Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
Clark Kent is burning the candle at both ends.
“Honey, I know you’ve got a lot on your plate, but you really do need to be around more,” his mother, Martha, tells him as the two talk on the phone.
“Mom, I, ah, I do have a responsibility to the world as … you know who,” Clark says.
Martha, not having it, replies, “Well, you've got a bigger responsibility to your family – as a father. The boys need to see what a strong, loving and vulnerable man looks like – what your father was to you.
“You only have them for a short while longer before they go off into the world. You gotta be present.”
“I’m trying. … I really am. … I don’t want to let anybody down,” Clark says.
The Superman and Lois Lane characters introduced via the “Arrowverse” recently were relaunched on The CW – and reimagined from what many DC Comics fans have come to expect from the Last Son of Krypton. Yes, they’re still bound and determined to save the world – him with his powers, her with a pen – but now they’re facing a challenge far beyond anything they could imagine.
Raising twin teenage boys.
“Superman’s boring,” Jordan – named after Jor-El – tells his father.
“Smallville, the place where you can spend a full year in one afternoon,” Jonathan – called for Clark’s adopted father – tells Lois.
Elizabeth “Bitsie” Tulloch as Lois Lane and Tyler Hoechlin as Clark Kent on “Superman & Lois.” (The CW photo by Dean Buscher)
Unlike films filled with alien foes, and past series centered on Clark’s upbringing, “Superman & Lois” finds the original superhero and the ace reporter married, struggling to make ends meet as print journalists, and with divided loyalties between Metropolis and Smallville. They also can’t agree on telling their sons about Clark’s “other day job.”
Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) and Jordan (Alex Garfin) don’t have it any easier, as they struggle to find a fit in the glamorous big city and on the Kent family farm. When they find out their father is the Man of Steel, they wonder what, if any, superpowers they might have – and what it might mean as they navigate through an “O.C.”-like high school hierarchy.
Like the other Greg Berlanti-Todd Helbing CW series – “Arrow,” “The Flash” and “Supergirl,” in particular – “Superman & Lois” has a lot of action, a lot of self-doubt from its lead characters, and storylines that will keep an audience engaged over the course of a full season.
The fact is, it’s hard to be super. Sometimes shooting lasers out of your eyes or writing a scathing expose crippling titans of industry is easier than Sunday dinner.
Even as Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) and super sleuth (Elizabeth “Bitsie” Tulloch) triumph over evildoers, they can't seem to score points with their sulking sons.
Tulloch, who perfectly portrayed a trio of characters on the sci-fi series “Grimm,” is an ideal Lois Lane. The character she’s creating is smart, doggedly determined, dedicated to her family, and not about to let the estates of power “prey on struggling communities.” She calms Clark and centers Superman, even as she spits fire with her words.
In one memorable scene from the pilot, Lois’ father, Gen. Sam Lane (Dylan Walsh), is trying to recruit Superman for a mission – quipping about finding a phone booth to suit up in the “Podunk” town. Tulloch bolts into the room, as her character emphatically says “No.”
“I get it. There is a powerful something out there that doesn't like Superman, or nuclear power plants – and that is a bad combo. But now is not a moment Clark can just take off,” Lois says. “I mean it, Clark. The world will always need Superman. And when there is a problem, he will be there for them. But right now, this family needs you more.”
Tulloch recently chatted with BTS, offering her take on the show and its interpretation of the Superman story. An edited Q&A follows.
“Superman & Lois” star Elizabeth “Bitsie” Tulloch as Lois Lane. (The CW Network photo)
Q: So I'm digging the series. I'm really digging the show. Congratulations on the first two episodes. Something that I wasn't expecting: What do we think about Superman with the five o'clock shadow?
Elizabeth Tulloch: (Laughs) Tyler fought for that really hard. And I think it was good. We're not seeing this, like, young, you know, naive version of Clark Kent and Superman; we're seeing a dad – and I think it makes sense that someone who, in addition to all of his Superman duties, also maybe like doesn't have time to shave all the time.
Q: I Like it; makes a lot of sense. Obviously, this is a different version of the Superman-Lois story, and certainly we've seen you and we've seen Tyler appear throughout the “Arrowverse.” But what appealed to you about taking these characters steps further into their own actual series?
Elizabeth Tulloch: I think, for both of us, it was the fact that the series was going to be centered more on the family drama aspect of it. And I do feel like, ultimately, the main goal – and why we would hopefully be on air for years – is people fall in love with the characters and get really, really heavily invested in the relationships themselves. And this show seems to really be more about that. When Todd Helbing sat down to dinner with me and Tyler to sort of pitch his idea for it, it was more of a “Friday Night Lights” with elements of Superman and Lois Lane, but it was always really more about the family drama.
As actors, that was really appealing to us.
Q: It's interesting that you say family drama – I mean, this is Superman, and this is Lois Lane, and you would think they would be all-star parents. Why can't they seem to get it right?
Elizabeth Tulloch: I think that's kind of what the point of the show is, is like do we need to see a version of this perfect, perfect superhero, and this perfect journalist? For me, anyway, as an audience, when I'm watching stuff, I like seeing people sort of struggle and figure their way through things; and I like that, this version of Superman and Lois, they're vulnerable; they're fallible; they are messing up. They are realizing in the pilot episode, like, “Well, we've really been prioritizing our careers to the detriment of our sons’ well-being, and we need to reorient our priorities.”
I don't know; I don't have a teenager yet – I have a 2-year-old – but I remember being a teenager and being a huge pain in the butt. And it's like, what do you do with that? It doesn't matter how good you are, whatever your career is; you know, there's only so much you can do, as a parent, when you're dealing with a hormonal, rebellious teenager – let alone two.
The Clark teens are looking for trouble alongside their new friend in Smallville. Pictured are Indee Navarrette as Sarah Cushing, Alexander Garfin as Jordan Kent and Jordan Elsass as Jonathan Kent (The CW photo by Dean Buscher)
Q: It seems like the Berlanti team, the Helbing team, the people behind this show – it seems like maybe they know something about this genre, about these fans, that other people – other creative types, other networks – maybe just haven't tapped into for whatever reason. What have you enjoyed about working with them, and what do they do better than everyone else? Why do you suppose they've had so much success with this world when others haven't?
Elizabeth Tulloch: I can't really speak to that, because I haven't seen enough other superhero shows to know which ones have done well and which ones haven't done well. I feel like Greg Berlanti gets drama; he gets relationships; he gets characters. He's, obviously, hugely successful. And I think that's what he's good at.
I vaguely remember someone saying Berlanti was sort of thinking about his show “Everwood,” as far as what ours would look and feel like a little bit. And I remember liking that show and watching that show when I was younger, and you just care so much about the people on screen.
And I think Todd gets that, too. Todd has two sons – that's part of why, I think, he wanted it to be two boys, because he knows so well what it's like having two sons – but not only that, two very different sons. He has said repeatedly his two sons are very different, and how that adds a whole layer of complexity to the challenge of parenting.
But I don't know; they just know what they're doing.
Q: You and I have talked in the past about “Grimm” – one of my favorite shows. But “Grimm,” like so many other great shows, at times could be ratings-challenged. How does it feel – after one episode – to already know that you've been renewed for a second season? What does that say about the fans and the support that they're showing for the show?
Elizabeth Tulloch: I think it's awesome.
I wouldn't say that I knew this was gonna happen, but when I read the pilot script, and then the script for episode two – and more than that, like, within a couple days of shooting with Lee Toland Krieger, he showed me – I never watch dailies, really, because it takes me out of character; but he tried to like show me a minute of it. And I was like, “OK; I get it. It's beautiful. It looks like a movie. It's incredibly cinematic. Don't show me anything else, because it's going to put me in my head.”
But I do remember coming home and telling my husband, “Our TV show looks and feels like a movie; it is so good, I can tell already.” The way he was filming the shots he was doing – we had an incredible DP, Gavin Struthers, who really did a great job establishing the look of the show for episodes one and two.
It's exciting, but you know, “Grimm” always did really well – especially internationally. I think it's a little different now. Like, “Grimm” premiered in 2011; it's 2021 now. And people watch a lot of stuff on streaming. And I myself mainly do that. I like watching “Superman and Lois” on our big TV in our living room, just because it does feel more like a movie. But typically, if I'm watching a series or like a docuseries, I'm in bed watching it on my laptop. So, things have just changed so much.
I'm really, really happy that the fans are seeming to really love and appreciate this version; and I think it's reflective of how much it's obvious on screen and with the performances how much everybody really cares about this who's working on the show.
Inside the Daily Planet, Lois Lane (Elizabeth “Bitsie” Tulloch) has a strong message for wealthy developer Morgan Edge (Adam Rayner). (The CW photo by Dean Buscher)
Q: You play perhaps the most famous journalist of all time. I am obviously a journalist. I'm wondering what, if anything, have you learned about journalism in this process of being Lois Lane?
Elizabeth Tulloch: That journalists are badasses – especially right now. We're coming off of and still in a period of time when the media and journalists and reporters are kind of under attack and misunderstood. And I think that she's just an incredibly cool and compelling character, and I always look at her as, like, Superman's off saving the world with his strength and superspeed, and she's saving the world with words.
But she is a character who, from the very beginning, has been just completely uncompromising and determined when it comes to the pursuit of truth and justice. And I think I look at her as being just as powerful, in her own way, as Superman.
Q: How important was it to you – or was it important to you – or perhaps how nice is it for you that Superman and Lois Lane have equal billing in this series?
Elizabeth Tulloch: I'd never really thought – I don't really have that much of an ego about it, in the sense that I feel like you're asking. I think it's great. I feel like, you know, it's 2021 – they're both as equally important as parents and in their relationship. And I think you'll see more and more of Lois proving that she is as much of a superhero in her own right.
But I think … it was always supposed to be sort of equal billing … and they take up as much room in their relationship as the other one, and as much room on screen.
“Superman & Lois” airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on The CW.
“Superman & Lois” stars Elizabeth “Bitsie” Tulloch as Lois Lane, Tyler Hoechlin as Clark Kent, Jordan Elsass as Jonathan Kent and Alexander Garfin as Jordan Kent (The CW photo by Nino Muñoz)