Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the series premiere of Supergirl. Read at your own risk!
The escaped Phantom Zone prisoners aren’t Supergirl’s only problem.
During the series premiere of Supergirl, Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) finally became the titular hero she was always meant to be, though her work has only just begun. Over the course of the first season, Kara will be facing a host of criminal aliens from the crashed Phantom Zone prison Fort Rozz. Among them, the big bad was revealed to be her mother’s twin sister, Astra (Laura Benanti), who is hell-bent on ruling Earth — and making Kara pay for the sins of her mother. What’s next for National City’s savior? EW turned to executive producer Andrew Kreisberg to get the scoop:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s talk about this twist at the end. What can you tell us about Kara’s aunt?
ANDREW KREISBERG: Her name is Astra. She’s a character that we’ve created for the show, who doesn’t come from the comics. On all the other shows, whenever the big bad has been personally tied to the hero, it’s always been that much more evocative — certainly you look at Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) and Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), and, in a lot of ways, Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh). We thought it was really exciting that the villain be part of Kara’s family that Kara thought was dead. But beyond that, she’s her mother’s twin sister. Even though it’s not her mother, the big bad of the year wears her mother’s face. That’s certainly going to create emotional issues for Kara when she’s placed in situations where, perhaps to save Earth, she’s going to have to end her aunt’s life.
To be clear for the non-comic book fans, this villain is not Kal-El’s mother.
No, no, no. She’s actually not. If you were really paying attention, you would see that her glyph is not the S. She’s from a different house. Alura, Kara’s mother, married into the House of El. She is not Lara. That was why we were so excited to get Laura Benanti, because Laura plays Alura as this benevolent angel, but she can also convincingly play the bad guy. Even in those brief moments in episode 1, she has a deliciousness as the bad guy that I think she’s going to become a fan-favorite.
What can you tell us about Astra’s motivations? Is it just to make Kara pay for her mother Alura being their judge?
It’s actually a lot more complex than that. One of the most interesting things about our show is that everyone is doing what they’re doing for the same reasons, they’re just going about it in the wrong way. Very soon, when Astra and Kara finally confront each other, Astra says, “I’m here to save the Earth,” and she’ll say, “I watched one planet die, and I’m not going to do that again.” It’s always great when the hero and the villain are two sides of the same coin. Astra’s version of saving the Earth is quite different from Kara’s.
Can you talk about some of the villains from Fort Rozz that we’re going to be seeing and what they’re motivated by?
The way we talk about the Fort Rozz villains is if the gates of San Quentin suddenly opened and everybody ran out, every single person who got out of there wouldn’t instantly go back to doing what they were doing. Some people who’ve killed, killed for revenge, some people killed for love, some people have killed for money. Just like with any prison, there’s a wide variety of crime represented among the inmates. Whereas some of them do want revenge on Alura, and by proxy Kara, some of them just want to be left alone. Some of them are just trying to get along, go along. And some of them can’t help what they can do. Some of them are trying to get home. They all have a wide range of reasons for doing what they’re doing, which is what makes them — even though some of them can do pretty fantastical things — somewhat grounded. They’re not all mustache twirling, revenge seeking, we-want-to-rule-the-world creatures. They’ve got lives, loves, desires, dreams, fears and hopes just like anybody. Watching how Supergirl deals with them, sometimes in heartbreaking ways, is what makes every episode different. It’s what helps Kara on her journey to becoming the hero that she can be.
Moving forward for Kara, does she have a sense of loneliness about being one of the only Kryptonians on Earth?
Yeah. What’s always so interesting about her — and why I personally, and so many of us who work on the show, are so fascinated about her as a character — is Clark was born on Krypton, but he came here when he was a baby. Despite the fact that he can fly and has super strength, for all intents and purposes, he’s a Kansan. He was raised by loving, human parents, and he was raised on a farm, he grew up in Smallville, and that’s the life that he knows. Kara grew up on Krypton. She lived there until she was 13 years old. She remembers her mother, her father, her friends and her schoolteachers, extended family, and everything that any one of us who lives in a world knows. All of that was taken away from her. It’s not even the specificity of missing other Kryptonians; she had a whole other life that was gone. The loneliness that’s inside of her is less about the typical, “Oh, I don’t fit in,” because clearly she can fit in. She has a job, friends and family. But it’s that core wound that she lost everything, and she remembers it. That is the secret pain that’s inside of her that also drives her.
Are we going to be seeing her discover her powers, or does she know most of these already and it’s trying to hone them?
She knows most of them. There are a couple of things that come up, one fairly early on that she wasn’t aware that she could do. A lot of it is more about honing it and more about training. We always love sueprhero training in the Berlanti-verse. That’s one of our favorite things to do. There’s a lot of fun stuff with her getting better at it, and eventually being better at it than Superman. In the comics, she’s stronger and faster than he is.
What does training for Supergirl look like?
Training for her looks like Hank (David Harewood) and the DEO firing missiles at her as she’s trying to avoid them. There’s a very fun training sequence at the top of episode 2. You’ll see in subsequent episodes, too, that they have a room in the DEO that they can adjust the level of Kryptonite exposure in it to even the playing field, so to speak, for Kara. What’s fun about Kara and Alex (Chyler Leigh) is that Kara obviously has all the superpowers, but Alex is like Sydney Bristow, she’s a trained secret agent. She’s a much more experienced fighter than Kara is. Watching the two sisters spar and train together as Alex tries to make Kara a more competent fighter is a lot of fun.
What’s her working relationship with DEO look like moving forward?
It’s mostly positive, sometimes tentative. She doesn’t technically work for them, so sometimes she can go a bit rogue, but I think that’s part of the fun of it. What’s so special about Kara is how being the person that she is affects other people in positive ways. She’s always an inspiration and always inspiring other people to step forward and be a hero. I think that’s one of the most amazing things about her.
Is Kara’s relationship with her sister damaged since Alex was hiding her true job for so long?
No, they get over that. The relationship between Kara and Alex, to us, is similar to the relationship between Barry and Joe on The Flash, it’s like the heart and soul of the show. Those sister scenes are so powerful. There are so many things on the show where it’s just the two sisters being sisters. If you just turned into it, you wouldn’t realize you were watching a show about a superhero. The sister’s love for each other really makes up the emotional core of the series.
Is Cat (Calista Flockhart) an ally to Supergirl or does she just look at her as a cash cow?
I think initially she looks at her like a cash cow. But just as Kara is helping to influence the city and give hope to people, she reawakens this younger person’s dream of a better world inside Cat. Cat slowly starts to come around on Supergirl. The irony of the whole situation is as she’s being a mentor to her put-upon assistant, she doesn’t realize that she’s also helping to mentor Supergirl. Cat has a relationship with Supergirl and she also has a relationship with Kara. That, to us, is so fascinating. It’s one of the fun things that, because this is a TV series, we get to explore that.
What can you tell us about Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli)?
You’re not quite sure where he stands. That’s what’s so interesting about him. Like I alluded to earlier, if you ask Kara and Astra what their goals are, they’d say they’re here to save the world. Ironically, that’s what Max would say, too. All the people on the show are all trying to save the world; they’re just going about it in very different ways. Max is one of those great characters, a little bit of that Tom Cavanagh on The Flash, where one minute he’s helping you, and the next minute he’s decidedly not helping you. How that plays out and what his true agenda is is part of the fun and the mystery of the show.
What does James (Mehcad Brooks) and Kara’s relationship look like moving forward?
Jimmy, in a lot of ways, is representing Clark/Superman on the show. Part of her relationship with Jimmy is Jimmy acting as a conduit for Superman — this is the way Superman did things, these are the things he thinks. That’s something that Jimmy brings to the table. It’s helping Kara define what kind of superhero she wants to be. Does she want to do things like Superman? In other cases, does she think there’s a better way? There’s obviously an attraction there. How that plays out is the romantic fun of the series. A lot of attention got paid to it from some of the earlier trailers, and it’s definitely part of the show, but it’s just one part of the show. They’re really fun together. It’s fun to see Jimmy Olsen all grown up. He’s become a man, and in some ways, he’s outgrown Superman. He’s wrestling with, “If I’ve grown up, become my own man, moved to a new city, and I’m ready to have adventures of my own, am I taking a step backwards if I’m doing it with Supergirl?” He’s got a lot of fun, dramatic stuff, and he has certainly not put down his camera for the last time.
You have Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) coming in as a foil for that dynamic. What can you tell us about her?
Lucy is great, she’s fun, she’s awesome, she’s beautiful. The most successful love triangles I’ve ever seen on television are the ones where you have to be able to root for the other person who won’t necessarily ever actually be the winner. Too often in love triangles, if the audience turns on one actor, actress or character, it ruins the other characters as well. It was really important for us to find a Lucy Lane who was strong, beautiful, and awesome, but different from Kara, but not so different that she didn’t like her, compelling enough, interesting enough and likable enough that you understood why James would want to be with her if he could be with Kara — we really feel like we found all that in Jenna. She just has a light inside of her, is fun and gorgeous and strong. In this incarnation, we made Lucy in the military. She actually works for her father, General Lane, which adds an extra level of complication since General Lane is not a fan of any aliens on Earth, including Superman and Supergirl.
Winn (Jeremy Jordan) is, in a lot of ways, obsessed with Kara. Could that come back to haunt her at some point?
It actually doesn’t come back to haunt her. He becomes a strong ally. In the same way that we have Team Flash, we have the Super Friends, even though that’s not what Kara wants to call them. Winn, Jimmy and Alex form her clandestine crime-fighting unit. He’s her best friend. What’s interesting about Winn is, as he says to her in an upcoming episode, “I liked you before I found out about the S.” That’s the thing that’s interesting to Kara. He just liked her when he thought she was just her. He’s another option in her romantic journey.
Supergirl airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.