Nicole Maines proves a ‘real-life’ superhero, too
Transgender actress takes off as Dreamer in ‘Supergirl’
BURBANK, Calif. – Nicole Maines understands the significance of her new “Supergirl” character by imagining what someone like Nia Nal/Dreamer would have meant to her when she was a child.
“If I had had a trans superhero, someone who looks like me wearing a cape, (while) growing up, that would have changed the game. That would have been an entire new level of validation in myself,” says the trans woman, 21, who joins the CW action series in Season 4’s opener (Sunday, 8 EDT/ PDT).
Nia, who is inspired by and an ancestor of 30th Century DC Comics character Nura Nal/Dream Girl, marks TV’s first trans superhero. She’s introduced as a reporter working for Kara Danvers/Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) at CatCo Worldwide Media. Her identity, her superpower (Dreamer is an alien “precog” who can dream the future) and her icy-blue suit eventually will be revealed.
Producers were committed to adding a trans hero to the DC Comics TV universe headed by megaproducer Greg Berlanti (“Arrow,” “The Flash”), says executive producer Robert Rovner. Nia’s identity is part of her origin story, adds executive producer Jessica Queller, and is connected to “why and how she’s inherited these powers.” As with Kara in Season 1, she will have to come to terms with her power.
After spending a significant part of Season 3 off-world, Kara/Supergirl & Co. are back in National City for the new season. Nia shows ambition and some youthful awkwardness, reminding Kara of an earlier version of herself.
The new character also meshes well with the upcoming season’s focus on a growing campaign against aliens, including superheroes, led by a charismatic leader, Agent Liberty. The allegory parallels topical discussions about immigration and acceptance of people regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.
In casting Nia, “we were looking for somebody who embodied the innocence, strength and intelligence of a young Kara, which was Nicole, who also happened to be a real-life superhero in our eyes,” Rovner says.Long before being cast in “Supergirl,” Maines was a winning litigant in a 2014 Maine Supreme Court case that gave people the right to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify.
Attention “exploded” after she was introduced in July at San Diego ComicCon. Although there has been some negative reaction to her “Supergirl” casting, it has been mostly positive.
“It’s the same that trans women, trans men face on social media every day,” she says. But there has been “an outpouring of love and support from fans of the show and from folks who don’t watch the show (and) are so excited to have someone who looks like them, not just on television but wearing a cape (on TV). It’s so validating.”
Opportunities for trans actors are growing, in Amazon’s “Transparent,” Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” and FX’s “Pose.” But they’re still rare. That identity shouldn’t be all-defining for the character, however, and it isn’t for Nia.
“What’s amazing with Nia is we have a trans woman who has personality and growth outside her trans-ness. … She’s a reporter, a superhero. … She has a personal life,” Maines says, adding gleefully: “Oh, Nia! How do you do it all?”
Nicole Maines will play Nia Nal/Dreamer, TV’s first transgender superhero, on Season 4 of CW’s “Supergirl.”