Supergirl continues to soar... Joseph McCabe v isits National Cit y to speak with cast a nd crew
“I feel that people were ready to
see a strong female heroine”
It’s a blindingly bright morning at Warner Bros Studios in Burbank. So warm as to erase all knowledge of the fact that it’s early January. After taking our time to walk across the expansive lot, it’s almost a disappointment when SFX must leave the sunshine to step onto a darkened soundstage… Even if it means we’re about to chat with the most powerful woman in the world.
It’s entirely appropriate that the Land of Endless Summer, Southern California, should serve as the home of TV’s Supergirl. For while Warner has made Superman’s Metropolis as foreboding on the big screen as the Dark Knight’s Gotham City, his younger cousin Kara Zor- El – under the guidance of executive producers Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Ali Adler – has been imbued with the most potent superpower of all in today’s world: a sense of optimism.
“I feel an incredible amount of pride for what we’re doing,” says the show’s star, Melissa Benoist, when we meet her on the cavernous DEO Headquarters set, where Kara works with her sister Alex and her boss Hank Henshaw ( aka J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter). Today Benoist is wearing the simple sweater and work slacks of Supergirl’s alter ego, Kara Danvers, who must report to no- nonsense tycoon Cat Grant, CEO of CatCo Worldwide Media. It’s easy to see why she was cast as the Last Daughter Of Krypton, as her words mirror her character’s hopefulness and positivism…
“I feel that people were ready to see a strong female heroine, the way Supergirl is. I get to experience that every time a little girl comes on set, or just any child really. Anytime I’m in the suit, people notice. It’s kind of indescribable.
But children are really the way that I see the true effect of what we’re doing here, and I feel a lot of humble pride about that.”
Kreisberg, who’s here for this last day of shooting the first season’s 14th episode (“Truth, Justice And The American Way”), is quick to point out while Supergirl is an optimist, she’s by no means naive.
“That was a misperception,” he tells us. “That this show was sort of overly sunny, and that Supergirl herself might have been overly sunny. We always saw her as this person who experienced probably the worst trauma you can experience. I mean, she literally lost everybody she loved – her mother and her father. She’s one of [ Krypton’s] few remaining survivors. That’s a lot to take in, and it’s a lot to walk around with, that sort of survivor’s guilt. Even when we are breaking a story that could be considered a little bit lighthearted, we always take into account the damage that Kara sustained as a child, and that she brings with her to her adult life.”
Back to Krypton?
It’s a life that’s become more complicated than ever in this debut season’s second half, as Kara faces new foes like the Toyman, Master Jailer ( whose episode is shooting today on a separate stage), and a Bizarro Supergirl created by the wicked Maxwell Lord. There’s even a visit from Smallville’s Supergirl, actress Laura Vandervoort — who plays the villainous Brainiac’s cold- blooded “descendant” Indigo. But Kreisberg’s most excited about a menace pulled from the pages of one of the most beloved Superman comic book stories of all: “For The Man Who Has Everything” ( from 1985’ s Superman Annual # 11).
“When Greg brought me on to the project, I talked to him early on about wanting to do one of my favourite comic books, ‘ For The Man Who Has Everything’ by Alan Moore. So Episode 13 is actually ‘ For The Girl Who Has Everything’. We’re doing an adaptation of that comic book, but with Kara. We just finished filming it. It’s the Black Mercy. Kara wakes up and she’s back on Krypton and has no idea how or why she got there… It’s one of the things I’m the most excited about having done, because it seemed like such a pipe dream when we were having these early conversations and now it’s part of the show.”
No antagonist, however, presents as great an ongoing challenge for Kara this year as her own hard- as- nails boss, who, in the show’s midseason finale, finally learned her secret identity and asked Kara to remove her glasses…
“We wondered at the beginning of the year how the modern- day audience would react to that on a regular basis,” says Berlanti of Kara’s time- honoured disguise. “Would people crave something more than just the tried‑and‑true glasses? To a certain degree, we have to just kind of own the mythology that exists… But what was just as interesting to us is the nature of their dynamic. Their relationship – the boss/ prodigy, the sort of big sister/ little sister dynamic – all of those relationships that they express in the workplace are just as fascinating to us. Part of what we’re kind of also setting up, in a way, is that by not telling her the truth there’s in essence a bit of a betrayal there.”
“I just think of Cat as this sort of narcissist,” says Flockhart, explaining Cat’s long journey to discovering Kara’s secret. “She doesn’t really notice. She really doesn’t take her in. She’s talking at her a lot, but she’s not really looking at her. She’s on that work path; and when she sees Supergirl, it’s a whole different kind of feeling. She probably flutters a little bit, even though she hides it. It just wouldn’t dawn on her. At least that’s how I make it work for me.”
Kreisberg tells SFX that the show’s producers take a similar approach to the one they’ve employed on their other hit DC Television Universe series, including The Flash,
Arrow and Legends Of Tomorrow. “We always start with ‘ What does this episode mean to Kara?’ Just as on Arrow, it’s ‘ What does it mean to Oliver?’, and on
Flash, ‘ What does it mean to Barry?’ Then subsequently, ‘ What does it also mean to all
Children are really the way I see the true effect of what we're doing
the side characters? And what is the idea or the issue or the topic that we want to explore this week?’ Whoever the villain is, that’s the icing on the cake. That always comes last. It’s always, ‘ Well, if we want to tell a story about x, y or z…’ We figure out how we want to impact our characters emotionally and how we want to fit it in terms of the overall arc of the season that we’re doing. Who they end up fighting always comes last. We never sit down and say to ourselves, ‘ Oh, we really want to do a fight between Kara and Red Tornado!’ It was an episode that started with, ‘ Well, we want to do an episode about anger’; and her ending up fighting and going to town on a robot – that then became angry itself… that came later.
“The reason to do ‘ For The Girl Who Has Everything’,” adds Kreisberg, “as much as I wanted to do it – and I’ve literally been pitching doing it every episode since we started – the reason it’s coming at the time that it is, is that it’s going to come at a point in the season where Kara is going to be feeling very lost and very alone and very detached from the people in her life. From Cat, from Alex, from Hank, from Winn, from James. So when she is granted this sort of It’s A Wonderful Life moment, where she can be living in this fantasy, where nothing terrible happened and she grew up on Krypton, there’s actually a reason for her to want it to be true. Because it’s much more palatable and easier for her to be there than on Earth, where she has a lot of work to do. As always, we never think of any of these things as gimmicks, it’s always when it’s the right time to do it. Then the joy for us is, we’ve set it up in such a way that when it is the right time to do it, you really get to explore it.”
Since Supergirl is only the second DC comic- book heroine ( after Wonder Woman in the 1970s) to receive her own live- action TV show, today’s fans may be wondering why the current wave of superheroine shows – including Marvel’s Agent Carter and Jessica
Jones – took so very long to arrive. Kreisberg’s cohort Ali Adler smiles at the question and tells us she’s delighted that “it’s taken this long to get to the issue of gender in this conversation today. Because that was always the first question.
“I think, as with anything,” says the exec, “we’re always mid‑change. The world is ready for it. We have Melissa and this amazing cast here to show that it doesn’t matter. Supergirl is strong and powerful and brave.”
You can catch Supergirl on Sky 1 in the UK and CBS in the US.
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