Supergirl cast and showrunner talk about the upcoming DC adaptation
With so many comic book TV series currently on television between The CW (“The Flash,” “Arrow”), ABC (“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Marvel’s Agent Carter”), Fox (“Gotham”), and Netflix (“Marvel’s Daredevil,” “Marvel’s Jessica Jones”), it’s time for CBS to get in on the mix.
Hailing from Warner Bros. TV and Berlanti Productions (who also produce the hit DC Comics series “Arrow” and “The Flash” for The CW), Supergirl is based on the characters from DC Comics and centers on Kara Zor-El, who escaped the doomed planet Krypton with her parents’ help at the same time as the infant Kal-El. Protected and raised on Earth by her foster family, the Danvers, Kara grew up in the shadow of her foster sister, Alex, and learned to conceal the phenomenal powers she shares with her famous cousin in order to keep her identity a secret.
Years later at 24, Kara lives in National City assisting media mogul and fierce taskmaster Cat Grant, who just hired the Daily Planet’s former photographer, James Olsen, as her new art director. However, Kara’s days of keeping her talents a secret are over when Hank Henshaw, head of a super-secret agency where her sister also works, enlists her to help them protect the citizens of National City from sinister threats. Though Kara will need to find a way to manage her newfound empowerment with her very human relationships, her heart soars as she takes to the skies as Supergirl to fight crime.
Melissa Benoist leads the Supergirl cast, which also includes Mehcad Brooks, Laura Benanti, Calista Flockhart, Chyler Leigh, Jeremy Jordan, Jenna Dewan Tatum, Iddo Goldberg, David Harewood, Peter Facinelli, Dean Cain and Helen Slater.
SuperHeroHype spoke with the series’ Executive Producer Ali Adler along with Supergirl cast members Mehcad Brooks, who plays Jimmy Olsen, and Peter Facinelli, who plays Maxwell Lord, about how the tone of the series differs from the other DC series (“The Flash,” “Arrow,” “Gotham”) as well as how they would describe their characters.
Can you talk about the tone of the show compared to Arrow and The Flash?
Ali Adler: I hope that if Metropolis is here next to Gotham City and it’s our own sunny universe, Supergirl will impact with her own brand of lightness and optimism. We absolutely consider it a character trait of the city and of the tone, and we are a bit lighter emotionally. Those shows inspire us absolutely.
Mehcad Brooks: I would say that it’s better than them. To me and honestly, it’s the best thing I’ve seen on TV. I’m not even kidding. I know I’m supposed to say that, but I really actually mean it. It has like a Donner-esque quality to it. It’s has that romantic comedy element but also light. There’s also a dark side to it, but we don’t delve into it so much that you can’t watch it with the kids. We don’t also make the show for kids. The adults are going to love it too. “The Simpsons” did it really well where you had jokes that the adults would snicker behind kids’ backs and the kids would think it’s cool and cute. The tone of our show is much more Donner-esque than the later Christopher Nolans. Those are very dark.
Peter Facinelli: I think the tone is meant to be comic but fun. It’s not super-dark like the Batman series. It’s fun and it’s got action. It reminds me of Christopher Reeve’s Superman. They were fun and funny at the right moment and had a really nice mix of being a family movie where everybody can enjoy it. That’s what I feel that “Supergirl” is. There are very few shows that I would sit down with my kids and say, “Hey, let’s all watch this together.” But this is one where I feel it’s safe to watch with them, but I can enjoy it too. I’m actually excited to see not because I’m on it, but because it’s a fun show.
Can you talk about the casting of Melissa Benoist?
Ali Adler: It was so exciting for us. David Rapaport and Lyndsey Baldasare of Rapaport Casting were tremendous. As an example, the first person they brought in for “Arrow” was Stephen (Amell). The first person they brought in for “Flash” was Grant (Gustin) and the first person is like the hat trick. I don’t think it’s accidental. People practice all the time to score in hockey too. They did their research so thoroughly in bringing in Melissa Benoist, who I actually worked with on “Glee” and she just captivated us all immediately. We saw many more people after that. Probably a 1000 people after that. Just due diligence. Tapes were sent in, but she just had our hearts from the beginning and I’m sure you guys will feel the same.
How would you best describe your characters?
Mehcad Brooks: Jimmy Olsen’s all grown up. When you hang out with Superman long enough, you go to a confidence boot camp. You start working out and maybe you change your clothes a little bit and he’s now won a Pulitzer Prize for his photo coverage of Superman. He’s now an Art Director in National City. Superman has asked him to leave Metropolis and go to National City to help Supergirl become who she is supposed to be. He’s this liaison between her hidden identity and who she’s supposed to be. He’s her mentor but there is an attraction. If Superman asks you to go look after his cousin, there’s a bro-code, you have to structure that. It’s a really cool world.
Peter Facinelli: Maxwell Lord is a green tech billionaire. He’s trying to save humanity through green technologies and the problem lies that his perspective is from others. Other people look at Supergirl and other superheroes as ways to help save the planet and in his mind, we shouldn’t get help from outside sources. We should be fixing humanity ourselves. He has a different perspective on how we should fix our problems. He looks at it this way. “Our planet is dying. We’re destroying our planet and everyone’s fascinated with superheroes fighting in the sky, but those are distractions. We need to get to the matters at hand and come together as a human race and fix it.” Some people have compared him as the Lex Luthor of the Supergirl world, but I don’t think he’s a villain in that sense. He’s not an evil genius. He’s just a genius with a very clear perspective on things that don’t match up with everyone’s else’s.
Can you talk about some of the other DC characters scheduled to appear on the show? Will it be a new villain every week?
Ali Adler: We definitely have a force every week that has to match her superhero skills so we need to give her an equal but opposite reaction. There’s Reactron, Livewire and Red Tornado. I don’t know how much I can talk about it, but we are definitely seeing Non. We also have something that is unique for us in as much as Kal-El left the planet when he was an infant and became Superman on Earth but doesn’t have the body of memory that Kara Zor-El does. She was 12 years when she was on her planet and we get to learn more about Krypton, which is really exciting. We get to do that through flashbacks and we have these incredible sets that we are erecting and it’s really exciting to see what’s on the call sheets. We also have additional flashbacks to Midvale. We will see people like Dean Cain as Jeremiah Danvers and Helen Slater as Eliza Danvers. What’s amazing is to walk on the set and see those people acting in our scenes, and it’s very thrilling for us.
What do you expect to bring to your roles? For Mehcad, why is Jimmy so well liked?
Mehcad Brooks: What I’m bringing to the role? Swag! There you go. It’s the same character. Same DNA. The only change is the ethnicity and to speak on that point, Jimmy was created in 1940. There was a certain existence back then. You can’t blame anyone for drawing what they knew, but if Jimmy Olsen had been created last year, perhaps he would look like me or you. We don’t know. So, we’re just writing the social languages of the past. Jimmy represents how we feel about Superman. He represents the truth and justice in our hearts and if we had a friend that was able to perform these actions, that we would help them. Maybe we couldn’t fly ourselves and maybe we couldn’t do this, but we would be right there providing what that person needed. I think that’s a really cool entry way into that world for humans that don’t have these special powers can look to someone and have that person be your eyes and ears and voice. I think that’s why people love Jimmy. It’s an honor to play that.
Peter Facinelli: When I read the comic book, he was very colorful and wearing purple suits and seemed like Donald Trump on the cover of Forbes. He’s a strong businessman who had an agenda. I’m playing him more like a Elon Musk, Steve Jobs. The billionaire today is different from the billionaire of yesterday. He’s more cooler and charismatic. For me, there’s a saying. “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was making people think he didn’t exist.” If you want power, the best way is to win people over and he’s the type of character that wins people over through his charisma and then he can harness that power to do whatever he wants. As far as his relationship with Supergirl, he doesn’t have any superpowers and fighting her in that sense. He’s a very smart man and it’s an adversarial relationship with Supergirl because he looks at her as someone who is fooling the public. He looks at her with fascination and he can somehow harness that power, he can solve humanity’s problem. It’s a fun character to play.
Supergirl premieres this Monday, October 26 at a special time (8:30-9:30pm) before moving to its regular time slot on Monday, November 2 from 8:00-9:00pm.