Superman: The Animated Series Star Details Her Iconic Take on Lois Lane

By Sam Stone / November 4, 2021
As powerful as the Man of Steel is, Superman is nothing without Lois Lane. Fan-favorite actor Dana Delany brought Lois Lane to life on Superman: The Animated Series. In honor of the classic DC Animated Universe show celebrating its 25th anniversary, the series released a remastered home video release so fans new and old can revisit the adventures of Superman and Lois in Metropolis. For Delany, the opportunity to portray the DC Universe's premier investigative reporter was a lifelong dream come true.

In an exclusive interview with CBR, Delany reflected on how Lois has been a constant fixture in her life. She also shared how she found her voice for Lois on Superman: The Animated Series and compared her performance to her previous DCAU appearance as Andrea Beaumont in the animated film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

Dana, even before you were cast as Lois Lane, you got to play Andrea Beaumont in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and work with casting and voice director Andrea Romano and the Warner Bros. Animation team. How was it being approached for the role of Lois?

Dana Delany: Now that I think about it, I was offered the role of Andrea. I had never done animation before, so it was fantastic.

It was with Andrea, Paul Dini, Alan Burnett, and Bruce Timm, and what I was struck with was how real it was. They wanted it to be real like they were doing a regular movie, not just animation. That was good to go deeper into the role. When Superman came up, they asked if I wanted to audition for it. I remember when I got to audition for Lois and I got to say that line, "Nice 'S'" when she names Superman, that Nietzschean ideal. I remembering thinking it was the best line ever and just saying it in the audition is enough, even if I don't get the job. [laughs]
Art by Mike Perkins
I was speaking with Andrea and she was saying you were psyching yourself up to take on such an iconic role. What does Lois Lane mean to you?

It meant a lot to me. I really mean it when I say I grew up on Lois Lane.

When I was a kid in the 1950s, I would watch the Superman live-action series with my maid when I came home from elementary school. Somehow we became a Nielsen family and back then they used to give you a little booklet and you would write down what shows you watched every day. Every day I wrote about Superman because it's all I ever watched, so I hope I helped their ratings. [laughs] I watched the original Lois, Phyllis Coates, and then Noel Neill -- whom I got to meet which was a thrill. Every Sunday, I went to church and the reward was we'd then go to the drugstore where I'd get an ice cream soda and take my dime to buy my Lois Lane comic book because she had her own comic back then. I read Superman and Batman too, but Lois was mine so I've been attached to her my whole life.

Are you an artist that likes having a blank canvas when working with an established character or was there something from Lois' history that informed your performance while you also left your own mark on the character?

It was basically the writing. It was so classic 1940s -- quick patter and snappy dialogue. It was great writing and I immediately thought of Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday and she was the ultimate girl reporter. I pretty much patterned her after Rosalind Russell. It seemed to work with it because of the way the series was drawn and written was very retro but modern at the same time. Rosalind Russell was both of those things, classic and modern, at the same time.

In addition to doing group reads like radio, you guys had a whole murderers' row of fantastic guest stars. Was there any favorites you had that you got to play with in the booth?

Definitely Malcom McDowell. That was a huge thrill for me because I had watched A Clockwork Orange. Olivia Hussey was great because I had grown up watching her in Romeo & Juliet, I thought they were so cool. Shelley Fabares as Martha Kent, I also grew up watching Shelley on The Donna Reed Show and listening to her song "Johnny Angel." With Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., I grew up watching him on The FBI so it was all these people that I knew. Ed Asner, may he rest in peace, was the greatest guy in the world and him playing Granny was hilarious.
One of my favorite Westerns is Tombstone and, when you're talking on a real-life historical role like Josephine Marcus or Edith Roosevelt in The American Guest, is there an added sense of responsibility?

Oh, definitely because there's always going to be somebody telling you that you got it wrong. The most fun part is the research. That's why I became an actor because I get to learn all this stuff. For Tombstone, I did a lot of research on Josie and she wrote her own book, which people claim was her rewriting history, but so what? So does Tombstone! [laughs] Like John Ford said, "Print the legend." I feel that way about Lois too. You've got to make it your own eventually and I always say it was the writing because it really was laid out there for me. I didn't have to do much imagining because the writing was so good.

I was speaking with Tim Daly and he was saying that, with the benefit of hindsight and the current zeitgeist, he has an added appreciation for Superman and his relevance in inspiring others. How do you see the show in light of that and would you be open to coming back?

I'm definitely open to coming back: anytime anybody wants me as Lois, I would do it. I think Tim's correct. I watched two episodes last night and they really dealt with political stuff. The Gulf War had just happened when we shot that and we did a lot with weapons of mass destruction, things like that. That's how Superman started, with Siegel and Schuster started it as an answer to antisemitism, the rise of Nazism and World War II, so Superman has always been political. It's not ra-ra with the American Way: it's more let's fight the bullies.

As a kid, I never knew you were both Lois and Andrea in Mask of the Phantasm, you had differentiated your performances so much. How did you find Lois' voice?

Lois was a fast talker so that was a big part of it. She was really quick and fast and threw things away whereas Andrea kept a lot of secrets inside her. She was a little bit more removed and secretive whereas Lois is faster than anybody which is just a lot of fun!