

It's an unfortunate necessary part of many coming of age stories: the first young love that lasts just a bit too long.

Unfortunately, Smallville decided that this requisite growing pain be stretched out across nearly eight seasons of its entire ten season run.

Lana Lang was perhaps once an interesting character, at least in the comics, but in the version we're forced to endure eight years of on Smallville, nothing remotely of interest can be found.

Making matters worse is Kristin Kreuk's casting. Kreuk struggles to show any basic range of emotion, relying on a very limited series of facial expressions more suited to soap opera mawkishness than any hero's coming of age tale.

Knowing who comes after her just makes her performance all the harder to swallow.

3 Saved: Michael Rosenbaum

Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor

The character of Lex Luthor is one of the most integral parts of any story of Superman that, in some cases, the casting of the character is more important than the casting of Superman himself.

Recent attempts at casting Lex have proven to be quite unsuccessful, with Jesse Eisenberg's ineffectual DCEU version of the character as the prime example.

However, for much of Smallville's run, they had the proud distinction of having Lex Luthor played by the larger than life Michael Rosenbaum.

Rosenbaum's Lex transformed more across the series than almost any other character, from kind friend and supporter, to wounded genius, to nearly full fledged villain.

Rosenbaum's portrayal of the character, as a result, was far more humanized than most versions of the character have been - which in turn made the series, the character, and the performance that much stronger as well.

2 Hurt: Allison Mack

From her very introduction, it was clear that Chloe Sullivan was meant to be Smallville's answer to "where the heck is Lois Lane anyway?"

However, also from her very introduction, it was clear that she was never going to be anything remotely close enough to Lois to satisfy fans for very long.

Overly loud and judgmental, the alleged expert journalist Chloe Sullivan proves herself to be an unenviable partner more than an asset on many occasions.

Making her character truly impossible to stand, however, is the emotionless performance of Allison Mack, whose legacy with the series has now been tarnished for many other reasons.

Mack never once feels believable as a friend, or a reporter, or a veritable romantic lead. But where her lack of talent ends and the poor writing of her character begins is hard to tell.

1 Saved: Erica Durance

Erica Durance Lois Lane Smallville

Smallville may have been Clark Kent's series, but there's no way it would have lasted as long as it did without the presence of one Miss Lois Lane.

In casting Erica Durance, Smallville did the mythically unthinkable, casting perhaps the best suited actress for the role in the character's lengthy history.

Durance was able to turn a brief recurring role into a series lead one all thanks to her charm, pitch perfect wit, and effortless chemistry with male lead, Tom Welling.

Durance's Lois was everything that a perfect Lois should be: brave but vulnerable, kind but strong, and loving but unafraid of standing up for everything that mattered most to her.

Smallville may have begun as Clark Kent's show, but it was just as much Lois's story in the end.


Which casting choices do you think helped or hurt Smallville the most? Let us know in the comments!

More in Lists