It's a bird! It's a plane! It's SUPERGIRL!
CBS' new fall drama Supergirl has officially started production, and we caught up with Supergirl herself, Melissa Benoist, earlier this summer to learn more about what makes this superhero such a remarkable role model.
Benoist didn't hesitate to address why she loves playing the part of Kara, aka Supergirl. “What I love about Kara is that she is still in this process of discovering herself," Benoist said. "I look at it as a coming-of-age story. I love when she finds her strength and when she owns it – those are my favorite parts to play, when she has no fear. She has that lovely naivety a little bit; I love that she has a knowledge of where she comes from. I think her history is so sad...it’s a beautiful, sad story that really informs who she is.”
The themes of Supergirl speak volumes to women, and Benoist is realizing just how powerful the show will be to young audiences, and to herself. Being a hero means finding your bravery, which is just what Kara has set out to do.
“I’m sort of going through [a coming-of-age journey] on my own now. I don’t think you’re ever done learning about yourself. Especially as women, we are complicated, multi-faceted creatures. We are very flawed, and that’s what I love about Kara. She is constantly messing up and she doesn’t really know, she’s kind of flying by the seat of her pants half the time with what we’ve done so far. And I love that; I love that there’s room to grow and it shows that no one ever has it all figured out. So no matter how many powers you have… And I knew that this was going to be-- a facet of it was to be a role model for young girls-- but the crew members would be bringing their daughters onto set, and until I saw them when I was in the suit, I didn’t realize what that was going to feel like. It was a powerful moment.” -Melissa Benoist
So how did Melissa Benoist feel the first time she tried on her Supergirl suit? “I felt like I was on top of the world the first time I put it on," she said, smiling. "It’s impossible not to feel this type of internal shift of strength and bravery. It makes me feel brave wearing it.”Superpowers aside, Supergirl is a relatable role model who has a big story to tell. “You will continue to learn more about her," said Executive Producer Sarah Schechter. "Part of what is so great about the character of Supergirl is that…Kara spent the first twelve or thirteen years of her life with no powers, and she came to a planet that tells teenage girls to suppress their power. So for her, becoming an adult woman is getting back in touch with that. She also had the trauma of losing everyone she knew as a young girl, and she has memories of Krypton. It really plays into the 'bad guy' plot of the whole first season. There’s so much more story to tell, both in the present and in the past.”
Schechter addressed rumors that the CBS show is not able to use Superman as a character, and her response was on fire! Who needs Superman? This show is about the power, strength, and bravery of WOMEN. We don't have enough female role models on television (or anywhere for that matter), and Supergirl is fighting to change that.
“What’s interesting is that it’s not like DC came to us and said ‘You can’t use Superman,’ but this show is about Supergirl, right? So it’s not about the man. It’s about the woman, and the woman is the one that we don’t know enough about. For us, it’s not so much like ‘can we or can’t we?’ but why should we? It’s her story and it’s about her becoming a superhero. Very early on when the idea of doing a Supergirl show first came up, I said to Greg ‘Supergirl! Supergirl! Supergirl! We have to do Supergirl! Because I really do believe there aren’t enough strong female characters in film or television. Greg called me, and I remember it really clearly, he said ‘I figured it out. It’s like Ginger Rodgers. She has to do everything Fred Astaire does, but backwards in heels.’ And that’s what Supergirl does in a lot of ways. That’s what makes it a far more exciting story to tell.” -Executive Producer Sarah Schechter
Executive Producer Andrew Kreisberg added that Supergirl is unique in opposition to Superman because Superman, unlike Kara, doesn’t remember Krypton. "He was born there, but he came here as a baby. As far as he’s concerned, aside from the fact that he’s an alien, he really is from Kansas. Kara remembers growing up in this world. She remembers her aunt; she remembers her parents; she remembers her family. So for her, it’s not this sort of abstract thing…these are people that she knew growing up. For us, we think that makes her very different from Superman, and we think it’s going to lead to some incredible drama.”
When asked which villains are expected to make an appearance on the show, Kreisberg explained the interconnectivity between the different villains in Kara's life, super and not-so-super. “There is a big bad and the big bad is in control of a certain portion of the Fort Rozz escapees. In addition to those aliens, there will also be normal human villains, who don’t have any superpowers, and then there will also be regular humans who have incredible tech. So the villains will be coming from all sorts of different areas.”
There isn't a singular antagonist, but a combination of personal and societal forces trying to restrict Kara's abilities. “For us it’s those conflicts, the more personal the better they are," Kreisberg said.
The creative team confirmed that they want to honor past interpretations of Supergirl, without over-sexualizing or objectifying her. Schechter explained that "we always try to honor the past interpretations. It’s fun for the audience and for us as fans. We will continue to do that as much as we can because we’re kind of nerds too."
Pauline Atwood, who designed the costumes for the Flash and Arrow, has also designed Supergirl's outfit. In creating the suit, Schechter said that "it was about honoring the legacy of all those others, but we’re not objectifying her. She’s not an object. It’s not about an over-sexualization of her, and also it has to be practical."
Laughing about previous versions of the Supergirl suit, Schechter claimed that she personally "doesn't understand how anyone can fly in a skirt. It’s just too x-rated.
[Supergirl] has to kick a lot of ass, and to do that she has to be comfortable. So we found something that felt fresh and cool...It’s something that little girls are going to want to wear. The idea that they’re going to want to wear something that has sleeves and that doesn’t show their bellies is exciting to us.”
Thank you, Sarah Schechter and Pauline Atwood!
The creative team is confident that the cast, themes, and tones of the show will entice audiences everywhere. “For us, the world can be a dark and difficult place," Schechter said. "I think people have hard lives, and we hope to deliver an hour of fun and of hopefulness. Hope is the cornerstone of Superman and Supergirl…it’s central to who they are, the hope that they offer....There will be the comedy, there will be the drama, and there will be the emotion. And that’s why we’re so lucky to have Melissa and this incredible cast.”
We couldn't help noticing that many of the actors on the show are known for their singing and musical talents. So will there be any singing on Supergirl? Kreisberg joked saying, “I feel like we pulled it off nicely on Flash by having Grant and Danielle do karaoke...Between [The Supergirl] cast, and Grant and everybody across all the shows....now we have Victor Garber and Sierra Renee. Really, we could stage Les Mis with our cross casts."
Kara as Eponine with a Flash Marius?? Yes, please!
But is Supergirl targeted only at influencing a young female audience? Of course not. Kara's coming-of-age story is applicable to any demographic. “I just think it’s very relatable to everyone. We all have that sort of heroic ability and the idea of whatever your best self is, finding the strength in this world to be your best self isn’t easy. The complexity of Kara’s backstory lends us to show more ideas and angles that we haven’t seen before,” Kreisberg said.
Supergirl premieres Monday, October 26 on CBS at 8:30/7:30c! Add it to your "must-watch" list now!