Imagine this for a moment. Your father is the best-loved superhero on the planet, capable of doing almost anything. Your mother is a Pulitzer-winning journalist who’s broken some of the biggest stories of your lifetime. Your brother just learned that he has superpowers and is likely on his way to becoming a superhero himself. How do you stand side-by-side with a family like that? Particularly when you have no powers of your own and just learned you might no longer be able to throw a football—the one thing that you were good at.
No pressure, right?
But this is every day lately for Jonathan Kent, the non-powered son of Superman and Lois Lane. Forced to uproot his life in Metropolis, where he had a girlfriend and spot as his high school’s starting quarterback, Jonathan has struggled since moving to his dad’s childhood home of Smallville. Now, his friends are gone, his girlfriend’s broken up with him and even his ability to impress people on the football field has gone away since his super-powered brother Jordan took up the game. Even worse, his father’s life as the Man of Steel and his brother’s inability to control his abilities have put his life in danger, something that became dangerously clear when Jordan inadvertently broke Jonathan’s wrist. Meanwhile, a driven new adversary has emerged in Smallville with a warning that Superman is destined to become evil and who’s determined to put the beloved hero down for good.
In the small screen world of The CW’s Arrowverse, it’s unlikely no one understands the stress of living up to family expectations better than Jordan Elsass, who plays Jonathan on Superman & Lois. With so much attention being paid right now to his brother on the series, Alex Garfin’s Jordan Kent, we thought it was a great time to chat a bit with Elsass about what it feels like to be the one normal kid in the midst of all this high-flying heroism. In the process, he shared his thoughts on whether Jonathan would be better off with powers, if Superman’s family is a bigger weakness than kryptonite and what he thought of last week’s spectacular twist.
Since Superman & Lois debuted, Jonathan has had to move away from all of his friends, his girlfriend has broken up with him, he’s lost his role as starting quarterback, broken his wrist and now he’s being forced to lie nonstop to cover for his brother. He has every reason to be furious with the super-powered members of his family, and yet he’s still really supportive and excited for them. Is he just the nicest guy on the planet? What’s going on there?
He’s an internalizer. Like Lois, he holds it in until he’s around someone that he trusts. But the thing is, and this is where it gets tricky, I think that Jonathan doesn’t trust a lot of people. He trusts his brother, but now his brother is bonding more with Clark and so who does Jon go to? Nobody. He doesn’t have anyone to go to…yet.
He’s going to have to bond with Lois and see her as someone he can confide in who doesn’t have powers. He’s going to have to find that he needs to let out his emotions a little more and internalize a bit less because that isn’t healthy for anyone, especially when you’re going through life and death experiences as he is and will as the season progresses and continues.
It’s definitely a lot, it weighs on him, but I think he is a really nice guy. He was raised in a great family with great parents. I think he has a very good heart, no question about it. But at the same time, he’s not perfect and we’ll be seeing that as time goes on.
So much happened in last week’s episode. I’m curious, were you told the truth about the Stranger before you started filming? Or were you kept in the dark a while too?
Kept in the dark! Yeah, I had no idea that the Stranger was John Henry Irons until quite a bit later—I’d say around episode 4 or 5. It was a shock to all of us, I think. I’d imagine Wolé (Parks, the actor who plays the Stranger) knew. I don’t think any of us did. I wonder if Tyler (Hoechlin) did.
What’s it like as a cast member to get those kinds of twists?
Oh man, it’s so cool. That was a good one. I don’t think a lot of people saw it coming. I think everybody was just kind of like, “Oh, it’s Lex Luthor! He’s a bald guy in a cool suit. Of course, it’s Lex Luthor.” But it actually makes sense. It’s something that’s fairly obscure but I think that makes it all the better because no one was going to see it coming. Those are the best kinds of plot twists.
It looks like Jonathan may have met someone new! Is Sarah right, though? Is this new girl out of his league?
We’ll see! There’s more that has to be revealed about her character—about Tegan. There’s definitely more than meets the eye there. She has some motives that are unseen to this point. Jonathan doesn’t know her well at all or what’s going on. There’s a storyline that’s going to unfold there, no question about it.
I don’t know, though! Maybe she’s out of his league, maybe she’s not! But it seems that as time goes on, he might at least have found someone that he can have a crush on and be attracted by, which I think is important for someone in high school. Growing up, it’s important to have someone like that you can invest in, even if they’re not investing in you back. It’s a distraction that’s nice and kind of cute, and even if that’s all it turns out to be, that’s still an important part of the character development for Jonathan. Of course, if it ends up being more than that, that could be really something. Definitely something that could change Jonathan for the better or for the worse.
Were you a Jon Kent fan before getting this role and how does it feel to play a version of Jon that differs from his comics version?
It’s interesting because as far as we know, Jon on the show doesn’t have powers, and in the comics, Jonathan always has powers—he’s Superboy. He’s just always going hard with the powers. Truth be told, I was never a huge comic book guy growing up, but I know enough to know that this version of the character differs drastically from anything we’ve seen in the comics. Not only in terms of having powers, but also looks-wise. I don’t really look like the Superboy that you’ve seen in the comics with the dark, kind of spiky hair. But neither does Alex! It will be really interesting to see where that goes with us because I think that neither of us look like anything that we’ve seen in the comics. The show’s so unique in that aspect.
But it’s really cool to be playing this character. It’s unbelievable. Every time somebody brings it up, I feel that excitement again. It takes me back to when I first booked the role. I was just kind of in shock and awe. It’s an incredible thing. It’s definitely an honor.
As you mentioned, it really doesn’t seem like Jon has any powers. Do you think he should get some or is better off without them?
This is such a good question and nobody’s really been asking it up until now. Episodes 7 and 8 make me wonder a bit more because of what happens to Jon. It kind of makes you go, “Okay, is he going to get powers?” The truth is, I have no idea. The audience has no idea. Nothing’s really hinted at. But I’d almost rather he not have powers, or if he’s going to have powers, have them be temporary. Jon’s such a good person and I think seeing that being tested because of the fact that he doesn’t have powers is something that would be so interesting to play with. Having seen that drain on him of trying to be the good one all the time and knowing that he’s viewed as the good one and a strong kid. I see kids like that and they can make it last for a while and then sometimes they fall apart when they reach a breaking point, especially when they’re internalizers like Jon is. That’s such an interesting thing to play with.
So, I want to say that if he is going to get powers, have it be down the road. If this show makes it to season 5 or season 6, maybe then. If he’s going to have powers, then it would be better to have them down the road and first see who Jon really is.
So much of your character’s arc is about what it’s like to be the son of Superman…but what is it like to be the son of Lois Lane?
I think they’re both such great parents and they have different things to teach both of the kids. I think that Lois has a lot of goodwill and conviction in what she believes. She’s a very strong-willed person.
I think that just being in the presence of Superman and having him be a family member really changes you as a person. It already has changed the boys. It’s changed Lois a ton from what she was. But they’ve managed to stay good in spite of it all because they see someone who has the world quite literally on his shoulders and he makes it work. It’s a good motivator. It keeps them tough and strong, all of them. They see the kind of stuff he has to go through and the kind of mental pressure that he’s feeling all the time, and he still manages to make it work. Plus, he’s still trying to be a good dad! That’s a good motivator, seeing someone handling that and being a good person in spite of it all.
I think that Lois sees all that and it changes her and that in turn changes the boys. I think she’s always been a very good, strong-willed person and her perseverance carries down to both of her sons.
Everyone talks about how kryptonite is Superman’s weakness, but I have to ask—do you think his family is a weakness as well?
Definitely. Because he cares about them. He cares about them more than anything. If it came down to the world or his family, you have to wonder…what would he choose? He really cares about his family a lot and in the past we’ve seen him make the tough choices knowing that he has to save the world. He hasn’t had to choose between saving the world and saving his family, but sometimes he has to choose between spending time with his family and saving the world. Of course, he’s going to choose saving the world. He has to—it’s his job. But if it really came down to it, you have to wonder what he would choose.
I think this all very tough stuff. I think his family is absolutely a weakness and I think that it’s a weakness that if somebody found out about could be very easily exploited. Very easily.
Special thanks to Row. Harper, NYJt3 and HubCityQuestion in the DC Community for contributing questions to this interview.
Superman & Lois airs at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. CST) on The CW. Looking for more news, interviews and videos on Smallville’s newest residents? Check out our Superman & Lois series page!