In the 90s, Dean Cain played Superman. Now he's a single working dad.

When a knee injury brought an end to his professional football career just weeks before he played his first game, Dean Cain became an actor. It didn't seem like a hard thing to do. He'd grown up playing baseball with Charlie Sheen and hanging out with Sean Penn when he went surfing. Cain's dad, Christopher Cain, had directed movies like That Was Then... This is Now and Young Guns.

But, as Cain told Closer, it was his dad who tried to put him off.

"Don't go into this industry, because it's mean," he remembers his dad saying. "They're going to say you're too tall, you're too short, you're too fat, your hair is too dark, your skin is the wrong complexion, you're Japanese, you're this, you're that."

Happily, Cain ignored his dad.

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Cain was born Dean Tanaka to actress Sharon Thomas and US serviceman Roger Tanaka. His biological father split with his mum before he was born and has never been part of his life.

"I never knew him, never met him," he told ABC News.


When his mum married Christopher Cain, the director adopted four-year-old Dean and his older brother Roger. Dean grew up calling Christopher "Dad". He says Christopher has been "everything" to him. 

"Being a father is raising a child, changing diapers, disciplining him when he's bad, and applauding him when he's good," he told TV Guide. "People ask if I'm interested in my Japanese heritage. Of course I am. But I want my dad to know that I'm not missing anything. He gave me everything.''

Cain acted in a few of his dad’s movies when he was young – he played the son of Robert Duvall and Glenn Close in The Stone Boy – but apart from that, his childhood was mostly about school and sport. He went to Santa Monica High School and then Princeton University, where he studied history and played football. At university, he started dating Brooke Shields, by then already famous as the star of Pretty Baby and Blue Lagoon. In her autobiography There Was A Little Girl, Shields says she and Cain, who was a year below her at university, "fell madly in love" and became the campus's golden couple.

"He would have married me right out of college," she wrote. "He said he knew that I was it. He didn't need to keep looking."

At the age of 22, Shields lost her virginity to Cain.

"Dean and I had been together for what seemed like a lifetime," she explained. "He was incredibly tolerant and admittedly long-suffering. I confess that I wish I had not made him wait as long as he did – for his sake and mine."


She says the whole experience was "beautiful".

"It was what you would wish for your daughter."

Dean Cain and Brooke Shields. Image: Getty. 

After finishing college, Cain signed with the Buffalo Bills NFL team. It was a dream come true – till he suffered a severe knee injury during training camp before his first season. He had surgery, but his professional football career was over. It was then that he became an actor. He started off with minor roles in forgettable movies, before scoring the part of Rick, the boyfriend of Brenda (Shannen Doherty), in four episodes of Beverly Hills 90210.


Dean Cain in Beverly Hills 90210. Image: Fox. 


After that, he auditioned for Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman. Cast as Clark Kent, he had to run through a scene opposite 10 potential Lois Lanes. The last of them was Teri Hatcher.

"She said – I kid you not – 'You don’t like me, do you?'" Cain told Closer

After he assured her he had no feelings one way or another, they did the scene together. 

"It was clear that she was the best actress and the best kisser of the bunch. It was sweet and fun and it worked from there."

Dean Cain with Teri Hatcher in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Image: Filmation/DC Comics. 


The series ran from 1993 to 1997. It made Cain a superstar, and the attention on him was massive. He started dating model and volleyball player Gabrielle Reece.

"I am the most fiercely monogamous person there is," he told TV Guide in 1995. "I've been with Gab for over a year and she gets so ticked, reading that all these different girls are linked with me."

Dean Cain and Gabrielle Reece. Image: Getty. 


As Lois & Clark neared its end, Cain started dating country music singer Mindy McCready. They got engaged and lived together, but split after a year. When McCready took her own life in 2013, Cain told People he wasn't surprised. He said he couldn't "paint too pretty a picture" of their relationship.

"She would start arguments, start drama," he said. "She was never abusive or addictive with me, but red flags were everywhere. I saw all the bad signs and told her to get out."

Dean Cain and Mindy McCready. Image: Getty. 


After McCready, Cain started dating model Samantha Torres, a former Miss Spain and Playboy Playmate. In 2000, they welcomed a baby boy, who Cain named Christopher after his dad. But the relationship ended soon afterwards, with Cain eventually winning sole custody of Christopher, after a long and bitter custody battle.

Dean Cain and Samantha Torres with their son, Christopher. Image: People Weekly. 


"Stability-wise, this is what's best for him," Cain told People when Christopher was 14.

Cain cooked "every meal" for Christopher and turned up to school meetings and excursions. 

"He's my favourite person on the whole planet," he said. 

Torres went on to have twins, Elijah and Isabelle, from another relationship, and they often spent time with Cain and his son.

"I'd do anything for those two," he added. "It can be defined as a broken home, but if you hang out at our house, that’s the last thing you'll think."

Cain has never stopped acting, appearing in everything from tele movies like The Dog Who Saved Christmas to the series Supergirl, but he's never had another role as huge as Lois & Clark. In an interview with the Independent in 2020, he explained that was due to his family circumstances.

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"At the age of 32, I became a father, and I was a single father, so all of the things I did in work took a back seat to that," he said. "I wouldn't take a lead in any series. It was tough to fulfil both parental roles for my son. Instead of having a supportive partner, I had an adversary. A lot of constraints were put on me as a father and a person."

In recent years, he's branched out in some rather diverse directions. He's popped up on Fox News, endorsed Donald Trump for president ("It's not about Trump's personality, it's about the policies of Democrats and Republicans"), was sworn in as a reserve police officer in Idaho and joined the board of the National Rifle Association. 

"In my view, an armed society is a very polite society," he told the Independent. "Of course, there is a possibility that things go wrong and that's always awful."

Whatever he does, to most people, Cain will always be associated with Lois & Clark. And he doesn't mind that.

"What would you want to be called if you were ever going to be called some character for life?" he said to Today Extra. "I think Superman pretty much takes the cake."

Feature Image: Getty/Filmantion/DC Comics/Mamamia.

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