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Été 1995/Summer 1995



 

 


THE LEAN, MEAN, DEAN MACHINE

 

 

DEAN CAIN, STAR OF ABC'S LOIS & CLARK : THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN. SHOWS HIS LATEST MOVES IN THE INSIDE YOLK INTERVIEW

By Brett Tam
Edited by Philip W. Chung


It takes some incredible suspension of disbelief to accept that a pair of glasses is the only thing preventing Lois from discovering Clark is really Superman.

But then, no one quite wears prescription glasses like Dean Cain does.

Each week actor Dean Cain makes television screens sizzle as the bespectacled Clark Kent, the Daily Planet reporter who moonlights as Superman on ABC's Lois & Clark : The New Adventures of Superman. He and co-star Teri Hatcher play a duo of sleuthing reporters in a series known for its witty banter, action and the chemistry between the two leads.

Dean, who began his Hollywood career as a writer, currently is producing his own television special called Off-Camera. The special will take a lighthearted look at celebrities and the way they are when not in the spotlight.

With multiple talents and interests, the former NFL player is definitely making a play for the role of a Hollywood jack-of-all-trades.

And like Clark, he seems to have the best of both worlds - the brawn of Superman and the brains that go with those glasses.

YOLK recently spoke with Dean at his TV production office in Santa Monica, California…

YOLK : Where are you from ?

DEAN CAIN : Well, I was born in Mount Clemens, Michigan, an air force base , at Southridge Air Force Base. And I moved out of Michigan when I was 3 years old to Hollywood, where I lived till I was 5. And when I was 5, I moved to Malibu. So, it was a little different in that I wasn't born in Malibu. I was raised there but I wasn't born there.

"I'm Japanese. To me it seems so clear, especially
when I see someone who's Japanese, I can see some
features in myself. And those are the strongest features
that I have, my Asian features, without a doubt."

YOLK : How long did you live there ?

DEAN : Malibu ? Till I was 18. Then I took off and went to Princeton, and then did my four years there, and then went to Buffalo for one short span of football. I was injured early on and that was the end.

"You do whatever you have to do to get wherever you have to get.
'Oh, I'll never do that.' They'll get nowhere, because
if you're not going after it full force, it's not going to happen."


YOLK : During this time in Malibu you grew up among a lot of stars. What was that like ?

DEAN : When you're growing up as kids, you're kids, you know ? No one's a star or anything like that. The fact that some of the kids got into acting and stuff was a shock to me.

The first guy who actually did were Sean Penn and Rob Lowe kind of at the same time. Sean started doing it seriously by taking classes. He was very intense. And Rob always had an interest in it. And it was interesting because being an actor wasn't the thing that would make you cool or chic or popular. In fact, the thing was to be a good surfer.

YOLK : What would Sean Penn and Rob Lowe say about you if they were being interviewed and somebody asked them, "What was Dean Cain like when he was growing up ?"

DEAN : I don't know. You'd have to ask them that. I assume they'd probably say he was a good athlete… (laughs)

YOLK : I've heard that you're part Japanese.

DEAN : Of course.

YOLK : What's your ethnic background ?

DEAN : My grandfather of my father's side is completely Japanese. He married, I think, an Irish woman. Completely Irish. So they had this half-Irish, half-Japanese son. And he was my father. I've never met him. My parents were divorced before I was born, and so I've never had any contact with him.

My father now, who has been the greatest inspiration and the biggest source of leadership and discipline and everything in my life, he stepped into my life when I was 3. He became my father basically then. So I never lacked a father figure.

So, I'm a quarter Japanese, but I am probably over half-Welsh and a quarter Japanese. And the rest is Irish and French Canadian and who know what else, you know ? I think we're all sort of getting into this melting pot and I think that everyone's going to have pieces of everything.

YOLK : Did your multi-ethnic background ever come into play when you were growing up ?

DEAN : It's funny, because I was never aware of it in that sense. I grew up pleasantly ignorant of any of that. Obviously, there's a difference between Chinese and Japanese, but must Caucasians don't realize the difference.

And it surprised me because I knew I was Japanese, but I just figured it was obvious that's what I was, Japanese. But I'd never thought about it as I looked different or seemed any different than anyone.

When I was extremely young I looked extremely Asian. I had no idea. I mean I thought everyone looked the same, and one of the comments (made by a neighbor) was - my brother looks exactly like me, he's two years older, except he's smaller - "Did those the Chinese boys move out, you know, who live at the corner ?" And I thought, he thought of me as a little Chinese boy, and I thought myself as a little American kid. I didn't even think I appeared any differently, which of course I did. And I look back now at pictures of me as a child, and I'm extremely Japanese looking. I mean, it was a surprise to me because I didn't see it.

Now, it's hard when everyone asks, "What's your ethnicity ? Are you Spanish ? Are you Italian ? What are you ?" - I'm Japanese. To me, it seems so clear, especially when I see someone who's Japanese, I can see some features in myself and so on and so forth. And those are the strongest features that I have, my Asian features, without a doubt. But I guess it's muddled a bit so people can't really tell.

Everyone who's Asian says, "Ahhh" - they get me. But everyone else, they seem to miss it.

YOLK : What do they usually point to ?

DEAN : My eyes, my hair color, my cheekbones. I mean, even you and I are very similar. There's a lot of resemblance, more so than your average Joe on the street. I don't know what it is they point to. When I laugh, they used to joke and say when I laugh, you could blinkfold me with dental floss, things like that. (laughs)

YOLK : (laughs)

DEAN : Nothing ever offensive to me. That's the funny thing about race and culture. I'm completely non-prejudiced. And that's something that has gone through athletics. Pro football and my high school football, you have teams very ethnically mixed - Black, White, Mexican and this Japanese guy. But (laughs) you know, it's like you can't tell who's what. And you fit in. For me there are no prejudice lines. For me there are no color lines. But I respect each culture.

Even in college, I was two courses short of being a Japanese history major. I've gotten no influence from my Japanese part of the family. None. I've never seen any of them in flesh. This is one issue that's interesting. Everyone seems to ask me : "Are you ever going to see your real father ?"

There is no interest in me for doing that other than for curiosity's sake. There really isn't. There's nothing that I'm missing. There's nothing that I hope to gain by it.

Another thing by being in the spotlight is that your personal life becomes such an open book. Everyone's looking at you as if you're inside a glass house now.

YOLK : In the light of the media's probing into yout personal life, does it upset you when people ask you about Brooke Shields ? That seems to be the perrenial question.

DEAN : It's a perrenial question. It doesn't bother me, but it's just when they say, "Did you guys go out ?" "Yes. We're still good friends, and she's sweet, smart, intelligent, funny, you know, a very cool person. She's someone who I like and still value very much as a friend." And then I say, "Well, that's then." Then they'll say "What happened ? How are you guys doing now ?" That's nobody's business. Yeah, we knew each other and we're still good friends.

It's so funny because when you're in this position people feel they have the ability to say to you, "What was it like ? How did people treat you ?" And if someone were to ask you those questions in a conversation about your life, you'd be like, "Get out of my life ! Are you kidding me ? I wouldn't tell you, a stranger, let alone tell you, the world, how it goes." And that's part of the fine line that you have to walk. It's difficult, because you want to be candid, but you can't - completely.

YOLK : How old are you ?

DEAN : 28.

YOLK : Ok, so your college years are kind of far behing, huh ?

DEAN : (laughs) Thank you for reminding me. I was just back at this last weekend. It was weird for me because people were asking for my autograph, and this is a place where I felt very at home. Still do. Beautiful campus.

But it was surprising to me people were asking for autographs like they did, I guess sort of like "local boy made good" kind of a thing. But it was very strange. I felt sort of like a stranger in a very familiar place. It was a little desorienting. But, you know, it was still school. And yeah, college years are far behind me and I guess that's sort of one of the things I realized this weekend. Because the kids look so young. They look so young to you. And you just go, "Wow." And they are, in that sense. These kids are 20 years old, 21.

YOLK : Tell me about some of your college memories. Did you have a really good time in college ?

DEAN : I loved college. It was a wonderful four years. But people always say, "Oh, this will be the best time of your life." But I can never accept that comment for anything, ever.

Princeton wasn't about what I learned in the classroom. It was what I learned outside the classroom. From the kinds of people that I was associated with, the kinds of people that I sort of rubbed elbows with and had to deal with all the time. A guy from the football team called Rockfeller, you know, and the Shah of Iran's son ate next to me in my eating club.

And all these things, you're in these social situations with these people, the Prince of Jordan, and these are people who are very major players in the world and politics and so on and so forth. It's interesting to see everyone as people. And also, they just pile so much work on you, and with me having sports - it was football, track, volleyball - it was like 10 days a year when I didn't have classes and practices.

It was just crazy, which helps me manage my schedule now. But it's like time management. Well, as a freshman you try to do it all. And you can't do it.

YOLK : What were some of the most enjoyable moments in college ?

DEAN : Princeton is a residential college. Ninety-nine percent of the students live on campus. So there's this wonderful sense of community that you get there that I don't know if you experience at other universities, especially the larger ones. That's one of the feelings right there that I miss from college.

And those people were all so intelligent. They look different, I mean, you had every ethnicity, avery beackground. And you were just inundated witl all these different forces.

There's late nights, you stay all night and do those crazy things. There's that sense of freedom as well in college.

YOLK : Is there less of that atmosphere in Hollywood ?

DEAN : Hollywood's a very weird place. I think there's less of everything except for attitude. It's a wonderful place. It's also a horrible place.

YOLK : How is it horrible ?

DEAN : It can be horrible as a young actor trying to start. As a young anything in Hollywood trying to startout, it's very difficult. And the chances for you to get abused and made to feel like dirt are just over-whelming. Basically those things are going to happen. This is the same reason my father, who's a film director, told me not to be an actor.

YOLK : So why did you do it ?

DEAN : I don't always take my father's advice, I guess. I did because when I graduated from college, I went and played pro football for a year for Buffalo.

YOLK : Right.

DEAN : I was injured early on in (football) camp. And I knew that I wanted to start writing screenplays because I'd always read screenplays that my father had brought home. They were offered to him as a director. So I would read them and he'd say, "Is this cool, is this what kids say ? Is this something that people would want to go see ?" And I'd give my opinion on them. That was interesting to me.

And I had always done really well in English and history, and these courses were basically this big story. Reading and writing, things that I enjoy. When I was younger I learned how to type, it was one of the those things you learned. I learned how to type and I liked it. I was good at it. For some strange reason I liked to type. I still kind of do.

YOLK : (laughs)

DEAN : I could never understand why.

YOLK : Typewriter or computer ?

DEAN : Now I work on a computer, but then it was a typewriter. And I would flip a piece of paper in, just start typing up some goofy little story about the family. I started this when I was young. It sort of stuck the bug in my ear.

YOLK : How old were you at that time ?

DEAN : At that time I was in hign school, junior high school.

And then, I knew when I was finished playing football that I was going to go into film. I knew I enjoyed writing, so what I decided I was going to do was play pro football and be a screenwriter at the same time. Because there's a lot of down time. I didn't want to just exercise my body and not my mind. I've never been that way. So I wanted to find something to do mentally. And this was just perfect. You know, I'd spend my days running around and being a heave-ho masculine guy, then go at night and sit down there and write about things that meant something to me.

I was injured too early to really be doing that. So I started writing while I was recovering from my injury. My father said, "Here's an idea for a script. This, this, this, this happens and then this happens, then this happens. Think you can make a story out of that for a script ?" And I'm like - he's challenging me, right - and so I said, "Of course. Sure. Yeah. Sure I can." So I started working on it. Auhh ! it was horrible. I was so bad -

YOLK : (laughs)

DEAN : I couldn't imagine that there are so many parameters to writing. You write within these certain laws. I mean, everything's visual. Everything that you write in a screen play is visual. And that's different that what you write in a book, you know like th0oughts and emotions and things you can convey ideas where the readers are creating their own picture in their mind, and that's what make books such a powerful medium.

But you can't do that in film. You have to show everything. So I had to learn how to write without writing too much about hat and try to make it still read like a book so that a director will be able to make images come true without giving him too much.

I kept working at it - I'm very stubborn. And I'll keep working. I never quit anything. I can't imagining quitting, you know ? If I start it I'm going to finish it.I think it's one of my strongest attributes. It can also be a detriment, but I really think it's one ofit's one of the strongest things that I have going fo me. If I say I'm going to do it and we started - we're going to do it. It's going to be finished. So don't try to stop this interview. (laughs)

YOLK : (laughs)

DEAN : So I was working on this thing, plugging away, plugging away, pluggong away. And then finally one day, something happened, and I started working on it, and then - it was like a dam opened up. I just started typing.

The next thing you know, I had 50 pages of script, a whole half of the script. And I liked it. And it was coming out clean, it was easy. I sort of found the trick, the idea, I sort of understood it.

Gave it to my dad. He was so relieved. He was so relieved that I could actually write. And I finished the script. Nothing ever happened with that. It was sort of an exercise. Form then on he hired me. He hired me six other times to ghostwrite other projects, so I've seen my work on film before, again and again and again.

YOLK : What kind of films ?

DEAN : I'm not actually at liberty to say becausewriters get very tense when they know they've written behind, and I didn't get a credit on things. I never took a credit for anything, but I did a lot of the work. So it was a very learning experience like that.

I wrote the Christmas episode for Lois & Clark. What I wanted to do with our show - I know the actors all very well, obviously. I know all the storylines we've had. And so what I wanted to do was create a situation where the people can do some things that are very funny. And I wanted it not to be such a plot-heavy episode.

I wanted some specific images that I thought were very Christmas. We didn't have a Christmas episode [two years ago]. And I hated that, because the whole show is such a fantasy in its own right. To have Christmas in Metropolis is such a romantic thing.

What I created was basically someone who tried to steal Christmas, in a sense, by making everyone kind of Grinch-like, making everyone selfish and bratty.And so this character has created a toy. He is a disgruntled toy man who was fired a year earlier at Christmas time because hos toys - he was told by kids that his toys… suck.

What happens is he creates this toy that's ugly and stupid looking. But he does something to it that makes everyone love it, in a sense, it's sort of a chemical thing. Basically it's very cartoon like. It's lighthearted but it's a touching sort of Christmas story. And it came off very well. I'm very happy with it.

YOLK : I've noticed there have been changes on Lois & Clark, less banter and more action-oriented, perhaps to gain male viewers. Is this a step in the right direction ?

DEAN : Well… we didn't lose banter. What they're doing is more action, less romance that went nowhere. We always have the banter. I think the banter works very well between us.

The action, I think, works very well for everyone, too. There's been a lot more action. I personally love the action. I think there should be more. It's expensive, though, and it's tedious to shoot. But people are watching it now.

Banter and romance exist, and it's still there. But when it happens it means more.

YOLK : You and Teri Hatcher (who plays Lois Lane) have really good chemistry on screen. What's it like working with her ?

DEAN : She's a fantastic actress. We work together everyday, all day long. So, you have to have a good working relationship. She memorizes lines fantastically well. And you have to be durable, which she has proved to be.

It's worked out very wel. It's tough to do this job. No one knows how hard it is - they always say the hardest thing to do is hour-long TV.

YOLK : I've heard some rumors that working with Teri Hatcher isn't that easy. Is there any truth to that ?

DEAN : Any situation, you'll have great times and you'll have easy times, hard times, you have bad times. Overall we have a fantasctically light, wasy, happy working set.

YOLK : What kind of fan mail do you get ?
DEAN : I get so much fan mail. It's fantastic. I've had videotapes, letters, flowers. I've had everything sent to me.

I don't get to see everything that comes in. I see things from people whom I know or… special cases and certain things. It has to get filtered through because I could spend all day everyday just reading the fan mail and not get through it all.

Lots of kids send me pictures. I have so many pictures from little kids who've drawn Superman and themselves. It's cute as hell. I have a awful lot of young ladies (writing me). I made a comment a long time ago on a talk-show that I was single, and (laughs) I got some interesting offers. Fan letters, it's pretty fun. But it's also a little strange, I've had a grocery list sent to me. So, it runs the gamut. I had a grandmother send me a thing asking me to take her granddaughter to the prom.

YOLK : Oh, gosh -

DEAN : She thought that I'd be the right person. She wouldn't let her go with anyone else.

YOLK : Did you do it ?

DEAN : No. No, no,no, no. I didn't go to that one.

YOLK : Your versions of Superman and Clark Kent are really different from the previous ones because Clark Kent isn't exactly… a dork, so to speak -

DEAN : Thank you -

YOLK : A lot of fans that I know of watch your show are just as in love with Clark as they are with Superman.

DEAN : Right. In our version, Superman's just one facet of who Clark is. Clark could easily fly around and stuff, but he'd rather live the normal life.

It's an interesting sort of metaphor to an actor's life. I like to go out and do the things on the screen, but at the same time, when I'm done, man, when I want to sit down and watch a volleyball game or watch a football game or relax or go have dinner, I want it to be completely normal.

It's very nice to have the adulation but it's tough to balance that against your normal life. People are constanly bombarding you.

But you don't really know what the hell's going to happen when you do something. You don't know if everyone's going to hate it. But if they love it, it's great, you make a great living. That's a wonderful thing.

YOLK : Speaking of which, I heard you're working on a special, Off-Camera. Are you trying to show people the normal side of actors?

DEAN : Absolutely. That certain special is a one-hour special for ABC. This is where I got the idea : I was watching MTV Sports. A friend of mine, Dan Cortese, hosts it. He got on a dirt bike, and he doesn't know how to ride it. He got out of control and hit the gas and wiped out so hard he hurt himself. He was in the hospital - but it was so funny to see him on this bike wipe out like that.

It's the same thing you laugh at when you're a kid. If you were with four buddies and one of them hadn't skied before and he wipes out, it's very funny to you. And so in that sense, seeing people you know, seeing celebrities do things that they do well or not do well, is a lot of fun. Andrew Shue playing soccer. To see him actually take panalty kicks, which he does against me - it's something different.

There is also some pretty decent interview stuff, because it's not a Barbara Walters special. It's about specifically what people do when the spotlight's not on them. I'm not asking them probing questions. It's just like, "Do you like to play basketball in your spare time ? What sports do you do in your spare time ?"

YOLK : When is Off-Camera going on the air ?

DEAN : Well, I've got to finish it first, and I'm so far behind schedule.

YOLK : A lot of female fans of yours see you as a manly kind of guy. Now if you could come back as a woman, who would you be ?

DEAN : Wow. That's such a loaded question.

YOLK : (laughs) Only if you want it to be,

DEAN : (laughs) Well how else could it not be ? Hmm… You know, I have no idea. There's no specific person that I would want to be. Maybe I'd come back as my girlfriend so I'd know how she really felt about me. (laughs) I really don't know.

YOLK : Would you date yourself ?

DEAN : Would I date - oh yeah, I would definitely date myself. I'm a nice guy. I'm a good date -

YOLK : (laughs)

DEAN : I don't know how, I really can't come up with a real answer to that. It's nothing I've ever considered.

YOLK : Nobody you'd want to come back as ?

DEAN : No… I'm so happy to be a man. I'm very happy with what I am, where I am. So I don't know how to answer that thing, bottom line. (laughs)

YOLK : Actually, I wanted to ask you about your family. You mentioned that you have a brother and sister. Do you have any other siblings ?

DEAN : Well, that's it. One older brother, Roger, and I have a younger sister, Chrisinda. She's a senior in college. She'll be graduating this year.

YOLK : Do you know if she gets any requests from friends who find out that she's Dean Cain's sister ?

DEAN : She is so down-to-earth, to approach her with that, would be like - she would think you were from Mars. She fully understands this business, though.

So much of it is perception. Everyone's going to perceive you as this or that or whatever.Or you take pictures and look great. But then you see these people, you say, "Well, you know, God, he's not so tall, he isn't so great-looking, she's not so wonderful."

For my sister, I'm just her older brother. It's absurd to say, "Whoa, can you steal me a pair of his underwear ?" She would just think, "Are your insane ? That's my brother. You're crazy."

YOLK : Are you pretty close to your family ?

DEAN : Extremely close to my family.

YOLK : Are they still located in Malibu ?

DEAN : My parents still live in Malibu, yeah, they do. My sister and my brother does.

YOLK : How has Lois & Clark been doing in foreign markets ?

DEAN : Lois & Clark internationally is huge. I mean, it's just giant. I had no idea until I went out there. But it's Warner Bros.' Biggest international show. It's the number one American show in 10 different countries. It's just huge, it's just gone out of control. Which is great for Warner Bros. And for me and for my exposure.

But the one thing it's really nice for is… feature films, they place a tremendous amount of credibility in an actor if they do well on the foreign market. And suddenly I'm doing very well on the foreigh market, incredibly well. And I'm getting more and more movie offers, and that's going to be something that's going to be really interesting and fun for me.

But I'm really excited to get out there this hiatus. Last hiatus I didn't find a film that I wanted to do, and I want to be very specific about this first film that I do. This year I will find one.I believe that's going to be a whole different ballgame for me. And I'm very excited. Right now, I'm fighting for this project Without Remorse (based on a Tom Clancy novel). I really want to do that project.

That, for me, ultimately is where I'm going to end up. I'll end up still producing and directing TV and such, writing - you know, the first TV thing I've written was for Lois & Clark. I write movies mostly. I don't always want to work on TV because you're just decked, and it's very limiting in the sense that you can't say bad words, you can't do this, your subject matter has to be this way.

YOLK : What kind of films do you hope to work on ?

DEAN : All different types. I think as an actor the first three things I'll do are no-commercial, action adventure sort of films. I really admire careers like Harrison Ford's and sort of the things he's chosen to do. I really want to be able to experience all different things.

YOLK : I heard you did a lot of commercials in the past.

DEAN : I did about 35 in four years. That was how I was making money when I was trying to write, before I started doing a lot of guest-starring roles.

YOLK : Was there ever a commercial that you really regret doing ? Is there a commercial that that 20 years from now people will be airing on TV specials saying, "Oh, this is where Dean Cain was in the beginning ?"

DEAN : Oh sure. They could say that now. I did so many of them. I don't know if there's anything that I really regret doing. You know what, the only thing I would regret seeing is the audition tapes.

Here the typical commercial audition. You go in, you,re with four other people, everyone's pretty good-looking, the whole bit. You got in, they say, "OK, you guys are at the party" - you're in front of this video camera and you're on this little sound stage or this little room - "Ok, you guys are at the party, and you're eating the chips and dancing and hanging out, OK ?" And - action ! Here you go -

YOLK : (laughs)

DEAN : You're ating the chips, looking like an idiot, but you're sitting there going, "You know I gotta pay rent this month." I was reading with Brad Pitt, it was like, El Pollo Loco Chicken.

YOLK : (laughs)

DEAN : You do whatever you have to do to get wherever you have to get. It,S people who are afraid to do those things, who will never ever step out there and do that. They say, "Oh, I'll never do that." They'll get nowhere, because if you're not going after it full force, it's not going to happen… (laughs)

El Pollo Loco Chicken… That was just big-time. Yeah, dance and eat some chips. That stuff can't ever show up. (laughs)

YOLK : You never know.

DEAN : I hope it doesn't.

YOLK : When you're 65, what do you picture yourself doing, if you're doing anything -

DEAN : Sitting on my ass.

YOLK : (laughs)

DEAN : Big family. I'll have a large amount of land, big house, very comfortable. I'll probably be golfing, raising my kids still, helping them out with their businesses and sort of… living, you know ? Just living life and traveling with my wife. For me, that's going to be so much fun. I'll probably still be working to a degree, just not nearly as hard. And the projects that I'll work on will mean a hell lot more to me.

Watch, I'll be this wino down on 6th and Main drinking out of a paperbag. (laughs)

YOLK : Anything could happen -

DEAN : Anything could happen, but I really believe that's where I'll be. I do.

Brett Tam is believed by some to be the most enviable woman in the world. She interviewed Russell Wong for the last issue of Yolk.

 



Mise à jour le Lundi, 14 Mars 2011 00:12