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Titans Actor Titus Welliver Talks Taking on Lex Luthor Role as Big Comic Book Fan

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers in this story for Titans’ season 4 premiere.


The first episode of Titans season 4 debuted on Thursday, and with it, Titus Welliver as Lex Luthor. During an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actor said he’s been collecting comic books since he was 7 or 8 years old. So at 60, that means that’s a lot of comic books. Much to the surprise of Titans showrunner Greg Walker, Welliver was already well-versed in the comic book history of the Teen Titans when he reached out.

“He couldn’t really get a word in edgewise because I was geeking out the whole time. I literally turned it into a FaceTime and I just started showing my bookshelves, which are all DC and Marvel omnibus editions. I mean, it’s just hundreds of them. And [Walker] went, ‘Okay, got it. You’re not just making s— up.’ And I went, ‘No, no, no, no. Not at all!’”

According to Welliver, he was a dedicated reader of the Teen Titans for years, particularly loving the period in the late ’60s and the ’70s when they were less clean-cut. But then, in the late ’70s, moving into the ’80s, he stepped away. He wasn’t liking what a lot of the artists that were drawing his favorite books were doing. He thought a lot of the books were being rushed out.

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“And then Dark Knight Returns came out and raised the bar. Everybody went, ‘Uh-oh. This is a game-changer.’ It inspired comic publishers to up the ante. And look, Marv Wolfman, I mean, you look at his body of work — and then the combination with Pérez. Without being too cliche, they truly were a dynamic duo. And that stuff was game-changing for people who are serious about being into it.”

Welliver is referring to writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Pérez, who were well-known for their work on Teen Titans in the comic industry. What Welliver loved about their work was how it brought in a lot of new characters. And that it was slightly more elevated, sophisticated, and broader. Pushing the needle in the same that Titans has moved the needle.

“And also, it was a different time, so it could be dirty and it could be funky. People got hurt more than just getting hit by some kind of cosmic ray or punched across a room. There was a depth of peril. Plus, the artwork is just fantastic. Fantastic! And the stories are great.”

RELATED: Titans Season 4 Opening Episode Recap & Review: A Bloody & Promising Start as Darkness Arrives in Metropolis


Becoming Lex Luthor

DC Titans
HBO Max

As a comic book fan, Welliver said that when somebody calls you up to say, “Do you want to play Lex Luthor?” Your immediate answer is yes.

“Because despite the fact that it has been done by many different actors beautifully and all very different interpretations of the character, the core thing is that power, that arrogance of genius, and a level of narcissism. Because the interesting thing about Lex Luthor is he doesn’t have superpowers. But he possesses an incredible mind, so his life’s work has been trying to figure out how the hell to either defeat Superman or obtain his powers.”

Welliver said that when you’re acting that stuff, you have to be careful not to fall into “the cliches of mustache-twirling and scary faces.” Instead, what he wanted to do as Luthor was make him formidable with his stillness and the fact that he’s a gentleman. When Starfire (Anna Diop) breaks into his penthouse during the premiere, he’s not fazed by it whatsoever, even as his security guards are being taken down around him.

“He doesn’t have any fear. Now, why doesn’t he have that fear? Well, look, we all have an imagination. We’ve read the comic books, so who knows what kind of weapons he can just activate with his mind that could take her down? He’s the master of slipping out of stuff. So those scenes were really fun to play. I mean, I have to say, I laughed my ass off because I had to sit there and be very still and there’s stuntmen flying across the room. Crash! Bang! It was a gas.”

The end of the episode sees Luthor conversing with Superboy (Joshua Orphi), a clone of both Lex Luthor and Superman. Originally Superboy came to Metropolis looking for his other father, but he was busy saving the world. Welliver believes that the two of them expose themselves at that moment, right before Luthor seems to die, very violently.

“And look, the big thing people will ask me is, can he come back? Of course he can come back. I mean, was that the real Lex Luthor? Or was that one of his many clones that he has? We know it wasn’t a robot, but he’s got a little Lex Luthor cold storage where he keeps those clones. So there’s that. But there’s also the undeniable part of it that it’s supernatural, so who knows. But I think bringing Luthor in was a great mechanism to really take Superboy to the next level of intrigue for the audience and give them something to pull them in.”

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