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Embodying Supergirl: An Interview with Melissa Benoist

Embodying Supergirl: An Interview with Melissa Benoist

By Tim Beedle Monday, December 14th, 2015

As believable as she may be on CBS’s Supergirl, Melissa Benoist isn’t actually a super hero. I say this only because when you meet her, you can’t help but feel like you’re meeting the real deal—not an actor, but the newly emerged super hero that many of us have come to love. The reason for this is both simple and wonderful. If there really were people walking around on our Earth with super powers, you’d want them to be like Benoist. She’s down to Earth and approachable, loves saying hi to young fans and is more than happy to pose for a quick photo while she’s scarfing down a doughnut. Or a second doughnut. Or a giant Supergirl cookie. (Seriously, we’re not making this stuff up.) Maybe Supergirl’s producers weren’t looking to cast an actual super hero when they cast their title role, but they found someone who fits the bill perfectly all the same.

Tonight’s episode of Supergirl, “Hostile Takeover,” finds Kara once again locking horns with her powerful Kryptonian aunt, Astra, while CatCo struggles with a hacker attack. It introduces us to Supergirl’s version of Non, a brilliant and powerful villain first introduced in Richard Donner’s Superman movie (though he played a much bigger role in Superman II). It’s also the final new episode of the year, and as such seemed like the perfect time for us to get caught up with Benoist. Here’s what our Supergirl had to say about the show so far.



 

You have to be funny and quirky and strong and all these different things—is there one part of playing Supergirl in particular that’s the most challenging?

I don’t know. It’s rather challenging to bounce back and forth between all of those traits, but for me personally, because I tend to be shy and weird and more toward Kara Danvers, it can be challenging to be in the fight scenes and be authoritative. I have to remind myself “shoulders back and be strong,” and maybe lower my voice, my register. So, that’s a little more challenging than some of the other scenes.

How does Kara feel after losing her powers on last week’s episode?

Obviously, it’s kind of a frustrating feeling, but I think the whole point of episode is you don’t need powers to be a hero. What is in Kara’s heart is what makes her a hero.

Kara showed a new kind of intensity when she went up against Red Tornado. Can you talk about that?

Well, I think everything was kind of building to that. Her life has really been tossed upside down since she’s come out with her powers and she’s really had to grapple with her past, and what these powers mean on Earth, what being Supergirl means, and what kind of hero she wants to be. I think anyone would be overwhelmed with that, especially someone who didn’t allow themself to be their true self for such a long time. And I had a really wonderful time working on episode six—it’s probably been one of my favorites so far—just because there was so much to grab from and play with, and she has such a tragic past there was a lot of material.



 

The stunt guys said you are getting great…

I’m so glad they’re saying that; it’s such a relief.

Can you talk about the stunts and how you’ve been progressing with them?

It’s such a hard thing to gauge for me because I always have a little bit of anticipation and not fear, but nerves. Whenever we do a big stunt, I’m still doing a lot, but what my stunt double Shauna does is really incredible and she’s a Supergirl herself. I feel myself getting stronger and getting to be able to pick it up faster and knowing the physicality more, which I think kind of matches the trajectory Supergirl is on. She started off as this rhino charging at things and not really having any aim or focus, and now she’s really zoning in on a target. So I feel like that, a little bit.

What can you tease about Kara and Cat’s relationship going forward?

Their relationship is always going to be a rollercoaster and that’s one of my favorite things about it. It grows and there’s this kind of almost maternal mentorship about it. Tey both have insecurities and emotions that maybe guard them from each other sometimes—from themselves, I mean. So I can tell you there’s an ebb and flow to it and it’s up and down quite a bit.



 

So Kara’s about to meet another guy… Care to elaborate on Adam Foster?

Well, she’s… Her love life is so complicated. All of her relationships are so complicated. By the time that he shows up, a lot has happened with the other men in her life. I like to think that, sometimes, the better Supergirl gets at her job, Kara’s personal life kind of suffers. You can’t juggle everything and be good at everything all at once. When she meets Adam, that’s definitely the wrench in the machine of her life, in terms of CatCo.

Is there something about him she likes? Is he really attractive, maybe?

He’s really attractive. Also, I think there’s a mystery about him. There’s a connection because of their past and what they’ve both been through, in terms of family and loss.

Can you talk about Alex and Kara’s relationship going forward?

Their relationship is my absolute favorite, hands down. Chyler is incredible and it’s hard to pinpoint how their relationship… It’s so complicated, the way female relationships can be, especially between sisters, and that’s what’s so beautiful about it. You will only see their love and their bond get stronger and more unbreakable.



 

Each episode seems to be a lesson on how to be a grown up and how to be a woman. What life lessons will Kara be learning in the future?

Definitely how to grapple with your identity and being okay with who you are, allowing yourself to be who you are and finding a place in the world and where you fit. There’s always a lesson about heart and integrity, and finding the good in everything, and trying to find your way. She’s dealing with a lot of grief too. How to grieve. How to feel.

How would you describe Kara’s relationship with her surrogate mother? She kept referring to her as “Alex’s mother” in a recent episode.

Yeah, that’s so funny that you bring that up. That was something that I noticed too, when I got the script. I think that’s part of the fact that she has not really let go of her family on Krytpon, despite the fact that Eliza and Jeremiah were so loving and welcoming and like parents to her. I do think their relationship is really close… But there is maybe a barrier there that she keeps. 



 

Is there a certain kind of pressure on you when playing Supergirl, who young people look up to, to keep a certain purity and goodness in your performance?

Oh, sure there is and I think that’s the driving force behind her. That makes it easy because I always know what to fall back on when I’m playing Supergirl, but it doesn’t exclude the emotions you guys saw in episode—she does get angry, she does have flaws. But what ultimately is the most important about her is that she always finds the silver lining. She always finds a way to be heroic and good and pure at heart. So, there’s a pressure, but it’s something that’s kind of constant about her that I rely on.

So, how will Kara react to having another friendly alien in her life?

It’s so funny the way she reacts. I can’t wait for you guys to see it. I don’t want to tell you because it’s really funny. It’s a good thing. She’s really happy about it.


Supergirl’s midseason finale, “Hostile Takeover,” airs tonight at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on CBS. This is the final installment in our weeklong series of Supergirl interviews. Be sure you also check out our interviews with Calista Flockhart (Cat Grant), Chyler Leigh (Kara Danvers), Jeremy Jordan (Winn Schott), David Harewood (Hank Henshaw) and Mehcad Brooks (James Olsen).