Supergirl: Melissa Benoist on CBS’s brave new world

Melissa Benoist talks to us about bringing Supergirl to the small screen

Supergirl Melissa Benoist

Supergirl is a new breed of DC hero. Recent on-screen incarnations of characters like Batman and Green Arrow have been dark and moody, and even Superman has embraced his brooding side, to a degree. However, Supergirl, from co-creators Ali Adler, Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, is a different breed, promising to present a more optimistic, happy-go-lucky take on superheroics

And that was what drew Melissa Benoist, who had previously starred in Glee and Whiplash, to the triple role of Kara Zor-El/Supergirl/Kara Danvers. “What I’ve found in playing her,” she says, “is that there’s this open, loving kind of attitude towards life in her. Just true, pure goodness. And she has the same kind of hope that Superman has. That is one of the key words that came to mind when we were shooting the pilot; I had to feel, almost internally, hopeful. And she doesn’t quit, so I definitely think she is a beacon of hope.”

What becomes obvious when you speak to Benoist is that others are not exaggerating when they praise the actress. Her enthusiasm is infectious. “My feeling about being cast?” she asks rhetorically. “Obviously I’m excited. I’m overjoyed. I feel so grateful and privileged to be taking this on, but it is a scary thing. It feels really big, and it feels like a lot of responsibility. But a good one. I love Kara already. I think she is such a ray of light.

Supergirl Jimmy Olsen
Benoist alongside co-star Mehcad Brooks

“And when she’s not Supergirl, I enjoy playing her quirkiness, her eccentricity. I had a lot of fun playing that; how much of a nerd she is. What I would like to take from the character is her perseverance. It’s easy, I think, every day to get bogged down and to feel like nothing’s giving. I would really love to have that perseverance that you never will give up, especially when you’re so afraid.  

“I also think Kara is enjoying being Supergirl, because she squashed it for so long. She kept it locked inside for so long when she knew what she was capable of. She had her mum telling her how strong she was going to be, and now it’s almost like I feel like I’m discovering myself along with her. She’s really learning how to be a woman and discovering her independence.

“The first time I put on the suit,” she laughs, “it was an automatic, instant chemical change inside of me. Something changed, and I feel like a different person every time I put it on. I feel like Kara Danvers in my day-to-day life; like such an awkward, weird girl, and that goes away… It’s funny what a leotard, cape and tights will do.”

Supergirl is airing in the UK from 29 October on Sky1. Check out the comics that inspired the series in the 100 All-Time Greatest Comics bookazine now.