Season 8 of 'Smallville' began with tumult and upheaval the show's architects Alfred Gough and Miles Millar left the series, as did fan favorite actor Michael Rosenbaum, whose compelling Lex Luthor was a top draw for the show. Yet, instead of crumbling the show has been reinvigorated, with new characters and a inexorable build-up to one of the greatest comic books slug-fests of all times.
Chief among the new is actress Cassidy Freeman who has taken on the unenviable task of filling the void left by Rosenbaum. As Tess Mercer, the primary villain on a show filled with superheroes, her powers are an intellect equal to Luthor's, ice water in her veins, and a set of eyes that could pierce a hole through even Clark Kent's Kyrptonian hide.
All season she's been meticulously plotting to bring Clark into battle with his monstrous opposite number. On Thursday, her plan will come to horrible fruition with the season finale episode "Doomsday". Season-long tensions will finally explode. Some will live. Some will die.
Mania.com sat down to talk with Freeman in an exclusive interview to sort through the rubble of the Smallville season finale.
Rob M. Worley for Mania: For season 8, they got rid of Lex Luthor and they brought in Doomsday and Tess Mercer and I have to tell you I'm not sure which one I'm more afraid of.
Cassidy Freeman: [laughs] I know. I know. He's got the bone spurs but I've got the stare.
Mania: How daunting has it been to step into the shoes of the beloved character played by Michael Rosenbaum, Lex Luthor?
Cassidy Freeman: It's super-daunting because he's a really talented actor and it's a really well-known and well-respected role in the mythos but also because I know what a huge fan base he has. He's often talked about on set as just the most charismatic, fun guy. And that also is daunting because I'm like, "well who wants the new kid?" But it worked out really well I think. It gave me great shoes to file.
Mania: Have you had any contact with him at all?
Cassidy Freeman: He called me when I got the part. He called me, "this is Lex," and joked around with me. But then said "congratulations, I hope you have fun." But I've never met him.
Mania: Were you a big fan of the show before you started?
Cassidy Freeman: No, I wasn't. I had only seen it a couple times. I have a problem with starting shows if I haven't started at the beginning, you know? Like trying to start 'Lost' in season 3 and I was like, "This is bad. They're not lost. I'm lost."
So I didn't start at the beginning because I was in college. But I caught up and now I'm a huge fan. And I'm proud to say I've gotten some other people into being huge fans as well.
Mania: Awesome. What's been the biggest surprise working on the show?
Cassidy Freeman: That's a great question...
You know what. I think it's...you can do movies that are more realistic but to know that you, as a person on this earth, where everything's mortal and normal, can then go into a sound stage and play some scenes and do some work, and then on Thursday night you turn on the television and it's like this totally different world where Kryptonite rocks exist and people at super speed.
I think that was pretty surprising: the first time I saw it I was like, "Whoa! That really seems real. It looks like it's supposed to!"
Mania: What's been the most difficult thing about the show?
Cassidy Freeman: Um...
Mania: It's Tom Welling, isn't it?
Cassidy Freeman: He's such a pain in my ass. I can't tell you how difficult he is. [laughs]
No. Honestly (because I was going to speak to you dishonestly) the most difficult part is really believing what you're saying sometimes. It's easy to do a scene with someone where you're breaking up or falling in love and it's something you could actually say in real life. To say things like -- you know what I have to say – sometimes it's hard. Sometimes you laugh at yourself and you're like, "Did I really just say...something about a crystal?"
Mania: "I shattered the crystal from the fortress of solitude so now you have to kill Doomsday..."
Cassidy Freeman: Right? [laughs]
It's not easy sometimes, but everyone also knows that and everyone is trying together. So we support each other.
Mania: It seems in her early days, Tess was kind of idealistic and a little bit like Lex was when we first met him on the show. Is the idealistic Tess Mercer gone forever?
Cassidy Freeman: No. She's not. She's not at all. What's funny is that she was idealistic until she met Lex. I think Lex brought out a very vindictive side to her. Now that he's kind of out of the picture I think she's trying to find her way back to that person.
Now, what's going on – everyone thinks that she's screwing Clark over, but she really believes that this is going to be better for the world. To kill Doomsday. To have this stuff happen. To be the catalyst.
I think she's going to find that idealistic girl again.
Mania: I think that's the makings of a classic villain, for her to have motives that you can empathize with even when you don't agree with their tactics.
Cassidy Freeman: Yeah, exactly.
Mania: Do prefer playing that kind of character or would you rather play a heroine or a straight up good girl?
Cassidy Freeman: No, I prefer playing that kind of character. Heroines are fun. They get to be funny and I sometimes miss being funny. Lois Lane gets to be funny and Erica is so fabulous at that.
But it is more fun, emotionally to play a villain because you really get to play a lot of different a wide spectrum of a person's psyche.
Mania: This Thursday is the DOOMSDAY season finale! Will Tess get her comeuppance?
Cassidy Freeman: Um...we shall see...
I don't know what you mean though. What would be your comeuppance for her?
Mania: I don't know, but she's definitely been manipulating and hurting a lot of people so it seems like she's got something coming back to her.
Cassidy Freeman: Well, we don't know what she wants to happen. She's just trying as many tactics as she can to get her way.
Mania: Are you signed on for the 9th season?
Cassidy Freeman: If I survive!
I'm signed on for three years so if they want me they can have me, but we still don't know what happens this week. At least I'm not allowed to say! [laughs]
Mania: What would Tess do if she finally gets her confrontation with Lex Luthor?
Cassidy Freeman: Oh, man. Well, that's if Lex is alive. Right?
I don't think she's thinking of that right now. She's got bigger fish to fry. Much as fans may hate it, I think Lex is on the back burner right now.
Mania: Do you want to come back for a 9th season? Are you looking forward to it?
Cassidy Freeman: I would love to come back for a ninth season. Would you like to work in a really cool town with really fun people?
Mania: Is Clark gonna bust out the cape and the "S" shield this week?
Cassidy Freeman: This week. No.
Maybe in the future, but this week, no.
Mania: Do you think they're driving towards that? Do you think we'll see it on the last episode of the last season?
Cassidy Freeman: I don't know when the last season will be. Nobody talks to me either, by the way. [laughs] No one tells me anything, by the way.
Mania: If you could play any comic book character on film or in a TV show, who would it be?
Cassidy Freeman: Any comic book character – Unfortunately I'm not that versed in comic books so I don't have a huge set of knowledge to pull from , but I've always really loved Rogue from the X-Men.
Mania: Alright. That's a good draw!
Cassidy Freeman: She's awesome.
Mania: You know, they might make a Gambit movie now, and Gambit was Rogue's boyfriend in the comics..
Cassidy Freeman: I know! The one that threw the cards, right?
Mania: Yes! So maybe if that movie happens they'll recast Rogue for it and you'll be in!
Cassidy Freeman: Maybe! [laughs]
Mania: You should start working on that right now.
Cassidy Freeman: I know. I gotta go call my agent.
Mania: So what is next with for you?
Cassidy Freeman: I'm filming a horror movie in June called 'Yellow Brick Road' and it's gonna be really fun.
Mania: What's it about?
Cassidy Freeman: In 1940, a group from a town in New Hampshire followed a trail head into the forest and were never to be seen again. No one knows why. It's kind of this hush-hush about the town.
Now, eight people have formed a team, they've found the coordinates and they're going to follow the same trail, which is called The Yellow Brick Road, to see what happens. The tag line is "they go to find the evil in the forest, but the forest found the evil in them."
It's a pretty cool premise. It's a horror film and it's also one of those weird, possessed thrillers.
Mania: Sounds cool. Who else is in it? Anyone that we would know?
Cassidy Freeman: My brother!
My brother and I are actually going to play brother and sister, which is awesome.
Mania: Who's the director? Anyone famous?
Cassidy Freeman: This is all a new batch of kids. There's one girl named Vanessa Ramsey who was in a horror movie called 'The Signal'.
Mania: Any message for all the SMALLVILLE fans before we wrap up?
Cassidy Freeman: Just, thank you. You guys have been through eight long years and I'm so thankful that you're gonna be there for another.
Find out if Tess Mercer will live to fight another day this Thursday night at 8pm for "Doomsday" the Season 8 finale of 'Smallville' on The CW!