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Melissa Benoist and the SUPERGIRL Cast on Their High-Flying New CBS Series

Get ready, superhero fans! On October 26, executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, responsible for TV’s Arrow and The Flash, will bring yet another DC comic book mainstay to television, in the form of Kara Zor-El, a.k.a Supergirl. Starring Melissa Benoist in the title role, Supergirl also features Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant, Kara’s boss while she’s working in her civilian identity of Kara Danvers, and Mehcad Brooks as the buffest ever Jimmy, er, James Olsen, a potential love interest for the Last Daughter of Krypton. The CBS show’s cast joined Berlanti and Kreisberg, along with their fellow producers, Ali Adler and Geoff Johns, at this month’s Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Los Angeles, where they spoke with us about giving the Maid of Might her very first television series…

On casting the show’s title role…

Melissa Benoist: I auditioned the day after Halloween last year, and it was a Saturday morning. 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. That’s where the journey started.


Andrew Kreisberg: We have to give a shout-out to David Rapaport and Lyndsey Baldasare, our casting directors. We’ve told the story before, but it really is the truth. Stephen Amell was the very first person we saw for Arrow. Grant [Gustin] was the very first person we saw for The Flash. And Melissa was the very first person we saw for Kara. As soon as we saw her, we just knew she was the one. She had the strength, the hope, the heart, the humor, and just that instant likability. [Casting director] Peter Roth said after watching her that it’s the closest feeling he’s had since he saw Christopher Reeve, and it really is the truth.

Ali Adler: She was the first person we saw, and we looked at each other and were blown away, and we were like, “We have to get a diamond ring for that girl.” But then we still needed to date the nation. We had to see maybe a thousand more women, and we never stopped being in love with Melissa.

On whether or not Superman will appear in the show…

Geoff Johns: He will be a factor in her life, but you won’t see him exactly on screen. He’s gonna be more in the background. But he does play a part in her evolution of becoming a superhero.

AA: We’re very excited that this series is very much the adventures of Supergirl. As much as we respect the history of Superman, it’s very much her point of view.

Calista Flockhart: I just want to say for the record that I think it would be a really good idea if Cat becomes romantically involved with Superman. [Laughs] 
Wouldn’t that be fun? I’m just saying.

GJ: That is canon in the comics.

Supergirl 2

On whether or not Melissa read Supergirl comics when she was a kid…

MB: I never read Supergirl. And I didn’t read too many of the other comics, but I loved Batman, Michael Keaton’s Batman. Batman Returns is still one of my favorite movies, [with] Catwoman and Penguin.

On the key to translating a comic into a TV show…

Greg Berlanti: We always try to imagine what the show is if you remove the superpowers from it… When we were building, constructing this universe, we added a workplace element because we felt like that hadn’t been represented on a show like this, and an adult sibling relationship. Most often, those are the things that we’re writing towards on the shows, the emotional dynamics. 

In terms of the superpowers and action set pieces, they’re worth spending all that money on when they really demonstrate something about the person’s character, whether it’s the emotional thing they’re struggling with in that episode or whatever it is they have to overcome. So we try and stay focused on the character. When we’ve been lucky enough to have success, I think that’s a good part of it.

On why she’s Supergirl instead of Superwoman…

AA: Superwoman is a different character. She’s Supergirl because she’s Supergirl.

GB: We wanted to keep the title of the show. A lot of times people go to develop these shows, and they go, “What if we change this or change that?” We knew going in that “Supergirl” might imply a younger audience, but we felt like we can sort of take the power of the word back and participate in introducing that to a new generation and say that [it] doesn’t just mean young and inconsequential. It should mean strong and bold, and that was our hope.

On how Han Solo or Indiana Jones would respond to Cat getting involved with Superman…

I don’t know. I guess you would have to ask him… But maybe she should be involved with Clark Kent, now that I’m rethinking it a little bit.

On the influence of the Richard Donner films…

GB: Those movies just had sort of references at the top, but they had charm but a believability and really epic. The thing is, when you go back and you watch them again, if you remove the action set pieces, just the sort of sweeping vistas and the size and scope of it, it had something that just imprinted on our brains at that time in our lives. I associated that with what it meant to tell a superhero story. A lot of the work that I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of has been very much trying to sort of capture just a small part of what I think that those films did, and that’s why they’re iconic.

But, yeah, it was a relatability. There’s times where we’ve watched the dailies and Melissa is sort of doing what Clark Kent may have done in a scene or a sequence like that; and to me it’s the most evocative since Christopher Reeves in terms of capturing, I think, that sort of relatability. That was our hope and our desire, but you never know if you’re going to be fortunate enough to do that. We feel like we are enough that we’re excited to keep doing more of them.

On the show’s influx of DC characters…

AK: 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. 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.

On the show’s new Jimmy Olsen…

Mehcad Brooks: The actual character of James Olsen is seventy-five years old. 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.


On Cat being the only regular who doesn’t know Kara’s secret…

AK: The relationship between Cat and Kara and the relationship between Cat and Supergirl, which we’re actively exploring in these first nine episodes, it doesn’t come off as Cat being ignorant. It comes off as it’s really interesting watching Cat relate to these two different women without realizing that it’s the same one.

On the most important thing about playing Supergirl…

MB: I guess I just knew automatically that she’s such a beacon of hope, and I knew that her bravery and strength was so intrinsic and important to who she is and that I really needed to feel in myself in order to play that… I really have to believe that I’m a superhero.

On filming the flying scenes…

MB: It’s really difficult, and 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 feel like you’re flying.

AK: That’s one of my favorite moments in the pilot, is just at the end when she’s flying around, just seeing the unfettered joy on her face as she’s flying around and as she’s, like, reveling in this power, in this freedom. There are a lot of heroes who are sort of very ambivalent about their powers and very dour, and we’re certainly guilty of putting some of those people on TV. But one of the great joys of Supergirl is that she really loves being Supergirl, and you only believe that because Melissa loves being Supergirl.

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