An acting teacher once asked Elizabeth Tulloch to watch a video of Margot Kidder's audition to play Lois Lane in the 1978 film Superman and then explain why Kidder won the role (over the likes of Lesley Ann Warren and Stockard Channing).
It didn't take long to spot the answer. "She was having fun," Tulloch says.
A decade later, in 2018, Tulloch found herself auditioning for the same role in "Elseworlds," one of several crossover events in The CW's superhero universe (which includes Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and other series based on DC Comics characters). As fate would have it, she was asked to play a scene Kidder had auditioned with: Lois shoots Clark Kent to prove he's the Man of Steel.
"When they sent me the audition," she recalls, "I thought, 'Huh, I wonder if this is my next job.'"
Like her predecessor, Tulloch chose to have fun: "On paper, the scene was pretty serious. I made some choices that were really playful." When her Lois shot Clark, to no effect, Tulloch squealed joyfully and yelled, "I knew it!"
Afterward, she felt good about her audition and wasn't anxious about whether she'd gotten the job. "All you can do is your best in the room and then let go of the outcome," she says.
Tulloch developed that go-with-the-flow attitude early. After graduating from Harvard with a double major in English and American literature, she tried acting classes with a friend — almost on a whim — and fell in love with the craft. With a role on The West Wing, she earned her Screen Actors Guild card. Her next big break was the lead in the NBC drama Quarterlife — shortly before it was canceled.
Losing that series might have demoralized some actors, but not Tulloch. "That was, in hindsight, a really important lesson for me on not getting too attached to the success of the show and realizing you have to pick yourself up and move on," she says. She did just that, going on to appear in the Oscar-winning film The Artist and eventually six seasons of NBC's Grimm.
Not long after Grimm ended, she won the Lois Lane role, appearing first on "Elseworlds" and then on the next crossover event, "Crisis on Infinite Earths." Her performance resonated with fans, and her own spinoff was born.
Superman & Lois (now airing on The CW and streaming on the CW app, and already picked up for season two) will continue exploring the Lois of the crossovers — not just an intrepid reporter and world-saver, but a parent. "This is really more of a family drama with superhero elements," Tulloch says. "I almost think of it as Friday Night Lights with elements of Superman and Lois Lane."
She may be more parental, but this is still the Lois we know. "She never sacrifices her sense of self, and she's not doing the work for the glory. She believes in justice and in truth, and she believes in using her very strong voice and intellect to speak up on behalf of others."
Lois has boosted careers — Kidder, Teri Hatcher and Erica Durance spring to mind — but Tulloch doesn't think much about that. What matters is honoring Lois and her legacy. "I would be ashamed of myself if I was caring about anything other than what I'm doing right now," she says. "Other people will come along after me and play Lois Lane. I am one of a respected group of women. All I can do is my best."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 2, 2021