Most fans attribute the current flourish of superhero TV to the ground work laid down by CW’s iconic show, Smallville. A show that owes its great success in no small part to Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex Luthor. Rosenbaum brought much depth and nuance to the character and fans were very disappointed to see him leave the show after the seventh season. The character had finally evolved into the classic Superman villain, only to be written out of the show. A good number of fans believed it was due to bad writing but in a recent interview with Empire Online, Rosenbaum tells a different story.
“He (WBTV President Peter Roth) tried to get me to do two more seasons of Smallville. I was very polite and respectful. I said, ‘Peter, my grandma thinks I’m funny and I’ve always wanted to do comedy, and I started out in comedy, and I was doing tons of comedy, and then I was catapulted into this role that I love and it’s been great, but I was contracted for six years to play Lex Luthor, I did seven, and I’m just ready to move on and I’m just ready to take a new step.’ He looked at me and says, ‘You know, Julianna Margulies, she turned down millions of dollars to stay with ER and look where she is now.’ It wasn’t two or three years later where she just made a fortune with The Good Wife and all of that, and her career just took off. I said, ‘I’m going to bank on my talent. I’m just going to take a chance on me. I think I’ve done this long enough, I did this character for seven years and I just don’t feel like shaving my head for two more years.’ I came back for the finale, but at the time I just wanted to take a chance.”
Rosenbaum’s decision to leave Smallville may have seemed like career suicide at the time but the success of Impastor (which stars Michael Rosenbaum) proves that he made the right call for his career. Rosenbaum wasn’t completely done with the show though, as he returned for the two-hour finale in 2011.
About his return, he said, “I finally called them up and said, ‘Hey, look, it’s the last episode ever. I’ll do it, you’ve got me for one day next week.’ When I got there I was, like, ‘What’s happened since I left?’ I had no idea what was going on. There were moments where I just didn’t know what the f— I was doing. I liked my scenes with Tom Welling, but I felt like the show was, for me, done when I left in season seven. Then I sort of did it for the fans and did it for me for closure and to say, ‘Hey, I did come back.’ I did do it, and that’s ultimately why.”
Most fans still see his version of Lex Luthor as the best live action rendition of the character. Michael Rosenbaum currently stars as Buddy Dobbs in TV Land’s Impastor.