On the 1990s TV series Lois & Clark, Dean Cain was the hottest Superman to land on Earth. So why do his current projects involve reality-TV dating, cupcakes, and cheerleaders? He talked to Ramin Setoodeh about his career struggles.
On the hit TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Dean Cain frequently saved the planet and Lois Lane (played by a pre-Desperate Housewives Teri Hatcher, who was always plunging from high buildings.)
But since Cain hung up his famous red cape in 1997, his adventures have been less than super. He attempted a film career (including a string of bad indies), hosted the TBS series Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and played convicted killer Scott Peterson in a Lifetime Movie.
“I like to work,” Cain says, on a call from Los Angeles, pointing to an eclectic career that encompasses a variety of smaller roles in television. Cain recently mocked himself—a Dancing With The Stars Dean Cain—opposite James Van Der Beek’s own exaggerated TV alter ego on the ABC sitcom Don’t Trust the B— in Apt 23. This summer, he appears in two reality-TV series, even though he says he’s not a fan of the genre.
The Choice, which premieres Thursday on Fox, features Cain on a panel with other quasi-celebrities (his episode has model Tyson Beckford, football player Ndamukong Suh, and TV plastic surgeon Robert Nettles) trying to find the woman of their dreams from a pool of contestants they aren’t allowed to see.
“There’s four bachelors, sitting in a chair, just like The Voice; it sounds like The Voice too, The Choice.” Cain lets out a laugh. Yes, Superman is currently single—“I am on the market!” he says—but Cain admits: “It’s not about dating. It’s about the fun of the competition.” He took his winning lady on a wine-tasting date and might see her again, though he hasn’t made any official plans.
In June, Cain dives into boot camp for Stars Earn Stripes, an NBC series created by Mark Burnett that’s like Survivor but with celebrities—and military challenges instead of endurance competitions. “It’ll probably make me look silly,” Cain says, but he sees a potential upside: the weaponry. “You don’t go shooting 50-caliber sniper rifles every day.” In Cain’s other war-related role, the Hallmark Channel movie, Operation Cupcake, his character returns from combat to open a cupcake shop.
Cain becomes even giddier when he talks about the new TV pilot he just finished filming, which he’s pretty certain will get picked up. It’s called Bounce, and follows a professional cheerleading squad (Cain plays the part of the basketball coach). “It’s like Bring It On meets …” He’s stumped for a moment. “Something else, higher.”
Dean Cain has seen Bring It On? “Of course I’ve seen it,” he says. “It’s funny and campy.”
He wears other hats too. He’s the co-writer of the nontheatrical film Pure Country 2: The Gift, which was directed by his father, Christopher Cain. “That particular one was about a girl who was given a gift to sing from the angels above, but had to follow the rules to keep that gift.” If you haven’t heard of it, there’s still time, since he just completed the script to Pure Country 3. He considers himself a producer, but adds: “I’m currently producing nothing.”
In the mid-‘90s, Cain’s career was as hot as the spandex suit that his Man of Steel donned every Sunday night. Coming into acting after a professional football injury, Cain had chiseled abs that helped make him into an overnight heartthrob. Arguably, his Sexy Superman paved the way for Tom Welling’s Smallville, Brandon Routh’s Superman Returns, and the upcoming Man of Steel feature starring a buff Henry Cavill.
Cain says he’s met all the other new supermen, and he even played basketball once with Routh. He doesn’t buy into the idea of a Superman curse—the idea that actors who play Superman can never really be accepted in other roles (and they’re doomed to a grim demise.)
“I think it’s the biggest can of baloney I’ve ever heard,” Cain says. “Let’s start from the very beginning. Kirk Alyn of the 1948 serials. He died 10 years ago, or something. Then there were two guys in a row”—George Reeves, who died of an apparent suicide in 1959, and Christopher Reeve, who died in 2004, after becoming paralyzed from a horse-back riding accident. “Now there are four who are doing just fine. If we do the math on that, I don’t see much of a curse.”
Curse or no curse, Cain actually wouldn’t mind putting the Superman tights back on one more time if Warner Bros ever decided to make a Lois & Clark reunion. “We never got to finish it up, because we hung it on a cliffhanger for Season 4 and we weren’t able to shoot Season 5 for medical reasons.” When asked to elaborate, Cain says more episodes had been ordered, but Hatcher announced her pregnancy and had to leave the series after producing a doctor’s note. “She wasn’t able to work,” he says. “It’s really stressful to work those hours … it would have been detrimental to her health and the health of her unborn child.”
Cain acknowledges his career may not have lived up to what he once envisioned, but that has less to do with Superman and more to do with his personal life. In 2000, Cain had a son with his girlfriend at the time, Samantha Torres, a Playboy model.
“The thing that drives me more than anything else is being a father,” he says. “So it’s why I’ve done so much family fare in the last few years. I’ve also been hindered with what projects I can take, being a single father.”
The economics of moviemaking is to blame as well. Cain played a supporting role in the 2003 action thriller Out of Time opposite Denzel Washington, but the experience left him with a sour aftertaste. “Denzel made a truckload of cash and I made peanuts!” he says. “I make more on one episode of television than I made in the six weeks of shooting that. It’s ridiculous. I don’t know how some of these people make a living.”
So he’s fine with all his various roles on TV, which he hasn’t even fully covered (on IMDB, he is listed as having nine projects in development, including a TV movie called The Dog Who Saved Christmas Eve). As Cain is about to sign off, his agent interjects, with a reminder about a different project the actor should talk about.
He recently joined Twitter.
“They made me go on!” he says. “They talked me into it.” He tweeted about taking his mother to the American Idol finale and a weekend trip to Napa.
As of press time, Dean Cain had 238 Twitter followers.