Tom Welling on ‘Professionals’ Perks and How He Stays Connected to ‘Smallville’

Tom Welling in 'Professionals'
Q&A
LEONINE Studios/The CW

It’s a damn good time to be Tom Welling. The GOAT of CW royalty who lifted the then-WB to heroic heights (sans tights) with Smallville is currently everywhere. He’s got a podcast with former costar Michael Rosenbaum, he threw New York Comic Con into a frenzy with his surprise appearance at The Winchesters‘ panel announcing his upcoming stint as Samuel Campbell, and of course, he has Professionals, the internationally-filmed action series he headlines with the suddenly-buzzy-again Brendan Fraser, which is currently airing on the network.

Oddly, the show itself was shot years back, before the central storyline of futurist Peter Swann (Fraser) and grizzled security expert Vincent Corbo (Welling) racing to stop a global outbreak was more science fiction rather than sad fact. “We wrapped just before COVID sort of happened, I wanna say three years ago,” Welling recalls. He adds that after watching the series premiere episode, his wife noted the timeliness of the storyline. He adds, “I hadn’t even made that connection myself because we shot it so long ago!”

Here, Welling discusses taking on a role that allowed him to go a little dark while shedding light on how much fun he had with Fraser. Plus, we had to find out what it’s like when he gets together with his Smallville squad. Read on for more!

Hey Tom, how’s it going?

Tom Welling: It’s going well, man. Thanks for doing this.

Sure thing. Now did you realize that the show was going to have so many parallels to real life? You’re chasing vaccines, trying to prevent a pandemic…

[Laughs] Yeah, no. we filmed this right before all of that. In fact, one of the reasons why it took so long for it to come out was because when COVID hit, they shut down all non-essential jobs, right? I forget what the terminology was, but it prevented the production from actually finishing the show for at least a year. So they couldn’t go in and edit. They weren’t even allowed in the studio.

Tom Welling in 'Professionals'

LEONINE Studios/The CW

The delay actually worked out. Between Brendan’s resurgence with The Whale and you joining The Winchesters, this is the perfect time for the show to drop.

It’s great. I’m actually in New Orleans right now filming The Winchesters and I joked with Brendan when this show was coming out that I was really happy that Professionals could sort of help this big relaunch for him. [Laughs]

He had a good chuckle over that. And yeah, he’s doing great. I saw him about two weeks ago in New York and he’s really enjoying the moment right now. I couldn’t be more happy for him, he’s one of the sweetest people you will ever meet.

And you guys got to work together a ton.

Yeah, we were together a lot thankfully, because the production itself was very challenging. For the first half of the three-month shoot — we would shoot five episodes during the first month and a half, and then the other five in the second half — we didn’t know what we were filming until we showed up the set that day. [Laughs] So once a lot of these episodes were edited together, I watched them and still wasn’t quite sure what was gonna happen at any given moment because we [filmed out of order] so much.

Which must have been so confusing since this is a serialized story. And with Vincent’s arc, everyone seems to have agendas that are slowly revealed. I’m pretty sure I don’t trust any of these people.

[Laughs] I know! Everybody’s sort of [shady]. That’s why Brendan’s character and my character sort of bond. When I was first looking at the project almost five years ago, Brendan’s character was written as really unlikeable. He just wasn’t a nice guy. And then when Brendan came on, he put his spin on it and it’s so difficult to not like him, right? Because he’s so likable and that’s his genius.

And for you, this must have been really nice to play a guy who wasn’t the nicest. He’s a hero, but he’s not entirely likable.

Not at all! I don’t think I had to smile once for two months. [Laughs] He’s a little prickly and I like that. I didn’t allow the character to get caught up in anyone’s sort of fun energy, you know. Because I had to be the “professional” and the leader of Vincent’s crew. Between takes, it was the opposite of that—we had a lot of laughs, a lot of good times. And I think that carried over to the banter of the scenes with everybody sort of being in the trenches together.

And I think that’s something people who are just coming to the show might not expect: There’s so much humor to this.

Yeah. There’s a lot of humor and it’s not jokey humor, right? As you know, it’s more situational and I don’t know if abstract is the word, but it’s just sort of observational and more grounded.

The CW

Exactly. The humor seems to be rooted more in the characters than in the situations they end up in.

Yeah, definitely. Because there’s nothing funny about getting shot at.

Which you are in pretty much every episode. And you also got to film all over, right? You were in Ireland and South Africa and Latvia.

Yeah. I think almost all of it was day and exterior filming. And I think that’s what drew me to this, the sort of exotic nature of it. There’s a Robert De Niro movie that came out years ago called Ronin and you know, that movie works so well because it’s in exotic locations. And I think that’s kind of what I saw we were gonna do. I mean, at one point outside of Johannesburg, we were shooting in The Cradle of Humankind where the oldest artifacts of human existence were found. And we were filming there! Really, there were so many times I looked around being like, “I can’t believe I’m here.”

So at New York Comic Con, we introduced you at The Winchesters panel.

I gave you a good hug! [Laughs]

Yes, you did! But you also had a huge Smallville reunion panel. How did that go?

Yeah. That was a big one. And it was so much fun. You know that we do some of these conventions throughout the year with different members of the cast who are available and whatnot. And it’s always fun because as much as we’re all buddies and we’re friends, we don’t all talk all the time, right? And so when we’re put in that environment together, it’s nice to catch up. And you know, some of us are talking about our kids now. [Laughs] And one of the things, when you shoot with actors on a series, is that you form this sort of trust and allegiance that can pick up the second you see them again. Even if it’s been months or years. It’s really a special bond.

It’s got to be so rewarding to see how much the show still means to the fans, too.

Oh yeah. I think it was a show that people watched on a multi-generational level, people watched it with their parents … And so now it’s been 21 years and now people are showing it to their children. And, you know, I do this podcast with Michael Rosenbaum where we rewatch episodes and we comment on them with behind-the-scenes stuff and funny memories and, I have to say, as I watch it, it still holds up. It still looks really good.

We got really lucky, it was that time of visual effects sort of getting to a point where they were cost-effective for a television show. And we had visionary directors and showrunners who were able to utilize that. I mean, we had a visual-effects guy on set 90 percent of the time and it was great. And some of the things that we did at the beginning that cost, say maybe $50,000, by the end of this series, they were like, “Ah, we’ll just throw that one in here, no problem.” Like, ” Yeah, we know how to do that. We’ll just hit [the F1 key] and it’ll happen.” [Laughs]

I can’t believe it’s been 21 years. Smallville is old enough to drink legally.

That’s funny! I realized about two weeks ago when I was tuning in to watch the premiere of The Winchesters that right after that is Professionals. So, by the time you get to Episode 7 of The Winchesters, that’s when I appear as Samuel, and then the next hour is Professionals. So it’s like back-to-back hours of me on this TV, which probably will never happen again. [Laughs]

Professionals, Tuesdays, 9/8c, The CW