As I write, there are currently 16 live-action superhero shows airing on television – in the US at least. Nine are rooted in the DC Universe. Four of these are part of the Arrowverse: Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow.
Of these, Supergirl is unique – because more than a handful of its cast are actors with a DC past. That’s right, several recurring characters are portrayed by actors who have previously popped up in other DC roles. So, who are they, and what past DC credits do they have to their name?
Helen is a recurring presence in Supergirl Season 1 and 2. She plays Eliza Danvers, a bio-engineer friend of Superman. She’s also the mother of Alex Danvers and took in Kara when she landed on Earth. Eliza is brilliant, caring, and protective.
In 1984, more than 30 years before the TV show, Helen Slater starred as the titular character in the Supergirl film. Slater’s Kara Zor-El was wide-eyed and had a girl-next-door look that she kept when she transformed into her brunette alter ego Linda Lee.
Back in the 1980s, critics were not so gentle with the film, but fans loved Helen as Supergirl. Today, fans of the TV show are delighted to see Helen play the adoptive mother of the character she once portrayed.
But that’s not the extent of her DC credits. Helen played Lara-El, Superman’s mother, as a recurring character in seasons 7-10 of Smallville. She also voiced Martha Kent, Superman’s adoptive mother, in the action-figure franchise DC Super Hero Girls.
What can we say? Once a superhero, always a superhero. But often a superhero’s mother.
In Season 1 and 2 of Supergirl, Dean Cain guest stars as Jeremiah Danvers. He is Eliza’s husband and a brilliant scientist friend of Superman. Jeremiah became a DEO agent to prevent the secret organization from taking his adoptive daughter Kara Zor-El into custody. He sacrificed his life to save J’onn J’ozz, but Project Cadmus takes him prisoner.
From 1993 to 1997, Dean Cain played Superman in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. The four-season romantic drama was based on the inverted premise that Clark Kent was the real identity and Superman the disguise. Fans of the original storyline really liked this take on Superman’s story. Some still say that Dean was the best Man of Steel.
Cain also guest starred as Curtis Knox in Season 7 of Smallville, where his initials are also C.K. See what they did there? Finally, he voiced Jonathan Kent in DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year, playing Superman’s father and Helen’s character’s husband once again.
In Season 1 of Supergirl, Laura plays the recurring character Brainiac 8, a Coluan who allies with Non to wipe all humans off the Earth. She later adopts the alias Indigo and is initially neutralized by Winn’s hacker abilities until J’onn J’ozz eventually kills her off for good.
Before playing the villain, Laura Vandervoort had previously portrayed Kara Zor-El in Smallville Season 7 as part of the main cast. She also guest-starred in Seasons 8 and 10. Vandervoort’s Kara pretends to be ordinary Kara Kent and doesn’t become Supergirl until the final season. She is even kidnapped by Brainiac, whose descendant Laura plays in Supergirl.
There is only a 10-year difference between the two TV series, so many DC fans were able to recognize the ‘old’ Supergirl in her nemesis. That’s pretty cool.
In the Supergirl episode “Welcome to Earth” Kara is finally introduced to the President of the United States: Honorable Olivia Marsdin. Extremely nervous and excited to meet her, Supergirl idolizes the Madam President. This sense of anticipation pays off when the audience sees that the POTUS is none other than Lynda Carter – the former Wonder Woman from the 1975 TV series. Carter’s Diana Prince was beloved by the public and critics alike.
Fans thought it fitting to have Kara look up to her ‘superhero senior’ Lynda Carter. The writers nodded to Carter’s Wonder Woman past when Kara mentions Air Force One. The President winks and replies, “You ought to see my other jet,” referring, of course, to Wonder Woman’s invisible plane.
Teri Hatcher appears in the second season of Supergirl as Mon-El‘s mother, the Queen of Daxam, as revealed in the final scene of episode 15. Queen Rhea wants her son to go home to Daxam to lead his people and make it a better place. She is somewhat antagonistic with Supergirl because she feels Kara is the only thing tethering Mon-El to Earth.
Hatcher also starred as Lois Lane alongside Dean Cain in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Once love interests, she and Cain are now playing the mother and father of two lovebirds.
The show has teased that Hatcher’s character might be the ‘Big Bad Villain’ of Season 2. Will she really? How far is she willing to go to bring her son back to Daxam?
Tune in on Mondays at 8/7c on The CW in the US to find out. UK fans can catch the latest episode on Sky 1.