John Schneider portrays Jonathan Kent, Martha's husband and Clark's adopted father. He goes to great lengths to protect his son's secret, which includes: almost killing a reporter, in the season two premiere, who was going to expose Clark's secret to the world, and making a deal to allow Clark's biological father, Jor-El, to take Clark to fulfill his destiny if Jor-El gave Jonathan the power to bring Clark home—Clark had run away after believing his parents blamed him for Martha's miscarriage. As a result, season three's "Hereafter" explains that Jonathan's heart was strained while he was imbued with all of Clark's powers. In season five, Jonathan decides to run for a seat in the Kansas Senate against Lex Luthor. In the season five episode "Reckoning", Jonathan wins the senatorial seat, but after a physical altercation with Lionel Luthor, whom he believed was trying to exploit Clark's abilities, Jonathan suffers a fatal heart attack.
Millar and Gough loved the idea of casting John Schneider as Jonathan Kent, as they felt he gave the show a recognizable face from his days as Bo Duke from The Dukes of Hazzard. Gough felt that Schneider's experience portraying Bo Duke added belief that he could have grown up running a farm. Schneider was initially uninterested, but after reading the pilot script he saw the potential for bringing back "real parenting" to television. Schneider particularly saw his character as a means to replace the "goof" father-figures that had become prevalent on television. He also saw his character as a means to keep the show grounded in reality, specifically by making sure that Jonathan's life is clearly displayed for the audience, by performing a daily routine on the farm.
According to Schneider, Jonathan is "perfectly willing to go to jail, or worse, to protect his son". The actor characterizes Jonathan as fast to lose his temper, which Schneider views as being a development of his protective nature over his family. Schneider believes that the season two episode "Suspect"—where Jonathan is arrested, but his sole concern is protecting Clark's secret—summarizes the character well, and shows that the "least important person in Jonathan's life is Jonathan". Schneider admits that occasionally he and Annette O'Toole have to "police" the creative team when it comes to the relationship between Martha, Jonathan, and Clark. According to Schneider, there are moments where they have to make sure that the characters are not taken to a place they would not normally go, specifically where the parents are useless without the "innate intelligence of teenager".
Tom Welling feels that the deal Jonathan made with Jor-El at the beginning of season three made Jonathan realize that he will not always be around to protect Clark. Welling believes that it is the repercussions of that deal that allow Jonathan to give Clark more freedom in the choices that he makes during season three. Jonathan realizes that he must help Clark find the confidence in his ability to survive on his own, so that he can leave home one day. One scene that Schneider specifically remembers was at the end of season three's "Forsaken". Here, Jonathan admits to not trusting his own instincts anymore and allowing Clark to rely on his. This "admission of fallibility", but faith in his son's ability to make the right choices, is what Schneider sees as the growing of the family dynamic.
For season three, Jonathan also has to deal with his emerging heart problems. For Schneider, the "treatments" and "cures" that his character underwent were all for nothing, as the actor believes that Jonathan's heart attack at the end of "Hereafter" was less of a real heart attack and more of Jor-El trying to get Jonathan's attention. A heart condition is not new to the character, as it has been used in previous incarnations, like Glenn Ford's portrayal of Jonathan Kent in Richard Donner's Superman, as well as the comic books. In contrast to those versions, it was Smallville that tied his heart condition to a deal that he makes with Jor-El. When the moment came for his character to die, Schneider considers the event an "empowering death", which he likens to John Wayne's character death as Wil Andersen in The Cowboys.
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