Lifelong Teen Titans fan Titus Welliver discusses bringing Lex Luthor to ‘Titans’
Titus Welliver as Lex Luthor on ‘Titans. ‘
| Credit: HBO Max
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What first got you interested in the Teen Titans?
TITUS WELLIVER: I love the period in the late ’60s and the ’70s when they’re less clean-cut, their hair is longer, they’re kind of hip, they’re go-go dancing. I have always read the comics. I mean, I have all the Omnibuses and I still have my original collection.
So when someone calls you and asks, “Do you want Lex Luthor?” The obvious answer is yes. It is because, despite the fact that the role has been played by many actors with great performances and different interpretations of the character’s personality, the core of the character is power, arrogance of genius and a level narcissism. The interesting thing about Lex Luthor, is that he doesn’t have superpowers. He does have an amazing mind and his life’s work is to figure out how to defeat Superman and get his powers.
You have to be careful not to fall for the cliches like mustache-twirling or scary faces when you’re doing that stuff. I didn’t want that. I wanted to make him strong with his stillness.
Speaking of that stillness, one of my favorite moments in the season 4 premiere is when Starfire (Anna Diop) comes bursting into the penthouse and is beating up all the goons in the background while you’re sitting in the foreground just calmly eating. This unflappability is frightening!
And also the fact that he’s a gentleman. He doesn’t seem to be bothered by it and he is confident despite her incredible power. He doesn’t flinch. He treats her as if we were just two people having a conversation.
He doesn’t fear. Why doesn’t he fear that? We all have an imagination, so why doesn’t he fear it? We’ve all read comic books so we know what weapons he could activate with his mind to take her down. He is a master at slipping out of things.
These scenes were great fun to watch. I must say that I was a little bit amused by the fact that I had to be still and watch as stuntmen flew around the room. Crash! Bang! It is a gas.
Lex Luthor (Titus Welliver) and Starfire (Anna Diop) on ‘Titans. ‘
| Credit: HBO MAX
Your conversation with Superboy (Joshua Orpin) at the end of the episode definitely didn’t go the way anyone expected, in more ways than one. Superboy came to Metropolis in search of Superman. Superman is busy saving the world, but Lex is there and actually treats him like a son. What impact do you think this will have on Superboy’s life?
Well, I think they are both surprised in their meeting. He is very resistant to Luthor. He said, “I just wanted you to know, that I don’t consider you my father.” It’s interesting that Lex Luthor does find this a bit stingy, despite his status. It’s surprising that Lex Luthor doesn’t feel attached to people, which I find quite interesting. He has an obsession with Superman. It’s an Ahab thing. He’s now created a person with his DNA and Superman’s DNA. It’s the only thing that even resembles a relationship. They expose themselves right before things turn sour for Luthor.
And, of course, people will always ask me if he can come back. He can return. Was that Lex Luthor the real Lex Luthor? Or was it one of his many clones? Although we know it wasn’t a robot, he has a Lex Luthor cold store where he keeps his clones. That’s it. It’s also supernatural in a certain way, but who knows? Luthor’s presence was a great way to bring Superboy to the next level and to draw them in.
Superboy (Joshua Orpin) meets his “father” Lex Luthor (Titus Welliver) on ‘Titans. ‘
| Credit: HBO MAX
You’re a fan of the Titans going way back, and they have, of course, their own cast of characters. Isn’t it fascinating to see them interact with older villains and their mentors?
One hundred percent. , The Titans is a sophisticated show for adults. It’s smart. Titans focuses on the human condition of these characters and that’s why I think people love it so much. It covers a lot of bases. There are men like me who love comics and the canon. Then there are those who don’t but still love the show because they like the characters. These characters represent all aspects of life. Before I got the call, I had watched all of the previous seasons several times. Actually, I do remember calling my manager after the first season. I said, “Hey Titans , If anything interesting ever comes up, I would absolutely love to do that.” When Greg Walker called, I lost my —. He told me , that he couldn’t get an edgewise word out of me because I was geeking all the time. It was a FaceTime, and I started showing my bookshelves. They are all DC/Marvel omnibus editions. It’s only hundreds. He said, “Okay, got that.” You’re not just making s—up. I replied, “No, no. Not at all!”
George Perez. Amazon
‘The New Teen Titans’ by Marv Wolfman and George Perez.
| Credit: Amazon
I wanted to ask you a comic nerd question, since you said you’ve been reading the Teen Titans since the ’60s and ’70s. We lost artist George Perez earlier this year, who along with writer Marv Wolfman revolutionized the team in the ’80s. As a testament to his legacy, can you describe what it was like when Wolfman and Perez took over the Teen Titans?
I love the Wolfman/Perez stuff. It’s great because it introduced a lot new characters. The Titans kind of moved the needle. But the Wolfman/Perez stuff was slightly higher, more sophisticated, and broader. It was also a different time so it could have been dirty or it could be very funky. People were more hurt than being punched across the room or hit by a cosmic ray. There was danger to the utmost. The artwork is simply amazing. Fantastic! The stories are amazing.
I always say that comics have a cyclical flow. I was reading them for years and years completely dedicated, and then in the late ’70s moving into the ’80s, I kind of stepped away. I didn’t like a lot the artists who were drawing my favorite books. I felt that the books were being rushed out. Then Dark Knight Returns stepped in and raised the bar. Everyone went “Uh-oh.” This is a game-changer. It inspired comic publishers to increase their efforts. Marv Wolfman is a great example of this. Take a look at his work and then combine it with Perez. They were a dynamic duo, which is not too cliché. This stuff is for serious people who are interested in it. This interview has been edited to be more concise and clear.
Titans (2018 TV series)
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