Superman can outrun a speeding bullet, slow down a locomotive and leap tall buildings in a single bound…but what can’t he do? Finding a good challenge for a man who can do nearly everything has always been an issue with Superman and it’s often the stories that are most creative in tackling this problem that wind up becoming classics. The Death of Superman. For the Man Who Has Everything. Heck, even The Dark Knight Returns can be put into this category.
Superman & Lois, the latest TV series to bring the Man of Steel to the small screen, is fascinated by this question as well, but it takes a much different approach in landing on its answer. What can’t Superman do in this soon-to-debut new superhero adventure? He can’t rely on his superpowers to be a good parent to his two sons.
Moving the focus from Kal-El’s struggles with keeping the entire planet safe to his challenges trying to be a good dad is a deeply human response to a superhuman dilemma and it promises to mine unique new ground with the iconic character. Yet, while Superman & Lois may be new, the big guy himself is one that Arrowverse fans already know. Tyler Hoechlin made his first appearance as Superman on The CW’s Supergirl back in 2016, nearly five years ago. A one-off guest stint at first, Hoechlin returned to the role several times, including in last season’s multiverse-spanning Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, but Superman & Lois is the first time we’ve seen his Man of Steel take the lead. To get a sense about what we can expect, as well as how focusing on Clark Kent’s family really shapes the show, we spoke with Hoechlin about the debut. In the process we learned what his own personal kryptonite is, why so many superheroes don’t have families and whether he believes it’s possible to have Superman without Lois Lane.
With all that’s happened in the world this past year, is our need for Superman particularly great right now?
To answer that question, I like to look at what this story’s about. The story really is about family. If we’re talking about Superman in particular, it’s about who he is as a husband and a father. I think with everything that’s happened this last year there are so many things that a lot of us would have said were so important and could never be postponed or put on hold, and all those things went away. The one thing you were left with was those closest relationships that you have—the family that you were born into or the family that you’ve chosen since then. Those relationships don’t leave. We are always going to have those, and they’re always going to be important. So, I think the focus of the show being family, my answer to that is yes. I do think it’s important right now.
You’ve been playing the Man of Steel for a few years, but until now, it’s only been in guest spots on other shows. Have you learned new things about the character and role now that you have your own show?
I think it’s an evolution in who this character is. You see him at such a different point in life than we’ve ever seen him before. In those other shows, he was really in his element. He’s Superman, doing what he’s been doing for a while and he’s very good at it. His obligation then was to himself and to others, and that was kind of it. Now we find him married with two kids. His decisions don’t just affect him anymore—they affect his wife and children and their well-being. There’s a lot more pressure on him. Secrecy is even that much more important now. It’s been nice to jump into something that feels familiar, and yet at the same time entirely new and different. It’s a nice way to kick things off when you’re starting a new show.
What do you feel Lois Lane represents to Superman? Is he Superman without her?
Is he Superman without her? There are things about him that I’ve always found are kind of unchangeable. They are the core of who he is. It’s how he was brought up. It’s what his parents raised him to be. It’s how he sees the world. It’s the hopes that he has that are unflinching. But I think with Lois, he sees someone who he uniquely respects. In the ways that he is invincible to so many things, she is not, and yet she still throws herself in front of a moving train sometimes to do the right thing. I think there’s something about that which he is so incredibly in awe of—that someone who could easily be hurt in so many ways just continues to risk it to do the right thing. That’s something that he’s absolutely amazed by when he looks at her.
The Kent family moves back to Smallville in the series premiere. Is he surprised by how much it’s changed?
Yeah, definitely. It’s funny, the town where I grew up has been such a growing town, so when I go back there’s new roads and more housing developments. It’s kind of crazy to see all that. But the flip side of that is when you go to some of these small towns where people are leaving and they’re not growing. They’re kind of dying. It’s such a sad thing to see. For Clark, there’s maybe a bit of guilt that, “Wow, I’m one of those people who left and let this happen.” So, there’s certainly something to be said about that and coming home and finding a place worse than you left it—what kind of feelings of responsibility you have for being one of those people who left.
In Superman & Lois, Clark is a father. Do you think parenting presents a greater challenge to him than any super-villain could offer?
Absolutely! It’s what I think is so fascinating about this show. That’s one of the things about Superman, right? He’s so invincible in so many ways. There are very few things that can really take him down to where he fails as Superman. But as a dad, you can’t super-strength, you can’t heat vision, you can’t fly your way out of dealing with your kids. Those relationships are things that, as much as we might want otherwise at times, you have to deal with and learn as you go. It’s communication and just being there. With all the other things he has to do as Superman, he can’t always be there, so he’s struggling to connect with his kids and be there for them in the way that he feels he should be.
The premiere asks the question of whether it’s possible for Clark to be both Superman and a husband and father to his family. What do you think? Is it possible to do both? Or is one always going to get the short end of the deal?
I think that’s going to be one of the main conflicts of the show, whether he can pull that off or not. At the end of the day, it’s really about boundaries. What do we decide is the appropriate amount of time? That’s especially true for someone like Superman. My dad’s an ER doctor, so I look at it from that perspective. My dad’s literally capable of saving lives. Does that mean that he needs to be in an emergency room 24 hours a day? That’s not plausible, but even if it was, if you have a family, where is that line where you say, “Yes, it’s important that you do what you can do, but also that you’re there as a husband and father in this family unit that you have.” I think that’s going to be a huge thing for Clark.
It goes back to a really important question that I brought up in one of my first meetings with Greg Berlanti about Superman. You have a character who can do just about anything, but he can’t do everything. So, his constant struggle is, “What do I choose to put my energy and effort into because every time I choose to go save someone, I’m also letting someone else perish?”
You have the ability to save anyone. If someone’s falling from somewhere or if someone’s about to get hit by something, you can stop any of those, but you can’t stop all of them at the same time. No matter what, with all of his abilities and with everything he can do, he can’t be in multiple places at once and really truly be present there. It’s the constant conflict that I think he has to deal with. When we have stories focusing on Superman when he’s younger and his responsibility is primarily to himself, that’s one thing. But now it’s affecting Lois and their children, and so he does have a responsibility and an obligation there. It’s a really huge conflict in his life.
I think it’s why so many superheroes don’t have families, just in general. People don’t want to have to deal with that question.
Yeah, I can even speak to that myself just being up here in Vancouver and shooting. With as crazy as things are, we’re not allowed to travel back and forth. When I was doing shows up here previously, everyone who was a lead on the shows, if they wanted to go back and see family for the weekend, they could do that. They could fly out Friday night, fly back Sunday night and go to work on Monday. That was a thing. We can’t do that now because every time we leave and cross the border, we have to quarantine for two weeks. Even people who have ten days off in a row, they can’t go anywhere. For me to commit to that is one thing, I’m not married and I don’t have kids. Other people up here who have significant others back home or who have children, for them to be away right now is a completely different experience.
It’s kind of a parallel I draw with the character which is that earlier on in his life, decisions that he was making felt a lot like where I’m at now personally, whereas with the decisions he’s making now on the show, I definitely put myself more in the shoes of the other cast up here and their experiences with shooting during the pandemic.
If you could have one of Superman’s abilities in your life, which would it be and why?
I always go to flight. I love to travel. If there’s been one thing in life that I’ve been incredibly grateful for, it’s been the opportunity to travel to a lot of parts of the world and to experience different cultures and meet people from different places and walks of life. Especially now, if I could get free airfare and just get somewhere that I was trying to go fast, I would absolutely grab that chance.
Finally, we do get a glimpse of kryptonite in the series premiere. What’s your own personal kryptonite?
Shoes with laces! When you’re going on set everyday and you’re changing in and out of outfits constantly, being able to just slip on a boot that doesn’t have laces, it just makes me so much happier than having to untie, get the other shoes on, loosen them up, tie them and so on. Yeah, I made that joke last night with the costume department because I’ve had that question before and decided that it’s my new answer, so you’re the first one to get it. It is shoes with laces on set.
Are you excited to see Tyler Hoechlin's Superman get his own show? How do you feel about the Man of Steel having a family? Let us know your thoughts on Superman & Lois in the DC Community!