It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s….Superman’s cousin!
Yes, Supergirl Season 1 is finally here on CBS - and while we’re used to going to The CW for comic book adaptations, the new series (from the same producers as Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow) isn’t as far removed just because of its geography on your TV.
In this version, Melissa Benoist stars as Kara Zor-El, someone who embraces her superhero roots and new task of fighting bad guys. Like her famous cousin (who is referenced but not seen thus far), she’ll have her secret identity, Kara Danvers.
The new drama also stars Chyler Leigh, Calista Flockhart, Mehcad Brooks, Jeremy Jordan, David Harewood and, in recurring roles, former TV Superman Dean Cain and former big screen Supergirl Helen Slater as Kara’s Earth-parents.
I sat down with executive producers Ali Adler, Andrew Kreisberg and Sarah Schecter to find out how they went about putting the latest DC adaptation together.
Like The Flash, Supergirl strikes a balance between comedy and comic book thrills and chills, which makes sense given the past work of the producers. "I have less experience with this genre," Adler explained. "But some action/adventure series with [the Zachary Levi series] Chuck, and the romance and the comedy. I love to play in those fields, and I think that together we form a perfect union."
One thing you’ll notice right off the bat is that Kara knows fully well who she is, though she hasn’t used her powers much at all most because Superman has been saving the world. All that changes in Supergirl Season 1 Episode 1. "She’s new on the job but she’s had these powers for 12 years, since she landed here on earth," Adler revealed. "She’s kept them kind of quiet to herself by and large." In the first season, expect a lot of story to come from her honing her now-in-use powers and Kara will learn more than you'd think from her mortal sister, Alex.
That's JAMES Olsen to You
Iconic Superman character Jimmy Olsen gets a reboot, as he’s a grown man who is called James and he comes in the tall, muscular package of Mehcad Brooks. Schechter said they knew Brooks was James from "the second he walked in the door. We weren’t looking for that guy [but] it was his part…his chemistry with Melissa was amazing and we love him." Kreisberg added: "He’s the conduit to Superman, he speaks for Superman, so the fact that Mehcad looks like Superman, really helps fulfill that."
Since you can’t have a superhero without classic DC villains, we'll see Livewire, Reactron, Maxwell Lord on Supergirl - but what will the writers ever create their new villains? "There’s just something about having that connection to the DC lore," Kreisberg said. "We’ve been really fortunate that DC has been so supportive of the show, and of us, and we’ve really been able to come out guns blazing."
Like all good DC stories, going back helps fill in the gaps in the present. "Episode five has a big flashback to young Kara, and young Alex, and Dean [Cain, former TV Superman] and Helen [Slater, the big screen Supergirl] growing up in Midvale," Kriesberg teased. The producers also said we'll get flashbacks to Krypton.
Supergirl is in Our World…Sort Of
While National City probably lives closer to the universe of Metropolis, we get pop culture references from our world (Bill O’Reilly, Twitter, Wicked) as well as the real life problem of print journalism dwindling in the face of the web.
Same, Yet Different
Kreisberg expressed that he and his fellow producers have always been intent on not making their comic book shows carbon copies of one another. "The Flash is obviously so incredibly different from Arrow, but there’s probably a lot more similarities between Supergirl and Flash." The show will have the usual staples but is also a “workplace romantic comedy” at times. Kreisberg added that that element "makes the show feel different, fresh, and exciting, and also probably a little bit more tailored to CBS audience, which hasn’t had a show like this before."
Strong Women, Unite!
Supergirl, assuming she (excuse the pun) takes off in terms of ratings, is joining a network where women are much more than background characters. "[CBS] also has a history of strong female characters on their network," Adler pointed out. "The Good Wife and Madam Secretary and we’re bringing in another one."