Tonight's episode of Superman & Lois threw the status quo of the series for a serious loop when Wolé Parks, the villain previously known as Captain Luthor, got a clarification of his backstory, leaving fans reeling. Written by Jai Jamison and directed by Arrow veteran David Ramsey, the episode -- titled "Man of Steel" -- gave fans their first glimpse at what the likely big picture is for Captain Luthor, putting some pieces of the mystery in place so that the audience is ahead of the characters for the first time since the series began, and setting up some very interesting questions for the back half of the season.
Parks and Jamison joined ComicBook to discuss tonight's episode, and the big twist. Well, as big as it can be when it 's kind of right there in front of you.
Spoilers ahead for "Man of Steel," tonight's episode of Superman & Lois.
"Did I know when I booked the part? No," Parks told ComicBook. "Originally for me, it was still Lex Luthor, the sort-of old school megalomaniac type, kind of a little off his rocker, very obsessed with himself, but also very terrified of the idea of Superman. But because of COVID, what happened before we shot -- because obviously that delayed us many months -- I did have a conversation with Todd, our showrunner. He called me and he said, 'Hey, I got something that I want to talk to you about the character.' I didn't want to know. And then he was like, 'No, you want to know.' And he revealed the whole thing. And it was crazy. I was so amazed and dumbfounded by it. And I kind of got emotional. It felt like an honor to be able to portray this character."
Parks told us that, like many of the readers who came of age in the '90s, "The Death of Superman" and its follow-ups were important to him. He also said that, while it's often taken as a given that Steel is one of the best Black characters DC has created in years, he feels that there's no need to limit that to characters of color.
"One of the reasons I said I got emotional is because I was into 'The Death of Superman,'" Parks told us. "I remember the comic book came in a black sleeve. I bought a version that I read, and I bought a version that I kept and didn't open. And I was like, 'Oh, it's going to be worth a bunch of money later on,' and then I lost it, because I'm a kid. But reading all that stuff, when they introduced John Henry Irons, it was important to see as a kid this guy who had good morals, and used his intelligence to do good. The thing which I love about him, compared to Superman or Flash, or any of these other superheroes, is that he doesn't have super powers. He just has a good heart. He has good morals, and he's just really smart. I always appreciate those kinds of people because I think it makes me as a regular person feel that it's attainable, that it gives me something to live up to. I think he's an amazing character. I guess it's nice that he's Black, and me as a 10 year-old Black kid seeing that was great. But it's bigger than that. There's no need for a caveat that he's one of the best Black characters. He's just one of the best characters, full stop."
It seems as though they have longer-term plans for John Henry -- something that maybe fans would not have expected when Parks was playing a Luthor. After all, there is a fundamental difference between what makes Lex and John tick at their core.
"The thing about this version of John Henry that I think we'll understand is, he's a person who has lost everything," Jamison explained. "He hit rock bottom. The one last thing that he has, is to try to prevent what happened on his Earth from happening on this one, and so he is willing to do whatever it takes. We've seen some of the stuff that he's seen, some of the things that have happened to him, but what he's been through is extreme, and it's pushed him to this edge."
"I think that the thing that is different about this John Henry, and the thing that I think defines, people like him, like Superman, is their ability to change their minds with the presentation of new information," Jamison added. "Even someone who is as mission-oriented as John Henry, I think that there is a space for him to possibly change his mind."
Superman & Lois airs on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.