Exploring darkness has been the go-to theme for recent contemporary comic book television show adaptations, but the creatives behind Arrow and The Flash are offering an antidote to their own angst this fall with their far sunnier CBS series, Supergirl.
Starring Whiplash standout Melissa Benoist as Kara Zor-El, or Kara Danvers to her human pals, Supergirl will not only carve a new superhero space in the decidedly older skewing CBS lineup, but feature a female as the core hero. It's been 31 years since the Supergirl character top-lined her own film and series executive producers Andrew Kreisberg, Greg Berlanti and Ali Adler told Blaster at San Diego Comic-Con that their version of the character isn't going to lean on the gender novelty.
"What's great for me is that you watch the pilot going in thinking "female superhero" and by the end it's just superhero," Adler said. "You quickly forget gender and you just look at her strength of character and her physical strength and her light on National City."
Kreisberg continued, "What's important about the show is that it's not just the first female superhero; it has to speak to everybody. Just like women enjoy The Flash, people will enjoy watching what Kara goes through. Even more than being a woman, she's a Millennial trying to make it in the world and [figuring] how to reconcile all the different parts of her life with this other thing." With a smile, he then added, "And hopefully, I won't make her sound like a jerk."
Supergirl is also an inherently unique character to frame a show around because Kara is just discovering her potential in so many ways. "I think there is something so amazing about seeing someone so full of life and hope, who can be a symbol for people," Kreisberg enthused. "She can be a symbol for young women, but also everybody. There's a lot of grimness to comic book adaptations lately and what appeals to Greg and I is embracing the light. Peter Roth, who is the head of Warner Bros. TV, after Melissa auditioned, said, "That's the closest I've come to feeling what I felt when I watched Christopher Reeve." It's no disrespect to other adaptations, but that specifically is not out there right now. It's nice to live in that world and present that."
And just how will the show distinguish Kara's story from her more famous cousin, Kal-El's? Producer Greg Berlanti said they aim to take her out of Superman's shadow. "What's known as Superman mythology is her mythology too, only her version of it, so it will be exciting to introduce that to people and reclaim some of it."
Expanding on that theme, Kreisberg added, "One of the big differences between Kara and Clark (Kent) is that when Superman was brought to Earth, he was a baby and he doesn't remember Krypton. He says he's an alien but the truth of the matter is that as far as he's concerned, he grew up in Kansas. Kara was 13 when she was sent here. She had friends, family and a full life there which is the big difference. So, there will be flashbacks to when Kara was growing up in Midvale, when she living with Helen Slater and Dean Cain [who play human guardians Sylvia and Fred Danvers], but we'll also have flashbacks to her on Krypton which is something you've never been able to see before. Kara has experiences and knowledge from living on this advanced alien planet which can actually bring to bear in solving some of these crimes. There are also lessons of remembering growing up with a mother and father who loved her, and the sadness that they are gone. It's a different sadness for Clark who never knew his parents."
As for what else to expect from the series, the producers teased a lot of great stuff...
The show is not going to try and hide its genre core. Per Adler: "[Kara] is wearing a cape and she's an alien. There is no wiggling out of that and I wouldn't want to. But we talk about what would this scene would be if she didn't have visual effects and the ability to fly. With the exception of Kara, [the cast] are just humans struggling to find their best selves and putting them in the craziest action sequences we can buy in order to show their mettle."
Berlanti revealed the show will introduce Kara's sister, Alex (Chyler Leigh), who is new to the character's mythology: "We added a sister because we wanted the show to stand on its own. She's got a sister and siblings can sometimes be the people who challenge you the most and upset you the most so there was a lot of great drama there."
Look for DC villains and Superman's foes to come knocking, Kreisberg teased: "Whether or not Supergirl ever becomes part of The CW universe are questions above my pay grade. Supergirl is its own thing and that's ok. Hopefully it doesn't need that and adding it to the mix might make it collapse. But that doesn't mean that Supergirl won't be as expansive as the other shows. We are adding DC characters to the show in the same way The Flash had Firestorm. It will be a bunch of other DC characters, some you have seen before in a new light with us, and some who have never gotten their live-action due and we're excited about that." - additional reporting by Jen Boyett