The actress behind Tess Mercer talks about joining the cast as the replacement for Lex Luthor
We get to continue our exploration of the new crop of supervillains who have been appearing in this season of Smallville, as I got the opportunity to discuss Lex Luthor's hand-picked successor Tess Mercer with the actress behind the character, the lovely Cassidy Freeman. Here's what Cassidy had to say about her role on the show, and what we can look forward to from this season.
You're now coming on to a show that has seven seasons of history behind it must be a little daunting. Has it been intimidating to join the cast, and to take the role as one of the lead antagonists?
Cassidy Freeman No, honestly the hardest part probably has to do with sort of being the Lex replacement. That was daunting, that was more daunting to me, in terms of the story and the fans, then actually coming on to the set. Because as soon as I got here, I can't tell you enough how incredible it's been. I expected someone to be, like a diva, you know, to be a little difficult? It wasn't at all. Like everyone was so kind and so welcoming, and I think that for them it's exciting too because they have been together for so long. Erica, you know, maybe only for three years, but still that's a long time, and to have new people coming in to the show like Sam and I, and to have Justin come back, it's just a breath of fresh air, I think. For everyone involved. But the daunting part was having to sort of fill in for this character that is so well-known and respected and loved as Lex Luthor.
Before coming on to the show, were you a fan of the show before you auditioned? Did you know the history?
Cassidy Freeman I didn't. I know the history of Superman pretty well, because I had two older brothers that were comic book lovers. So, I knew Superman, I didn't know the show very well because I actually started college the same year that the show began. And, at least, I don't know how it is now, kids may have televisions in college, but I certainly didn't. So I didn't actually watch any TV in the year 2000. But when I got out of college, I had seen the show a couple of times, and I was familiar with it, but I wasn't an avid fan like I am now.
When we talked at San Diego, no one knew anything about Tess Mercer. Now we've had five episodes to get to know her, but it seems like the more we find out about Tess' past, the less we know about her. Are we ever going to get some more concrete answers about Tess and why she's so loyal to Lex?
Cassidy Freeman I think that you are. I think that the writers have kind of done that in a way to just add a bit of depth to the character. It's very easy to bring in a villain and just make them evil and have them fill a role. And I think that as I've tried to stress, and I think as the producers and writers have tried to stress, Tess is not just... she's not just a fill in, right? She's her own character. So I think a lot of those questions have to do with trying to create that depth for her. But you will, and I think that they're just dealing with a lot of different storylines right now. But you will, you will get to know Tess better. And I think that the beginning of that was Toxic.
Speaking of Toxic, and also, Committed, we've seen that there is a relationship and a real connection between Tess and Oliver. Are we going to get to see more of that this season? Or was Committed it? Was that the final romantic meeting between the two of them?
Cassidy Freeman No, there's definitely more. It doesn't go to romance, at least, not anytime soon again, I think that was kind of her cut-off last night, but you definitely do see them interact more. Because not only do they have this great past, but they're both the heads of two companies. So, they're kind of, at least I sort of see them as the good vs. evil, at least at that corporate side of things.
Speaking of romance, is there - or was there - a romantic bond between Tess and Lex?
Cassidy Freeman No, I see it as totally professional. Lex was a mentor to me. And I think that Tess takes offense to that in Committed because of how she truly feels about Lex about sort of, I wouldn't say a father figure, but a big brother. Someone that she looks up to and gave her strength to, and didn't treat her the way that a lot of men would treat a strong, powerful woman.
So, does that mean that we'll see some conflict with Lana when Kristen Kruek shows up later this season?
Cassidy Freeman Yeah. I honestly don't... I haven't read that script, or those scripts yet - they try to keep things from us for so long as they possibly can. But I do know that we interact, I do know that we have face time and that the two of us come to a head. How that happens, I honestly don't know, yet.
And as long as we're talking about her complicated relationship with Lex, do you know if you're ever going to get to do a scene with Michael Rosenbaum? Is Lex going to be back at all?
Cassidy Freeman Oh my gosh, I hope so. That would be incredible. I've heard nothing to that effect, so far, but with the power of positive thinking, I hope that it does.
So, we've talked plenty about the similarities of what Tess does on the show in terms of being like Lex. But where are they different, aside from obviously being female?
Cassidy Freeman Right, that is an obvious difference. (laughs) Although I hear that some people think that I am Lex in disguise, although Michael Rosenbaum would have had to go through a few surgeries. But no, Tess is different because she wasn't born into it, right? I mean, she's not the child of Lionel Luthor, she doesn't have that sort of relationship with her parents, which I think is what drove Lex to do a lot of the things that he did. And she came from, as Regan said in the first episode, she taught herself how to read in a Louisiana swamp house. She was very poor, and she had to work very hard to get the education that she got and to get to where she got. When Oliver finds her on that island, she's a very different person then she is now. And I think that the experience on that island, and her relationship with Oliver after that experience, and the demise of that has made her into who she is now. Along with Lex. I think that Lex came in at a very specific moment. So, I'm carrying out things for Lex, I feel, the way he'd want them to be, but I don't feel like I am Lex. Not in my own personal motivations and whatnot.
Speaking of plans, at the end of Plastique, Tess was recruiting Bette to come work for her. Are we going to get to see some follow-up to that? Is there going to be a Luthorcorp team of "superheroes" maybe?
Cassidy Freeman I know that it has been - sort of an "Injustice League? - I know that this idea has been thrown around. I don't know - I have read nothing to the effect of it coming to fruition as of Episode Twelve. But it might, but I really don't know.
Is Episode Twelve as far as you guys have shot so far? Or just as far as you've read?
Cassidy Freeman That's as far as I've gotten information.
How far have you shot? How many episodes do you have in the can?
Cassidy FreemanTen right now... we're working on eleven.
So, in addition to Tess being a part of the show now, we've also had Doomsday added to the Smallville mythology. Are we going to see these two work together at all? Or do they each have their own independent agenda?
Cassidy Freeman Well I think they each have their own storylines, and they're very different storylines, and I like that aspect of it. The fact that Tess is human, at least for the time being (laughs). Hey, you never know! Tess comes in here with a sort of job and something that she needs to get done, a sort of role that she needs to fill. And Doomsday is just finding out who he is, which I think is interesting. He's kind of going from good to evil and the audience gets to watch that progression. I don't think that the two of us, at least not in the beginning or the middle of the season, are we going to cross paths. If that does happen, and I don't know if it will, but if it does, I think that's something they might hold out for a bit until Doomsday really understands what he is and who he is.
Brian Peterson & Kelly Souders have said that they have plans for not just the rest of Season Eight of Smallville, but also for a ninth season. Do you know if Tess is going to be around for that?
Cassidy Freeman I don't know. I've asked that same question - trying to plan my life. (laughs) I go in one day and it's "of course," and I go in the next day and it's like "maybe not." I hope that it does, I know that they have me for another year, if they want me.
Most of the characters on Smallville, obviously, have their roots in the comics. Tess, although her name is clearly an homage to two other Lex sidekicks - Mercy Graves and Miss Tessmacher - is a creation unique to the show. What challenges has that given you, and what opportunities has it afforded that the other actors maybe haven't had?
Cassidy Freeman Right, exactly. In fact, Allison Mack and I have talked about this, and the fact that Chloe, really, she got to create this character Chloe that wasn't ever portrayed before. And I feel the same way about Tess. I actually kind of like that she's a sort of wink or a nod to these two other characters, because it has given her a little bit of credibility I feel - because people are interested, or knowledgeable about Mercy and Miss Tessmacher, feel a certain sort of familiarity with her? And yet, they don't really know who she is. It's given me a bit of a guideline, at least for how I fit into things, a bit of a place already, but it's also given me a lot of freedom in being able to create this character. Kind of, you know, introduced by Lex, but once I get past that I'm able to go much farther and make her unique. In connection with myself and the writers in creating her.
So, now that five episodes with Tess have aired, how has the fan reaction been? Are you getting Tess fan-mail now? I just recently saw that someone had created CassidyFreeman.net for you...
Cassidy Freeman I know, I know! My manager actually wrote me an e-mail and sent it to me, she was so excited. "Look at this!" I didn't know what to expect. I know that fans love what they love, and oftentimes they don't like for what they love to be messed with. And I know that it was difficult for people to accept that Michael Rosenbaum was gone from the show. And I just hoped that they could find something new and interesting in me. I have gotten some fan mail, which has just made my day. I like light up... you know, in like Tom Welling's like, four boxes I have like three envelopes, but it means the world to me. And I hope that they like this character and like what they've done with it.
Have you contacted the creator of CassidyFreeman.net yet?
Cassidy Freeman No, I haven't yet (laughs). I'm totally going to though. I'm going to send her an e-mail and be like "Thank you so much!"
Intrigued? Curious? Just want to see more of Cassidy? Well, you can see her and all of the other actors who make up the cast of Smallville Thursday nights on the CW network.