Who is Supergirl?
Melissa Benoist (known to ‘Glee’ viewers as Marley Rose) stars as Kara Zor-El, cousin of Kal-El (better known as Superman). Right before the planet Krypton exploded in a fiery holocaust, Kara’s parents launch her in a space capsule to planet Earth, where she’s scheduled to arrive before her infant cousin and take care of him. Unfortunately, Kara’s ship gets waylaid in the Phantom Zone, causing her to arrive years later than scheduled, when her baby cousin is now the grown-up savior of the world. Under her secret identity, Kara works as the assistant to a female media mogul while secretly learning how to harness her awesome super-powers in order to help mankind.
“We’re so passionate about this show,” says exec producer Greg Berlanti. “You know, like many people, I grew up really worshiping the [Richard] Donner [‘Superman’] films and their magic and their wonder and their joy and their fun, and when we went in last year to talk to Warner Bros. and DC and they mentioned the possibility of us working on a show like ‘Supergirl’, our real hope was to bring just a smidgeon of that magic that those films had. And so the last year has been a journey to do that. You can have an idea of a show like this in your head and work really hard on it, but then the real blessings come in the form of the actors that have joined our journey and are part of this.”
Landing The Role
“I auditioned the day after Halloween last year, and it was a Saturday morning. And I think the second that I saw in my email inbox the title ‘Supergirl’, I just knew automatically that it was something important and it was something exciting and rare and that I wanted to be a part of,” says star Melissa Benoist of how she landed the role. Adds exec producer Andre Kreisberg: “Stephen Amell was the very first person we saw for ‘The Arrow.’ Grant Gustin was the very first person we saw for ‘The Flash.’ And Melissa was the very first person we saw for Kara. You know, as soon as we saw her, we just knew she was the one. She had the strength, the hope, the heart, the humour, and just that instant likability, and [Warner Bros. Television chief executive] Peter Roth said after watching her that, like, it’s the closest feeling he’s had since he saw Christopher Reeve, and it really is the truth.”
Meet Cat Grant
Former ‘Ali McBeal’ star Calista Flockhart plays Kara’s boss, media mogul Cat Grant, and she describes the show as “a real celebration of girl power. I was really attracted to this show because I think it’s a great show for moms and daughters to watch together. I think there’s a real family aspect to it for me, and I just think that Cat knows that already. She knows that. She’s like, ‘I’m a girl and I’m awesome, and I’m not going to apologize for that,’ and I love that about the character. I also just want to say for the record that I think it would be a really good idea if Cat becomes romantically involved with Superman. Wouldn’t that be fun? I’m just saying.”
The DC Comics Universe
Fans of the original ‘Supergirl’ comics are in for a treat, says exec producer Andrew Kreisberg, with the introduction of actual characters from the DC universe. “We’re also going to be introducing a bunch of characters from the DC Comics world in the first nine episodes, some of which have already been announced. We’re having Lucy Lane, but we’re also going to be having her father, General Sam Lane, who will be coming to town with an agenda. We’re also going to have the Red Tornado, who’s another DC Comics iconic character. And then we’re also going to be introducing Non, a Kryptonian villain who was memorably played in Donner’s ‘Superman II,’ and we’re going to be having a slightly different take on the character.”
Reinventing Jimmy Olsen
Clark Kent’s sidekick, redheaded ‘Daily Planet’ photographer Jimmy Olsen, has been reimagined as Kara’s co-worker, and while he’s no longer a redhead he does maintain the character’s iconic attributes. “I’m kind of a gosh-gee whiz kind of a kid,” says Mehcad Brooks, who plays Jimmy. “I mean, he’s not a redhead, [but] DNA’s the same. Jimmy’s 75 years old — well, not my character, but the actual character of James Olsen is 75 years old. So in those days, I think people lived a much more monochromatic existence, and so now I think we’re sort of making up for some of those inequities.”
“We always try to imagine what the show is if you remove the superpowers from it,” says Berlanti, explaining the show is about its characters, not their superhuman abilities. “An instance for this, when we were building, constructing this universe, we added a workplace element because we felt like that hadn’t been, sort of, represented on the show like this, and an adult sibling relationship, you know, and very often — most often — those are the things that we’re writing towards on the shows are the emotional dynamics. I think that’s what excites us.
It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane…
The process that leads viewers to see Kara take flight, explains Benoist, is no walk in the park, involving wires and green screens and not a whole lot of comfort. “It’s really difficult,” admits Benoist. “There have been moments where I’m in that position and they’re like, ‘Try to look less concerned. You need to look comfortable.’ But actually, it’s also really exhilarating. As difficult as it is, it’s just as much, if not more, exciting to be to feel like you’re flying.”