Superman on Television
Exclusive Interview with Dana Delany
Lois Long: An Interview with Actress Dana Delany[Date: June 14, 2005]
When Superman fans think of the actresses who've played Lois Lane for the longest time, most think of Margot Kidder who played Lois in four "Superman" movies over nine years (1978-87). Some think of Noel Neill, the first live-action Lois, who returned to play the character on "Adventures of Superman" from 1953-57 - for a total of six years. One or two might even think of Teri Hatcher, but she only played the role for four years.
If, however, even the most die-hard fan fails to think of the actress on target to be Lois longer than all the others, the pop culture gods might actually forgive you. After all, even the actress herself, Dana Delany, did not realize that 2006 will mark a decade that she's voiced Superman's main squeeze and Clark Kent's main foil, Lois Lane.
"I was sort of surprised when I read that," Delany said during a recent telephone interview with the Superman Homepage. "Boy time flies, huh?"
Delany played Lois Lane from 1996-2000 on 54 episodes of "Superman: The Animated Series"; in the 2002 video game, "Superman: Shadow of Apokolips"; on "Justice League" beginning with its second season; and continuing through today on the "JL" spin-off show "Justice League Unlimited" (where she also voiced Loana in "For the Man Who Has Everything").
On David Kaufman, voice of Jimmy Olsen: "Oh I love him."
Though Delany is perhaps best known for her 1988-91 TV series, "China Beach", as well as a spate of feature films (such as 1993's "Tombstone") and TV movies, she enjoys the time she spends on animated voice work. "These scripts are better than half the movies and TV shows I read," Delany said. "I think it's better writing."
Lois is actually the second role Delany played in Bruce Timm's and Paul Dini's animated universe. Delany voiced Bruce Wayne's pre-Batman love interest turned avenging vigilante, Andrea Beaumont (a.k.a. Phantasm), in 1993's "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm." Proving that Batman's nemeses stick together, Delany was drawn into the animated universe by Harley Quinn.
On director Bryan Singer, currently directing "Superman Returns": "He's a wonderful director."
"One of my best friends is Arleen Sorkin - Harley Quinn (from BTAS) - and she's friends with Paul Dini, so I think maybe she recommended me (for Mask of the Phantasm)," Delany explained. "Andrea Romano directed it - she's the queen of animation."
A few years later, Timm and Dini turned their attention to Superman and Delany found herself part of the animated DC Universe one more time.
Delany had a strong understanding of Lois Lane forged from a childhood that included Superman comic books and, of course, the television show starring George Reeves, and that featured Phyllis Coates and Noel Neill as Lois Lane. A self-described "Lois freak", Delany "watched the Superman TV series religiously. I saw every episode," she boasted.
On who she might have cast as Lois Lane in the new movie: "You know who I thought would be great for that part - before they cast Kate Bosworth - was Zooey Deschanel. She even looks like (Lois). She's got black hair and blue eyes, and she's got that kind of smoky voice."
Delany also recalled that, "(a)fter church on Sundays, we used to go to the drug store and I would take my allowance and buy a comic book. That was when there was that brief period when Lois had her own comic (Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane)."
Recently, WB interviewed many of the actresses who've played Lois Lane over the years for a retrospective, "Being Lois Lane", to be included as an extra on the upcoming "Smallville: The Complete Fourth Season" DVD set. It was Delany's own hero-worship for Neill as the first live-action Lois Lane that indirectly ensured her involvement in the DVD feature.
Some time ago, Delany was presenting an award to fellow "Tombstone" actor Val Kilmer at the "Golden Boot Awards" and, coincidentally, Neill was present that evening. "(E)vidently, she did a lot of Westerns back in the day," Delany explained. "I went up to her and I told her that I was a huge fan of hers," she said. Later, when the WB contacted Neill about the retrospective, Neill suggested that they speak with Delany. "Which was so sweet of her," Delany said. "I was totally flattered."
On Christopher Reeve: "Chris was an old friend of mine from my early days in New York. There's something about him in that role ("Superman") that was just meant to be. He never shined more (as an actor) than when he was playing that part. And certainly after the accident, he rose to the integrity of that role. I think he surprised all of us (with) how amazing he was. He's one of those guys you look at and go 'there but for the grace of G-d'; I don't know that I could have done the same in his situation."
Delany found inspiration for Lois's character in the tough-talking, working women of 1940's cinema. "Especially because of Bruce Timm's animation, which is kind of classic and has a bit of a retro feel to it, when I auditioned, the way the character was written, I thought of Rosalind Russell from 'His Girl Friday'" Delany explained. "That kind of rapid, spitfire delivery... It's a character thing more than a voice thing."
The dichotomy of the professional journalist, an independent working woman, who loses her objectivity around caped men in spandex drew Delany to this interpretation of Lois. "I wanted (Lois) to be this tough, no-nonsense, 'watch out bud' character and then, of course, she turns into this total (pussycat) when she's around Superman," she said.
"My audition tape for (Superman) was that great scene where she's looking at a picture of Superman, where they've spotted him for the first time in Metropolis, and she looks up and says 'Nice S'. And I thought, 'that's just great.'"
The animated Lois Lane hasn't just been spotted flying around Metropolis with Superman. In "World's Finest" (a.k.a. "The Batman/Superman Movie"), Delany's Lois almost marries billionaire Bruce Wayne, who is himself no stranger to the dual identity thing. "I remember there's a great line when Lois is seeing Bruce Wayne," Delany recalled. "(W)hen she finds out that he's Batman, she goes 'What were you gonna tell me on the honeymoon?' I thought that was a great line."
On the media-hyped Superman curse: "It's good for gossip, but that's about it."
Explaining her character's penchant for men in tights, Delany joked: "Well, you know, she aims high. It's obviously her fetish."
She went on to defend Lois's interest in super men. "I think Lois is such a strong woman that there are not many men that can equal her and can really deal with her. So it takes a Superman."
Delany is quick to share credit for her success as Lois with creator Timm whom she describes as "an amazing talent... (who) knows exactly what he wants."
Unlike many animated features, in which the actors record their dialogue in isolation, rarely if ever meeting the other members of the cast during production, Delany's work on "STAS" and "JL" is akin to radio drama. "If everybody's available, we all get together in one room. It's just such a ball, because it's like doing old time radio."
On Christian Bale in "Batman Begins": "I'm really interested to see what (he) does with it. He's a real interesting actor; he's kind of a chameleon."
Delany clearly appreciates the opportunity that voice work has provided to work with a panoply of actors. "For me, one of the best parts (of playing Lois) was to walk in the room and see actors that (I've) always admired and have never met and there they are. And we all had so much fun together. I mean, just to meet Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (voice of Alfred Pennyworth). And (when) I got to work with Malcolm McDowell (Metallo), I was shaking..."
As was the case with her role model Neill, who acted with Kirk Alyn and George Reeves, Delany has voiced Lois to a pair of Clark Kents and Supermen. On "STAS", Tim Daly voiced Clark Kent and Superman. And, on "JL" and "JLU", George Newbern portrays the Man of Steel.
"Tim was more the straight-forward hero," Delany reasoned. "But George is great. To me, the difference is he's (George) a little goofier... It's a different Superman, but equally viable as Tim's."
On Mark Hamill's Joker: "He just puts on a show, it's so much fun to watch. He's just a big kid."
In fact, Newbern approaches voicing Superman from a higher place than the other actors on the series - a standing position. "George and Mark Hamill (the Joker) are the only two actors who stand up when they do voice work. Everybody else is sitting down."
Even with the change in leading man, Delany was happy to return to the Lois Lane role on "JL" and "JLU". "It was nice. It was just sort of like going back to the family. But it was a whole new group of people (doing the voices) that I'd never met before. And I'm not as familiar with those characters."
Nonetheless, Delany still finds the experience of working with such a wide variety of actors exciting. "I remember recently they had Jerry O'Connell (as Captain Marvel on June 11th's "Clash"). He was great. He blew me away."
Because Lois appears infrequently, Delany has a difficult time keeping up with the current state of the Superman/Lois relationship. "I do it so sporadically (now) that I never know what's happening," she explained. She does think that Lois is still in the dark about the whole glasses on-glasses off thing. "I don't think she (knows) because that would sort of ruin the whole joke of the thing."
On the future of "Justice League Unlimited": "I know nothing."
When Delany isn't acting, she works on raising awareness for Scleroderma, a degenerative disease that affects at least 300,000 people in the United States. "I did this TV movie called 'For Hope' directed by Bob Saget. His sister died of the disease and I play(ed) his sister in the movie."
Scleroderma means "hard skin" in Greek, Delany explained. "Basically, the connective tissue in your body which is your skin and also the tissue surrounding your organs gets very hard... Internal(ly) it just suffocates your organs."
While many actors adopt a charitable cause, it sometimes seems that the Superman actors become more personally involved in effecting positive change. "It's funny," Delany noted, "I've always had a very strong sense of justice. I don't know why, it's part of my makeup, I think. So I like finding something I believe in and working for it."
Had Delany chosen a different profession, she might have gone down in history as the great-granddaughter of the modern toilet. Her great-grandfather invented the Delany Flush Valve, an integral part of modern toilets. When asked to compare the toilet legacy to the Superman legacy, Delany joked that "(o)ne is more important than the other probably."
Delany's future plans - in addition to continuing to voice Lois Lane on "JLU" as long as she can - include a return to regular series television. She is currently developing a series as Producer and star. "We're still working out the deal, but I have an idea that I'm very excited about," she said. "Hopefully that will pan out this year."
When asked to explain her Lois compared to the other actresses who've played the role, Delany concluded that, as an animated character, "my Lois will always look good. I'm actually looking at a cel of her on my kitchen wall that they gave me as a gift. That outfit she never seems to get out of... the lavender jacket and the white pleated skirt."
"Smallville: The Complete Fourth Season", with the Lois Lane retrospective, will be released September 13, 2005. "Superman: The Animated Series, Volume One" is currently available on DVD.
For more information on scleroderma, please visit the Scleroderma Research Foundation.
This interview is Copyright © 2005 Steven Younis. It is not to be reproduced in part or as a whole without the express permission of the Superman Homepage.