WATCH: Supergirl’s David Harewood on why Martian Manhunter chooses to be black

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Jan 24, 2018

For three seasons, David Harewood has portrayed the role of J'onn J'onzz, aka Martian Manhunter, on The CW’s Supergirl. The last of the Green Martians (until his father M'yrnn J'onzz was found to be alive in the third episode of Season 3, “Far From the Tree”), Harewood’s shapeshifter alien character became a fan favorite, as well as a friend and father figure to Alex (Chyler Leigh) and Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist).

As you can see in the video below, we spoke with Harewood on the red carpet during the DC in D.C. 2018 event, which took place over the long Martin Luther King Weekend. This was a few short days before the premiere of Black Lightning, the Arrrowverse’s newest show, featuring DC Comics’ first African-American superhero to headline his own comic book title back in the 1970s. Speaking to SYFY WIRE’s Mike Avila, Harewood discussed his character's choice to live as a black man when he is disguised in his human form: DEO boss, Hank Henshaw.

 

“It’s a tremendous, exciting time for us as actors to be representing these characters on television right now because the climate is so fragile, and it’s so much in the news. It’s great that we get to represent the best of our characters in these stories. I think it’s tremendously exciting and tremendously important,” said Harewood. “I think it’s really, really great that we can try and feed in these social issues into the show, and I think that’s what makes these characters relevant. They’re not necessarily flying around fighting Zod and fighting extraterrestrials. A lot of these battles are human, are very real, and very palpable and moving. That’s why they can connect so well.”

Harewood then explained why J'onn decides to choose to wear the face of Hank Henshaw, a black man, on the show. “J'onn says ‘I choose this face because I love it, I love representing these people, and I’d rather change the world than change my face.’ That’s a wonderful line that, you know, yes, I could be anybody, but I choose to be black because I feel comfortable, and I like the people that look like that, and I’m gonna fight injustice wherever I see it. I think that’s a very real issue, which has far-reaching consequences.”

Check out our video interview above for more, including why Harewood loves playing the character on the high-flying superhero series.

Additional material by Nathalie Caron.