with Gerard Christopher
by Brian McKernan
marked an historic return to live-action television for the Man
of Steel when the show premiered October 3, 1988. It had been more than 30
years since the cameras rolled on "All That Glitters," the last
episode of Adventures
of Superman and like its historic predecessor,
this new show was also a half-hour first-run syndicated action/adventure series
featuring the latest in special effects and a varied assortment of guest stars.
Totaling 104 episodes when production ended in late 1992, Superboy (retitled
The Adventures of Superboy in its third and fourth seasons) was produced
in Orlando, Florida - first at Disney/MGM Studios and then at Universal
Studios/Florida. A co-production of Viacom and Alexander and Ilya Salkind (creators
of the first three Christopher Reeve Superman movies and Supergirl), the show
was well-received among television critics and ranked among the top ten Nielson-rated
new syndicated programs.
The show's first two seasons chronicled Superman's college years at Shuster University's
Siegel College of Journalism (a nod to Superman's co-creators,
Jerry Siegel and
Joe Shuster). The
equally fictitious Capitol City was the show's setting in its third
and fourth seasons, in which Clark Kent and Lana Lang (Stacy Haiduk) completed
their education with internships at the "Bureau for Extranormal Matters." These
later episodes were executive produced by Julia Pistor for Lowry Productions.
Gerard Christopher, educated at New York's prestigious Julliard School and a
veteran of many film and TV appearances, was selected for the coveted role of
the young Superman after the departure of first-season lead John Haymes Newton. Over
the course of his involvement with the series, Christopher expanded his duties
to become a producer and, on two occasions, scriptwriter. His creative
influence over Superman's updated television persona, while innovative and
original, was greatly inspired by George Reeves and Adventures of Superman,
as he explains in this interview with
The Adventures Continue contributor Brian McKernan.
Was Adventures of Superman
on TV in your home when you were growing
I grew up with Superman and he's a real slice of American culture. When I was a child,
George Reeves was the Superman I saw first. My upbringing was similar to that
of most people; my mother told me I used to put a towel around my neck and jump off
the roof of the garage in our back yard when I was a kid. When I got the role
of Superboy I was pretty numbed by it. It's not like doing any other characters. Roles
come and go, I worked on Melrose Place recently, but Superman is something that
will always linger with me.
Because Superman is etched
into television history. It's a real piece of
American culture. It was a pretty awesome thing
to do, to see the effect this character has on
kids - on all people - all over the
world. It was a little bit scary, but also a lot
of fun. I got a lot of participation from fans
who sent me the most unbelievable letters and were
incredibly knowledgeable about the history of
Superman. They told me some of the most obscure
things that were just amazing. And it turned
into a great experience for me, one that I couldn't
have imagined when I started out. It was pretty
daunting, just to fit in some way into the whole mold
of what's been created in the Superman legend.
It was amazing - a fantastic experience.
I imagine that there were certain things that people expected to see - such as flying, which
you did a lot of.
And the reason I did was because of the fan mail. When I read letters the one thing people
wanted to see - hands down - was flying. You could punch anything,
break through walls, use X-ray vision, use heat vision - just as long as
you show flying. Everyone loves it.
I looked to the best
available examples of Superman in preparing for the role. I'd grown up with
George Reeves' series,
of course, and I looked at most of the other live-action versions: the
Salkind movies, the serials with
Kirk Alyn, and even the Superboy pilot done in 1960
with John Rockwell, who's actually a friend of
mine. I never even knew he had been an actor
until I got the Superboy series.
Who particularly stands out among the other actors who have portrayed Superman?
Like a lot of people, I have
an emotional, sentimental attachment to what George
Reeves did. He just seemed to do Superman the
right way, the correct way, the way Superman is
supposed to be done. I also have a lot of
respect for the personality that Christopher Reeve
brought to his Superman role. He's a big, tall,
handsome guy and he gave the role a new twist and
reawakened it. But in terms of sentimentality
George Reeves is my favorite. I'd have to say I
like them both.
So seeing what others had done with your character was part of your research for the role?
Yes, but there's something difficult about that, because you can't do what everyone else
has done. You have to also make the role your own. That was a difficult thing to do
because DC Comics had a very tight hold on us. There were many constraints as to
what that character could and couldn't do. It was sometimes very difficult to have any
kind of an ease about the character. But it was still a lot of fun. The word I get is
that the cast of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman is having a bit more fun
and is able to associate loosely on the set.
They have more latitude because Warner Brothers, DC's
parent, is overseeing things.
Were you involved with the production of Lois and Clark?
I actually read for the show. It was interesting. At first the casting
director didn't like my interpretation. Then she asked me to change it. I did
and she liked it. Then she brought me in to meet the producers. When I walked
into the room, they had no advance knowledge that I had done Superboy.
Now, there are two ways to look at that: They're either going to love it because
I had done the part before, or the opposite would be true - they'd hate it. I read
producer and his reaction was, "Wow! You're great, it's wonderful, you're
the perfect guy for this!" There was a room of six or eight people, it was
kind of exciting. Then he grabbed my resume, looked at the work I'd done, flipped
it over and said, "You've done this already!" He threw my
resume down on the table and basically threw me out of the room. It was pretty funny.
You have to keep in mind the situation that the Lois and Clark people were in. It's
similar to when a restaurant goes out of business and is taken over by new owners: The
new management wants to change the decor, the menu, the colors, the fabrics on the chairs -
could have looked at the new show as an easy
transition for me - from Superboy to
Superman. I'm older, I'm experienced, and I have
a following. But he was making a big move, a big
transition in how the character would be
interpreted. He wanted to go a different
way. People like to do things their own way and
often times they cut ties with anything that came
before for their own personal reasons. I'm not
making any judgements; if that's what he wants to do
it's his business.
Are there any particular episodes of George Reeves' Adventures of Superman that stick
in your mind?
I like the ones that are mysterious. "Dagger Island," where he was on a deserted
island. And "The Mysterious Cube," where he transmigrates through solid
objects - I
kind of regret that we didn't use that idea on Superboy.
I also like the pilot, "The Unknown People," with the mole men - it's just so weird. It also has Superman
dealing with a worldwide issue, as opposed to just rescuing Lois when she's tied
to some train tracks. It made me think, when I wrote episodes of Superboy, to created
situations that put him in a world arena, not a local
one. Here's a guy with all this power -
what would he do if... ?
"Wish for Armageddon," one of the Superboy episodes you wrote, put him in that world
arena, battling a force seeking global destruction. Superboy fills in the gaps
of the Man of Steel's college years with a variety of stories that range from gritty
crime tales to pure science fiction - similar to Adventures of Superman three
decades earlier. "Superboy... Lost" was clearly inspired by Adventures of
Superman's "Panic in the Sky," an episode recently remade again as a
Lois and Clark installment. Superboy seemed to broaden in scope when you
and producer Julia Pistor came on the scene.
The episode "Paranoia" was dark, yet funny, and guest starred Jack
Larson and Noel Neill. It was very much an homage to Adventures of Superman,
with Larson saying "Jeepers" at one point and making reference to having
worked at a newspaper. What was it like to work with them?
Right off the top, I have to say that Jack and Noel are a great pleasure to work
with, it was really exciting. So many of the people on the Superboy crew
grew up with Adventures of Superman that it was very exciting for everybody. We
were all in awe of them. Noel Neill is great. I felt that she was very appreciative
to be there and that people wanted her. It was nice to work with her, she's a super
lady. Jack Larson is a super guy, I can't say enough about him either. He's been
personally helpful to me, career-wise, and he's an incredibly nice and generous
person. He's got a great sense of humor. Jack kind of looks at the cockeyed side
of life sometimes, and always has a laugh under his voice.
On the set, Jack was nice enough to say he thought our show was superior to his, which
was sweet of him. He also said they never anticipated what a hit Adventures of Superman would
be back when he first got involved in it. He did
it on a whim, never realizing that he'd get socked
into it for seven years.
Did Jack Larson and Noel Neill talk about George Reeves?
They put the past in perspective in terms of their lives and careers. They just
seemed to be having a lot of fun, which I was grateful for. That's part of the
deal, having fun when we're working, and Jack added a lot to that.
I did talk to Jack about
George Reeves. He recalled what a great guy
George was. Very upbeat. Obviously, that's the
word that's around about George to this very
day - what an incredibly generous guy he
was. George used to go around putting $100 bills
in other actors' hands and telling them, "Now go make
Aside from Jack Larson and Noel Neill, who were the most interesting guest stars
you worked with on Superboy?
The one that really stands out for me is Ron Ely ("The Road to Hell, Part 2").
In terms of an actor and a man, he is one of the most interesting, dynamic, intelligent,
and personable individuals I've ever met. I was very impressed by him.
George Lazenby ("Abandon
Earth," "Escape to Earth") was probably the person I
had the most fun with. He's one of the most
naturally funny and charming people you'll ever
meet. He has amazing grace and charm.
What did it feel like when Superboy ended its production run?
It was sad. I hate to say it, but when you work that closely with people on the set
it's like you're married to all 110 of them. There was a sense of completion because we
knew and anticipated the end of the show's production schedule. We were able to kind
of set ourselves up for the end psychologically, and do things that we
wanted to do, which was fun. But it was sad. We were all
ticking down the days. We worked almost one
continuous year with very few breaks. People
feel burned out when they're working twelve hours a
day, and often longer. We'd get all stressed
out, but I'd tell people, "We're all going to miss
this, don't forget it." Sure enough, it's all
people talk about now. You wouldn't know it, but
the behind-the-scenes aspects of the show were really
In what way?
The staff and the production
value was nice, the quality of the treatment of actors
and people - all of that was of very high
quality. There are a lot of personal
relationships that will go on. Professionally it
was the most incredible experience for me to work with
a lot of older, famous actors, some wonderful
directors, and to learn a lot, get a directing
contract, and to write and end up producing the
show. I got the full boat on that show - I
was lucky. It was tough to leave it.
Any closing thoughts?
I'd say that Adventures of Superman had a great effect on everyone
born since 1951.
Yes, George Reeves portrayed a major, honest hero. And when you think of
what people are watching today! Adventures of Superman was a big
deal. Japanese Emperor Hirohito was a great fan of the show and used to
send letters to George Reeves. It was done at a time in history when America
was at a height. The show kind of
fed all of that, there was so much going on. America was at the pinnacle of
its strength in the world, those were interesting times.
There's honesty in George
Reeves' Superman. And strength tempered with
humility. It's fun.
Superman Megasite brings
you another exciting interview! This time around we speak to
actor Gerard Christopher, who protrayed "Superboy" in the
Television series Superboy then later titled
Adventures of Superboy.
Well first off, if you would, please
tell us a little about
yourself and taking on the role of
love acting but have many other interests as well; I sculpt,
write, travel, cook, snow ski, scuba dive and am involved in
some entrepreneurial business ventures. Superboy came along at
a great time for me. I was focusing on some other business at
the time but when my agent called me with the interview for
the job. I was really excited because not a day went by that a
stranger didn't tell me that I looked like Superman. It seemed
like a natural thing for me to do.
It was stated once that you were
a fan of Superman before even
taking the role of
“Clark/Superboy”, what about the character
stood out to you
most kids growing up in the sixties I was a big Superman fan.
I remember seeing The Adventures of Superman with George
Reeves and thinking how great it would be to have his powers.
I remember sitting in the roof of our garage with a towel
around my neck like a cape. Lucky for me I never
What I liked about the character was his
complexity. He was a kind of illegal alien of another kind, he
was like us, but he didn't fit in. People loved him but he
didn't feel like he belonged and he was intensely lonely so he
focused on the good that he could do. He was intensely strong
and powerful but tried to be protective, gentle,
well-mannered, kind, fair and respectful of others. Can you
image how a kid today would act with his powers? That's a
What did you think
of Superman Returns?
I thought that the movie was just great.
It was done at a time where movie making technology has caught
up with written sci-fi fantasy writing. What you write can now
be filmed and be believable so it's an exciting time for the
genre. This movie is especially amazing in terms of the 21st
century movie making technology that makes the Superman
fantasy come to life.
I liked Brandon very much and
think that he does justice to the Superman legend. The only
think that I didn't like is that they didn't ask me to do a
cameo, which would have been fun. I actually had a fender
bender with Jon Peters in 2004 and he said that maybe he'd put
me in his film. We all know that producers are prone to
exaggerating but it was an odd coincidence.
In your honest opinion, what do
you think of Brandon Routh's take
on “Clark/Superman” in
I thought that he was great! His Clark was
imaginative and he walked the fine line that he needed to walk
to keep the secret and the romantic tension. His Superman was
strong and commanding and I thought right on the mark. Brandon
also really looks the part.
Do you own any of the original costumes from
the Superboy series?
I produced the last season of the show and
was able to take my costumes when the show ended with the
exception of one or two that were stolen by a crew member that
I knew. Yes, I have my costumes tucked away safely in storage
and I can still get into them..
What was your favorite episode of
the entire series?
That's such a hard question to answer
because I liked so many. I especially like the episodes where
I could show off my super powers in a creative way like
changing into Superboy really fast or using my heat or x-ray
vision but especially a great flying sequence where I could
actually fly outdoors on wires, not on blue or green screen
which we did in the studio.
I remember having a lot of
fun shooting Body Swap because I really got to break
out of the normal Superboy personality and be a bad guy with
super powers for a change. It was a lot of
Can you tell
us a bit about the premiere of Superman
was big and chaotic but it was very exciting for me, my wife
and I sat next to Ilya Salkind who hired me. He really loved
the film and was screaming and cheering louder than anyone
else in the theatre. It was fun for me to be there to see the
film and I am grateful to Bryan Singer for inviting me, but
that was not my film and I was a spectator just like everyone
else who was just there to enjoy it and take it all in.
What do you
think of the Superman Megasite?
It seems like a real labor of love
dedicated to the Superman legend it's great! . I just wish
they had more of my show on it,