Jenna Dewan-Tatum is poised for what looks like a pretty fun gig with promise: A recurring role in CBS' Supergirl as Lucy Lane. The show's pilot (which doesn't feature Lucy) already earned positive reviews before airing on Monday, October 26. Still, we're wondering why — nine years after starring in Step Up and her costar/husband Channing Tatum becoming a major A-lister — she's got billing below that girl from Glee (all due respect, Melissa Benoist). Here's a theory: Dewan-Tatum was born in the wrong era. A couple of generations earlier, and she would have the career of, say, Cyd Charisse (Singin' in the Rain) or Leslie Caron (An American in Paris), headlining movies destined for a permanent place in our pop-culture memories. Like those two screen legends, she's a stunning brunette who started off as a professional dancer before branching out into acting. You can see some of her best work in Janet Jackson's videos for "Doesn't Really Matter" and "All for You," and Ricky Martin's "Juramento." She was also a backup dancer for 'NSYNC and was rumored to have been one of Justin Timberlake's post-Britney flings.
After guest spots on shows like Quintuplets (yes, that was a thing) and Joey, Dewan (not yet Tatum) had the dubious honor of starring in Tamara (2005), a derivative horror movie about a nerd who comes back to life as a hot girl to torture the kids who accidentally killed her. Not that there isn't this kind of movie in many an actor's résumé, but we can see this as an early sign of one aspect of her career: She can't ever be cast as someone less than sizzling hot. Fortunately, less than a year later, Dewan got to show off her skills as a troubled kid-turned-ballroom-dancer in 2006's Take the Lead, with Antonio Banderas. That, in turn, led to Step Up.
There's a lot to love about Step Up. It's got all the dance movie and performing arts school clichés we crave — even critics praised the "easy chemistry" between Dewan and Tatum, and "admittedly sensational dancing." Clunky dialogue and a well-worn plot meant that it wasn't exactly a showcase for raw acting talent. Its stars became household names for teen fans, but while Step Up became a niche franchise, that's the last dancing movie we've seen from Dewan. Like we said, this is not the heyday of big song-and-dance productions. Tatum had a bigger range of movies under his belt before Step Up, and he could use his beefcake status to star in action flicks (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) and romances (Dear John). It wasn't so easy for Dewan to, er, step up into anything new. Is it that "hot girls" don't get the benefit of the doubt, as far as casting? As his star rose, she got parts in TV movies (Fab Five: The Texas Cheerleading Scandal) and straight-to-DVD flicks (American Virgin). Instead of her career, we began hearing about Dewan as the girlfriend, and then wife, of Channing. When she chose to hyphenate her last name, you could even say that was an acknowledgement that her professional identity would be forever entwined with his. Then, in 2011, it looked like she might get another shot at something big when she was cast in the controversial series The Playboy Club. Alas, audiences were pretty fatigued with the Mad Men-created nostalgia for early '60s sets, and critics panned the Goodfellas-meets-Showgirls plot. The show lasted three episodes. At least she was back on the radar — which meant she got to be skinned alive on American Horror Story: Asylum. That Ryan Murphy seal of approval is never a bad thing. It might be part of a better turn of luck she's had ever since. For two seasons of Lifetime's Witches of East End, she played Freya, a Long Island bartender who learns that she and her sister are witches destined to die young and be reincarnated over and over to torture their powerful witch mother. She got to be the hot girl, of course, but also the passionate, intuitive dreamer. Also, there were all sorts of soapy shenanigans involving her love triangle with two brothers (also reincarnated) and a whole lot of supernatural enemies. Though the show was axed — blame witch fatigue — it gave us a glimpse of how far Dewan-Tatum has come as an actress.
Between TV gigs, she wasn't exactly just lounging around. She and Tatum reminded us of their chemistry for a minute in the sweet indie ensemble film 10 Years. There was also that minor thing of having baby Everly (thanks for continuing your line of beautiful genes, guys!). And just this summer, she took the stage again on So You Think You Can Dance, first as a guest judge and then as a performer.
Her duet with choreographer Travis Wall, set to the Alabama Shakes' "Gimme All Your Love," is the most dramatic, expressive work Dewan has done to date. It makes us wish she could travel back in time to perform in something huge and Technicolor with Gene Kelly. Maybe we can at least hope for option B: an episode of Supergirl in which Lucy Lane has to enter a ballroom dance competition to help Kara save the world.