You’d think Martian Manhunter had enough on his mind these days without also trying to direct an episode of Supergirl.
Okay, technically it’s the gifted actor who plays J’onn J’onzz who’s doing the directing, but it’s still no less impressive. This is especially true considering that the episode in question is the action-packed first part of a two-part storyline that brings Toyman back to National City along with actor Jeremy Jordan, who left the cast of Supergirl in 2018. In “Back From the Future,” Jordan plays two roles—Toyman and a time-displaced Winn Schott—in an impressive performance that might make longtime Supergirl fans wistful for the days when Jordan was a regular. “Back From the Future” also greatly deepens the intrigue involving Lex Luthor, who is now working with both his sister Lena and as revealed in last week’s shocking twist, Brainiac-5.
With such a high-profile episode coming on the heels of the five-part “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover, we thought it’d be fun to sit down with the man who plays an integral role in both of them, actor and episode director David Harewood. In the process, he let us know what he missed most about working with Jordan, whether the knowledge of “Crisis” has taken a toll on J’onn and how Supergirl’s Toyman was inspired by Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker.
So, how did you end up directing this week’s new Supergirl?
I asked to direct last season for the first time, and that seemed to go pretty smoothly, and I was slated to direct again this season. They asked me to direct episode 11. It’s just such a fantastic script. I’m very excited about it, and very excited for people to watch it. There’s some really great action in it. It’s a big episode and there were a lot of components. It’s very challenging, but it felt great to be in the chair.
What were some of the differences you noticed between directing your first episode and your second?
There was much more ease. I’m far more comfortable in the chair and have much more knowledge of it. If anything, I learned far more in the editing room last time. I’d never been a position where I edited a show before. This time, I knew what you were capable of doing in the editing process, so when it came to shooting it, I was just much more cognizant of being able to change angles and knowing how things would work when they’re put together.
What can you tell us about the episode?
It’s got some really fantastic action and a great performance by Jeremy Jordan, who plays two roles—he plays Toyman and he plays Winn Schott coming back from the future to save his future. He’s brilliant in it. It was great to work with Jeremy. He’s such a talented and comedic actor.
But definitely lots of action. There’s a great kickoff opening sequence. Lex continues to be dastardly.
How was it having Jeremy Jordan back on the set? Was it like slipping right back into those earlier seasons?
It really was. It was great to have him back on set. We lost Mehcad (Brooks) last season and obviously Jeremy the season before. So, it almost felt like getting the old band back together, having his humor on set, and he’s got such a fantastic singing voice. I’ve missed him breaking out into song on set. It was just really good fun having him back around. Just great energy to be around.
Toyman is a pretty well-known DC villain. Was it fun bringing him back to the screen?
Very much so. We had to try and find out what he would do in this futuristic world. It was really interesting because I had seen Joaquin Phoenix in Joker, and for some reason, I just thought, “Toyman’s like this.” There’s got to be something appealing with Toyman, very much like how the Joker manages to be appealing to people. I wanted something similar. So, I spoke to Jeremy about this Toyman and never truly making him frightening. Just trying to keep him on the side of someone who’s really appealing and who seems to be harmless, but is incredibly dangerous. We worked on that, and it’s actually very entertaining. I’m looking forward to the audience seeing what we do with him.
Did Jeremy enjoy playing a villain?
Yeah, he did. He gives two very distinctive performances. It was great to be able to craft that and make sure that one was never bleeding into the other. But he pulls it off! It’s a great performance.
Supergirl seems to have been affected by “Crisis” in a profound way. Can we expect more surprises this season?
More surprises! Because it’s a new world and there are new threats, we’re all on our toes. And obviously, we don’t really know what Lex Luthor is actually up to. We know we’ve got to stay sharp. What you’ll see in this weekend’s episode is that J’onn has built a whole new space, which we call the Tower. It was somewhat inspired by working with Barry during the crossover. We’ve created our own sort of Hall of Justice. It’s a brand-new space that should become the place where we hang together and work together as the super friends. So, look forward to a brand-new super-space coming on Sunday night.
Does knowing of the existence of the prior Multiverse take a toll on J’onn? In the comics, it drove Psycho-Pirate crazy.
I don’t think so. It’s not something we’ve played with, but maybe we could do that. I think J’onn has so much on his plate with his brother and with the larger plan of finding out what Lex is doing. He’s very much front and center in terms of being the best he could be on this earth right now. That’s how J’onn operates. For me, the big thing is seeing him take more ownership of the character. I’m hoping that in the coming seasons, I can really push that. Taking more ownership of the different aspects of J’onn J’onzz—the detective, the policeman, the superhero. For me, going forward, that’s the exciting thing.
Martian Manhunter had a pretty profound character journey this season. What do you think he realizes about himself now that he didn’t before?
Well, obviously, the fact that he committed a great sin in the eyes of people by wiping his father’s memory. J’onn has sort of been struggling these past two years with finding and losing his father, and then finding his brother. There have been lots of big, big changes. Hopefully in the coming season, we’ll seen J’onn embracing his own capabilities more and not being afraid. After all, he started off this series as Hank Henshaw. So, I’d like to see him embracing his Martian culture more and embracing himself as the Martian Manhunter more. And hopefully, getting to a place where he’s at peace with that as opposed to being ashamed of his Martian guise.
“Back From the Future, Part One” airs Sunday on Supergirl at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. CST) on The CW. Be sure to visit our official Supergirl page for more news, features and articles on the Girl of Steel.