Erica Durance and Aaron Ashmore are the latest in a long line of actors to play the comic-book characters of Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen on television or film. They play the pair on the new series "Smallville" on The CW.
Lois Lane, the creation of writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, first appeared in Action Comics No. 1, released in 1938. When not getting herself into trouble. Lois has been the love interest for Superman.
Before Durance, Teri Hatcher, Margot Kidder, Noel Neill, Phyllis Coates and Joan Alexander (as Lois' voice in "The New Adventures of Superman" ) all played Lois. Kate Bosworth handled the role in the recent "Superman Returns."
"I grew up watching the 'Superman' movies and television shows because I had an older brother who was in charge of the TV. So, his choices were those shows," Durance says. The Canadian actress, 28, is chatting with television critics about her role as Lois Lane during a party in mid-July at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in connection with the launch of The CW network.
"Smallville" was one of the shows The CW picked up from the now-defunct WB network.
In addition to watching "Superman" movies and shows, Durance read the comics. She found Lois Lane, the plucky Daily Planet reporter, to be far more interesting than other comic-book heroines such as Wonder Woman or Supergirl.
"I liked her because she was so sassy and independent and strong. She was her own woman and would rely on herself to get out of trouble. No, she doesn't have a superpower. But she is so smart, and that is what attracted me to her," Durance says. "I think Lois has a very curious mind. She will walk into a room and assess everyone and what she needs to get out of them. She does that without revealing too much about herself."
Ashmore also comes to his role of Jimmy Olsen with plenty of knowledge of the character through comic books and other filmed projects. He says his performance will be influenced by those who have played the the character before him.
Jimmy Olsen, the bow-tied Daily Planet cub reporter, first appeared by name in Superman No. 13 in 1941. Actors who have played Olsen include Michael Landes, Justin Whalin, Jack Larson, Marc McClure and Sam Huntington.
"There is a certain energy about playing Jimmy Olsen that I really want to keep," Ashmore says. "At the same time, you don't want to be imitating someone's else's portrayal of the character."
But Ashmore wants to put his own mark on his Jimmy Olsen.
"My Jimmy will be a little hipper. He will still be a little awkward with girls. And there will still be a lot of high energy," he says when talking to TV critics during the summer.
Ashmore has appeared on a variety of television shows in the United States and Canada, including guest spots on "Veronica Mars," "The West Wing" and "Animorphs."
Durance wants to bring some of herself to the role of Lois Lane. She says though she really is an introvert, she can size up a room like Lois Lane. That comes in handy for the actress so she can know how to handle a situation.
That ability was useful when she was cast just two days before she stepped in front of the cameras to film the episode where Lois Lane was introduced to the "Smallville" family.
Just having Lois show up in Clark Kent's life in Smallville is a change from the comic book mythology. Lois Lane, according to the comics, did not become part of Clark Kent's life until he moved to Metropolis to become a mild-mannered reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper.
"We all know who she becomes," Durance says. "What we wanted to do was take some time to look at Lois Lane's past and watch her as she finds herself.
"The great thing about Lois is that she loves to bait Clark. She first writes off Clark because she thinks he's an idiot. She decides to make fun of him because everyone else thinks he is the cat's meow."
Eventually, the characters will need to begin to examine their more romantic feelings for each other. Otherwise, the relationship will become boring, Durance says.
Durance started acting about 10 years ago in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she landed roles in such sci-fi projects as "House of the Dead," "Tru Calling," "Andromeda" and "Stargate SG-1."
She can be seen in the new direct-to-video release "The Butterfly Effect 2" that hits stores Tuesday.