And the Smallville goodness keeps on coming! Fans went wild when the photos of sci-fi fave Michael Shanks as Hawkman were released. And with a few new clips on the Internet in the last few days, the buzz is nearly overtaking the Lost season premiere. Only a few more days until we get to see 'Absolute Justice' in it's full, two-hour glory. We’ve chatted with Justin Hartley, the show’s Green Arrow, and Executive Producer Brian Peterson and Director Glen Winter about the event, learning a little more each time.
Now, Newsarama got a chance to grill Shanks about the role. He gave up some details about the tension between Hawkman and Green Arrow (Justin Hartley), how the JSA got lost in the first place, if he'll be back for the next season if it and what little character details we should be looking for. He says we'll get at least hints about what happened to almost every member of the JSA. He also lets us know about some Hawkgirl references!
Newsarama: Now that we are only a couple of days out from the episode, can you give us some info about how the show opens and how the Justice Society of America got sort of lost in the first place?
Michael Shanks: Yeah, it's kind of complex, but it's more sort of that in that Incredibles kind of way, that there was this group of heroes that were working for truth and justice, and that some powers tried to get them to do things on one side of the equation, and they didn't like that too much. And so, to get back at them, the powers that be, or the bad guys, whatever you want to call them, kind of blacklisted our heroes, and kind of made them look like villains. And that's kind of how the group ends up being kind of forgotten, or blacklisted or labeled, given a certain stigma. Therefore, as with a lot of negative things, they kind of sweep it under the rug, and they try and make the public perception...kind of forget what those people stood for and what they were about. They kind of fade from at least this generation's memory.
Nrama: I don't know if you saw the new clip of you and Dr. Fate (Brent Stait) that is on the net, but I'm wondering if you can tell us a bit about the relationship between you and Dr. Fate.
Shanks: Yeah, without going into too much detail, there is a certain caretaker that Carter Hall takes with Kent Nelson. Certain events have transpired that aren't really gone into in too much detail, but you get the point at the end of the day. Carter takes on a guardianship role with Kent Nelson, being two of the last remaining members of the JSA that they know about, and Carter's sense of guilt over his role in events makes him take Kent Nelson under his wing, and protect him and give him a purpose in his life.
Nrama: We spoke to Justin Hartley recently, and he spoke about the conflict between Hawkman and Green Arrow, so we wanted to see if you could give me a little about it from Hawkman's perspective.
Shanks: [laughs] Well, Justin's a dick, so he made it really easy. [laughs] Justin and I had a lot of fun. He's a great guy and [has] a great sense of humor. We had a lot of fun basically mocking my character. What Justin is so great at in his role, and I don't even think you see enough of it on screen with Green Arrow, is that Justin is really cheeky in real life. He's got a really great wit and sense of humor. He's quite dry and sarcastic and a lot of fun. He tells some good yarns and some good jokes and some great put downs, and so you never see that enough. There's certainly enough on screen where you see Green Arrow's sarcastic sensibilities and whatever, and Hawkman being sort of more right wing, all business, gruff, basically, it's all work and no play type. These two are never going to see eye to eye, and you see right from the get go, some antagonism between them, which, as far as I'm concerned becomes quite humorous as the episode wears on. It becomes humorous and poignant. They have what ends up being a sort of a cathartic relationship between the two of them, where each teaches the other. They don't exactly spoon at the end of it, [laughs] but they certainly agree to disagree in a positive way, and they reluctantly teach each other something along the way in the course of the episode and it's kind of neat. It's almost one where I sit there and go, there's great potential for these two playing off each other. It's a great Frick and Frack thing going on that's playful at the same time, somewhat dangerous, but it could be these two forces that could work great together, but always bantering back and forth together in a kind of caustic way.
Nrama: Everyone is wondering what sort of advice you'll be giving to Clark (Tom Welling) and if you'll discuss anything about Hawkgirl.
Shanks: Um, in the original draft of the script there was some illusion to what the past relationship was with Hawkgirl, specific about what happened to her and how this affected Carter and whatnot. And there's references to her that are left in the script that are dealt with and you get the point without having to talk too much and without having to explain too much. It's talked about with Clark, it's talked about with Oliver at different points without getting too, too detailed about the goings on. But it is a weight that Carter Hall wears around his neck. He talks about that with Clark, both at the middle and at the end of the show, and it's affect on him, but there is no particular correlation between Clark and his relationships that Carter draws a parallel between. You could draw a parallel to Oliver's sense of detachment, which I think is part of their agreeing to disagree or at least teaching each other something.
Nrama: Obviously we don't know what is happening for a Season 10, but it sounds like they're leaving it open. We're all wondering about the possibility of Hawkman coming back.
Shanks: I don't know. I had a great time working on the show. It's been a great collaboration with all the producers there, and I've certainly enjoyed my time with all the actors. It was a great dynamic that I had with the group. If they do go to a Season 10 and they wanted me to come back...I mean, it would obviously be subject to my schedule [laughs] and whatnot, but if the opportunity presented itself, I'd love to go back to that universe.
Nrama: Last time I spoke to you, you told me you were more of a Marvel fan as a kid and that you had to go back to the lore for this role. How deep did you get into it, and is there anything in particular that you're really excited to see in the show?
Shanks: I think what's really great about it, and I think what I really appreciated is that I didn't know too much about this group. About the Justice Society. Again, I was born into a generation where those comics were kind of fading away, and the Justice League and Batman and Wonder Woman and all these other characters were just sort of springing up and becoming the mainstream comics...in terms of the Justice Society, they were, when I was growing up, sort of characters that were fading away. So what I gleaned from all of this is a renewed appreciation for their stories...and for what these characters were, and what their powers were, and what they meant to a generation of comic book readers. It's quite fascinating, I think. It's quite a step back into my childhood as well. So it was neat to relearn it, and of course a real treat to bring one of these characters to life in a way that I hope is being somewhat loyal to the characterization that the books give it.
Nrama: Well, everyone is talking about the costume, and I know you said you had to get used to it...how was it wielding those wings?
Shanks: It was...well, I'll tell you what. What I really appreciated about the guys there is that, with something like this, all of us really stuck our necks out there, and no one more than me, in the sense that I was the one...if there was egg to be had on stage, I was the one that was going to be wearing it. Fortunately, after watching a rough cut of it, I'm very pleased as to how that was...there is a tremendous cornball risk, regardless of how you slice it. Something as simple as seeing one of these spandex-esque costumes in the pure light of day, as I know from my years working on Stargate, the minute we took a reverent alien costume on the street of downtown Vancouver in broad daylight, it looked ridiculous. It really almost broke the fourth wall in terms of being somewhat laughable. So there really is a danger when you get into this kind of costume drama, so to speak, that these things look great on the page and not necessarily great on the stage.
I was concerned, both visually and esthetically that this was going to be...[laughs]...we were taking a risk here, and I really needed to be supported by lighting department and photography and by the directors for how they shot it and the editors for how they put it all together. And I can't tell you how pleased I am that I don't feel that that...there are certain moments when you go, 'eee'. [laughs] My butt hole clenched a little I watched it. I went, 'Ooh, that kind of...ooh, that's right on the edge, that's right on the edge!' But it always pulled itself back. And you didn't want to...there is some high stakes drama going on here. The worst thing that happens when someone is emoting over something that the actor is committing to, and the actor is trying to take you on this journey, is that you can't help but laugh because he's wearing this ridiculous costume. He looks silly. It kind of breaks the illusion. So what I was grateful for is the esthetic of the show really supported what we were wearing, all of us. [laughs] Myself included, especially with the wings and beak. There was a tremendous risk for a laugh track.
Nrama: I know you can't tell us who else we're going to see, as much as I would like you to. But some of the clips and the trailers have made illusions to Green Lantern and a bunch of other members of the JSA. Will we see anyone else? Besides the ones that have been announced?
Shanks: I won't give away too much...I think you'll get, as has been alluded to in other interviews, lots of little Easter Eggs. There is nothing too gratuitous, but enough to tell at least somewhat of a story of what happened to almost every member of the Justice Society. You could say 'there's appearances by', but I don't want get to specific with it. There are little teases, caveats, tidbits and Easter Eggs all throughout the show about different characters. It's very rich in that tapestry.
Nrama: That's a good tease. People will be reading into it that for days!
Shanks: [laughs] Oh I hope! From everything I've seen online and in different interviews and stuff like that, I've been sort of going, we're giving away a lot of the story. [laughs] I want to leave something to the imagination when it airs on Friday!
Nrama: Everyone loves the guest spots you're doing on different show. Sanctuary, Smallville, Eureka, etc. But they all want to know when you're getting a show starring you.
Shanks: [laughs] We'll see. It's once again pilot season and there's lots of different shows coming down the pike, so we'll see what happens. There's a lot of stuff going on and I'm always sniffing around for a good project. I don't know. I'm happy freelancing right now and it's great to poke my head into other world and taking some time off to be with my family. But I know at some point I have to get back on the horse and do something full time again. It's just a matter of the right project coming along and me being right for it.
Nrama: I have to ask you about the rumors of a Hawkman film. No one knows where they would put that in the timeline, but everyone wants to know what you think about being involved in something like that.
Shanks: I certainly won't say anything about myself being involved in the project. That's a little far fetched in the realm of the Hollywood machine. I mean, certainly, when they start bandying around names for feature films, I don't recall my name being high on the priority list. In terms of the idea of a Hawkman film, I will comment on, which is to say I think it's great timing. I think it's one of those things that maybe even ten years ago, with where technology is at, it would have been a risky proposition. Hawkman is one of the stranger superhero characters. Even where technology is at in terms of CGI wings and things like that, I think there is the potential for a fantastic film. It's such a majestic visage in terms of the...winged superhero in that way. And given technology and certainly in the updated form of the outfit...[laughs]...I know people are going to be sitting there going, 'Well that's not the traditional outfit. He didn't have a breast plate.' But at the same time, I look at the old one and I go, 'Whoa, I don't know man. That looks a little bit, um, what's the best way to put it? A little, um, rave?' [laughs] A little 1997 rave, the old Hawkman outfit. The trainer bandolier across the front and whatnot. That's a bit of a trip. I think an updated wardrobe for the character, as well as the technology that's available to create the character...the flying creatures...even in that movie Legion. Just oh my...there is a lot of potential for some great visuals.
Nrama: So what do you have coming up next?
Shanks: I literally just yesterday finished a guest spot on Supernatural. I had a relatively minor role in it, working with Jared (Padalecki) and Jensen (Ackles), and a few other actors, fighting some demons and throwing down with the boys. I think that will be out in a couple months. The episode is called, I think, '99 Problems'. I'm not featured quite prominently in it, but it was a lot of fun to play in that universe. It fit into my schedule quite handily. That's why I did it.
Nrama: Is there anything about the character you can tell us?
Shanks: Yeah. The character's name is Rob, and he's a member of the Sacrament Lutheran Church, and basically it's a township that has pretty much organized to fight the demon apocalypse that's coming. They're not running and screaming. They're hunkering down. They've figured out a way to fight and whatnot. They boys come across them and are quite enamored by they way they've organized themselves. They have a sort of militia...when a tragedy occurs in Rob's family he sort of takes a bit of a hardline approach when it comes to his beliefs. I'll leave it at that because it starts getting into spoiler territory beyond that.
Smallville 'Absolute Justice' airs Friday, February 5th at 8/7c on the CW.