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Entertainment News Daily- Reimagining the Teen of Steel
by Ian Spelling

I still have my anonymity at this point, and I look forward to having it as long as I can,'' Tom Welling says. ``I think fame is just a bridge that I'll have to cross when I come to it. If I get recognized on the street, I'll deal with it in the moment.

``I don't know if there's any way to prepare for it,'' the actor says. ``I think you just have to be open-minded and be thankful for what you have.''

What Welling has is ``Smallville,'' one of the most buzzed-about new shows of the fall season. Set to debut on Oct. 16, the WB series puts a new spin on the 63-year-old Superman saga by following the growing pains of a teen-age Clark Kent (Welling) in the formative days before he emerges as Superman.

The pilot unfolds in modern-day Smallville, Kans., self-proclaimed meteor capital of the world, and introduces viewers to the key players in 15-year-old Clark's life. Among them are his parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent (John Schneider and Annette O'Toole), who have raised Clark - born Kal-El - as their son since he crashed to Earth during a meteor shower more than a decade ago. Then there are Clark's best friends, Pete (Sam Jones III) and Chloe (Allison Mack), and his new pal, Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) - who's got a bald head and a hard-driving, quite-likely-corrupt father, Lionel (John Glover). And, of course, there's Lana Lang, the bewitching classmate Clark pines for from afar but can't approach, partly out of fear and partly because she wears a kryptonite necklace that brings him to his knees.

``In a sense, you can take the fact that Clark has special abilities and attributes and throw them out the window,'' Welling says, speaking by cellular telephone while driving to the ``Smallville'' set in Vancouver, British Columbia. ``I deal with Clark as a normal kid just trying to fit in.

``When you take those attributes and put them back into the equation, they almost make Clark's life more difficult,'' he says. ``They create a loneliness. For example, if you could run faster than anyone else, you could rob a bank and no one would ever see you. Clark can do all these great things, but he can't tell anyone or show anyone. That creates a barrier of loneliness for Clark, because he could be the coolest guy in school, he could be the best football player, but he can't go ahead and show anyone what he can really do.

``So his abilities work against him.''

This isn't Superboy, in short, but a young man sincerely troubled by the very powers that will someday make him Superman.

``He sees them as making his life more difficult,'' Welling says, ``and he needs to find a way to make them work for him. I think a lot of people feel that way through their lives. So I look at `Smallville' as being based on the humanity of Clark, rather than the superhuman aspects of the character.''

On a weekly basis, the actor says, ``Smallville'' will be more like ``Dawson's Creek'' than ``Dark Angel.'' After all, the show's stylistic hallmark is its greatest gamble: Not only does Clark not wear glasses, but also he doesn't go in for tights, a cape or a big letter ``S'' across his chest.

``Clark's not saving the world every week, just Smallville,'' he says. ``There is action that will revolve around him saving the day, if you will, but we'll always have the personal side of the story, because we know what will eventually happen to these characters. Clark will get close to Lana, but won't really get there. There will always be an opportunity for Lex and Clark to turn against each other, but it may not happen just yet.

``You'll see the relationship between Clark and his parents,'' Welling adds. ``They've always been supportive and very helpful in the past, but Clark is a teen-ager, so there comes a time when you don't listen to your parents, when you try to find fault in what your parents do and say. There will also be some tension between Chloe and Pete. Chloe, in a way, has been longing for Clark's attention, and she's not getting as much of it as she'd like.

``I don't know what the long-range plans are, though,'' the actor concludes. ``They only give us the script for the next episode the Friday before we start shooting it. And a lot of the villains you'll be seeing are on the humanesque side, I like to say, because everything that happens on `Smallville,' even though it may be far-fetched, will be plausible.''

``Plausible'' also serves as an apt description of Welling's ascent to the brink of stardom. Growing up in New York, he watched movies and, as he puts it, ``always wondered whether or not I could do it.'' Commercials led to acting auditions, and the bug bit.

``I really liked acting right off the bat,'' Welling says. ``I decided to take my chances and move to Los Angeles. I did a couple of little things'' - including the pilot for the Fox series ``Undeclared'' and an episode of ``Special Unit 2'' in which he played ``male victim 1'' - ``but `Judging Amy' was really my first big break. I did three episodes and they asked me to do three more, and then I got `Smallville.'

``Acting is different every time you do it,'' he says. ``It's different every second within the scene and every second within the preparation, and that helps me keep my energy up. I just love to work.''

So what happens if kryptonite seeps into television sets across the nation and ``Smallville'' lands on the scrap heap of promising-but-failed series?

``Jeez, I haven't even thought about that,'' Welling says, laughing. ``I'd like to think I can continue working, and I think I'd try to continue working. But I've been working so much on `Smallville' I haven't even thought about it.

``I'm loving this,'' he says. ``I like it up here, and I'm having a great time. So I'm looking forward to a few years of `Smallville.'''