Superman origin series Smallville set a new viewership record for The WB when it debuted to an audience of 8.4 million back in 2001, and it remained popular after the network merged with UPN to create The CW in 2006, halfway through the show’s decade-long run. By the time the final season of Smallville came to air, however, the superhero landscape had changed dramatically. The first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was well underway, and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy had taken DC into a gritty new age, making the adventures of Clark Kent in small town Kansas seem quainter than ever. The age of the Arrowverse was fast approaching at The CW, and it was time for the sun to set on Smallville — though nobody expected that the stars of the show would disappear with it.
Leading man Tom Welling struggled to get a foothold in Hollywood when Smallville ended, but what became of the woman who played his onscreen love interest, Lana Lang? Like her co-star, Kristin Kreuk (who won back-to-back People’s Choice Awards for her turn as Lana) has been operating on the fringes of the film industry in the 10-plus years since her DC days, keeping a relatively low profile while appearing in a number of little-seen projects.
Want to know what Lana from Smallville‘s been up to in that time and what the Canadian actor looks like today? You’re in the right place.
Kristin Kreuk left Smallville in search of the big time
Kristin Kreuk was just 18 years old when she made her first bow as Lana Lang on Smallville, and she really “didn’t know what to expect” from the job, she revealed during a 2008 interview with Metro. “I was new to the business,” Kreuk told the tabloid. “The original contract was for 13 episodes.” She ended up playing Lana in 158 episodes of the long-running show, the third most-credited cast member after Allison Mack (Chloe Sullivan) and the would-be Man of Steel himself, Tom Welling.
Kreuk was delighted when Smallville became a hit, but by the time she reached her mid-20s, the ambitious actor felt as though it was time to pursue bigger things. “I love the people and it’s a wonderful show to work on but I realised there were things I couldn’t do due to the schedule on Smallville,” she explained. “I just wanted to try something else. It’s not that I was bored with the show.”
The Canadian only appeared in five episodes of Smallville‘s eighth season, just enough time to have one last kiss with Clark and wrap their tragic love story up. Kreuk was satisfied with how her arc ended, though she admitted that she “may be in the minority” during a 2011 interview with Hollywood Life (via TV Line). “I liked that she gained inner strength and … had the courage to walk away from Clark, that her commitment to a greater good outweighed her very human desire to be with Clark.”
Street Fighter was a body blow to Kristin Kreuk's career
After spending so long as Superman’s girlfriend on Smallville, Kristin Kreuk wanted to play “a female character that was really strong” in her next big project. Female characters don’t come much stronger than Chun-Li, the first playable woman in the Street Fighter video game series. The Chinese Kempo master has been a firm favorite among fans since debuting in 1991’s Street Fighter II, which made adapting her story for the big screen a risk. And it was a risk that ultimately didn’t pay off — 2009’s Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li was a commercial and critical disaster, losing tens of millions and scoring a damning 5 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
The outright failure of Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li was a big career blow for Kreuk, who seemed like the ideal choice for the titular role. She knew some basic Mandarin from her time at Chinese summer school, and she did “karate, dance and gymnastics” as a child. Despite her past experience, she flew out to Thailand early to make sure she was in fighting form in time for the shoot. “I spent five weeks training with stunt coordinators,” she told Metro. “I don’t know if I could kick your a** if we met on the street but I’m decent at looking like I’m good at fighting.”
Kreuk clearly had big hopes for Street Fighter (she told Girl.com.au that she was “signed for one more film”), but a franchise never materialized.
Lana from Smallville worked with her second Superman in Chuck
Still licking her wounds from the catastrophe that was Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, Kristin Kreuk returned to TV with a recurring role on NBC’s Chuck. The Zachary Levi-led spy comedy was saved from the chop the previous year after a successful fan campaign, and there was a “lovely” atmosphere on the set when Kreuk arrived to film her four episodes.
“Smallville is a good set,” she told IGN, “but it was just a totally different vibe. Just so, so lovely.” The newcomer received a warm welcome from Levi, and she had nothing but good things to say about him. “Zach is a great guy,” Kreuk added. “He’s really good at what he does. I think he’s adorable. He’s funny and again, incredibly supportive and welcoming.”
Levi went from adorable to jacked to play the superhero Shazam in the film of the same name years later, but that’s not the only DC connection here. Brandon Routh, who played the Man of Steel in 2006’s Superman Returns, also had a recurring role on Chuck at the time — a fact that didn’t go unnoticed by Smallville fans. “I don’t know if it had anything to do with the casting,” Kreuk said when IGN asked her about any behind-the-scenes interactions with Routh, which, as it turns out, were few and far between. “We don’t ever really work together,” she said. “I think I said ‘Hi’ to Brandon once on set in passing.”
Kristin Kreuk channeled her high school friends in Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy
Soon after her final Chuck episode aired, Kristin Kreuk appeared in another TV series, one produced north of the border. CBC’s adaptation of Ben Hur (which featured Lana from Smallville herself) wasn’t widely seen outside of Canada, but it caught the eye of a casting director looking for people to star in Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy, a film based on a short story by the writer of Trainspotting.
Kreuk would ultimately land the part of Heather Thompson, love interest of rave-mad pill smuggler Lloyd Buist (Adam Sinclair), despite never having dabbled with drugs herself. “I was straight, totally straight,” she told the Daily Record while promoting the movie. “I used to go with my friend and would just play all night. I was probably the only one who wasn’t high. I had a great time.”
Being the only sober one meant that Kreuk was able to observe everything going on at these parties and, crucially, remember them — those wild nights became inspiration for the actor when it came to filming rave scenes in Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy. “I think it’s a little raw and relevant to my experience growing up in high school,” Kreuk told Defective Geeks. “Not my personal experience necessarily, but watching certain kids and the reason it was really popular when I was in school.”
Popular isn’t a word you would use to describe this film. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 15 percent, Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy was another misstep for Kreuk.
People walked out of Kristin Kreuk's vampire film at Sundance
Kristin Kreuk got to visit the Sundance Film Festival for the first time in 2011, but it wasn’t the dream experience she hoped it would be. The picture she was there to represent (Japanese filmmaker Shunji Iwai’s Vampire, his English language debut) was already facing an uphill battle, purely because of when it happened to be released. Twilight mania was still in full swing at the time and The Vampire Diaries was huge, which meant that every single member of the press that Kreuk spoke to about Vampire asked what was different about her movie.
“It’s pretty much the opposite of all of those things,” she told Click on This at Sundance. “It’s not about vampires … It’s a very serious [film].” Kreuk wasn’t kidding when she repeatedly told reporters that Vampire was absolutely nothing like Twilight, but people still weren’t prepared for it. Iwai’s film follows a killer schoolteacher (Kevin Zegers) who believes that he’s a vampire. He targets suicidal women for their blood, and things get rather intense in places.
“It’s pretty brutal, and it’s beautiful, as well, but you know, there comes a point where some people are walking out of the theater,” Kreuk told eTalk while promoting the movie. “It was hard for people to watch.” This was when the actor revealed that her overall experience of the famous festival was somewhat underwhelming. “We tried to go to some party … but I felt a little silly.”
Space Milkshake is a little-known sci-fi comedy starring Lana from Smallville
Having dealt with themes like drug addiction and ritual murder onscreen in 2011, Kristin Kreuk opted for something much lighter and infinitely weirder in 2012. The former Smallville star joined forces with crewmates Amanda Tapping (Stargate SG-1), Robin Dunne (Sanctuary), and Billy Boyd (The Lord of the Rings) for a bonkers sci-fi comedy called Space Milkshake, a name that has absolutely nothing to do with the actual plot of movie.
“People see the title and they go, ‘What does that mean?’ and basically, it means nothing,” Dunne told The AU Review.com. What actually happens, as Dunne explained, is that “a rubber duck comes to life and tries to kill everyone and then falls in love with Amanda Tapping’s character. As you would, right?” It remains Kreuk’s oddest outing, but the actor (who plays one of four rank and file astronauts stranded on a sanitation station during an extinction event) thoroughly enjoyed making it. When she spoke with FansShare shortly after wrapping the movie, she called it “a funny little comedy” that was “pretty goofy and fun.”
Despite efforts from the cast to drum up interest, very few people saw Space Milkshake, which was screened at a handful of festivals and conventions over a period of a few years, before quietly dropping on VOD in 2015. There are no critical reviews for the movie on Rotten Tomatoes, but viewers love its sheer wackiness — Space Milkshake has an audience score of 96 percent.
Kristin Kreuk 'fell in love' with Beauty and the Beast's creators
By the time Space Milkshake saw the light of day, Kristin Kreuk was starring in The CW’s Beauty and the Beast (2012-2016), the show she’s best known for after Smallville. She played homicide detective Catherine “Cat” Chandler in what’s considered a loose remake of the CBS show of the same name (1987-1990), in which Terminator star Linda Hamilton played Catherine. Kreuk hadn’t fronted a TV show for a few years at this point, choosing to concentrate on her fledgling movie career instead. When The CW reached out about the role, however, she clicked with Cat and quickly decided it was time to return to the small screen.
“The female character is really strong and complicated and I wanted to do that,” Kreuk told Assignment X in a joint interview with co-star, Jay Ryan. “When I met with the girls that created the show, executive producers Sherri [Cooper] and Jennifer [Levin], I just fell in love with them and I thought we would have a very good opportunity to create a female character that was really interesting.”
The critics were split on the revamped Beauty and the Beast, though a following (comprised largely of teens) grew around the romantic fantasy series. It won People’s Choice Awards in 2013, 2014, and again in 2015, but that’s when the network decided to pull the plug. The fanbase was simply too small and that was reflected in the ratings, per Entertainment Weekly.
Lana from Smallville is a Toronto girl
Smallville was filmed in and around Kristin Kreuk’s hometown of Vancouver, meaning she didn’t have to move away at a young age to pursue her dream. When she did finally relocate for good, it wasn’t to Los Angeles, as you might expect. Kreuk chose to stay in her home country, basing herself in the dynamic city of Toronto. She arrived in the capital of Canada’s film industry (it’s earned the nickname of Hollywood North due to the amount of productions that take place there) to begin her work on Beauty and the Beast, and she never left. It wasn’t love at first sight, however.
“I think Toronto is one of those cities that takes time,” Kreuk told Beyond Fashion Magazine. “When I first got here, I struggled with it and had a hard time.” Despite her initial hesitancy (and some damning early reviews for her new show), Kreuk decided to stick it out in Toronto, and she was glad that she did. “Once you get things going you begin to appreciate the opportunities it has to offer,” the actor said. “You have to get a vibe for it over time and get to know the areas of it that speak to you and now I have.”
The area that spoke to Kreuk was the east end of the city, and she rarely ventures outside of it. “I like going downtown sometimes but I find it to be overwhelming,” she told Eat North in January 2021.
Kristin Kreuk reportedly introduced Smallville co-star Allison Mack to 'sex cult' NXIVM
In 2017, a shocking report appeared online, which claimed that NXIVM (which would later be dubbed a “sex cult” by prosecutors) was branding female members, triggering a wave of journalistic investigations. Co-founder Keith Raniere was generating headlines the world over, and so was former Smallville star Allison Mack (Chloe Sullivan), who was with the shamed businessman when he was finally arrested in Mexico in March 2018.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mack stands accused of acting as “the leader of a secretive sex cult within the NXIVM structure” comprised of as many as 50 women. “Mack allegedly occupied the second-most-senior position as a ‘master’ and recruited ‘slaves’ from within NXIVM who were held down by other slaves and branded with a hot cauterizing pen.”
A former member, it was Kristin Kreuk who reportedly introduced Mack to NXIVM. When the story broke, rumors that the former Smallville pals were in it together soon followed, forcing Kreuk to release a statement on Twitter. “I left about five years ago and have had minimal contact with those who were still involved,” she wrote. “The accusations that I was in the ‘inner circle’ or recruited women as ‘sex slaves’ are blatantly false. During my time, I never experienced any illegal or nefarious activity.” Kreuk went on to say that she was “deeply disturbed and embarrassed” by her links to Raniere, who received a 120-year prison sentence. Mack, meanwhile, is on house arrest. Kreuk wasn’t charged with any crimes.
How has Kristin Kreuk been dealing with the coronavirus pandemic?
Kristin Kreuk knows all the best spots to eat in her neighborhood, but trips to her favorite Toronto restaurants have been few and far between since the coronavirus pandemic hit. Dozens of actors died of COVID-19 in 2020, which is why Kreuk was doing her bit to keep herself, and everyone else, as safe as possible. “Please wear masks — it helps. Truly,” she captioned a July 2020 Instagram selfie. A few months after her post, the actor joined former Smallville co-star Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor) on his podcast, Inside of You, for a candid catch up, and she was asked how she had been dealing with life in the age of COVID-19.
“Most of the time, I’m able to just move forward,” a typically upbeat Kreuk responded. “I try not to get stuck in it … I just go, ‘Okay, that’s just the way it is right now,’ and I can step back and not get completely invested.” She went on to stress that she’s not in control of her emotions 100 percent of the time, but she does feel a whole lot safer being based in Canada. Later in her chat with Rosenbaum, Kreuk praised her country’s response to the unprecedented health crisis. “The government has supported people with money,” she told her American friend via video link. “… I feel like you guys have been left in the lurch a little bit in that way.”
Kristin Kreuk and the Burden of Truth
Kristin Kreuk returned to The CW to star in another of the network’s offerings in 2018, legal drama Burden of Truth. The show, which began its fourth season in January 2021, follows Canadian corporate attorney Joanna Hanley (Kreuk) as she jumps ship to defend the people of her rural hometown from a shady pharmaceutical giant. It was originally supposed to be set in the Toronto area, but major rewrites took place when it became apparent that shooting in Manitoba would be considerably cheaper.
“Once we started developing the scripts to suit a Prairie story, I really love it,” Kreuk told CBC. “I think it’s a special spot in our country that we don’t see often.” For Kreuk, Burden of Truth is special, too. The actor serves as an executive producer on the series, and she’s used her sway to shine a light on the problems still faced by Canada’s original inhabitants. The show “looks a lot at systemic racism and how that affects our court systems and our justice systems and how police forces look at indigenous people, and we put a very critical eye on it and I think that’s important,” Kreuk said.
Playing an attorney is a far cry from the roles she’s been previously known for — most notably, of course, Lana Lang in Smallville – and Kreuk is relishing that fact. “It’s so rare, at least in my career, that I’ve had the opportunity to live in such a real world,” she told Brief Take in 2020. “I’m very grateful for that.”
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