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Tom Welling Discusses The CW's Professionals And Reuniting With Jensen Ackles - Exclusive Interview

"Smallville" actor Tom Welling is reacquainting himself with his roots on The CW, and fans couldn't be more pumped. The actor's "Professionals" series may have been filmed way back in 2020, before the pandemic, but it's finally airing in the U.S. Coincidentally, "Professionals" has a prominent pandemic component, which is more relevant now than ever. Welling plays the action-heavy role of Vincent Corbo, who serves as somewhat of a bodyguard for Brendan Fraser's character, Peter Swann. In addition to his acting duties, Welling is also an executive producer on the show.

Yet "Professionals" isn't the only CW show that Welling is appearing on this year. He made a surprise appearance at New York Comic Con during the "Winchesters" panel, where he announced his role as a young Samuel Campbell (Mary Winchester's father and Dean and Sam's grandfather). The "Supernatural" prequel also reunites Welling and former "Smallville" co-star Jensen Ackles, who played Clark Kent's football coach during the series. 

Welling helmed "Smallville" for 10 seasons, all while taking on roles like Charlie Baker in "Cheaper by the Dozen." He then went on to appear in movies like "The Fog," "Draft Day," and "The Choice." Welling returned to his paranormal/sci-fi roots when he played Cain in "Lucifer" before reprising his role as Clark in the Arrowverse for a hot minute in the 2019 crossover event "Crisis on Infinite Earths." 

Looper spoke to Welling during an exclusive interview for "Professionals," where he discussed working with Fraser, the timely nature of the show's pandemic storyline, and the most significant differences between doing stunt work for "Smallville" and "Professionals." He also discussed reuniting with the "Smallville" cast, his podcast with Michael Rosenbaum, and how Ackles pitched Welling's role on "The Winchesters."

Going through the trenches with Brendan Fraser

You work a lot with Brendan Fraser on "Professionals." What has that experience been like, and do either of you ad-lib or add anything to your scenes in the moment?

Brendan brought something to the character which wasn't necessarily written. It was written that his character would be quite more unlikable — [a] borderline jerk, sort of rich guy. But Brendan brought this warmth to it, and I found it difficult to prevent Vincent from being like, "Wow, I really like you." That was where the acting came in to pump the brakes of letting this guy under the skin of Vincent.

The ad-libbing wasn't so much in the scene. Brendan would jump around a little bit within his own dialogue, a lot of times making it more accessible. And then, a lot of times, at the end of a scene, one of us would have to say something but on our own. Not all of it got into the [show], and not all of it was meant to be in the [show]. But at the end of a scene, a lot of [the] time, the camera's hovering there, and the actors are standing there, and sometimes it's a way to break that energy.

But Vincent was pretty much stuck to the rules, but Brendan took some liberties here and there because, well, he's a master. Working with him, I was very excited when he came onto the project. I was very excited to meet him as a fan. Being in the trenches with him down in South Africa and Ireland and Latvia, we created a bond. I saw him two weeks ago at the New York Comic Con, and it was like, "We've gone through the fire together." There's a bond there that I hope lasts a long time.

When life imitates art

There's a really timely aspect to the show with its deep dive into science, technology, and political corruption for profit. Why do you think these subjects are so important to cover in Hollywood?

It's funny you say that because when the first episode aired, I didn't get a chance to watch it because I was on set for "The Winchesters." My wife watched it, [and] the next day we talked about it, [and] she goes, "This is so timely." And I said, "What do you mean it's so timely? We shot it almost three years ago." And she said, "It's all about a satellite being launched into space so it could track a pandemic, and look what we just went through." I hadn't made that connection because we shot it before the pandemic. In a weird way, it's very relevant now. Based on everyone's COVID experience, although they're all individual, we can relate to that fear now, which is heightened as a result of going through the pandemic.

It's a fun show, and especially, you get to see Brendan Fraser and maybe enjoy seeing me. And the rest of the cast is a lot of fun. They're all great, and they all brought something special. It would've been easy for everybody just to stand on their marks and say their lines. But especially in Vincent's core group of mercenaries, each actor was so individual in their performance that even on set, I was enjoying watching it. We had a lot of fun. We had a lot of fun.

A slate of larger-than-life characters

Lisa Loven Kongsli is also a major part of the "Professionals" cast. What have been some of the highlights of working with her?

She's a lot of fun. I don't know if you know this, but the first five episodes we shot all at the same time. We didn't necessarily know what we were filming until we got to the set or to the location. Then [for] the second half of the shoot, we did the other five. So there was a wonderful chaos to it where we all had to be really nimble and quick and adaptive to what was happening, as did the characters, in a way. Everybody was game to be like, "All right, how are we going to do this?" A lot of times, that's pretty much what every scene was about. The energy was able to carry over, and it allowed us all to bond very quickly.

You've played a ton of larger-than-life roles, between Superman on "Smallville" and Cain on "Lucifer." What excited you about playing a badass bodyguard on "Professionals"? And what are some of the biggest differences and joys between these kinds of roles?

In some ways, [when you're] playing a character who has abilities or powers, [the powers] can get them out of situations in a way that isn't normal. I felt that Vincent was more of a real person who couldn't just fly away or something from a situation; he had to get his hands dirty. And he's grounded. I did like that. It was fun. Even some of the fight scenes [are] real. The idea was [for] it to be real fighting. I know we're making a TV show here, but there wasn't any wire work where I was doing double backflips and kicking somebody I never saw behind my back. I liked that. It was more practical.

We shot in such exotic locations. A lot of times [in] TV or films, they do things to make it look like they're somewhere else. We went there. We were shooting out in the middle of nowhere in South Africa, and it felt like it. It was real. I think it's the first episode where we're running to the helicopter. That was in a game park where we had people on set with huge guns and rifles in case wild animals came out of the bush and tried to attack us. It was real. When we were running for that helicopter, [we were] able to pull from that and be like, "I got to get out of here or I'm going to die." It adds to the fun and intensity of making the picture.

Stunt work through the decades

How much of that extensive stunt work have you been doing yourself?

I did a lot of the fight stuff. The majority of it I did, partly because we didn't have much time. We didn't have much rehearsal time, so a lot of the fight stuff we did. We knew we were going to edit it together, so we would simplify it into three or five beats, and then we'd go back, and we'd do those three or five beats again. Then we'd be like, "We got that? All right, let's move on." Some of these longer fight sequences we actually shot in very specific pieces because we didn't have any rehearsal.

We would show up and be like, "Now's the fight. Okay, how do we do it?" We'd figure it out on the day. [There are] a lot of safety concerns with that, so we had to pare it down, understand that it's a filming process. There's not a fight sequence where it was all done in one shot on purpose. I love the idea of actors doing their own stunts, but the reality is you don't want actors to do a lot of their own stunts because they don't have the time to prepare for them. Most likely, the stunt guy who's been getting ready for a week is going to be able to do it better. So a lot of it is, you do what you can if your face is on camera, and a lot of times, [filmmakers] don't like to do anything other than that. A lot of it is safety.

Have you been doing more or fewer stunts these days than in your "Smallville" days?

The quick answer is less because I'm not on "Smallville" seven days a week for two months, for ten years. I'm working on a show called "The Winchesters" right now in New Orleans. I think we have one fight scene in three episodes of filming. So yeah, the math is I'm doing less. Am I doing less because I don't want to do it? No, I love the physical. I love the physical stuff. [Those are] the fun days.

There can never be too many Smallville reunions

You've had quite a few "Smallville" reunions lately. What has it been like catching up with your castmates? Are there any that you think might be a good fit on "Professionals"?

They'd all be good fits on "Professionals." They're really good guys. It's so funny — somebody said it's the 21st anniversary of it airing, and in some ways, I feel like I know them all better now. We don't all talk every day, but when we do these reunions, it's fun to catch up, and the conversations are different now. There's a lot of talk about kids, which never really happened on "Smallville" because nobody had kids. Now I'm a year or two older than John Schneider was when he played my dad on the show. That's always funny to do.

I'm doing a podcast now with Michael Rosenbaum, who played Lex Luthor, called "Talk Ville," where we watch the episodes and then comment and give behind-the-scenes [tidbits] that we remember. It's fun to revisit it because so much time has passed. So much time has passed that I only remember the good stuff or the positive things, [and] it's been long enough that we can talk about it. If we had tried to do a podcast the year after it ended, there'd probably be a lot of negative stories because all that stuff [would be] fresh.

When a show airs, it's made to look seamless and great and awesome. But [though] a TV show's 42 minutes, it takes 10 actual days to film that. So there's a lot of stuff that happens to get 42 minutes of television. I look back now at it fondly, [but] at the time it was a lot going on.

When Jensen Ackles calls, you answer

You're slated to appear on "The Winchesters" as Samuel Campbell. What has it been like getting to work with Jensen Ackles so long after you worked together on "Smallville"? What have been some of your favorite behind-the-scenes moments so far? Has anyone pranked you?

The funny thing is, Jensen played Clark's football coach and dated Lana on "Smallville." Then Jensen went on to do "Supernatural" for 15 years. We knew each other. We had a bond on the show, and then we kept in contact, and we got to swap stories because we were in similar situations for so many years. He called me a few months ago, and he goes, "Hey, man, I'm doing this TV show. Hear me out because I think you'd be right for this role." I do believe that because of my relationship with him, I had a more open mind to the idea of playing Samuel on "The Winchesters."

I don't necessarily work with Jensen on set because he doesn't live in this show yet. But I can tell you that his kindness and his grace and his professionalism [are] very much a part of the show. I knew that if I was going to be on a show that Jensen created, I'd be walking into a warm environment. That was very helpful for me to make the decision to be a part of it. And it has been that way. I'm in my 2nd episode now of the show, and I'm having a really good time with the cast and the crew. It's been a joy.

What do you think fans of "Smallville" and "Lucifer" will love about "Professionals"? Why should they tune in even though there's not that supernatural angle to it?

I don't know if you'll like this show because you liked either "Smallville" or "Lucifer." But "Professionals" — from the beginning, the idea was it was going to be a fun, run-and-gun, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" vibe or energy. And when I watch it, I think we were able to do that. If you like guns and explosions and things like that, then definitely tune in.

"Professionals" airs Tuesdays on The CW, with episodes streaming for free on the website and app the next day. 

This interview has been edited for clarity.