Sheriff Ethan Speaks!: Mitchell Kosterman Interview PART 1
by Craig Byrne ( - May 2003

"Sheriff Ethan Speaks! PART 1
by Craig Byrne ( - May 2003

This interview is not to be reprinted in any form without the permission of KryptonSite. This interview was conducted via e-mail in May 2003.

One of the most familiar faces in Smallville up until the episode "Suspect" was Mitchell Kosterman, who played "Sheriff Ethan" ("Sheriff Ethan Miller" for those who read the Ledger). Ethan first appeared in "Jitters" and appeared in around a dozen episodes after that, before Lionel Luthor got the better of him.

Before Smallville, Kosterman was seen in a number of series, mostly based in Vancouver. It was his many appearances on The X-Files that first caught the attention of the legion of fans of the man who eventually played the "cop who is just doing his job."

"Back in 1993 David Duchovny had a group of fans called the David Duchovny Estrogen Brigade (the DDEB) who met in various IRC chat rooms and on Compuserve," Kosterman said. "While we were working on X-Files he told me about them and, knowing I was a computer hobbyist, asked me to try to contact them. He wanted to thank them for presents they had sent on his birthday. After being initially rebuffed because the DDEB didn’t believe I was legitimate, I put the fans in contact with David. As a result of this I established a relationship with the DDEB and they eventually formed the MKEB [Mitchell Kosterman Estrogen Brigade - Craig]. This was my first real fan support and they were very encouraging and generous."

The "Mitchell Kosterman Estrogen Brigade" still exists today, years after the X-Files cancellation. "The MKEB persists today because of the website. I receive all sorts of letters, emails and gifts from around the world. The website was originally created by a DDEB member named TC Carstensen some time in 1993 or 1994. Today the site is maintained by Jennifer Roth of San Diego, California. Jennifer and I have become quite good friends and we have met on several occasions. She is a wonderful person and I owe her a lot. Jennifer and the MKEB were part of the reason the US government allowed me to shoot a movie in LA a few years back," Kosterman said.

Kosterman came to the leafy little hamlet of Smallville in the first season episode "Jitters." "In the first episode (“Jitters”) I had a very small part and that was disappointing. It had been some time since I had done a small role and I only took it because of the possibility the part would expand and they were offering an unusually large amount of money. I could see right away the show was high quality. Tom and the other cast were clearly a great combination and the crew, most of whom I have known for years, were top drawer. After I worked on it a couple of times, I was anxious that I be allowed to continue the role for at least a few episodes and I knew it was going to be a hit. Obviously, I am very happy how things turned out…until I shot Lionel, of course."

When asked if there's an unwritten law that sheriffs have to frame or arrest characters that John Schneider plays, Mitchell Kosterman assures that it was just coincidence, "but I do think there is now some sensitivity to the fact there were so many bad cops on the show." However, there were occasionally jokes made about that coincidence. "It did seem like I was always arresting my friends or reluctantly enforcing some law against them. John and Annette had great fun with it," Kosterman explained. "John mentioned some Dukes of Hazard spin-offs that died horrible deaths. Annette [O'Toole] once said, 'Oh, I’m baking muffins? I guess Ethan should be here to arrest someone any minute'."

KryptonSite then asked Kosterman if there were any "unsung heroes" among the Smallville crew. Here's what he had to say:

"The editors and the writers never get enough credit. One of the things I like about KryptonSite is the writers are always mentioned. Without a good script, you have nothing. The editors make or break the show because (it’s hard to explain until you see it being done) the raw footage (“dailies” as they are called) must be manipulated in a big way to create the show you see. It has to be done in such a way that it flows effectively and you don’t see anything that takes you out of the fantasy. Stephen King refers to such errors by book writers as “author intrusions”; the things that remind you that you are reading a book. In film and TV, I like to call them “director intrusions”. And it’s more likely something they didn’t shoot as opposed to what they did shoot, that causes the problem. Or it can be a continuity error or a screwed up eye-line (the way a person is looking doesn’t appear to be right).

"Smallville, as the first stunt coordinator Lauro Chartrand pointed out, developed into a much more action oriented show than was originally intended. This meant more stunts. In the second year Lauro moved on and Tony Morelli took over. Tony is probably the most experienced stunt coordinator in Vancouver. He was the guy falling into the canyon on “First Blood”. I used to go watch him fight when he was the Full Contact Karate World Champion for the cruiser weight class. In my early days acting, Tony would double me on occasion, mostly because his Karate was much better than mine. Nowadays, it’s Bill Stewart who doubles me and this was the case on Smallville. In one version of “Suspect” Clark throws me through a glass wall. You will never see it because the scene was later changed to the one you saw, but we shot the whole smashing-through-the-glass bit before the decision was made to change the script. Bill got hurt on that day.

"When a stunt performer goes through glass the glass is “blown” a millisecond before he hits it by way of a small explosion. This causes the glass to fragment so there is less chance of a big knife-like chunk slicing the person. Many people mistakenly believe it’s fake glass that stunt performers go through when they crash through a window. In fact, you can’t make a pane out of so-called “candy glass” (hard, clear sugar) because it isn’t clear or flat enough and won’t hold together in large pieces. So, they have to crash through real glass. And they get cut. Every time. The idea, however, is to see they get only little cuts. I know you are surprised to hear this, but the fact is, stunt performers get hurt all the time. They expect it. In spite of what they say on TV, their goal is not really to prevent injury but rather to prevent serious injury. Cuts, scrapes, bruises and even broken bones are often considered acceptable. People watching have no idea how much courage and skill and pain tolerance this job takes.

"On the day in question, the special effects person blew the glass a little too early. Bill had jumped on a springboard to fly through the window and, in mid-air, noticed the window was blown way before he got to it. He knew the shot was not going to work. Unfortunately, as he was thinking this, he forgot to tuck his head down and flew through the opening face first, caught his legs on the window sill and hit the ground hard. The unbroken glass shards in the window, which he would have pushed out of the way had he hit the window properly, cut him badly on the hand and head. He came back to set later all sewn up and just really pissed he had been so stupid. Bill is an expert. He has done amazing spins and jumps in cars for me, hung from helicopters by a wire while shooting a gun, and taken all sorts of falls; all so I could look good. He does it so well that even my own mom has argued with me on occasion when I have tried to assure her it wasn’t really me that was in danger. She has pointed at the screen and said, “That’s you, Mitchell. I know the way you walk. That’s you. Boy, that must have hurt”. But it was Bill.

"There is something very disturbing to see a person bleeding and dazed after doing something that was considered unsafe for you to do.

"I think the principal camera operators don’t get enough credit. They are the guys taking the actual photos. They point the lens and move the camera. They are gifted people.

"The sound department has to capture all the dialogue amongst a huge number of obstacles and the production rarely compensates for them. In fact, I once said to a director (not on Smallville) that I was standing in a particular place for a shot because it was better for the sound and he said, “Mitchell, we never take sound into consideration when blocking a scene.” Even though the dialogue is what it’s all about. The Smallville crew were so proficient that I can’t remember ever redoing dialogue (ADR or Looping, as it’s called) because it was poorly recorded. We recorded the rain soaked opening scenes of “Suspect” in a sound studio because anything we said on the day sounded like a scuba diver trying to talk to a fish."

In Part 2, Mitchell talks about "Suspect," Smallville fandom, his new role on Stargate, and more. Read it by clicking here!

Return to KryptonSite Home

Special thanks to Mitchell Kosterman for doing this interview!

Are you involved with Smallville and would like to be interviewed at KryptonSite? We'd love to talk to you. E-mail us!

Superman For All Seasons
Smallville explores the story of a young Clark Kent and his place in the world on television. In the comics, this was very well illustrated in Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's "Superman For All Seasons." This has been labeled a "must read" by many fans and also listed as the favorite Superman story of recent years by many. Check it out!

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