DC TV Watch: How Jon Cryer Became 'Supergirl's' Lex Luthor

The Hollywood Reporter rounds up the major twists, epic fights and big reveals on all the DC Comics TV shows.
The CW
'Supergirl'

Welcome back to The Hollywood Reporter's weekly DC TV Watch, a rundown of all things DC Comics on the small screen. Every Saturday, we round up the major twists, epic fights, new mysteries and anything else that goes down on The CW's Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl and Black Lightning and Fox's Gotham. This week, Jon Cryer reveals how he became the latest in a short-yet-iconic line of actors who have played Lex Luthor in advance of his debut in this Sunday's Supergirl.

Supergirl

The big news: Jon Cryer makes his debut as Lex Luthor in Sunday's episode, but the way he became the iconic supervillain is actually a hilarious story.

What it means: When Cryer joined Supergirl executive producers Jessica Queller and Robert Rovner at an advance screening of his debut episode at The CW earlier this week, he revealed to press that he "got an email from Bill Prady," the co-creator of The Big Bang Theory, and that's what started the whole process of him taking on this legendary role. Queller interjected, "[Prady's] my boyfriend!" as Cryer laughed. "I usually leave that out of the story because I don’t want this to just be a hotbed of innuendo and incestuous," Cryer added as Queller laughed next to him.

"Bill sent me an email and he said, ‘I’m hearing rumors that somebody wants to cast you as a character that rhymes with Shmex Shmoothor,'" Cryer continued. "I was utterly baffled at that. I didn't even realize that that was even a possibility. And then I got a text from a friend of mine from summer camp, I swear to god, a guy named David Quinn."

Queller interjected again, "Also my dear friend. I’m the stalker!"

"He said, ‘The producers of Supergirl are trying to get in touch with you. Can I give them your number?’" Cryer continued. "And then I was like, ‘Ah, OK. I have a feeling I know where this is going.’"

"We were supposed to wait till Monday, but I couldn't wait," Queller said with another laugh.

"So our first conversation was, they were calling me while I was at a memorial for a friend of mine who passed away, one of my instructors from summer camp," Cryer said. "It was a very long memorial and I was like, ‘Maybe I ought to take this.' My first Lex Luthor moment! My first question was, ‘Why me?’ Of course. They assured me that would become clear once the script was actually written."

According to Rovner, Cryer's previous role of Lenny Luthor in the 1987 film Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was actually his inspiration for casting the Two and a Half Men veteran as Supergirl's ultimate villain. "What we really needed in Lex Luthor was a villain that you love to hate and [is played by] a brilliant actor," Rovner said. "It felt very serendipitous at the time."

When Cryer tried to get the showrunners to reveal who else was in the running for his role, they laughed again. "You were the first choice and you were the only choice," Queller said.

Cryer actually accepted the role without ever reading any scripts, which he said was a first for him. And once he got his first script, he knew he made the right choice.

"I loved the comics so much as a kid, and part of the reason that I did Superman IV was because Superman, the movie, the first one, changed my life," he said. "I was 14 years old and their tagline was, 'You will believe a man can fly,' and boy, I bought it. I totally bought it. Superman IV had very high hopes, but unfortunately was very disappointing for people. That had always hurt me in a very 14-year-old boy way. So I thought this is my chance to do it right."

Other noteworthy moments: When it came time to figuring out how to craft Supergirl's version of the infamous character, Cryer revealed he didn't have an already formed idea of how his interpretation would look or sound like.

"I really had to wait until I got the actual words [of the script]," he said. "Who is this guy? And what does he talk like? I really had to wait until I saw that to figure out where we wanted to go. And we've talked about who we loved. Obviously we loved [Gene] Hackman, and I was a big fan of Michael Rosenbaum from Smallville. But [our version] was never quite articulated. We always left it up in the air and said, ‘Let's see where this goes.’"

Added Queller, "[That's] where the genius of Mr. Cryer evolved."

Having played a member of the Luthor family before on the big screen, Cryer smiled as he reminisces on his "familiarity" with the role: "Lenny was a branch on the family tree that fell off, was rotting on the ground basically for a long while. I feel like this was my chance to reclaim it and do it a little more justice ... or injustice, as it were."

Lex makes his debut on Supergirl first in an epic flashback moment that will give fans of the Superman comics a real treat before he arrives in the present-day storyline, reuniting with his estranged sister Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath). "Lex is a sociopath, he's an actual sociopath, but he does have a link that he can't break with her," Cryer said of Lex's complex relationship with Lena. "To some degree, he gets that she's got an incredible gift as an intellect and as a scientist so his narcissism kicks in and he can find that to love about her. ‘She's like me, that's why I love her.’ He understands she's a formidable person and I do think his really twisted family history does come into play."

As for if/when Lex comes face-to-face with Kara, Cryer teased that the madman thinks of her as part of "the alien hordes that are destroying Earth."

"To some degree, I was trying to explore his understanding of it because I do believe that if humanity was faced with superpowered aliens it would be deeply threatening," Cryer said of Lex's past actions that landed him in prison. "I don't see that he's completely wrong except the sociopath part. But that's also part of his intellect and his narcissism, there's a point at which we are threatened by this, what do we do about it, these are the steps and the bigger picture, if it kills millions of people there will still be plenty more millions. We've got billions [of people], we got plenty."

Arrow

The big news: Diaz's (Kirk Acevedo) death was confirmed by Bronze Tiger (Michael Jai White), as was his murderer: Emiko Queen (Sea Shimooka).

What it means: The intel came via a reformed Bronze Tiger once Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) helped him with a prison visitation with his toddler son. Shockingly enough, it turned out that his son is named Connor, nickname: Hawk. Is this the young version of Connor Hawke (Joseph David-Jones) fans have seen in the flash-forwards? Does Diggle (David Ramsey) eventually take in Connor as his own adopted son if/when something happens to Bronze Tiger as a result of his participation in Task Force X, aka the Suicide Squad? And it's interesting to note that Emiko isn't fazed by Laurel confronting her about the murder because she knows Laurel's secret: that she's actually the Earth-2 villain Black Siren. How much does Emiko know? And what is her endgame?

Other noteworthy moments: Team Arrow had already been officially deputized by the SCPD, but now they're legally allowed to suit up in their vigilante uniforms and use their personal weapons as a new vigilante task force. They've sure come a long way from being hunted by the very same people who are giving them freedom to do exactly what they were doing before.  

The Flash

The big news: Just when Team Flash believed they fixed their Cicada problem by giving Orlin Dwyer (Chris Klein) the metahuman cure willingly, another Cicada showed up. This time, it's a grown-up Grace (Sarah Carter) from the future.

What it means: While there's no telling what Grace has planned, how she time traveled or why she became Cicada, it's clear that whatever Team Flash did in the present affected her future. By taking away Orlin's metahuman abilities, they seemed to think that they stopped the violence. But Grace immediately murdered the doctor who had been helping her uncle and her younger self. She clearly has no aversion to killing, but what is her end goal here? She kidnapped her now human uncle and seemed genuinely happy to see him. There's a lot more story to cover here and The Flash successfully flipped the script on fan expectations with this surprise twist. 

Other noteworthy moments: XS (Jessica Parker Kennedy) has her own drink at Jitters: the XS-presso. Now she's officially a superhero!

Black Lightning

The big news: A surprisingly low-key penultimate episode didn't reveal much, except that Anissa (Nafessa Williams) is one step closer to figuring out what's going on with Grace (Chantal Thuy). 

What it means: Fans already know that Grace is a metahuman and some kind of shifter. Now that Anissa is piecing it together, expect to finally get some answers (hopefully?) by the end of next week's finale.

Other noteworthy moments: Tobias (Marvin "Krondon" Jones III), in his bid to sell the pod people metahumans on the black market, unleashed the three mega-pod people on Freeland as a kind of display of quality assurance. These new metahumans are powerful, but still not powerful enough to take on Black Lightning (Cress Williams) and Thunder. Tobias wasn't happy about that, but that was only one pod person against two experienced superheroes. What happens when all three (plus the other pod people) go up against Black Lightning, Thunder and a newly suited-up, extremely novice Lightning (China Anne McClain)?   

Looking ahead

Gotham may not have aired a new episode this week, but Fox did reveal an extended look at Shane West's upcoming transformation from Eduardo Dorrance into the iconic supervillain Bane, "upgrades" and all. It's below.

Note: Supergirl airs Sundays, Arrow and Black Lightning air Mondays, The Flash airs Tuesdays and Legends of Tomorrow returns in April on The CW. Gotham airs Thursdays on Fox.