For over fifty years, General Dru-Zod has been making life hard for Superman. He did it in the Man of Steel’s blockbuster debut in Superman and Superman II, opposite Tom Welling on Smallville and at the start of the DC Extended Universe in Man of Steel. Now, the infamous Kryptonian baddie is doing it before Superman is even born on the Syfy hit, Krypton.
Of course, we didn’t realize that right away. It wasn’t until halfway through the first season, in one of the series best moments to date, that we learned Colin Salmon’s mysterious Kryptonian was actually Superman’s time-traveling mortal enemy. We also learned that Zod’s parents are Lyta-Zod and Seg-El, the latter of whom is also Superman’s grandfather. But while General Zod’s lineage on Krypton may seem confusing for the uninitiated, fans of the show know that it’s led to intriguing new layers for the longtime villain, who loathes Kal-El, while also feeling some real affection towards Seg-El. Will Seg ultimately see Dru-Zod the same way his grandson does? Could actions here in the past permanently change things for Superman in the present day (if Superman is even born…something that seems no way guaranteed). They’re some enticing questions, made all the more fun to ponder thanks to Salmon’s impressive performance.
With General Zod currently calling the shots on Krypton, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to sit down with the big guy. On a recent trip to LA, Salmon stopped by to discuss how he managed to keep his true role on the series a secret, how following in the footsteps of Terrence Stamp and Michael Shannon is quite liberating and what General Zod really thinks about being the son of an El.
First off, how hard was it keeping the fact that you were playing General Zod secret last year?
When I first auditioned for it, it was for the part of “The Dark-Haired Man,” so nobody knew. I didn’t even know that I was auditioning for Dru-Zod. So, when I discovered it, that was a bit of a jolt. Then I had to come into my first scene, and it still wasn’t known by the crew or certain members of the cast, so we had to keep that under wraps. I remember we had a press dinner where we had all of these journalists who are all super bright. I sat on the outskirts next to this one who kept asking me and I just had to play it down. It was difficult, but well worth it because I think when that revelation comes out in season one, it has some real impact.
Is that something you have a lot of experience with over your career as an actor—having to stay mum on the role that you’re playing?
It’s becoming more and more important with regards to social media. Leaks can really spoil things. There were never those avenues when I first started, but now if you can’t keep a secret, you’d better change your career, man. The plot points—all that stuff—it’s all so key. So, we’re all trained in it now.
When in the process did you learn that you were actually playing Zod?
I had that knowledge before starting the shoot, but the other actors and the crew, they weren’t aware. That didn’t come out until it came out in the script, so that was fun.
Zod has been brought to the screen a few times before, and for many, Terence Stamp’s take on the role is iconic. Have you played a character that has such a strong previous association before?
No, not really. I think with Resident Evil that was kind of a new character. With Bond they created a new character for me as well, so I never had that issue. Of course, I love Terrence Stamp’s Zod. That’s my generation. I grew up watching that Superman. And then with Michael Shannon, I’m just a massive fan of him as an actor. That was really where I came to understand Zod. Just that little glimpse, which I think was one of the inspirations for the series. That’s how much Michael can do with his performance. He just took us to this place that I’ve used as a touchstone.
I think when you’re inspired by great actors, they liberate you rather than constrain you. They really help you understand the character.
The end of last year’s season finale gave me chills. What’s it like this season now that General Zod has won?
He’s building a Krypton in his image. Kandor is totally affected by my design, my wants, my needs and my orders. You have this scenario with the rankless, which on paper looks like he liberated them, but I suspect he’s turned them into builders, slaves and soldiers, and he will build it on their bones. He feels driven and justified because of his passion for saving Krypton.
But it’s not just about Krypton. It’s about his family and his life. His love for his mother. He wants to fill in the gaps. He’s just driven on so many levels. He’s an overlord in overdrive, and he’d better get over himself because he’s a bad boy.
This season you need to share the villain’s chair with not only Brainiac, but Doomsday. How does Doomsday fit into Zod’s plans for Krypton?
In episode one, you hear him talking with Lyta about why Dru-Zod’s so committed to finding Doomsday. He’s realized that Doomsday is Krypton’s atomic weapon. He knows that if he can get hold of him and get him under his control, he can just drop Doomsday in to Wegthor to cause absolute carnage without having to sacrifice any of his army. So, he’s desperately trying to find him.
I think it’s a very dangerous thing that Zod’s toying with because Doomsday is Doomsday. I just watched Chernobyl and you see the core and you have to think, Doomsday is the core. Do you think you could control the core? I think Zod does.
But I also think people forget that Dru-Zod has a scientific base. He’s an intellectual. He has knowledge of science, and he did run around in Metropolis, which we alluded to in the first season. I’m really interested in what he discovered over that period.
But does he get his hands on Doomsday? I’ll let you watch it unfold, but it’s pretty operatic.
We only got a small glimpse of Doomsday last season. What can we expect from him when we see him onscreen?
One of the exciting things about this series, and I think everyone would agree, is it’s the best Brainiac we’ve had. I think Doomsday is extraordinary. I was totally moved by the effects and the design. It’s all top secret, but I’ll tell you, it’s awesome. People use that word all that time, but this really is awesome. Our effects team is just extraordinary, and I think you can see it. The production values on this show are huge, and the studio’s gotten behind that. I think fans are going to be happy.
How would you describe Zod’s relationship with Seg-El? He’s his father, but he hasn’t rallied to Zod’s cause the way that Lyta has.
Like any child who doesn’t know his father, to discover his father is an emotional event. It doesn’t weaken him, but it’s created a question. I think like any child, he wants his father to be proud, and he really alludes to that in his first scene with Cor-Vex. He sees him as family.
I think he wants Seg-El on his side. It does create emotion. Every scene we do together has an emotional level to it, and I’m really enjoying that from an acting point of view. Cameron does elicit genuine feelings of warmth. It’s just him. He’s a good guy. But that’s puzzling Zod. Dru-Zod is struggling, but it’s in him. Every time he meets Seg, a bit of that emotion comes out, and I don’t think he’s ever actually accessed that before.
There’s something I’ve discovered recently. It’s about the elders, it’s about wisdom, and it’s about the word “ambivalence.” The word “ambivalence” comes from “ambi” and “valiance.” “Ambi” means either side—both sides. And “valiance” means strength. So, it’s the ability to be strong in not knowing. Our world needs to learn to be more ambivalent because we don’t really know. We’re living in a time of certainty, and Zod is very certain until Seg comes into his world. Then he starts to question that judgment, and that’s a fantastic metaphor because you have the thesis, the antithesis, and then you’ll have the synthesis. I’m really interested to see that synthesis with that character.
Do you think Zod loves his family? In the season two premiere, Nyssa seemed to suggest that he loves power more and would turn on them on a dime.
Absolutely he loves them. It’s all he has. He’s isolated, so it’s all about his family. I liken it to chivalry. He sort of comes from the chivalric code—that thing of “I am a warrior. I fight for what’s right, for justice, for my family, and my family is Krypton.”
He’s been isolated for a long time, and he’s now back on his home planet and there are family members around, and I really do think he wants to throw the cloak over them and get to know them, and in the process, learn more about himself. I think another clue is the scene where you see him witness the warmth between Seg and Lyta, when the three of them are off together looking for Doomsday in the first season. You just see a puzzled look on his face, and he says to his mother, “I’ve never seen you happy before.”
For any child, to see your mother happy is the most important thing, so the man who makes my mother happy really interests me. I’m keen to explore that.
Krypton airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. CST) on Syfy. For more news, features and conversation on Krypton, click here.