SuperCon!: Tom Welling & Laura Vandervoort, Smallville’s Superman & Supergirl, Herald Return of Dragon Con
By Lee Valentine Smith
Bounding back after the Covid-induced hiatus, Dragon Con remains one of the world’s largest popular culture conventions. The five-day convergence of sci-fi, fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film is an annual pilgrimage for thousands of fanatics every year.
The 2021 edition promises another dizzying array of thrills and one of the event’s many beloved attractions is a myriad of celebrity invitees. Each year, attendees have the rare opportunity to meet and greet - and often take pictures with - a wide swath of special guests.
Two intriguing visitors this time around are actor-director-producers Tom Welling and Laura Vandervoort, perhaps best-known for their heroic tuns as Clark Kent and Kara Zor-El, the nascent supernatural cousins from the popular Smallville television series. Both have extensive resumes, with Welling’s fan-favorite roles in Lucifer and the 2005 remake of “The Fog.” Vandervoort is also known for a variety of enigmatic appearances, including the cult-fave series Bitten and the 2019 reimagining of “Rabid.”
recently caught up with Welling by phone from his home in Northern California and Vandervoort via email to discuss their iconic roles and other tales from the ‘Con side.
How are you handling the pandemic? Both personally, and professionally.
Tom Welling: I think the uncertainty was the worst part, especially at the beginning. Fortunately, we were able to escape to a ranch that we have and pretty much take every precaution we could take. It’s been pretty isolated - just me, my wife and my son. Seven weeks ago, we had another boy, so now we have two boys. We were very fortunate to have an environment where we could feel safe and isolated, and the silver lining has been spending so much time with the family. One of the things about everything shutting down for a year in the film business, now it’s coming back so hard. I’m going to be really busy soon.
Laura Vandervoort: I think, like most, the beginning of the pandemic was rather jarring. It definitely had its moments of frustration. Personally, it allowed me to slow down and focus on what truly mattered in my life. The people I spent my time with and the experiences became more precious. Professionally, I felt creatively stagnant for the first few months but I found painting to be a creative outlet. I’ve felt more driven to create my own material. Mid-pandemic, I wrote my first film which I then had my directorial debut on. The film, “My Soul To Take” (@mysoultotakefilm) looks sensational with some incredible actors, including Colm Feore, Jenny Raven and Rainbow Sun Francks. The upheaval of life with Covid looming made me more creative and daring, more willing to try new things.
As veterans of similar happenings, tell us about the convention experience. What’s it like from your POV, the guest side of the celebrity table?
Laura: My convention experience has always been a positive one - both behind and in front of the table. Meeting fans from around the world and having an opportunity to trade stories and experiences has always been incredible. As time goes on, it has been pretty remarkable to see familiar faces coming back year after year. One of the craziest moments for me was at my very first convention. After they’d announced me as ‘Supergirl,’ a fan rolled up their pant leg and had my face tattooed on his leg. It had only been a month since the announcement. He hadn’t even seen my work as Kara so I felt an immense sense of pressure to make sure he wouldn’t regret that tattoo! I’ve had a few marriage proposals as well, which can be slightly awkward to respond to, but the sentiment and the support of our fans has always blown me away.
Tom: To see the joy in people’s faces keeps me happy during the Cons. We thrive on that energy. When we were shooting Smallville, which is probably my biggest draw at these events, we were so busy that I never did the conventions. I never had the time or the interest and I didn’t really understand them. So I never got to enjoy that part. A lot of times what happens when you’re on a television show is you do interviews or photoshoots and those sorts of things. But those are not the same interactions. When you go to these events you’re meeting fans. You spend all day meeting thousands of people who are just so happy. It’s a very surreal, enjoyable moment.
The fans obviously love those superhuman Smallville characters. In retrospect, how do you personally view those iconic roles?
Laura: Portraying an iconic female superhero was an insane journey, a privilege and a huge opportunity to be a role model for women. Smallville was a hit series and I couldn’t believe I was going to be a part of that story. The fans welcomed me without hesitation and have stuck with me years to follow. I am eternally grateful for the opportunities I had not only on Smallville but the opportunities that arose from it.
Tom: I don’t think I had the opportunity or the wherewithal or the wisdom at the time to fully appreciate what we were doing. Families could watch it together and I think it gave them a sense of heart and wholeness that really wasn’t around much back then. When we started Smallville, the visual effects that we were doing, nobody else could do literally until that year, because they’d been too expensive. You could only do them in movies at that point. It was special because it was Clark Kent before Superman. And then, the end of the show with him leaping to be Superman, the whole idea of that ending was that he’s going to go - but we can’t go with him. It was well-written, directed and photographed, so it was a lot of good things coming together. That’s why we lasted 10 years. The only reason we stopped is because the guy had to become Superman. We couldn’t keep this guy down anymore. He had to fly.
You’re both best-known for acting but you’ve also directed projects. At this point, is one more challenging and/or satisfying than the other?
Tom: I’ve been very fortunate, especially on Smallville, I was around a crew and a cast that I was familiar with. We had a special language of communication. There’s a joke that everybody wants to be three things. They want to be a rockstar, they want to be a famous actor or they want to be president of the United States. And the second two really only want to be the first thing, which is a rockstar. The thing about directing for me is when you’re acting, you’re never allowed to feel satisfied. You may have a good take or a bad take or whatever it is, but a lot of times it’s the director who decides whether or not they have captured what they wanted. When you’re a director, you’re able to have that satisfaction of ‘Ok, we got it, we’re moving on.’ That was something I really enjoyed. When you’re acting, you might feel like you did a good job, but they may not even use that take.
Laura: I had always been curious about the ‘other side’ of the camera. Directing my first project (“My Soul To Take”) was an entirely eye-opening experience. I felt like a fish out of water and loved the challenge. It was (and still is) a huge amount of knowledge to grasp. From beginning to end, I wanted to be totally involved in the process. My producing partner, Jessica Petelle was always there to help guide and teach me. But acting and directing both obviously have their own challenges and joys. I think the only difference was, directing, writing and producing this project allowed me more control of the message and story. It allowed be to fully create what was visually in my mind. As an actor, you are only a part of the story. You are a pawn, often with little control.
Are there any future projects you’d like to mention?
Tom: Well, [fellow Smallville alum] Michael Rosenbaum and I are working on two different things. One is an animated series that’s basically where Smallville left off. He’s also written a very hilarious script about a couple of guys who used to be on a TV show and now they’re not, and how they navigate in the world. Then there are a couple other things coming, too. I’ve never had more on my plate in my life. But right now, I’m still soaking up all this time with my family because we’re going to have to learn to adjust and adapt in this new world.
Laura: I recently wrapped a feature called ‘Black Bags’ in Oklahoma. It’s an indie thriller with two great female leads. My character was complex and a real joy to navigate. In addition to ‘Black Bags’ I am heading to Vancouver in August to begin a new film. My production company has a few projects in development which I am working on in my ‘off time.’ I am also currently working alongside an all-female comic book team to bring the story of Reburn to life and to your comic book shelves.
Your combined canon of work is impressive, but what’s next? Are there any specific “bucket list” items still on your itinerary?
Laura: I just want to do everything!
Tom: I agree. It’s so much fun being creative and telling interesting stories. I’m a huge fan of the history of film. I’m a huge fan of television. I love it all. Really, I think the sky is the limit - no pun intended.