HomeTelevisionTitus Welliver on Crafting a Lex Luthor Fit for ‘Titans’

Titus Welliver on Crafting a Lex Luthor Fit for ‘Titans’

[This story contains spoilers for the premiere episode of Titans season four “Lex Luthor.”]

In its season 4 return, HBO Max’s Titans introduces Lex Luthor, one in every of Superman’s best foes, and in the identical hour kills him off.

But earlier than he goes, in one more surprising twist, Lex — who’s revealed to have a terminal sickness — leaves Joshua Orpin’s Superboy his empire and legacy, Lexcorp. Lex’s arrival just isn’t solely stunning for the Titan, however comes at a very fascinating time after Superman fails to point out up for the younger hero.

While Lex’s presence is short-lived, the actor who performs him Titus Welliver understands that there’s a significance to his fleeting time with Superboy — significantly within the absence of Superman — that may play a pointy position in serving to form the Titan’s season 4 arc.

It’s a task that Welliver got here in well-prepared for. Knowledgeable of the Titans comics, the actor was particular about how his Lex would each match into the present’s aesthetic and the villain’s well-established canon, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “it ain’t broke, so you don’t have to fix it.”

Still, from that signature beard to his Einstein-influenced wardrobe, the actor introduced his personal nuance to a personality with a crowded historical past of portrayals. It resulted in, arguably, some of the distinguishing options of Welliver’s iteration: it’s not, in reality, all about Lex.

“This was very specifically designed to be focused on the conflict for Superboy and, in many ways, much less about Lex Luthor and instead using him as the road to get to a deeper understanding of [that character],” he shares.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Welliver about portraying one more iteration of the well-known villain, how the absence of Superman makes issues extra fascinating narratively, how he and the group approached Lex’s look and why he requested for Jaws-inspired modifying when introducing the character.

Titans villains have a really particular vibe that actually units them other than their different iterations and confidently suits them into the aesthetic of this particular universe. With so many different Lex Luthors on the market, how did you concentrate on embodying him for the Titans sequence?

You can’t deviate from the supply materials, so the thought is to take absolutely the core and the essence of who that character is and, when you can, throw some form of private nuance performance-wise into that character that hasn’t been seen earlier than. I believe any good actor tries to personalize one thing — not personalize it within the sense of their very own character however placing a bit of little bit of their very own form of spin or mark on one thing. I felt that with the character of the present being a really mature and complex model of Titans. It’s definitely not the Titans of the comics that I learn as a child. These usually are not the “Aw, shucks,” go-go dancing Titans. They’re tough and tumble and that’s the brilliance of the present. They take this very broad style and floor it in order that whenever you’re watching it, you don’t really feel such as you’re watching camp. You really feel you’re invested within the characters. That was the factor that, for me, was a very powerful and to carry him ahead a bit of bit.

I believe what I wished to do is to carry some stage of subtlety to that character as a result of it will be very simple to be tremendous broad. It’s the previous type of whenever you’re confronted by an individual, a man will be screaming and yelling and throwing his fingers within the air and saying, “I’m going to bust you up.” That’s one model. But it’s the man who’s very, very nonetheless, and is talking in a relaxed voice — that’s the man it’s a must to be apprehensive about. I believed I actually wished to carry a stillness to him. He’s actually centered — not humorless as a result of he does show. He has a humorousness. And additionally to steer clear of the tropes of “villain stuff,” though that’s enjoyable to play, there’s a time and a spot and Titans just isn’t the time or the place. Certainly not the place to try this. So that’s form of the place I got here to that. It was very collaborative. And I’ve learn the comics and all the pieces, so I used to be capable of communicate fairly clearly about issues. I had the data of the canon. That was useful to me, figuring out the supply materials.

Lex is generally called a strong villain, however he’s not a villain with “superpowers.” He’s a reducing, ruthless businessman and genius, and that presents a distinct form of problem for the Titans. He’s additionally not starring reverse his typical foil, Superman. Can you speak about what that does for the story?

Well, right here’s the factor with Lex Luthor. If you realize the comedian books, you realize his life work has been making an attempt to — as a result of he doesn’t have superpowers — create issues based mostly on his huge thoughts, and how one can fight and defeat Superman. He bought hip to the kryptonite fairly early and he’s used that as a supply. Over the years, he’s created clones and big robots and harmful weapons and issues to cope with Superman. I believe, on this state of affairs, he’s dealing particularly with Superboy, so it takes on a distinct factor. There are not any scenes with Lex Luthor and Superman in any respect. It’s his relationship to his son. I believe that’s an fascinating dynamic. He remains to be the identical Lex Luthor, who has all of this energy and this information to get what he desires, however there’s additionally the battle of an simple emotional connection he feels to Superboy. And he’s dying. He has this illness that’s killing him. There’s this bizarre demonstration of a necessity to attach with Superboy and to maybe cross on to him. He mainly says Lexcorp goes to you. I bought no person else. Superboy’s response is I don’t consider you as my father. Initially, there’s a manipulation as a result of he’s Superboy however he’s additionally a younger man. Lex may be very well-versed in manipulation, so that you see him contact a nerve when the assembly doesn’t find yourself taking place with Superboy and Superman. Superboy type of brushes it off, however Lex says, “That must have been disappointing to you.” Superboy takes the bait a bit of bit.

It not understanding for Superman and Superboy does one thing fascinating as a result of it leaves Superboy with solely half of who he’s to assist kind the entire thought of who he’s. How would possibly that dynamic play out for the character and, in the end, have an effect on his season arc?

Really they introduced Lex in to propel Superboy’s story and push him ahead as a result of the viewers desires to know extra about him, and the way that impacts him — that inner battle of being part-Lex Luthor, part-Superman. Because [Superboy] shows at instances sure behaviors that make you go, “Oh, that’s Lex.” The thought was additionally to have a form of connective tissue to what the viewers has seen earlier than. Now they’ll put a face to it. Everybody is aware of Lex Luthor and so they’ve been anticipating what that’s going to be and now there’s a bodily embodiment of that character. That actually performs within the scenes that Lex and Superboy have collectively. It’s an fascinating factor as a result of it’s two individuals who don’t know one another, and who’re polarized in an odd means. But there’s an simple curiosity and a pull for Superboy in the direction of Lex. I think about that for individuals who have been adopted, they dwell a life, individuals love them and lift them after which they get to a sure age and so they wish to find out about their organic mother and father. So I believe that as a metaphor, it form of works.I believe that speaks to the writing, which may be very, very sensible. Having Superman not be there — it being elusive — is the nagging query for Superboy. He’s solely getting to satisfy the darker facet of himself, and I believe that presents a deep battle inside him.

To return to the absence of Superman right here — which is one thing Titans has beforehand handled by way of larger DC characters and having access to them — what do you suppose that does for Lex as a personality and the present?

If you had Superman and Lex collectively, then it form of falls into this trope of, do I make a selection? Good versus evil. What is the dominating power of this mixture? This is much less about that and extra about this child craving a way of understanding of Superboy’s historical past and who he’s. It’s refined, however I believe it’s additionally very poignant as a result of it completely goes in opposition to if an individual was sitting down episodically writing one thing. They go, we’re going to carry Superman in and we’ll get Batman in there. Maybe we’ll slide the Joker in. But this was very particularly designed to be centered on the battle for Superboy and, in some ways, a lot much less about Lex Luthor, however utilizing him because the highway to get to a deeper understanding of Superboy.

You positively have a selected search for your iteration of Lex. I’m pondering most notably of the beard, but in addition his costuming. Can you speak about the way you and the group considered how he would current?

Obviously, he’s bought to be bald. Its like you’ll be able to’t have Batman with no cape, so there was that. The thought of the beard was a bit of little bit of a battle as a result of I needed to hold the beard doubtlessly for an additional factor that I used to be hooked up to already. But I felt that it gave him a distinct look. It wasn’t a grizzled Lex Luthor. He’s nonetheless pressed, he’s nonetheless very pulled collectively. For me the beard represented gravitas as a result of it wasn’t a bit of beard, it was an enormous beard in opposition to the clean-shaven head. And the beard in the end represents — as a result of it’s an enormous beard — a form of knowledge that comes with that. When you see somebody who’s older, that beard represents time and dedication. It’s all the time been form of symbolic to a sure diploma. People with beards, they’re sage.

With the costume, my thought was that Albert Einstein was identified to have a number of pairs of the identical trousers, shirts and coats as a result of he didn’t wish to muddle himself with issues that he thought of to be trivial, like selecting out clothes. He wasn’t involved with that. It wasn’t his genius saying, “I’m so smart. I don’t have time to pick up my clothing.” It was one thing that vexxed him. So I stated, I believe Lex is similar. I believe he has a number of black fits that he wears, a number of black shirts and ties. That’s his factor. He doesn’t take into consideration that. When he will get up, takes a bathe does his factor and goes in, and there’s no considered it. But I wished him to be actually form of streamlined. I wished him to look not like he’s slovenly, of “I’ve got 10 pairs of khakis and a white shirt.”

I’m easy, however I’m pressed as a result of, for him, it’s additionally all about presentation. I stated, when this man enters a room, he doesn’t transfer for anyone. So it was essential to have that silhouette. I believed additionally lots about — and I spoke with the producers about this — parallels to the character of Colonel Walter Kurtz who Marlon Brando performs in Apocalypse Now. I stored saying, hey, when there are alternatives, perhaps let’s not reveal Luthor bodily straight away. Maybe reveal him in bits and items, maybe his face has half in shadow. Make him a bit extra elusive as a result of everyone’s gonna go “Oh, Lex Luthor!” I stated, let’s type of do it like the good white shark. We didn’t see the shark in Jaws for fairly some time and I preferred the concept it was simply his voice or you’ll be able to see his lips or his eye. That was all a very nice collaboration.

Interview edited for size and readability.

Titans season 4 streams Thursdays on HBO Max.



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