Last season on Superman & Lois, Morgan Edge—who was eventually revealed to be Superman’s Kryptonian half-brother, Tal-Rho—shook Smallville to its very core, forcing the city’s residents to become living vessels for fallen Kryptonians before taking on all of their personas himself to wreak havoc as the Eradicator. He was defeated, narrowly, by the Man of Steel with the help of John Henry Irons and his Steel suit, but not before kidnapping Superman’s son Jordan and turning him against his father.
So imagine how desperate Superman must be to come to him for help.
That’s precisely what happens in tonight’s new episode of Superman & Lois, “The Ties That Bind,” which marks the return of Adam Rayner’s Tal-Rho. The now powerless Kryptonian holds the one thing that may help Kal-El stop the violently disabling visions he’s been having, but if you expect anything involving Tal-Rho to go smoothly…well, you just haven’t been paying attention, have you?
To shed some light on his character’s unexpected return, we spoke with Rayner about how it feels to play a defeated villain, whether Tal-Rho’s opinion on his half-brother has changed and what it’s like going up against the most formidable couple in the DC Universe.
Did you know you’d be back this season, or after season one, did you assume your part in Superman & Lois was finished?
Yeah, I did think it was finished. I didn’t see what more could be done with it. He can’t be the bad guy again and it’s not like he can show up and run the deli in Smallville. He’s done too many bad things. There were rumors that there might be something, but I was surprised and thrilled to get called to come back in fairly early on in the season. And the manner in which it happens makes sense, once you see it.
With all that happened at the end of season one, how do you think Tal-Rho feels about Kal-El at the start of season two? Has his opinion about him changed at all?
I think a theme all throughout season one was a sort of disappointment with Kal-El for being unable to find what Tal-Rho would consider to be the strength to be a true Kryptonian—this idea that we have to be quite ruthless if we’re going to reestablish our planet and our people. I think he probably still feels a sense of betrayal and a sense of disappointment that Kal-El couldn’t bring himself to be who he needed to be for the sake of Krypton. I think that disappointment stretches over into season two, but the feelings are complicated because at the end of the day, they’re brothers and Tal-Rho wanted to have some kind of a relationship. It does cause him pain to be rejected, even if he wouldn’t want to admit that. Of course, e would blame Kal-El for that. Maybe some introspection will take place in the future, but for the time being, it was Kal-El and what he would consider his weakness that led them to where they are.
Family continues to be a major theme in Superman & Lois. How much does the fact that Superman has built a supportive family on Earth drive Tal-Rho’s animosity towards him?
I think it’s in there. He wouldn’t necessarily be able to admit it to himself, but we certainly see it in some of his behavior. The lack of love, the human as opposed to Kryptonian needs that he has and those not being fulfilled, it does have an effect on him. It does cause him pain. There’s jealousy. I think he wants his brother to be with him as a Kryptonian family as opposed to wasting his time with these humans.
But Tal-Rho’s own experiences when he was young would have an effect on him as well, in the sense of being isolated and rejected by humanity when he was a child. I think these Kryptonians have human elements to them and emotional needs. So, yes, it would have an effect on him that Kal-El seems to have found something on Earth that Tal-Rho has not been able to find.
Lots of actors have played villains throughout their careers, but not as many of them have played a villain after he’s been defeated. Does that change the way you play the character? And would you say it’s more fun playing them before they’ve been beaten?
It’s kind of liberating because he can sort of just be himself now. There isn’t another personality interceding. He’s not got anything particular to do or any immediate agenda. He’s still pretty fired up. He’s still a strong personality—that hasn’t changed. It’s not like he’s been crushed or his spirit’s been completely defeated, but all of the plans and the machinations and the intrigue has been stripped away. It’s a bit like when we meet Hannibal Lecter—it’s just the man. You get a sense of all of the stuff that has gone into making this man, but for the time being that’s all been stripped away and there he is just standing there. That’s quite fun to play.
Looking back at season one, when did you learn the truth about the character you were playing? Did you know from the start that Morgan Edge was Tal-Rho, and if so, how much did that inform your portrayal?
Well, I definitely didn’t know when I signed on to do the job. (Executive Producer) Todd Helbing talked to me about it when I’d already arrived in Vancouver. I took the job on the understanding that it was Morgan Edge, and obviously I knew that in our world that he was a billionaire who was taking over the Daily Planet and had a bunch of obviously shady things going on. It was a total surprise when I found out about the Tal-Rho storyline, and obviously I was intrigued and pleased because it sounded like the character would be more interesting and the idea of being Superman’s brother is just in itself extremely attractive. It didn’t affect how I played Morgan Edge too much because how he presented remained the same—he was who he was outwardly as a human. So, finding out about that transformation and that reveal didn’t actually change my thoughts on playing Morgan Edge all that much.
Is there a side of the character you enjoy playing more? Morgan Edge or Tal-Rho?
I think ultimately Tal-Rho has been more rewarding because of these outbursts of emotion, which you never saw with Morgan Edge. With Tal, the alter ego has been stripped away and he is being himself, and in that role with Superman—with Kal-El—he gets to speak from the heart in a way that we don’t see with Morgan Edge. So, I would say ultimately it’s Tal-Rho because of the real emotion that you see.
Is there a Superman & Lois character that you feel like you relate to the most?
I suppose in a sense it’s Jordan because of the difficult path that he clearly has in order to find himself and to understand his place. In a way, that’s a little bit of a mirror image of Tal-Rho’s past. For Jordan, he needs to make sure he keeps on the right path since you can go wrong, as Tal has shown us. In that sense, there’s a natural affinity between those two characters.
Your character has had to face off against both Superman and Lois Lane. Which do you think would be tougher? Fielding Lois Lane’s questions as Morgan Edge or fighting Superman as Tal-Rho?
They’re both pretty tough! I think Superman is a piece of cake compared to a full inquisition from Lois Lane, particularly with how Bitsie plays her. She was quite an antagonist to go up against and it would be fun to see them interact again once more having had most of our scenes together early on in the show as Morgan Edge. Morgan was kind of a Lois Lane character and then suddenly he was gone and we have Tal-Rho, who was a Kal-El character. I think it would be fun to throw Tal and Lois together.
Special thanks to RexRebel, HubCityQuestion, Jurisdiction and ajm08g in the DC Community for contributing questions to this interview.
Adam Rayner’s Tal-Rho returns tonight at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) in Superman & Lois on The CW. Looking for more on the Family of Steel? Visit our official Superman & Lois show page.