There's no denying that actor Michael Shanks is more than a little channeling his inner Watchman when it comes to his role as Hawkman on the CW's two-hour film Smallville: Absolute Justice, which premieres tonight at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
"Yes, it does have the parallel of danger in it. I understand that," said Shanks in an exclusive interview with SCI FI Wire about his angry and disillusioned Hawkman, a role that's certain got a touch of 'tude along the lines of Watchmen's former superheroes. "This guy's a warrior. ... He's kickass and all business, and it was a really neat departure to be able to do that. It becomes a bit scenery chewy at certain points, but those characters are a lot of fun to play, and this guy was because he was such a vast departure. It was a lot of fun for me to sink my teeth into."
For Shanks, the "departure" comes from his stint as scientist Dr. Daniel Jackson on Stargate SG-1, a character he continues to play in the Stargate universe, who is more likely to use his head rather than brute force when he gets into a sticky situation.
However, that departure was only one reason Shanks decided to take the role. "I'm getting to that age where I didn't think too many offers were going to come my way to be playing any superhero characters anytime in the near future. My eldest daughter is getting where she appreciates that kind of stuff, and I thought it would be a hoot to give that to them. It turns out my younger ones seemed to appreciate it more than my older one does. It is one of those rare opportunities that you get, so I thought I'd jump at it," said Shanks.
Unfortunately for the actor, his kids (ages 11, 5 and 3) were more impressed with Star Girl than Hawkman. "That's their favorite out of everybody. You got Superman, Green Arrow and Dr. Fate and Hawkman running around. Daddy's in this great suit, and who do they fall in love with ... the pretty blond girl," he said with a laugh.
In Smallville: Absolute Justice, Clark Kent (Tom Welling) and his superhero friends from the Justice League of America end up crossing paths with the superheroes of the past who kept the world safe long before Clark became the Blur or Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley) strapped on Green Arrow's bow. In the television movie, the former members of the Justice Society of America must join forces with the new superheroes to stop an evil supervillain named Icicle (Wesley MacInnes). Along with Shanks' Hawkman, Dr. Fate (Brent Stait) and Star Girl (Britt Irvin) once again join forces to fight the good fight. Pam Grier also joins Smallville in the recurring role as Amanda Waller, the head of Checkmate.
While Shanks was happy with the way his role turned out, he did have two issues that he was less than thrilled about. A couple days into his five-day costume fitting, he began to wonder what the heck he'd gotten himself into. "If you go back to the traditional Hawkman costume, he's basically wearing his skivvies and a mask, which was not possible with our getup because we didn't have CGI wings. We had to do practical wings, and that required a flying harness for the wire work."
CGI wings would have cost approximately $30,000, which wasn't in Smallville's budget. "So this is what we had to work with, and I was the man and that's what I'd signed up for," said Shanks with a laugh. "Deal with it, which is fine. It was not always the most comfortable of circumstances, but my chief objective in all of it was to try to make sure the character was endowed with the dignity and reverence I felt was necessary to pull him off, to make sure he didn't look goofy or awkward. And I was very well supported by the directors of photography, the directors themselves, and the editors to ensure that dignity was preserved. 'Cause at certain moments I was going, 'I really am putting my neck out there. I really need to trust these guys to help me out on this one,' because it was not easy.'" One of those directors was star Tom Welling (Clark Kent), who directed the film's second hour. Glen Winters directed the first hour, and Geoff Johns wrote the Absolute Justice script.
Shanks' other issue involved timing. "One of the things I was not entirely happy about, not anybody's fault, but it's like you get basically eight days' notice you're playing this character. Not a lot of time to hire that personal trainer and take your human growth hormone and buff up to look like a superhero," laughed Shanks. "Let's put it this way, Hawkman was a work in progress at that particular fitness standpoint."
CGI wings and work-in-progress Hawkman aside, Shanks admits he wouldn't mind playing the character again. "I will say that there is room at the end of the show for him to be seen again. Whether they have time and room for him in their universe is up to them. I mean, there is certainly a mentorship role he takes on with Clark, and there's tons of wisdom that can be gleaned from him. There's certainly a wonderful relationship between Hawkman and Green Arrow, who is sort of the antithesis of this character I portray, who is a bit full of himself, a bit all business, very gruff, very no-nonsense."
He even acknowledges that he sees the potential for a Justice Society series or movie, at least if his character's rougher edges were honed down. "In terms of being sort of a weekly character, there's a way that you'd have to tone down certain elements of it, because Hawkman can be a bit much at times. A little too angry, little too intense, and things like that. There are ways to tweak him, and I think where he ends up at the end of the two-parter, to go forward in more relaxed fashion is probably a really good starting point."
Will you be tuning in for tonight's Smallville: Absolute Justice movie?