Tyler Hoechlin distinctly remembers the day he was cast as The CW’s Superman in June of 2016. While driving back from a road trip to Zion National Park with his brother, Hoechlin received an unexpected phone call from his reps just as the pair was passing through Las Vegas. About a week earlier, he had met with executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg to discuss the idea of introducing the Man of Steel in the second season of Supergirl—but didn’t know what he was walking into until an hour before the meeting.
“One of my agents called me and said, ‘Hey, I think I might know what your meeting’s about.’ And they sent me this article that they were looking to cast Superman, and I was like, ‘Okay, maybe… Who knows?’” Hoechlin says over Zoom in a recent interview. “I went in and we talked for about a half an hour and got to know each other better. They said, ‘We’re looking to do this. Is that something you’d be interested in?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, sure. Let’s talk about it!’ We just talked about the character, what we found interesting about him, and it was just that one meeting.”
“I found out later through them that, apparently, that was the only meeting they took for the character,” he says with a laugh, “so they apparently saw something [in me].”
After making guest appearances on a bevy of Arrowverse shows, including Arrow, The Flash, Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow, Hoechlin, who never planned to sign on for more than a couple of high-stakes crossover episodes, discovered that Berlanti and Todd Helbing were developing a new show about Superman and Lois Lane in late 2018. Nearly a year later, Superman & Lois was announced, tasking the famous power couple with their most relatable challenge yet: parenting two teenage boys (among other things in Smallville).
“I always say that it’s not the role that I ever envisioned myself playing, but I think that’s maybe why I’m able to play it the way that I have been,” Hoechlin admits. “It’s been a lot of fun, and thankfully, it’s worked. I grew up with the idea of playing Batman, and I think if I was playing Batman, I’d be very aware that I was playing Batman. So it almost helps in the sense that, for whatever reason, this wasn’t in the forefront of my mind, and it’s made it easier to take on the role.”
FROM THE TIME he was cast more than five years ago, Hoechlin has worked diligently to emulate the Man of Tomorrow’s trademark physique, which he considers “a huge part of the character.” As a former college baseball player for Arizona State and UC Irvine, the 33-year-old says he’s adopted a similar mentality to prepare for his most physically demanding roles, from his early days as Derek Hale on MTV’s supernatural teen drama Teen Wolf to his current portrayal of Clark Kent (and that legendary alter-ego).
“For me, I appreciate and am excited about the challenge of it,” Hoechlin says of his physical transformation into the iconic superhero. “This isn’t a movie; it’s not like a few months of prep, a few months of shooting, and you’re done. We’ve been shooting for 10 months [this season], and next year will be at least seven, and it’s going to be a yearly thing. So I really looked forward to the challenge of not getting to that place but maintaining it for hopefully a long time.”
Since beginning production on the freshman season of Superman & Lois last October, the cast and crew have worked under strict Covid-19 protocols in Vancouver, which has eliminated the opportunity to train at a proper gym altogether. Hoechlin admits that, while the circumstances have not been ideal, he has been able to use “the tools and knowledge” that he acquired from working with past trainers and strength coaches, such as David Buer, to facilitate his own workouts remotely.
“I love my weights, and I’ve got a little bit of a set-up here to do what I can. A lot of dumbbell work, a lot of bench, a couple cables and things like that,” he explains, later adding that he uses the incline chest press in workouts to build up Superman’s broad chest. “So just pushing as much as I can with as high a weight as I can. Over the last couple of years, I’ve leaned out, and that’s mainly because of diet, I would say. I really don’t do a ton of cardio just because I’m trying to build and maintain.”
“So for me, if anything, I’ll get a couple of days of weight-lifting in where I’ve got my tempo up a little bit more and a little less time in between sets to keep the heart rate going,” he adds, referring to the HIIT workouts and supersets that make up a normal part of his daily routine. “But other than that, cardio’s been a bit of a no-show in my repertoire this year.”
For the better part of the last three years, Hoechlin had avoided carbohydrates and maintained a ketogenic diet. But after watching the controversial Netflix documentary Seaspiracy in March, the actor had a change of heart. He switched to a vegan diet for about a month and then to a vegetarian diet with some eggs after discovering the difficulty of finding “good, complete proteins without getting too many carbs” with just vegan options. “For me, it’s all about performance and how you feel and what you’re getting out of the food that you’re putting into your system,” he explains.
“The one constant for me, though, is no sugar. I don’t like any added sugars. I have very little, if I do, like fruit before a workout to get some natural sugars. But for the most part, I try to keep that as low as humanly possible,” he says. “I reached out to a nutritionist here in Vancouver when I was thinking about switching things up, so it’s always good to check in with somebody and run through what your habits are and what you’re looking to get out of, hopefully, new habits.”
AFTER A YEAR that has highlighted the value of human connection, Hoechlin notes that the timing of this new iteration of Superman and Lois’ love story has serendipitously coincided with a heightened awareness of the importance of “family and those things that really matter.”
“There’s so many things that I think we all got caught up in, feeling like they were so important. But they all disappeared, they were rescheduled, they were cancelled, and the only thing you’re left with is those relationships that you have,” he says. “I love the fact that we’re able to focus on that in this show. It’s irreplaceable. We can try as much as we want to find things to fill in those gaps, but at the end of the day, it’s about the connection with people. When we all pass, those are the things that live on. I think that’s the true impact you have that moves forward.”
While this role will be just one of many impressive credits that he will add to his résumé, Hoechlin, who did not watch any past interpretations of Superman to prepare for this role, hopes that his portrayal of the Man of Steel will make one thing abundantly clear: Good is not boring.
“I think that’s always the slam on Superman. He’s a boy scout; he always does the right thing. There’s nothing interesting about him just because he’s always so predictable, and I just find that fascinating because it’s not the usual thing,” he says with a smile. “You always say, ‘How many people do you know who do the right thing all the time?’ It’s not easy, so I find it more fascinating than I find it boring that someone can be that selfless, that giving, that content with having the capabilities of taking over the universe, and saying, ‘No, no, what I have is enough, and that’s not my place. That’s not for me.’”
He continues: “Someone asked me, ‘Why do we need Superman now?’ Well, he does stand for hope. And hope is not something that once we get it, we got it, we’re good and it’s done. It’s a constant. It needs to be refilled. New things happen all the time, and we’ve got to be able to look forward and have a hopeful outlook for the future. Otherwise, what are we doing?”
Superman & Lois airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on The CW. The first season can also be streamed on CWTV.com or The CW app.
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