You know, Dean Cain really doesn’t get enough credit. Not only is he one of the hardest working men in showbiz, with no fewer than a half-dozen TV movies every year, but his Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-1997) anticipated pop culture’s current superhero obsession. Tonight, he plays a different kind of hero on GMC’s A Mile in His Shoes, an intimate drama about a minor league baseball manager who recruits and mentors a young man named Mickey Tussler (Luke Schroder), who has Asperger’s Syndrome—and a killer fastball. It’s the kind of heartfelt role that most appeals to Cain. After all, he still considers his most important job to be that of father to his eleven-year-old son. We caught up with the 45-year-old actor and discussed his incredibly prolific TV movie career, why he hasn’t taken a part as a series regular in years, and what he thinks of Hollywood’s caped-crusader craze. Check out our interview with Superman and a clip from tonight’s A Mile in His Shoes after the break.
EW: You’re a single father to an 11-year-old son. Was it the surrogate-father/son relationship that drew you to A Mile in His Shoes?
DC: When the producer brought it to me he asked if I’d like to play the coach. And I said, “I’d like to play Mickey Tussler, but I guess I’m too old.” But I said yes, of course. How much time did I spend preparing for this role? My entire life. As an athlete, as a coach, as a father, I fit the bill, so it’s not like I had to do a lot of research to play the guy.
EW: Not only are you in A Mile in His Shoes, you’re also in Home Run Showdown (airing TBD). What’s up with all the baseball movies? Aren’t you a football guy?
DC: Well I played baseball for 12 years as well. I love sports. Anytime I can combine sports with a film I’m a happy guy. It’s such a natural fit, because sports always seems to be a metaphor for life. Always, always, always.
EW: What position did you play?
DC: I caught a little bit, but I was a second baseman and a centerfielder, then I ended up almost totally in the outfield. I can catch. I catch balls….that didn’t come out right. But centerfield is my favorite position. Jim Edmonds has been my favorite since forever. But I’m not really into baseball now that football season has started.
EW: In Home Run Showdown, though, it sounds like you’re Little League coach has a bit of an edge…
DC: Ah, yes. The sympathetic character in that is played by Matthew Lillard. I’m his rival. I play a former major leaguer who is coaching his son and other kids in a little league. And what happens is that the All Star Game is being held in our area, in Detroit, and the winning little league team would get to go to the Home Run Derby and catch the balls the sluggers don’t hit out of the park.
EW: From what I’m hearing your rivalry with Matthew Lillard continued off camera…
DC: So we’re at the Toledo Mudhens stadium recreating the Home Run Derby, and we’ve got some pros there like Gary Sheffield and all. But the first three pros couldn’t hit the ball out. Our director (Oz Scott) said to Matthew Lillard, I bet you $2500 you can’t hit it out. He comes out there and hits it out. Three pros just couldn’t do it, but he did. Then I got in there. Stepped up. First pitch, bang. It’s going, going…hit the fence. Just missed going out. I was so close. Maybe if it had been a little hotter, a little less humidity in the air.
EW: On A Mile in His Shoes, did you help Luke Schroder (Mickey Tussler) with his throwing arm?
DC: Luke was fantastic, even though he’s just a 17-year-old kid. His father’s Rick Schroder so he has that acting bloodline, I guess. I worked with him on pitching a little bit, but my shoulder was hurt at the time, and it’s just now getting better—amazing how long it takes to heal when you’re a little bit over 40! But Luke’s not a baseball player. He’s just a little bit off as a pitcher. Which works perfectly for his character! If he had perfect throwing mechanics, we’d just think, “Wow, he’s a great pitcher. What’s the big deal?” If you’re Randy Johnson, 6’10”, and a have a laser throwing arm, there isn’t much in the way of dramatic stakes….
EW: You have like 10 movies either soon to be released or in production. Nobody talks about it but, you’re one of the hardest working guys in showbiz…
DC: That’s perfect for me. You see, I’ll go make a bunch of movies but balance that time with the time I spend with my son. I’m a single father, I don’t like to be away from my son. So I’ll go out, make a film and come back. Repeat. And it’s worked out very well for the last 11 years. I don’t want to go back to a series full time, because you give up your life to a series. So I’ve made a gajillion TV films. Some of them have been great. Some of them not so great. My agent says that I’m a “repeat business guy.” If you hire me to come do a movie, I’ll be on time, know all my material, be ready to go, have a good attitude. I’m here to work, so I get hired over and over again by the same producers. If you just be a team player on set you can work so much more often.
EW: So does that mean you’ll think about returning to a series full-time when your son goes off to college?
DC: No, I’ll commit suicide. Suicide, or I’ll take up residence in his dorm room. No, no, in all seriousness, I’ll just start fathering more children randomly.
EW: I’m sure!
DC: (laughs) Your job as a parent is to raise your child to be able to exist without you, to be independent. So…yes, I am considering it a bit more. Especially when my son enters high school. He’s eleven now. He’s my favorite person in the world to be with. But I realize that I’m on the way out with him. He’ll have other things to occupy him as he grows up. So yeah, I’d be up for a series. I’d prefer to be in an ensemble, though, because I do like having a life.
EW: So let’s go through some of your other upcoming projects, like The Dog Who Saved Halloween (airing this October on Starz)…
DC: It’s the third installment in the franchise. Kids love it. It’s ridiculously low budget, silly.
EW: Are you going to end up in handcuffs again?
DC: Of course. But this time, I break out of prison and am running away. I’m trying to turn a new leaf, but then George Bannister brings me back in and we have to break in to a haunted house for him.
EW: Do you really want to keep making TV movies like this?
DC: Seriously, if I were nominated for an Academy Award—not that that’s happening right now—I’d still make my silly dog movies, even though everybody in the world would tell me not to. I love how James Franco still does General Hospital even after he’s nominated for an Academy Award—it’s work, and it’s fun to work in different mediums. As long as Franco doesn’t host….Just kidding, just kidding. I feel badly about that, hosting is such a thankless job. I’d never do that. I’m not a song and dance man, so you’re not going to see me on Glee anytime soon. If you want that show to continue, keep me far away from it.
EW: Next up in your holiday-themed movie lineup you’ve got The Case for Christmas (on the Hallmark Channel, Holiday 2011)?
DC: We shot in Toronto during their scorching hot heat wave, and of course we had to dress like it was winter, which sucked. I play a lawyer who has to defend Kris Kringle from a class-action lawsuit. My character takes the job, completely skeptical of who Kris is—but my daughter believes, of course. Some guy brings a class-action lawsuit against Kris Kringle because he wants to introduce a new gift-giving character, since he feels kids haven’t gotten exactly what they wanted from Santa Claus.
EW: But then you switch gears entirely and do a serious drama like Sweetwater (in theaters January 4, 2012)?
DC: I play an attorney again in Sweetwater—not defending Santa Claus this time. It’s a little sci-fi. It’s about the sinister forces that are preventing the discovery of a cure for cancer. Thugs are knocking off the people who have found the cure for cancer and we’re trying to bring it to light.
EW: I can’t let you go without asking you about a certain caped crusader. Obviously, you’re still best known for playing Superman, and I feel like Lois & Clark was ahead of the curve when it comes to pop culture’s current superhero obsession. Wish you could have ridden this wave a bit more?
DC: Lois & Clark was designed primarily to be fun. But I feel like whenever I see a big-budget epic like Green Lantern or Spider-Man, they all seem like episodes of Lois & Clark. They’re based on relationship dynamics that we tapped into all the time. I’m like, I did moments like this literally a hundred times, and now this movie is making $300 million? I guess it’s all about the special effects.
Did you guys watch A Mile in His Shoes tonight? And if Dean Cain isn’t your favorite TV movie actor, who is?
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