By: Melissa Girimonte
If there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s a good villain, and this fall, SMALLVILLE fans were introduced to a spectacular new bad girl – Tess Mercer. This red haired beauty is Lex Luthor’s successor, acting CEO of LuthorCorp, and in control of Luthor’s estate since his disappearance. Stepping in for Luthor is quite the feat, but Tess Mercer seems to be holding her own so far this season, proving to be ruthless and calculating like her mentor.
I had the chance to chat with Cassidy Freeman, the woman responsible for bringing Tess Mercer to life each week on SMALLVILLE. After discussing the fall foliage in Vancouver (which Freeman admits she’s enjoying, having moved there from LA), we discussed her character’s development so far, her fantastic displays of physical prowess, and how she pictures Tess’ future.
What’s it like being the new person on such a well-established TV program?
Cassidy Freeman: It’s pretty awesome. People are always asking me if it’s daunting or if it’s scary, and I can’t think of a better vehicle. It’s not like when you do a pilot and there’s all this figuring out to do.
Tess Mercer was a character created for Smallville, but her name pays tribute to two characters from the Superman universe. Do you find that her not being a pre-established character is a help or a hindrance?
I think I have a bit of an advantage. She’s a nod to Miss Teschmacher and Mercy Graves, but she’s not them (both were loyal assistants of Lex Luthor). I have this idea of what the viewers might be expecting, and I’m able to make my own take on that, along with input from the producers and the writers. It’s given me a bit of a guideline, but a lot of freedom. I think it’s a wonderful thing.
The license plate “No Mercy” – is that how Tess lives her life, or is that an affirmation that you are nothing like the character Mercy from the Superman universe?
I think it’s definitely how she lives her life. That’s a funny interpretation, though. But it’s definitely more of her life motto than a separation from that other character.
We now know there is a connection between her and Oliver Queen (Green Arrow), and the question arises if Tess is a ruthless female villain, or just a jilted lover. Do you think Tess is more of a lover, or a fighter?
(Laughing) Can’t we be both? I think that right now in her life, she’s a hard-core fighter. She was a lover, and her heart was broken. Her focus now is on LuthorCorp and finding Lex.
At this point, Tess Mercer is human, but there is some fan speculation as to whether she has superpowers, or will develop superpowers. Do you think that would be an interesting character development?
Yeah, that would be cool, but I haven’t heard about anything like that yet for the character.
Even without a superpower, Tess’ physical abilities are quite impressive. How do you train for such intensely physical scenes? Because you are doing quite a bit of buttkicking!
(Jokingly) I took Buttkicking 101. I personally am very active anyway. On set, there’s a trainer, and Justin (Hartley) and I work with him to choreograph things, which we go through like a million times.
In Tess’ backstory, do you think was there ever a romantic connection with Lex?
No, their relationship was strictly professional. I think it was very a very intimate relationship, but it wasn’t romantic. He was her mentor.
I know at this point there is already buzz about the next season of Smallville, and the viewers are hoping that you’ll be a part of that. Where would you like to see your character go, if she’s a part of the ninth season?
I’d like to see her start to work through her own angle, her personal story. She came from nothing, and now she’s the head of this company. Even though I know some fans might not want to hear this, I’d really like to see her emerge from out of Lex’s shadow.
Melissa is a Toronto-based TV blogger and music journalist. A TV fan since birth, it was only in recent years that she discovered her love for writing about what she was watching. After contributing to several online and print magazines as a freelance writer, she started her own TV blog, The Televixen, in 2008. She’s also founder and editor of Toonage.ca, an online music magazine.
Photo: Michael Courtney/The CW © 2008