The actor stars opposite Kevin Costner in a new movie called Draft Day.
TOM Welling is not one who likes to dwell on the past.
Or at least that’s what we gathered when Star2 spoke to the actor in a phone interview from Los Angeles to promote his latest film, Draft Day.
Just moments into the interview, the 36-year-old actor, who catapulted to fame after starring in Smallville, suggested he’d rather talk about his current project than reflect on his Clark Kent days.
“I’m not here to talk about that (Smallville), I’m here to talk about Draft Day,” he said politely.
The actor also had little to elaborate on his absence from the industry since the Superman-based TV series ended in 2011, only stating that he felt the need to take a break after being on the show for a decade.
However, he nabbed a supporting role on historical drama Parkland and was credited as an executive producer on the cheerleading series, Hellcats.
But Welling suggested he has hung his Superman cape for good: “I don’t miss it at all, I think it was a great experience. I learned a lot, but after 10 years, I think everybody was ready to move on. I’m happy I was able to spend so much time to explore that role.
“Tom Welling in his 20s is Smallville, Tom Welling in his 30s is Draft Day,” he put it simply.
Draft Day, directed by Ivan Reitman, is a sports comedy drama that zeroes in on a day in the life of Sonny Weaver Jr (Kevin Costner), who is the general manager of American football team Cleveland Browns. It is the day of the National Football League (NFL) draft and it is up to Sonny to improve his team’s standing by drafting the best players.
For the uninitiated, the NFL Draft is a highly-anticipated event where all 32 football teams in the League select new eligible college players to join their clubs. For the players, if drafted, it is a day where their lives are forever changed. For the teams, it is an opportunity to restructure and reinvent, ensuring a better performance at the upcoming football season.
The first pick is the most coveted, but teams can trade picks among each other. General manager Sonny has been trying for 13 years to make the first draft in the hopes of reviving the Cleveland Browns.
On top of trying to ensure a stellar line-up of players, Sonny has to juggle the demands of those around him – his head coach Vince Penn (Denis Leary) who has a different vision for the team, his strong-willed girlfriend and colleague Ali (Jennifer Garner) and his mother Barb Weaver (Ellen Burstyn) who brings up unresolved issues from the past.
“Sonny is taking a beating that day and it is coming from everywhere. It’s all falling down on him to the point where he can’t even turn a corner or turn on the radio without hearing his name. It’s not his imagination that there are people after his head,” said Costner in production notes provided by GSC Movies.
As such, there is a lot more to Draft Day than your run-off-the-mill sports flick.
“It is a story about football of course, but it’s really a story about relationships. In particular, familial relationships with his mother, and with his father, who had just passed away the week before. There’s also the story of the three potential rookies that could be drafted,” said Reitman.
Welling plays one of the football players, Brian Drew, whose career is threatened should these rookies gain a spot in the team. “He’s an NFL quarterback who suffered a near career-ending knee injury last year. Over the summer, he worked really hard, coming back in the best shape of his life,” Welling described his role.
“He’s prepared to be what the team needs in a quarterback, but as he finds out on draft day, he may be replaced by an unproven rookie sensation. He’s not happy about that at all.”
Growing up, Welling shared he was fairly active, playing soccer, baseball and basketball.
But to truly embody his character, he headed for the actual training ground.
“I talked to former NFL quarterback players and learned about their lifestyle. I also spent a couple of days in the Cleveland Browns training camp and watched them practice. It takes a lot of dedication and hardwork,” said the actor.
In fact, to ensure an accurate depiction of the sport, the film involved the NFL in its scriptwriting besides getting input from the New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum and New York Post sportswriter Steve Serby.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the Houston Texans running back Arian Foster plus real-life Cleveland Browns players also make cameo appearances, adding to the film’s authenticity.
Welling – who sports a crew cut now, a huge departure from his tousled boy-next-door do in Smallville – definitely looks the part as a quarterback, but he said the look was not intentional: “I (cut my hair) four days before I even saw the script. It’s just something I did for myself, my hair had gotten too long, and I haven’t shaved it since I was 15.”
After appearing in Smallville for 10 seasons, did the 1.91m-tall actor feel he has been typecast to play certain roles?
“I haven’t been told that I didn’t get a job because of another job I had. If I hadn’t done Smallville, I wouldn’t have been able to do Draft Day. What I learned from Smallville created more opportunities,” he responded.
True enough, his breakthrough role on the show enabled him to star alongside two-time Oscar-winner Costner.
“I met him for the first time just 20 minutes before we shot a scene. It was fantastic. I was more like a fan meeting Kevin Costner,” Welling gushed about working with 59-year-old actor.
Incidentally, Costner played Superman’s earthly father in last year’s Man Of Steel.
It seems Welling’s past is never too far behind him.
>> Draft Day opens in cinemas nationwide today.