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Supergirl exclusive: Talking Superman with Tyler Hoechlin

Image for Supergirl exclusive: Talking Superman with Tyler Hoechlin

While guest-starring on Supergirl, Tyler Hoechlin has quickly managed to capture many elements of Superman that fans feel have been missing on the big screen for a number of years. Empire recently had the opportunity to sit down with the actor to discuss a career that has ranged from Road To Perdition to Teen Wolf, Supergirl and next year's Fifty Shades Darker.

What follows is the Superman-specific aspects of that conversation. For the full interview, please head HERE

There has been such media attention on you guest starring as Superman on Supergirl. Does it have to do with the iconic nature of the character?

I think any time those larger than life characters are going to be presented in a new setting, it just garners attention no matter what. It's something that so many people follow and so many people are passionate about that, inevitably, there's going to be a lot of chatter about it.

Back in July at Comic-Con, you still hadn’t actually played the part. Having now done so, what was the experience like?

Comic-Con was interesting, because people were, like, "Oh, you're Superman now." I was like, "No, I'm not, I haven't done it yet. Let me go play it." Even then it didn't feel real until I think the morning of the first episode last week. I remember talking to my dad and being, like, "Oh, it's kind of weird, after today, there will always be some footage that exists of me playing this character." It didn't feel real until then. Going into it, I think I should have really felt nervous about the whole situation. For whatever reason, I had such a great meeting with Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, when I first got the job, that I just felt really confident in them and I felt they were really confident in me; that we knew what we were going for. For whatever reason, I felt really comfortable the whole time.

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Melissa Benoist and the rest of the cast were so great and so welcoming from day one, so it kind of felt like home. They made it a really seamless transition for me to be there. I would say it was just the most pure fun that I've had playing a character and shooting something. I had this great experience on set where a P.A. pulled over four kids, two of them were, like, seven or eight years old, two boys, two girls. I had the suit on, and they come over, and their eyes just light up. For ten minutes, I was, like, “Oh, my God, to these kids, I am Superman. They don't know my name, they don't know who I am, they don't know what I've done. They have no idea.” I couldn't love that more. This is so great. I could make these kids' day, and it has nothing to do with me. It's just I'm the guy wearing the "S." And that's it. That was such a cool experience to be able to do that for them, and then I always say that, selfishly, as an actor, it was really informative, because I went, “You know what? That's who this guy is. He's there to make kids feel like they can do anything, they can be anyone, that good can triumph over evil” and all these things.

It also kind of reminds us to be a kid again and have that kind of incredibly hopeful, optimistic outlook before we turn cynical when we get older. That’s what I kind of started falling towards as a character, wanting kids to think that that optimistic view that you have when you're a kid of what the world can be, that we can still make it that, regardless of how many times the world tells us we can't.

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There’s a great bit in the first episode where you block bullets from a flying drone and save a father and his kids. You turn around and use heat visiion to blow up the drone, the kids are carrying on, and you wink at them before you take to the sky. That simple gesture in itself seemed to personify the character in a way that it hasn’t been in a long time.

It was in the script, and we had a lot of fun with that. I remember reading that for the first time and I loved it. That's such a great moment. I do think it's that little nod of, "I gotcha, kid, and you know what? You can do this, too.” For me, it captures everything about Superman in this whole thing. I really tried to lean on that, especially it being a big character coming into a world where the title is character is not him. It’s not his origin story; it’s not about him.

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Everything for me in this was support. He's there to support Supergirl, he's there to help her, if and when she needs it. And to impart wisdom where he can, but at this point of this story, I don't think anything is about him. You know what I mean? When he's Clark, yeah, it can be about Clark, and it's about his work and it's about his relationship with Lois and stuff. We're not really there for that. You can see a little bit of Clark, and we'll see more of it again, but when he's there as Superman especially, he's there to help, he's there to support, he's there to encourage and make it about other people. I do compare it to that experience of being in a locker room. There's the veteran guys and there's the rookies. The veteran guys have been around enough, the coaches don't really need to come to the veteran guys anymore. They know what they're doing, they're comfortable in their own skin, they know how it works, they know how it goes. The veteran guys are now there to help the younger guys come up. They're there to encourage them to become the next veterans. That's kind of what it is. So that's something that I had been able to relate it to as well. Superman's only hope and idea at that point is to encourage others to reach their potential as well, and that's all he wants to do.

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That’s kind of captured in the moment when he enters the DEO base and everybody is reacting to his presence, and Superman says to them, “I want to thank you for your hard work.” It’s an interesting approach to the character.

I remember telling Melissa, after a couple of takes of that, I went up to her and I was, like, "This is the hardest scene." "Oh, really? Why" "Well, because I don't like attention. It's so many eyeballs, which is crazy.” She was, like, "You know what's great, though? I don't think he would either." I'm, like, "No, I don't think he does." So that was something that in that moment I connected to as well, which is that he understands the symbol that he is and what he means to a lot of people, and so he has to live up to that. Whether that's a part of his personality or not, I think something fun about the character was that really you're kind of playing three or four, sometimes five characters in that guy. Because you have Clark when he's just very much Clark. You have Clark when he's around the people who know that he's Superman. Then you have Superman, and then you have Clark around people that don't know that he's Superman and can't know that he's Superman. There's just so many different layers of his personality to where, I think for me, the true Clark/Superman/Kal-El is really when he's being Clark around people that know he's Superman. That is the truest him, that's him not putting on any kind of extra show, playing anything up, playing anything down. For me, he enjoys the moment with the little kids and being able to encourage, but the idea of being looked at and revered? I’m not really sure he loves that. It’s something he understands and he’ll take it on as that’s part of his role, but I don’t think it’s necessarily something where he walks around going, “Oh, yeah, man, people think I’m great.”

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In assuming the character, were they any previous interpretations that inspired you?

Honestly, I was kind of in a weird way very fortunate that I really didn't grow up with a lot of Superman stuff. Dean Cain in Lois And Clark was the Superman that I grew up with. For the most part, I was unaware of the previous movies and things after that. I really, to be honest, think I was kind of scared to admit this at first, but I've honestly really not seen almost any Superman stuff.

That’s surprising to hear, given how you play him.

When the job was kind of an idea and when this was all coming about, I intentionally made a choice, because I had time to, to not go back and look at anything and not watch any of the newer ones either, because I never wanted the temptation to imitate or emulate something that had been done beforehand. The last thing I wanted was to be on set and to do something and go, "Oh, you know what? That's a little too similar to what Reeve did,” or, “Oh, you know what? It's a little too far away from that version that I kind of like." I really went in completely blind and just with the knowledge of, again, what Greg and Andrew and I had all said we found really interesting about the character and the themes that we felt were important for him. So anytime someone says, "Well, how do you compare your Superman to other Supermen?", I literally can't, because I don't know. This is just a version of the character as I understand it, and that I think he is.

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Especially in this world. They did such a great job of setting the tone with Melissa and Kara and Supergirl in the first season that the ideas that I'd had about him coming into this, it's really ... I mean, I did audition for Man Of Steel years ago, when I was much younger and there were things about the character that kind of hit me for the first time when I was going in for that. It is funny, because, again, I haven’t seen them, but I know the tones are different. And I get it, because going in for that audition, it was very much different. I read those scenes completely differently than the way that I played the character in this. That's because you have to know the story that you're telling, and you have to know the tone in which the story is being told. Those ideas stayed with me of who I thought he was. The way that they're played out is just different, because it's a different story that you're telling.

When you auditioned for Man Of Steel, did you get a sense they were going for a darker, heavier approach, rather than that more optimistic approach taken by Supergirl?

Oh yeah, absolutely. The scenes that were read for that, it was already very much, obvious from the beginning that that was going to be a story of his struggle with things.

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Is there any talk about you coming back beyond these first two episodes?

We've had conversations, but there's a lot of things that go into that. It's obviously a very loved and protected character, and so they always want to, from what I understand, make sure that everybody is happy about what's being done. We'll see. It's TV, so you never know. My whole thing going into it was that it was two episodes. It was a chance to do something that I think is pretty much every boy's dream, and for me, I had an absolute blast doing it. If it ends up being these two episodes, then I'll be more than happy to say that I got to do it and I had so much fun; it was an incredible experience. If it turns out to be more, then we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, I'm just really grateful that it's been what it has been and that people have enjoyed it so far.

The fans are so funny. They're already saying, "They should do a spin-off, they should do a spin-off!" Do you want to do a spin-off, Tyler?

Oh, man, again, one of those things where it's a bridge to cross when you get to it. We'll see what happens. I will say I've had an immense amount of fun doing it, so I can be “persuaded” to come back.

Head here for the full interview with Tyler Hoechlin

Head to Empire's DC on TV hub for 25 articles on Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash, DC's Legends Of Tomorrow, Lucifer, Preacher, Constantine and Krypton