Stargate and Smallville fans alike went crazy when the news broke that Michael Shanks would be appearing as the beloved winged DC Comic Book character, Hawkman. Twitter has been abuzz with speculation about his appearance, and how the character would be handled. As a comic book and Stargate fan, I was thrilled to hear the news.
I just got a chance to speak to Shanks about playing this iconic character. He gives details about the costume, Hawkman's interaction with Clark Kent and Dr. Fate, whether or not his character may appear later in the season and which version of Hawkman he'll be playing.
OK, I have to jump right in to your guest appearance as Hawkman on Smallville because everyone is freaking out about it. I know you can't tell me a lot, but what can you tell me?
Well, I think the cat's out of the proverbial bag, but a few characters from the Justice Society are showing up in Smallville this season, in an episode which has now been turned into a two-parter. "Society" is directed by Glen Winter, and the second part, "Legends" is directed by Tom Welling. And both written by Geoff Johns, who is the famous comic book writer who also gave rebirth in the DC Universe to the character I'm playing, Hawkman. So what can I tell you about the plot line? Hmm.
I know you can't reveal much...
Let's just say that a few of the Justice Society characters have come out of retirement to meet up with an old foe and happen to cross paths with Clark (Tom Welling) and some of the characters from the Justice League. And let's just say there are some misunderstandings.
I heard that there may be some sort of fight between Chloe (Allison Mack), Green Arrow (Justin Hartley) and Hawkman.
Yeah, there's going to be some stuff going on. There's going to be some stuff going on for sure. There's going to be some conflict. Both with heroes and villains alike. [laughs] I love doing this dance...it's one of those things where I was told, when I was originally getting the part, one of my publicists wanted to know what was going on, and just even that, they said, 'No, we can't. We have to wait until it's legally cleared. There's all this stuff and legal wranglings and we kind of don't want anyone to know.' They want to control the information and I get that. But literally the next day, some website thing had it up. All the information. More information then even I knew. And I went, oh, OK, there goes that.
With the internet nowadays, it only takes one person to open their mouth, and the entire world that you're trying to prevent from learning this stuff is going to know it in a millisecond. So, you know, it's hard to keep a secret nowadays. I get it. But we keep trying!
Have you been fitted for your metal wings yet?
I have done five fittings.
Oh my god!
Yup! Yesterday was my fifth. I do believe there will be more. I have yet to shoot a frame of film on this episode. This is what I've been doing the most of, is going for fittings and you know, talking to the producers about the character and discussing the elements of the voices. But mostly it's been focused on the costume and the logistics of the costume. Again, it's a necessary thing. I really appreciate the reverence that these guys have.
You know, television can kind of get...everything can kind of get swept under the rug because everyone's scrambling around to do their job and they don't necessarily want to involve you. And when you're a guest character, you're used to being one of those things that are being ignored, but they've really given a lot of thought and reverence to my input, both artistically, talking to (producer) James Marshall about the character and where he wants to see this develop, and again with the costuming and how it's going to work. They've given a lot of prep time to work out the bugs, because I believe for Smallville and for myself as well, and a little bit for television, kind of breaking new ground with this character and with the logistics of it. It's not going to be an easy process...I've needed the time and reverence they've given to help me get used to the process. I think there's a large learning curve ahead before we actually roll camera on that outfit. I mean the character outside of Carter Hall. The character outside of the alter-ego is relatively straight forward in that regard. But it's the logistics of the action sequences and the costume are going to be a little bit of a palaver.
Carter Hall...so you're going to be the reincarnated Egyptian prince/archeologist and not the alien policeman?
[He briefly hesitates] You know what? Yes. Yes to A. I think I can talk about that because it 's not really a story point. I mean, it's seems to be the direction that Geoff went with the retelling, when he brought the character back to the comic books. It seems to be the direction he went. I've seen now clues otherwise, but they tell the the character is named Carter Hall. He's more of an archeologist and not a Thanagarian space cop, so I think I can say that. It's not a story point. It's just kind of assumed. So yes.
I figured that was the one they would go with.
[laughs] It seems to make more sense to me. A little more grounded, that one.
So were you a fan of the comics? Was this a character you were familiar with?
I was familiar with it. I'll tell you, when I was growing up, My brother, I had a brother who was a year and a half older than I am, David. And David being the older brother, you know, when you have two boys, (there were three kids in our family) they're drawn to the same things. And since my brother was older, he got first dibs. So he got to be Apollo when I was Starbuck...which is OK. [laughs] In all the make believe games, he got to be Luke Skywalker while I got to be Han Solo...which is OK. He was Hutch, I was Starsky...which is OK. And he got to choose Superman as his favorite and I got to choose Spider-man, which is the next one. So my reverence for everything in terms of comic book collecting lay more in the Marvel Universe. I'm going to get tarred and feathered for this one. Heh heh.
And his was in the DC. But I do remember the Hawkman character. I do remember that he was more prevalent in the seventies when I was collecting comic book than he is now, obviously. But I do remember him. I certainly didn't remember the mythology behind it. I've had to play a bit of catch up, but I do remember aspects. My brother had boxes of comic books. He was really the collector. Even later in his life. I certainly remember poking my nose into that universe and seeing what was going on, although I wasn't allowed to be as big a fan as my brother was.
Well, Spider-man has better Underoos.
He does! He certainly does. I had no problem with the selections I got. I mean, who doesn't want to be Han Solo more than Luke Skywalker? Come on!
Yeah, Luke was kind of lame.
The first pick! Ha ha! Short end!
Do you think this character is going to come back? Is this role going to go beyond the two episodes?
I'm not sure. I mean, the way it's set up there is a strong possibility that there could be more. But where Smallville sits in terms of this being late in their run...they're incredibly in their ninth season of the show, not that I know anything about what that's like...[laughs]...but there is some doubt that it will go to ten, and I'm not sure how they want to wrap this up. Obviously you keep laying down...you keep rolling up the carpet for that time when he will become that other guy and start running around being the Man of Steel...that's where your show ends. Right when, off camera, he will make that transition. I'm not sure where they're going with it this season, but I understand that it's very different from previous seasons. They're really getting in the mythology of where Clark and "the Blur" sit in the realm of being a superhero more than they are about teen angst and failing grades, oh and there's a villain that's come into Smallville. It's much more Metropolis and it's much more comic book mythology-centered this season. So it is possible. I don't know where they're going with their season arc, but they certainly set the table...they've left that possibility wide open. So I don't know.
I got a bunch of questions for you from my Twitter followers. The big ones were whether or not we'll see you fly and what your weaponry will be like. The mace, I'm assuming?
Yeah, the most prevalent weapon that he uses is the mace at this particular juncture. The character will fly. There is no question about it. That is where a lot of the thematic issues are coming from in terms of how the logistics...how we're going to do this and make it look cool and not goofy. That the costume itself has been a necessary process of collaboration from many different departments and it will continue to be so as we go into the logistics of the action elements of the character, because it's not something that is as simple as 'try on the suit, oh it looks cool, let's go.' [laughs] There's a lot more to this guy. When you're in a room with a lot of other actors and characters and you've got a ten-foot wing span, hitting your mark is not the biggest of your concerns anymore. Remembering your lines is kind of an after thought and there are a whole bunch of issues about how is this going to look, how will this work, how will the transitions work and can the actor pull this off an make it all look effortless and natural.
Like I said, everything about the suit works against that endgame. I don't mean the look of it. I'm referring to the aesthetic of it, meaning how I feel in it. [laughs] It's very constraining, it's very limiting. It's just a matter of getting used to that. I said to James Marshall yesterday, 'I want to take this home for the weekend. Just to get used to it.' [laughs] Yeah, the character will fly and the logistics of that are pending. How we're going to make that work without looking too silly.
I've also been asked to ask you about the dynamic between Clark and Hawkman.
I think I can tease this one...Hawkman being the alpha in the Justice Society, being someone who...has made some missteps along the way, can or could represent a type of mentor character to Clark in his leadership abilities with his burgeoning team members of the Justice League. He represents a character that has a lot of wisdom to pass down to this next generation, so there is a strong possibility that once the initial phase wears off that there will be a coming together of those two to paint a larger portrait of the future, of what Clark has available to him and what his options are.
I hear you have some scenes with Dr. Fate that are pretty intense.
Yeah, and I'm working with an old friend. And old buddy of mine Brent Stait who was on Andromeda with my wife (Lexa Doig), and actually I met him during the pilot. He was playing that was meant to reoccur. The pilot of Stargate fifteen years ago. Brent's an old friend. He's a great actor and a wonderful human being. He will be playing Dr. Fate. Dr. Fate is a character that I think is...oddly enough a character that I did follow...there's a really neat relationship between he and Hawkman that makes the first episode quite heart-wrenching. There are aspects of it that are heart-wrenching as a result of that relationship. And I thought that was a very cool aspect of the first episode.
Click this link to read what Shanks has to say about his cameo role on Stargate Universe, what he thinks of the new show, his guest appearance on former Stargate: SG-1 cast mate Amanda Tapping's show, Sanctuary and whether or not we'll ever see him on Twitter.
The Smallville episodes "Society" and "Legion" will air on January 21st and 28th.
Follow Jenna Busch on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jennabusch