LOS ANGELES In "Draft Day," Tom Welling sports a haircut that looks like it was done by a Marine barber and a beard that fits in with "Duck Dynasty." At 36, the actor still looks like he could play a high school student.
"I had shaved my head four days before I went in on this because I had gotten tired of my long hair. It was just my look at the time and they thought it worked," a clean-shaven, longer-locked Welling says.
He started filming the football movie nine days later, so there was little time to come up with a different look.
The look a far cry from the clean-cut look he had as Clark Kent for 10 seasons of "Smallville" fits the character a seasoned NFL quarterback. His job is threatened when his team, the Cleveland Browns, trades for the top pick in the upcoming NFL draft and is looking to take a Heisman Trophy-winning QB.
Welling played sports when he was younger, but he never thought about a career as a professional athlete. Because he's been in a similar situation waiting for a call to tell him whether he's the No. 1 pick for an acting role Welling related to the story.
"I got into the character through my own experience with working in this industry. A football player will show up and show what he can do as a football player. An actor will go in and show what he can do as an actor. Then you have to wait and see if they are going to chose you or not," Welling says. "Your success is based on other people's choice about whether you can participate or not. You are not in control and you have to accept that.
"At the same time, there's a gypsy lifestyle to this industry that these guys have as well. There's a toll that takes on relationships you have with family and friends."
Bottom line for Welling is that professional sports and acting are not for everyone. It's for those who have the passion and can deal with the times when there's no certainty about what's going to happen tomorrow. The key is to believe you will work again and be prepared just in case you don't.
Welling went through some uncertainties when he started his acting career. After small roles on "Judging Amy," "Special Unit 2" and "Undeclared," he was selected to star in the then WB Network series "Smallville." The show was a success, but as an added precaution Welling became a co-executive producer on the series and an executive producer on the short-lived series "Hellcats." He also directed some "Smallville" episodes.
Welling worked in a few movies while "Smallville" was still on the air "Cheaper By the Dozen," "The Fog" but took a break from TV and film work for a short time after "Smallville" ended. Earlier this year, he appeared in the film "Parkland" and now can be seen in "Draft Day." After 10 years learning how TV works, Welling would like to spend the same amount of time getting a better understanding of the film world.
Just like a veteran athlete, he's back fighting for a starting position in new projects.