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10 Superhero Legacy Actor Appearances In TV

Superheroes are growing ever more popular. Whether it's a film or TV show, our society is currently obsessed. Hey, we can't blame viewers; superheroes are a pop cultural force to be reckoned with on and off comic book pages. 

The way superheroes appear on TV has changed over time, from the early days of "The Adventures of Superman" and "Flash Gordon" in the 1950s to "Smallville" in the 2000s. More recently, the "Arrowverse" has altered the way superheroes appear on TV. Many discrete superheroes with their own shows are now connected in one common universe, allowing for crossovers between series like "Arrow," "The Flash," and "Constantine." Think the MCU, but for television, and with DC properties. Because of this, audiences are seeing more and more familiar faces repeated in various media properties. 

Even before this change, superhero shows liked to engage in a bit of nerdy fan service by giving cameo appearances — or even larger roles — to actors who'd appeared in prior superhero series. Now's the perfect time to take a look at 10 superhero legacy actors who have appeared in multiple roles within the genre on television.

Dean Cain

In 1993, ABC released the television series "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" starring Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane and Dean Cain as Superman/Clark Kent. The show ran for four seasons and included iconic characters such as Lex Luthor (John Shea) and Perry White (Lane Smith). The story follows the shenanigans Lois and Clark get up to while working at the Daily Planet while Clark tries to hide his superhero alter ego from the curious Lois, who develops a romantic relationship with both Clark and Superman. Eventually, his secret is revealed, and Lois becomes a partner for Superman during his battles against his foes.

Fast forward a few years and Cain is spotted in yet another Superman series, this time as the immortal Neurosurgeon Curtis Knox. Knox experiments on people who have been exposed to Meteor rocks, giving them abilities. He's a foe for young Clark Kent (Tom Welling). Cain's character is given the initials C.K. as an homage to his time portraying Clark Kent before Welling in "Smallville."

This isn't the last time Cain pops up in a show following the adventures of a Kryptonian hero. He also portrays Jeremiah Danvers in "Supergirl," a scientist who is also Kara Danvers' adoptive father. The role reunited him with his "Lois & Clark" co-star Teri Hatcher. Although the two don't share a scene, they are featured in the same episode (via CinemaBlend).

Teri Hatcher

Teri Hatcher stars as Lois Lane in "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." Just like her co-star Dean Cain, she's also stuck with her superhero roots in television. Beyond her time on "Desperate Housewives," "Frasier," and "Seinfeld," Hatcher has made a habit of appearing in guest roles in other comic book shows, making her a legacy actor for superhero fans. After leaving the role of Lois behind, she followed in the footsteps of her co-star Cain and has appeared in both "Smallville" and "Supergirl."

Hatcher stars in Season 10, Episode 8 of "Smallville." Her character, Ella Lane, is the mother of Lois Lane (Erica Durance) and her younger sister Lucy (Peyton List). In earlier seasons, Lois notes that her mother passed away years ago, leaving her father (who's also a general) as the only parent for her and Lucy. When Lois is experiencing doubts about her feelings for Clark, she finds a video diary her mom made for her before she passed away. Lois watches the video and, to fans' delight, it's Hatcher portraying Ella. In the video, she urges Lois to be open to love and have a little faith in herself. 

In "Supergirl," Hatcher takes on a much bigger role, portraying Rhea in Seasons 2 and 4 of the superhero series. Rhea is the queen of Daxam, a planet that was devastated by debris after the destruction of Krypton. After living in exile for many years, Rhea tries to resettle the planet of Daxam and take her son Mon-El, who's been hanging out on Earth, back with her. Unfortunately for Rhea, Mon-El wants to stay on Earth with his friend Kara, aka Supergirl. Believing Supergirl has turned Mon-El against her, Rhea becomes her sworn enemy and a truly maniacal villain. 

Erica Durance

Another iconic actress to take on the mantle of Lois Lane is Erica Durance. She portrays Lois in "Smallville" for six seasons on the show. At first, Lois is introduced as a direct contrast to Clark's love interest Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk). Lana is a more emotional character who brings a lot of drama. By contrast, Lois is a breath of fresh air. She's sassy and independent, and often lightheartedly teases Clark. Lois doesn't need Clark, but ultimately chooses him as a partner, whereas Lana was just needy. 

Durance said of taking on the role of Lois: "Everyone has their specific idea of who Lois Lane is for them, and you have your overall blueprint, but then you have to try to make it your own...Lois is a beloved character. I took that seriously and put my heart and soul into her" (via BuddyTV).

Durance even returned to her role as Lois years later during a crossover "Arrowverse" episode. Audiences were given a glimpse at the peaceful life that Lois and Clark experienced years after the 10-year run of "Smallville" ended. However, it's her role as Alura Zor-El in "Supergirl" that gives Durance a spot on this list as a legacy actor. She portrays Alura Zor-El, the mother of Kara (aka Supergirl), through Seasons 3 to 6 in the show, replacing the original actress, Laura Benanti, who left the show after taking maternity leave.

Lynda Carter

Lynda Carter needs no introduction. Her role as Wonder Woman in the 1975 series "The New Adventures of Wonder Woman" is nothing short of iconic. While other actresses have portrayed and voiced DC's Wonder Woman (most recently Gal Gadot), Carter is still likely the one most people associate with the character. She was just that influential. According to Carter, making Wonder Woman smart and standing for feminism was the key to her portraying the character. While it may have gotten blowback in the '70s, her ideals are just as important now as ever before (via Entertainment Weekly). Since portraying Wonder Woman, Carter has used her voice to stand up for the injustice that she sees in the real world, particularly via her online activism (per The Guardian).

Carter later accepted the role of Olivia Marsdin in "Supergirl." Her character is an alien who has become the President of the United States. Once her identity is revealed to be Durlan rather than a human, she's forced to resign. Marsdin seems to imitate personality traits from Carter, as she uses her voice to spark the change that she wants to see in the world, even if she never gets to achieve her goal of alien-human cooperation. 

Carter isn't done with her legacy appearances yet. She's slated to appear in "Wonder Woman 3," the final installment of Patty Jenkins' film series (per IndieWire). 

John Wesley Shipp

In 1990, John Wesley Shipp landed the role of the fastest man alive, The Flash. Unfortunately for the actor, he was a little too hasty; the current superhero craze had yet to begin, and the show was canceled after just one season due to low viewership (via CBR.com). However, this wasn't the end of Shipp's time as a superhero. In fact, the actor would slip back into the role of The Flash not once, not twice, but three times afterward.

In 2014, "The Flash" aired as the second show in the "Arrowverse." While Grant Gustin portrays this version of the titular character, Shipp portrays his incarcerated father, Henry Allen. Henry is accused of being responsible for the murder of his wife, with only his son Barry believing in his innocence. As the show continues, "The Flash" introduces the concept of the multiverse, and the audience gets to see Shipp portray another version of The Flash, Jay Garrick (he's from Earth-3, while Barry is from Earth-1, if that helps clarify the difference).

But that's not all. Shipp's relationship within the "Arrowverse" is complicated, to say the least. As the show continues, Shipp's role is increasing. His original character Henry Allen is killed but then brought back as the Speed Force. His alter egos in the multiverse don't end with Jay Garrick; Shipp is also seen portraying his original version of The Flash from 1990 and Pollux, a clone of Barry Allen.

Christopher Reeve

Although the late, great Christopher Reeve is not the first actor to don the cape of the Boy Scout, he's certainly the most remembered and beloved (via Empire). In fact, the internet is full of articles explaining why Reeve's take on the classic character is still the best. Reeve portrayed Superman in four films, transforming him into a box-office success. However, in the years that followed, tragedy befell the actor. Reeve was paralyzed from the neck down due to a horse-riding accident in 1995, a few years after the release of his fourth Superman film, "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace" (via History). Due to his accident, he became an advocate for research done on people with spinal cord injuries. In 2004, the legendary actor passed away due to heart failure at the age of 52. 

Before his passing, Reeve made one final appearance in the superhero genre. First appearing in Season 1, he portrays Dr. Virgil Swann in "Smallville." His character helps Clark as he understands his Kryptonian heritage, impacting Clark at a young age before dying in Season 4. His inclusion in the show was an homage to the brilliant actor and his time portraying Superman.

Terence Stamp

The English actor Terence Stamp works alongside Christopher Reeve as General Zod in two Superman films and "Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut." His portrayal of the villainous Kryptonian general is nothing short of legendary. His line "kneel before Zod" became a pop cultural touchstone that's been referenced in other media (such as "21 Jump Street") and even committed to song

According to Den of Geek, before Stamp's role as General Zod, he'd been out of work for some time, enjoying life in an Indian ashram, so the role was something of a comeback. Luckily, this wasn't the only time Stamp experienced a revival thanks to a superhero property, as he later brought his talents to "Smallville." In the show, Stamp voices Clark's Kryptonian father, Jor-El. Although he's never seen on screen, his deep, sonorous voice helps to drive the plot of the show. When Jor-El is first introduced, Clark speaks with an artificial intelligence that holds onto his father's consciousness. It helps guide him on his journey to become Superman. At first, Jor-El has a somewhat cruel, cold, and intimidating character, but as the show continues, he becomes an ally to Clark. Jor-El eventually reveals that Superman's time on Earth is what makes him strong, not just the fact that he's the last son of Krypton.

Joe Morton

Another actor to grace the set of "Smallville" is Joe Morton. Even long-time fans of the show may not remember his character. Morton portrays Dr. Steven Hamilton in two episodes of "Smallville." His character is introduced in Season 1, Episode 7, "Craving," as a scientist who believes that those infected by meteor rocks are transformed into corrupt versions of themselves. Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) is interested in funding Hamilton's work, allowing the scientist to learn more about what's been plaguing the town of Smallville. Before Hamilton can discover Clark's secret, he's killed in an accident in Season 2.

You would be forgiven if you don't remember Morton in "Smallville," but if you don't remember him in 2021's "Justice League," that's less forgivable.

"Justice League" is a film that was cursed from the start. Once Zack Snyder had to leave to project due to family matters, Joss Whedon came on board and made some drastic changes. After Whedon's version was released, fans begged to see Snyder's version, and surprisingly got what they wanted. The Snyder cut was released, which showcased a more cohesive (albeit much longer) story. In this version, Morton's character Silas Stone, a scientist and father to Cyborg (Ray Fisher), is given more to do. He ultimately helps the League by sacrificing himself and creates a more grounded story between him and his son. One might even argue that they're the heart of the tale. It's just an overall better movie.

Alan Ritchson

After the introduction of Lois Lane, "Smallville" began to change its formula. As the characters matured, so did the storyline, moving away from adolescence and into the adult Superman characters we all know and love. Season 5 introduces Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman. He's shown as a potential love interest for Lois. We all know that Lois and Clark are destined to be together, so this feels a bit ridiculous, but since "Smallville" was still focusing on Clark's feelings for Lana, the writers gave Lois someone else to flirt with for the time being. Arthur is featured in various episodes throughout "Smallville," representing an opportunity for Clark to become part of something bigger. Something that fights for justice. Perhaps even a league of some sort?

After landing the role of Aquaman in "Smallville," actor Alan Ritchson jumped into another superhero lead series, "Titans." Ritchson portrays Hank Hall, also known as Hawk. He's a tough, brassy character who uses violence to cope with the pain he's experienced in his life. In "Titans" Season 3, Hank is killed, but the show does a good job of giving the character the sendoff that he deserves (via CBR.com). Hank reunites with his brother who passed away years ago, and the two fight to help lost souls cross over to the afterlife. Ritchson told EW of his character's departure, "Would I return to 'Titans'? Yes. Do I feel like I found closure and peace? Absolutely. So I'm satisfied if I never return and grateful for the time that I had." 

Shawn Ashmore

Canadian actor Shawn Ashmore was in "Smallville," but we guarantee that the character you think he portrays is the wrong one. His twin brother, Aaron Ashmore, portrays Jimmy Olsen in Seasons 6, 7, and 8. If you think he's the iconic Superman comic character Jimmy Olsen, you're also mistaken. Like the original Jimmy, he works at the Daily Prophet, is a photographer, and is friends with Clark, but he's not the same. In Season 8, he is killed by Doomsday, and at his funeral, it's revealed that his name is Henry and that his middle name is James. However, his younger brother is actually named Jimmy, and it's heavily implied that he'll grow up and become Jimmy from the comics, because that totally makes sense. 

In "Smallville," Shawn Ashmore plays Eric Summers. He's in Season 1 and is accidentally given Clark's powers when they're both struck by lightning. Once he discovers his newfound abilities, he shows them off openly, getting the nickname "Superboy." After Clark's abilities are returned to him, Eric is sent to the government-run mental institution Belle Reve, where he tries once more to steal Clark's powers in Season 3 before ultimately failing.

Aside from this role, Ashmore has also been involved in another superhero project on television, "The Boys." In Season 2, he portrays Lamplighter, a supe with the ability to control fire — a nice nod to his character in the"X-Men" franchise, Bobby. In the films, Ashmore is a mutant who can control ice, giving him the nickname Iceman.