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A new twist on the man of steel
by Lia Haberman

Tom Welling's career is moving faster than a speeding bullet.

A year ago, he was auditioning for commercials in New York. Then he decided to try his luck in Los Angeles, where he quickly landed a six-episode part on Judging Amy as the judge's boy toy, Karate Rob. Now he's a teen dream on the verge, thanks to his starring gig as a pre-Man of Steel Clark Kent on the WB's Smallville. In this incarnation of the Superman legend, high schooler Clark is less interested in his newly discovered superpowers than in scoring a date with the prettiest girl in school, Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk). Just wait till he discovers X-ray vision.

Which superpower do you want the most?

His invincibility, the fact that he can't get hurt physically. I play basketball with my friends, and I've been known to go out for a jog once in a while, but if I was invincible, maybe I would take up some extreme sports.

Were you worried the producers would make you wear tights and a cape?

When I went on the first audition, they told you as you walked through the door there would be no flying and no tights. This is all about Clark Kent before he's Superman, before he gets the tights and starts flying.

John Schneider, aka Bo Duke of The Dukes of Hazzard, plays your dad on the show. What's that like?

I was a little nervous meeting him. Growing up, I'd seen him on TV, and I think I had the General Lee car to play with when I was a child. When I met him, he was such a great guy; he's so warm and just a nice person. Our relationship works great onscreen, too, because we had an immediate connection. One of the other characters on the show was really nervous about meeting him; I won't say who. And I said, "Just walk up to him; he's such a nice guy." "But I want to ask him about Dukes." And I said, "Just ask him; he's totally cool with it." He's really a down-to-earth guy.

Have you splurged on anything since getting the job?

[Laughs.] We haven't been paid yet. They don't just write you a check at the beginning; they pay you as it goes. So, I'm being very conservative. We have 13 episodes right now, and we're waiting to get the other nine picked up. But since we're going to be shooting in Vancouver for the next, maybe, eight months, I'll probably want to rent an apartment. I've been staying in a hotel.

What was it like playing Karate Rob on Judging Amy?

I was the 10-years-younger love interest for Amy Brenneman's character and also her daughter's karate instructor, which caused a little conflict of interest. It was a great role...a three-episode job, and over Christmas, they aired the episodes and got such good feedback they brought me back for three more. It was actually Amy Brenneman's first love affair on the show. I think the fans were liking that story.

First karate instructor, now superhero. Why are you always the strong guy?

I'm almost six-foot-three. Maybe that has something to do with it. But you never really know. There are times you go in on things you think you're perfect for, and you don't even get called back. And then there are other times when you don't think you did that hot, and you get the job.

Were you there when Michael Rosenbaum shaved his head for his role as Lex Luthor?

I saw him maybe five minutes before he shaved it. He didn't have much hair to begin with. But I think it looks great on him. It's very becoming.

The WB's pretty sensitive about haircuts. Have they mentioned anything to you about not chopping off your locks?

[Laughs.] I'm getting just a little trim for when we start up.

Name: Tom WellingAge: 24

Hometown: Upstate New York (he's keeping mum on the exact location)

Breakthrough Role: Karate Rob on Judging Amy

What You Don't Know: Welling also plays a hot fraternity dude in the first episode of Undeclared, but blink and you'll miss him

Memories of Superman: "The fortress of solitude was really neat