The CW series Superman & Lois catches up with Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin) and Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) at a time when they’re struggling to figure out how to be working parents in high-stress and high-pressure situations, as well as provide what each of their very different twin sons Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) and Jordan (Alexander Garfin) need. Being the world’s most famous superhero and fighting off supervillains and monsters as Superman is the easy part, but raising two teenage boys, either of whom could inherit their father’s Kryptonian powers, is another thing entirely.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, Tyler Hoechlin talked about how and when he learned about getting his own spin-off show, that he takes the role day by day, telling more of a starting over story than a superhero origin story, having Clark Kent navigate failure, how the suit has evolved since the Arrow-verse crossover episodes, the challenges of the action, how far ahead he likes to be aware of things, and the most unexpectedly cool thing about getting to play Superman.
Collider: How and when you found out that this show was going to happen, and how long did you have to hold that secret for?
TYLER HOECHLIN: It’s so funny how this all unfolded. It was only supposed to be a couple of episodes, and then it was a few, and then it was the crossover. I was told, if you come back for the crossover, it’s the last time that we can use the character. I was like, “Okay, it’s been fun. It’s already been more than I expected.” And then, eventually, I found out it was going forward. We had a discussion that it was a possibility, right before the holidays in 2018. And then, about the beginning of 2019, I knew that it was looking very real. I think we announced it at the end of 2019, or something like that. So, it was somewhere close to a year, or nine months.
Is it hard to hold a secret like that?
HOECHLIN: You know what? Honestly, it’s a time in life thing, it’s a time being in this business thing, and it’s a why you want to do it thing. If it was earlier in my life and it was one of those things where I was just dying to get the news out, it would have been hard. But the reason I wanted to do this show and what I was excited about with doing the show, it didn’t have anything to do with the announcement, or with people knowing that it was happening, or other people being excited about it. I really enjoy working with these people. I don’t know why, but I feel like this character just found me, for some reason. It wasn’t the one that was at the top of my list, when I was a younger actor and was like, “I’ve gotta do that someday,” but there are things in life that happen that just feel bigger than you, and this felt like one of those things. For me, it was very personal, as to why I was excited about it, so the secret wasn’t as tough of a thing to keep, as it would have been, earlier in my life, when it would have been more about the excitement of everybody else knowing. Now, it was much more that I’m excited for what this means for the next few years of my life, not that one day that your phone is blowing up.
Image via The CW
This is not an origin story — it’s actually a starting over story, which feels like a very different approach to what we’re used to with superhero stories. Do you feel like that really sets this show apart, not only from other superhero shows on The CW, but also from other tellings of the Superman story?
HOECHLIN: Yeah, I do. It’s actually one of the things I really love about it. It’s about family. One of the great things about the show is that people who grew up as kids and as fans of Superman and these stories, it’s a few decades later now and you can look back on those stories. Even the newer versions of them, it’s like looking at a point in Superman’s life that you’re almost past now. You’re beyond those early years of becoming who you end up being and this is now a chance for those people to feel like, “Oh, I’m either right there with them again, or still catching up to where he is.” That’s a really cool thing, for the fans to be able to rediscover that this character who maybe was such a huge thing to them as children and growing up, and they’re now able to connect with him in a completely different way, but also in a way where kids coming up and experiencing Superman for the first time can still get to know Superman and get to know his kids and identify with them. I think there’s something really special about that.
What has been the most surprising thing that you’ve had to learn, in order to play this character, whether it be Clark Kent or Superman?
HOECHLIN: For him, it’s failure. How does he deal with failure as Clark? He’s got the Superman thing down. He’s been there, he’s done it. He’s a seasoned veteran now. He’s very comfortable in that role. But as a dad, he’s still trying to figure it out, every day, and he’s not necessarily, for lack of a better phrase, killing it. For him to have to sit there and be honest about what he’s doing wrong and how he can make it right, it’s a lot more difficult when you’re dealing with those relationships and being there all the time, and things like that. It’s really just learning how he goes through that kind of failure.
He’s got saving the world down, but he’s trying to figure out how to deal with reverse mortgages and what that means for his life.
HOECHLIN: That’s why I love that it’s a family show first, that happens to have Superman in it. It’s going to make them much more relatable. There are a lot of things that people are dealing with right now, so to see these people going through those same issues – issues that can’t be solved with heat vision or x-ray vision – there are real problems that those things don’t matter Super strength doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that you can fly. You’ve still gotta deal with this stuff. That’s just a deeply humanizing thing that we’ve been able to accomplish with a lot of this.
What does it feel like to know that you could be playing Clark Kent and Superman for a long time? Did you have any hesitation when it came to signing on for something that you could be doing for a number of years, or is there excitement in that?
HOECHLIN: You know, I approach it day by day. Going back to that whole idea of being at a different place in life, when I first appeared on the show for the two episodes, that was perfect for where I was at, in my life back then. That’s really all I wanted. I was like, “You know, that sounds great. I think it’ll be a fun thing and it’s not a huge time commitment.” At the time, I had just come off another show and I wasn’t ready for that kind of an arrangement again. I really wanted time to jump around to different sets and see what I really wanted to do. And then, when this came up as a real opportunity, timing is everything. It just felt like I was at the time in my life where I was ready to be attached a little bit more long-term and really be with the same crew all the time. It just felt right. For me, it was a timing thing, more than anything. And who knows? It could be forever, or it could be for not that long. It’s not really in my control. For me, it’s day to day. I just do the best job that I can, every day, and try to enjoy each day as much as possible and make the most of it. We’ve got such an amazing crew. The cast is spectacular. We have way too much fun. It’s amazing that we get anything done at all. It’s a lot of fun.
Image via The CW
What are the differences in the costume between what you’re wearing on this show and what you wore before? Is it made differently? Do you have to have different versions for stunt day versus close-ups?
HOECHLIN: Yeah, there’s definitely more than one suit. There are definitely a lot of changes. There’s one that’s pre-rigged for all of the green screen and the harnesses. The other one was originally built for appearing for an episode or two, and this one is much more with the idea that I’m going to be in this a couple of times a week, every week, for awhile. There are some comfort things that we’re always tweaking. Something can be comfortable for a day, but when it’s day after day after day, you start to notice little things that add up. It’s constantly just communicating with the team and trying to get it to where we’re all couldn’t be happier with it. I’m really excited about where it’s at right now. When you see the show, it’s very obvious that this is different. It’s the same characters, but it is a new world that we’re stepping into and I think the suit is indicative of that.
What aspect of the suit makes you feel the most like Superman when you put it on?
HOECHLIN: I don’t know. How do you feel like Superman? That’s the make-believe part of this job, convincing yourself that you’re this person, because it’s so crazy. I would say probably the cape. When the cape is not on, you feel like you’re walking around in a onesie. When the cape goes on, then it feels complete.
What are the biggest challenges of doing the action on this series, compared to what you’ve done before on the crossover episodes, or even just action that you’ve done in the past? Does this feel like a different kind of action?
HOECHLIN: It’s definitely a step up from what we were doing on the other shows, just because we have the time. It’s not just a fight that’s taking place in that episode with a bunch of other characters. It’s only them fighting. So, I would say that the scope of the fights, the things that we’re able to do, and how big we’re able to go is different. The biggest difference for me is just the consistency of it and how often the frequency is that we’re doing them at. It’s been a lot of fun. Our stunt team is absolutely incredible. I could not ask for a better stunt team. I absolutely love everybody there. I’m super lucky to have them. As far as the difference in the action from other things, there’s a way that you fight as other people and there’s a way that you fight as Superman. It’s a different set of tools. It’s not Jason Bourne. It’s these very strong movements. It’s just a different technique. Our team is incredible and they put together awesome stuff.
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What’s it like for you to be playing the father of teenage twins and to form that family bond? They’re very different young men, so there are very different relationships there. How is that to explore?
HOECHLIN: I’ve got two brothers and a sister, so I’ve experienced firsthand how people in the same house can be incredibly different. Now, my older brother and sister both have kids, so I’ve got six nieces and nephews. I’ve been watching them, and it’s the same thing. They grew up in the same house and they’re so incredibly different. It’s something that I really enjoy. When they first told me the idea of having two kids, my brother’s two years younger than me and I know what that dynamic is like, growing up in the house together. You’re each other’s greatest supporters and you’re also each other’s greatest competition.
Image via The CW
I know that very, very well and I thought it was a really fun thing to play with. Jordan Elsass and Alex Garfin have been such great guys to get to know and to work with. It’s been a lot of fun. Forming this family bond is definitely different because we didn’t have what maybe we would have had in times without a pandemic going on and being able to see a lot of each other before we got going. There’s a great hike here, called Grouse Grind, and before we started shooting, I took the boys up there and we did a little hike, which was actually really fun. We’ve done what we can and hopefully it’s coming across on screen as well as it feels over here.
How has it been to get to dive deeper into the relationship between Clark and Lois? Does it feel like there’s always this third person in their marriage, with Superman?
HOECHLIN: It’s funny, it doesn’t feel that way for me. I wouldn’t speak for Bitsie [Tulloch] on that, but for me, I’ve always approached the character as if there are least five different, not so much personalities, but personas that he has. There are two on the side of Superman, there are two on the side of Clark Kent, and then there’s the guy in the middle who I don’t really even give a name to. It’s just him. It’s just who he is. Lois, being the closest person to him in life, knows who that is and is also aware of when he’s playing the other parts. It’s not so much that there’s a third person there. It’s just, for them, it’s his job. It’s his calling. It’s what he has to do. It’s not so much a third person, as it is an obligation that he feels he owes for what he can do. It’s a demanding job.
What are the flaws in your version of this character that you’re most excited about getting to explore and about viewers getting to see?
HOECHLIN: That he doesn’t have all of the answers. That’s the exciting thing. With him as Superman, he knows that, he’s done it, and he’s been around for a long time. It’s almost like muscle memory, where he falls into that role and knows exactly what to do. With being a dad, it’s a lot more complicated and there’s not always a black and white right answer. Dealing with kids who are going through a lot and changing and growing up when you aren’t always there, it makes it even harder to know what advice to give or what direction to steer them in because you’re not necessarily around to understand where they’re coming from, all the time. Seeing him struggle and seeing him fail at that kind of thing, for me, is the fascinating part. How does he deal with that failure? How does he let them down, and then find ways to make up for it, or learn for the next time?
How much have you been told about the storyline for future seasons? Have they told you what Season 2 and Season 3 could look like? Do you not want to know what’s coming in the future?
HOECHLIN: I like to have a general idea, but I don’t necessarily need all of the details. It’s TV, so things do change. Sometimes it’s nice not to get locked into an idea of what things are going to be. I always ask, “Hey, is there anything important coming up that I should be aware of, that might affect how I’m playing this scene?” and things like that. But a lot of the times, we experience it the same way the fans experience it, watching it on TV for the first time. That’s our experience when we read a script for the first time.
Are there other DC characters that you hope will visit the show? Do you have a personal favorite DC character that you’d like to see make an appearance?
HOECHLIN: I always just take them as they come. If I’m being honest, especially with the villains, Superman hopes none of them show up. He hopes that they change their ways. Anytime you see a new villain pop up, it’s always exciting, and the heroes as well. It’s such a rich world with the characters. Everybody knows them so well. They’re so beloved. It’s hard to pick favorites, so we’ll see what they come up with. They always do a great job with that.
It’s easy to see that this is an awesome role to be able to take on, but what’s been the most unexpectedly cool thing about doing this?
HOECHLIN: One of the coolest things was, when we were shooting one of the early episodes of Supergirl and we were shooting in downtown Vancouver, a dad had brought his two kids over, who must’ve been four and five. Going over to say hello to them, and to realize that these kids had no idea who I really am and they didn’t know my name because they had never seen me on a show, I was just Superman to them. To that you can light up a kid’s face and be that for them for a minute was actually a really cool thing.
And Melissa [Benoist] is always so great about that, as well. Both of us went over and said hi, and it was just really cool to see the kids light up like that. That moment has always stuck out to me. The greatest thing about that was, from the beginning, the understanding of who this character is and what he really represents, I am an eternal optimist and a hopeless romantic. I’ve done my cynical phase of life and I don’t ever want to do that again. I like what this character stands for and what he can represent, especially to kids who are finding their way in the world and what they believe in and what path they’re going to walk down.
Superman & Lois airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.
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About The Author
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Christina Radish is a Senior Reporter at Collider. Having worked at Collider for over a decade (since 2009), her primary focus is on film and television interviews with talent both in front of and behind the camera. She is a theme park fanatic, which has lead to covering various land and ride openings, and a huge music fan, for which she judges life by the time before Pearl Jam and the time after. She is also a member of the Critics Choice Association and the Television Critics Association.
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