Over the past few decades there have been several incarnations of Lex Luthor across the small and silver screens. One actor has portrayed Lex in such a fashion that few can question the performance. Michael Rosenbaum played a young Lex Luthor on the hit TV series Smallville, and was widely accepted by all audiences. Rosenbaum was able to take a character with a rich and bountiful backstory and bring him to life. Smallville’s Lex Luthor was a smart and maniacal narcissist who, at times, could also be viewed as a man that was just seeking a means to an end. Rosenbaum turned Lex into one of the best and most loveable parts of the show. So needless to say, fans were extremely upset to see him depart from the series after season seven. During an interview with Empire Online Rosenbaum shed light on his decision to leave the show.
I remember sitting with Peter Roth, the president of Warner Brothers … I’ve never really told this story. Everybody has an ego and I think everybody likes to get their way. Peter took me to dinner, because he tried to get me to do two more seasons of Smallville. I was very polite and respectful. I said, “Peter, my grandma thinks I’m funny and I’ve always wanted to do comedy, and I started out in comedy, and I was doing tons of comedy, and then I was catapulted into this role that I love and it’s been great, but I was contracted for six years to play Lex Luthor, I did seven, and I’m just ready to move on and I’m just ready to take a new step.” He looked at me and says, “You know, Julianna Margulies, she turned down millions of dollars to stay with ER and look where she is now.” It wasn’t two or three years later where she just made a fortune with The Good Wife and all of that, and her career just took off. I said, “I’m going to bank on my talent. I’m just going to take a chance on me. I think I’ve done this long enough, I did this character for seven years and I just don’t feel like shaving my head for two more years.” I came back for the finale, but at the time I just wanted to take a chance. It wasn’t ego, it wasn’t, “I’m not doing Smallville because I’m too good for it.” It was more, “Hey, I’ve got more to offer.” Look, luck is a commodity of preparation and opportunity and I feel like I’m always prepared when that moment comes. I think it comes down to just believing in yourself.
After many attempts from high-level executives to get Rosenbaum back on the show, he paid tribute to the fans by appearing in the finale episode. Seeing Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor after three years was well worth the wait. Even if it was only for a few minutes. It just goes to show how one person can have such a lasting effect on a show after being gone for so long.
Here’s the thing: I didn’t watch the last three seasons, because I wasn’t in it. Call me egotistical, call me whatever, but that’s the reason I didn’t watch the show. I was working and getting my shit together. But I finally called them up and said, “Hey, look, it’s the last episode ever. I’ll do it, you’ve got me for one day next week.” When I got there I was, like, “What’s happened since I left?” I had no idea what was going on. There were moments where I just didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. I liked my scenes with Tom Welling, but I felt like the show was, for me, done when I left in season seven. Then I sort of did it for the fans and did it for me for closure and to say, “Hey, I did come back.” I did do it, and that’s ultimately why.
Looking back on his experience, Rosenbaum seemed to feel nothing but a sense of gratitude and honor. He was given the reigns to a character that means so much to so many people and he never disappointed.
You can’t be luckier as an actor or as a human being to feel that sort of accomplishment, and if that’s all I did — if I was just Lex Luthor — it would be enough. It really would be enough to go back home to New Berg, Indiana, where there are, like, 3,000 people in the town and where I wasn’t supposed to do anything. To say you were this iconic, legendary character for seven years. I would’ve mowed my lawn with a smile on my face.
Michael is now starring in the TV series Impastor. It is nice to see that someone from Smallville fame is still putting in work in the entertainment industry. Check out the trailer for season two of Impastor that recently aired on TV Land. And if you love Michael Rosenbaum like I do go check out Sorority Boys, Poolhall Junkies, or any of the other great projects he has out there.