John Schneider Interview: Jonathan Kent returns for final season of Smallville

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Smallville's Jonathan Kent is possibly one of the best TV dads around. Superman's values of "truth, justice, and the American way" are a direct result of his upbringing on the Kent Farm. The Kents were caring people with strong morals, family was the most important thing to them, and they always chose to do the right thing. If more families were like the Kents, the world would be a better place.

Tragically, Smallville viewers said farewell to Jonathan Kent, played by John Schneider (pictured left), in the 100th episode when Mr. Kent died of heart failure. Fast forward to 4 years later, Smallville viewers now anxiously await the 10th and final season of their beloved show. Much to their surprise, John Schneider is called back to the set to reprise his role of Jonathan Kent. I had the pleasure of speaking with the talented John Schneider about his return to Smallville.

NaShantá: Big news about Smallville, and you returning to the show.

John Schneider: I know, I know. Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

Nash: How surprised were you? Or were you expecting to come back?

John: I really wasn't surprised. I figured if they made it to 10 years, they'd want to start wrapping things up. Having done quite a few comic conventions and events across the world, the number one thing I kept hearing was, "When is Clark going to go back to the farm? When are they going to ground the show again?" The producers, and the writers of the show, they listened. I expected, maybe somewhere towards the end of the season, I'd get a call. I didn't really think it was going to be the beginning of the season. I'm honored, I'm thrilled!

Nash: We're excited to see you back. I'm interested to see how they bring your character back into the story after being dead for 4-years.

John: They're clever, but it's mysterious as well. I've got to tell you, the dialogue in the scenes that Tom (Welling) and I have done together is the best dialogue I've had in the show. And I think Smallville is incredibly well written, so I mean a lot when I say that. The work that we've done so far has just been terrific, and it's very exciting.

Nash: Can you tell us how many episodes you'll be featured in this season?

John: I honestly don't know. I know it will be no less than 3, and likely no more than 12.

Nash: Oh my gosh, I didn't think you'd be featured so much. I thought we'd see you maybe once or twice.

John: Well, I think so. I keep getting calls.

Nash: So are you done recording your scenes, or do you keep going back to Vancouver to shoot?

John: Yeah, I keep going back. It's on a show-by-show basis.

Nash: That's so exciting. What does it feel like being back, after being gone for so long?

John: Going was kind of odd. It was like going up to do a movie in Vancouver. But as soon as I got there, the camera operator is the same, the director of photography is actually a director now, just a bunch of the same faces. It was really kind of like a high school reunion, well...college reunion. It felt great, and I was welcomed right away.

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The first time we see Jonathan Kent as a ghost in the Season 5 episode "Void"
Smallville © The WB

Nash: Do you share any scenes with anyone other than Clark?

John: Not yet. I think I will down the road, but not yet. It's a mystery and I can't really answer that. It's a mystery as to the tangibility of my character. Does that make any sense?

Nash: Well, I can only assume that you're some kind of spirit or ghost...

John: I would assume that, but I really don't know. And I've done some work on it, so I'm really not sure. They're very very clever when they write these. This is going to be a great thing for people to wonder, because I really can't answer. But if I have interaction with other characters, then I must be real. If I don't, then I must be either a ghost or a collection of memories and lessons that Clark learned as a child...but I have gotten older.

Nash: Yes...well you can't stop time in real life. But I guess they could have used make up to make you look younger.

John: (laughs) No, I've never been one for makeup.

Nash: Have you been keeping up with the show at all since you've been gone? Have you been watching it?

John: I did for the first couple of years, but honestly I have fallen away after a while here. I did like the show much more after he got out of high school.

Nash: I love how the show has been changing. I was 16-years-old when it premiered, and I'll be 26 when it's over.

John: It's apart of your life then.

Nash: Yes, I've literally grown up with this show and the show has grown so much too. Clark is embracing his destiny and living more of the double life of a super hero now. The show has just done so well. What do you think it is about Smallville that sets it apart from other sci-fi series?

John: Honestly, I think its how it started. I don't think it's so much where it is, but how the series started with the reality of being on a farm. Growing up on a farm is what grounded Superman. The reality of having to do chores, the reality of having to be responsible, to be able to get in trouble and be reprimanded by your parents. I think all that made, for the first time, a super hero really human. Really human! Much more so than the super heroes who actually are human. Clark grew up on a farm, he's from another planet, but he grew up like anyone who lives in an agricultural community. With chores, and 4H, and having to do what his parents said. He's different from Spider-Man and different from Batman. This show makes him more like you and me.

John Schneider as Jonathan Kent, and Tom Welling as Clark Kent

John Schneider and Tom Welling
Smallville © The WB/Sergei Bachlakov

Nash: I think a lot of what makes Clark Kent's character so strong is that relationship he has with his parents. He was a teenager when the show began, and lots of teens don't have that kind of relationship with their parents. The Kents are the family everyone wishes they had...

John: Well, thank you for that.

Nash: (laughs) Playing Jonathan Kent, have you taken anything from that character and applied it to your own family living at all?

John: Actually it was at first more the other way. It was me applying the kind of dad I was at home, to raising Superman, or well Clark Kent. Jonathan is a wonderful father, he had a wonderful relationship with his son, but he also had a son who would listen. We don't all have that. At 18, a son that will actually sit down when you tell him to, and listen to what you have to say is pretty unusual in the parenting world. In many regards, since my kids were younger when we started the show, I was applying my parenting to the show. As things moved on I started to wish that I was as good a parent as Jonathan was on Smallville.

Nash: Well your kids are teenagers now right?

John: Two of them are, and one in their 20s

Nash: Do you feel like you have that Clark/Jonathan relationship with your kids now?

John: I do. I try to. Kids don't pay as much attention to their parents as Clark did to us, because our scenes aren't written at home. (laughs) That I find to be the hardest thing, is to get your kids to have a conversation with you, let alone listen to what you have to say. That's a tough one.

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Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luther and John Glover as Lionel Luther in "Talisman"
Smallville © The WB

Nash: I know you directed one episode, Talisman, which was pretty amazing. It reminded me a bit of Lord of the Rings, with this relic that corrupts people with power.

John: Yeah, I enjoyed that very much. I liked the Native American or Aboriginal aspect of the mythology with Naman and Segeeth. It was a lot of fun, but it also brought in a new kind of look to the bad guys. It was nice to have some people in the show that weren't like the regular meteor "freak of the week."

Nash: Did you get to choose that episode? How did they decide which episode you would direct?

John: I didn't get to choose which episode, no you have to fight tooth and nail to get to direct an episode.

Nash: Do you think you'll get a chance to direct any of the final season?

John: No they're set. They've got all their directors already.

Nash: What's your favorite episode, or favorite memory from working on the show?

John: Wow (laughs), it would have to be when I first saw the pilot. I realized that it was truly something exceptionally good and unusual. I saw it and it was truly an amazing piece of television.

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Martha and Jonathan Kent find Clark in the pilot episode
Smallville © The WB

Nash: Before I let you go, I wanted to tell you, when the Chicago Comic Con people contacted me about interviewing someone, you were the first person on my list. So I'm really honored that you took the time out to talk with me today. Thank you so much.

John: Awww, bless your heart. I'm delighted to help. Well, I encourage people to do what they love to do, and to follow their dreams. And I'm honored that I could be apart of your dream.

Fans can meet John Schneider August 21 and 22, 2010 at Chicago Comic Con, in Rosmont, IL.

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Comments

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  • I'm actually REALLY jealous that you have had such a HUGE opportunity to meet with a major actor. Johnathan Kent is one of the best TV/Movie Dads ever (possibly THE best), and the series is quite amazing. He sounds like a pretty cool guy!

  • In reply to Crossosphinx:

    He was very nice. And I could tell he cares a lot about Jonathan Kent. It's refreshing to talk to someone who genuinely enjoys the characters that they play. I can't wait to meet him face to face at the convention next week :)

  • In reply to Crossosphinx:

    I loved this guy... I grew up on the dukes of hazzard and to finish it off with smallville.. It was really close to me since i was a junior in hs when it started.. John seems like a really good man

  • In reply to ucftball20:

    It was such a treat to get to speak with someone who so clearly loves his job and the characters that he portrays. This was probably my favorite interview so far. Thanks for reading it James

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