HitFix Interview: Brandon Routh talks playing straight and gay on ‘Partners’

Superman is coming to TV… sort of. Brandon Routh, who starred in 2006’s “Superman Returns” as the Man of Steel, is taking a comedic turn as Wyatt, the boyfriend of Michael Urie’s high-strung character Louis on “Partners.” The show, which premieres Sept. 24 (CBS, 8:30 p.m.), comes from “Will & Grace” creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, follows the bromance between straight man (literally) Joe and his best friend Louis. Routh’s character, a vegan nurse, is the calm to Louis’ storm, though in the pilot that seems to mean delivering unintentional punchlines. I spoke to Routh at the TCA press tour this summer about playing a vegan nurse who may or may not have been raised Amish, playing it straight (and gay) and why he never gets sick of “Superman” questions.

In the pilot there’s a Rumspringa joke about Wyatt, but also one about him being Presbyterian. Was your character supposed to have been raised Amish of Presbyterian or something else altogether?
That’s what we’re talking about, yeah. That was Wyatt’s upbringing. Mennonite is what’s been thrown around. There’s a joke that I’m Presbyterian in the pilot, but I think that’s gonna change. Whatever makes the most comedy! 
Was it hard to convince casting directors that Superman could do comedy?
You just have to show them. That’s the thing. I had some roles, like in “Scott Pilgrim [vs. the World]” and “Zack & Mirir [Make a Porno],” which kind of highlighted my comedic abilities, but a lot of people haven’t seen that stuff, although I’ve done a wealth of things, I think, not everyone’s seen in. So you have to continually keep knocking on doors until everyone knows who you are and what you’re about. 
Is it challenging to be a traditionally handsome guy when it comes to getting a comedic role? You don’t look funny, so to speak.
There’s definitely an opportunity for leading man types for comedy. But my style of comedy, and what I’ve been more comfortable with in at the beginning of my career, has been more, kind of awkward. Like Clark Kent, because that’s kind of how I was. I didn’t look like I do now in high school and stuff. I was kind of awkward and goofy and all that stuff, and I still think of myself in that vein. So that silliness was where my comedy skills lived before I knew what I was doing. Now that I  have learned what comedy is, I can bring that to different types of characters.
How difficult is it to play the straight (and not always clued-in) man to so much of the humor? That’s definitely harder than it looks.
It’s just a natural thing, I guess. Maybe because I’m like that in my real life; I’m a little clueless, I guess. I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s a lot of fun for me. I like that kind of character; I like reacting to other people. Michael Urie’s character is freaking out about something, I silently stand by and react to his craziness. That’s something I enjoy. I like that type of character.
Because this sitcom is loosely based on Max Mutchnick and David Kohan’s friendship, your character is a bit like Max’s real-life partner. Is it useful to be able to meet your character’s inspiration?
To a degree. Max’s husband I’m playing to a degree, just in the way he deals with Max, I think those elements come out. He’s caring and he’s sweet and he allows him to have his passionate feelings and can calm him down, so I think those aspects. Eric is a lawyer, so I think the dim aspect kind of goes away. It doesn’t pertain to him.
Do you ever get sick of the Superman questions?
No, it’s not annoying. It’s a part of my filmography, and my history and it’s pretty awesome. It’s my life, man.