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Supergirl boss goes in-depth about changes with show's move to CW

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Robert Falconer/The CW

Supergirl has a new home, and with it new opportunities for season 2.

While the show’s move from CBS to The CW won’t mean major plot changes, shifting production from L.A. to Vancouver will alter the show aesthetically — for the better. “It would’ve started to feel very small if we continued in L.A.,” EP Andrew Kreisberg says of the constraints of shooting largely in a studio versus having all of the outdoor locations the Canadian city offers. “That was one of the reasons we made the decision to move, so that we could get scope and go out in the streets. So yes, it might be a little rainy once in a while, and we might see her breath, but it’s going to be worth it because the show is actually going to feel bigger.”

The series is also excited to let its geek flag fly, homing in on comic-book-inspired elements rather than going broad for the CBS audience. “That was less a function of the [network] switch and more out of our own confidence in what we were doing,” Kreisberg says, noting that assuredness spilled over on one particular front. “Everybody had an opinion on what a female superhero should do, be, and say. We all got locked into answering that question a lot at the early stages.” Now that topic will be “shown more by example and less by speeches and dialogue.”

As Supergirl finds its footing, so too will Kara (Melissa Benoist), who feels self-assured in the superhero department, if not yet in personal and professional matters. Many co-workers at CatCo magazine are vying to fill the power vacuum surrounding the departure of Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart, now a recurring guest star), but Kara will have Super-cousin Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin) on hand for counsel as the show acknowledges there’s a whole universe of aliens, not just Kryptonians. Kreisberg previews what’s ahead in season 2:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How is the show different now moving to The CW?

ANDREW KREISBERG: The pitch that we made to CBS and the pitch we made to the CW aren’t that different. There is going to be a change in the show that I think is a natural progression in a show that’s growing up. We were really blessed with The FlashThe Flash came out fully formed; that show knew what it was very early on. The experience of Supergirl is more akin to the experience we had on Arrow, where we knew there was a great show in there, and every once in awhile we made a great one, but it wasn’t until the back half of that first season — and certainly the beginning of season 2 — that we really felt like we had a handle of what that show was creatively. That’s how we feel about Supergirl, that towards the end of last year, the characters were really coming to life and we were really starting to tell the right stories. Now with season 2, we really feel like this show has gotten, I always say, bigger and smaller; it’s gotten bigger in terms of what we’re able to accomplish in terms of the scope of the show, but it’s also gotten smaller in terms of the characters. We are able to go to deeper places, richer places, and to some places that I think are unexpected.

Maybe even go a little geekier on The CW?

Yeah, I think there’s a level of — I do think that is the biggest change, that there is probably a little more comic book aspect that has probably increased, but I think that was less a function of the switch and more a function of our own confidence in what we were doing. It was certainly a show with — at least for my experience — it was the show with the most eyeballs on it in a weird way, and the most expectations that I personally feel with Arrow and Flash. Because it was the first female superhero on TV in a long time, and then the first female superhero especially in the current explosion of comic book properties, the show had expectations to it and the show had preconceived notions, and the show had I don’t want to say limitations, but everybody had an opinion on what a female superhero should do and be and say. I think all of us collectively as a studio, as a network, as showrunners, as cast, we all got locked into answering that question a lot at the early stages. Once we got past that, and were able to just do a show every week about a superhero, and not get so caught up in what was this show saying for everyone at every single moment, it started to become more what it wants to be. Especially now going to season 2, what the show is trying to say about whether it’s women’s rights, or women’s role in the workplace, or what it means to be a female superhero, or what it means to be a woman juggling all aspects of her life, are shown more by example and less by speeches and dialogue. For us, it’s a really exciting time for the show.

How different will the show be now that production has been moved to Vancouver?

Part of that is the job of the cinematographers and we’ve discussions with them about that. I don’t know how much this was obvious towards the back half of the season, but producing this show in Los Angeles was very difficult in terms of the financials. We couldn’t afford to do all the visual effects and go on location, so there were a lot of episodes towards the end of last season where we never left the lot, so we weren’t even getting the benefit of being in Los Angeles. I would rather be overcast and thus have the ability to go out into some streets, and make this show feel huge and cinematic than having the villain show up at her apartment like four episodes in a row last season, which again I think we got away with it, but I think it would’ve started to feel very small if we continued in L.A. That was one of the reasons that we made the decision to move it to Vancouver, so that we could get scope, so we could go out in the streets. So yes, it might be a little rainy once in awhile, we might be seeing her breath every once awhile, but it’s going to be worth it because the show is actually going to feel bigger.

As revealed during The Flash-Supergirl crossover last year, Supergirl hails from a different universe. Are you planning on bringing Supergirl into our universe?

Not for her entire world, but Kara will be traveling from her dimension to our dimension, “our” being the world that The Flash, Arrow, and Legends lives in.

What’s going on with Kara personally and professionally this season?

For this season, she’s feeling really good about herself as Supergirl. She spent a lot of time last year doubting herself, learning, training, getting stronger and getting better at it. Then, at the end of the year, Superman got taken out and she saved the world all by herself, so we come into season 2 and she feels like she’s got a handle on being Supergirl — it’s everybody else in her life that she feels like, “How can I be a girlfriend? What am I supposed to do with my career? How can I be there for my sister?” So it’s all the Kara stuff that’s really the tough stuff early on, and that’s where Clark comes in. We say it’s like becoming a parent, where when you were a kid, your parents knew everything and then you become an adult and you’re like, “I’m lost, I don’t know what to do.” You realize that neither did your parents; they were making it up as they went, they just presented themselves as knowing it all even if they were dying inside. That’s one of things that Kara says, like, “I know how to be Supergirl, but I don’t know how to do any of this other stuff. But Clark, he makes it look easy, he’s Superman, he’s a great reporter, he’s a great boyfriend. How does he do it?” And Clark says, “I’m making it up as I go, too. It’s all about balancing it and it’s all a day-to-day thing. Just because I make it look easy, doesn’t mean that it is.” So Kara is really growing up this season, that’s really her journey.

What brings Superman to National City?

The two of them actually show up to the same crisis. It wasn’t a turf war, they just both heard about the same tragedy on the news and both flew into action. But they haven’t really gotten a chance to spend time together, especially since she’s come out as Supergirl, and they both want that. Both of them have a bit of sadness about them, they both have that sense of feeling alone, they both have that sense of feeling different, and both of them remark that that loneliness, that alienation, that isolation goes away when they are together. Part of what these episodes explore is that they don’t get that because of the machinations of the plot and of the actions of Project Cadmus, the villains; they both have homes to defend and they have to defend their own turf.

What brings Mon-El (Chris Wood) to Earth?

He’s brought to Earth because he’s from Daxam, just as in the comics, which was a sister world to Krypton. The destruction of Krypton also resulted in a very bad day for Daxam. That’s how he escaped that cataclysm and came to Earth. What’s interesting about it is that Kara has always had mentors, whether it was Laura [Benanti], or it was the Danvers, or whether it was Cat, or Clark, but now she has somebody to take care of, she has somebody to mentor. He’s fresh off the boat — as far as he’s concerned. He got into a pod on Daxam and then the next day was on Earth. She says to somebody in one of the early episodes that she wasn’t sent to Earth to be Supergirl, she was sent to Earth to watch Clark, take care of him and to be a protector. In a way, Mon-El coming here, she’s finally now getting to fill that original mission.

Can they trust him?

Can you trust anybody? You’re very bright. [Laughs.]

At TCA, you teased that a character would be exploring their sexuality this season. It seems that Supergirl would be a prime place for that to happen considering these characters are not as established — especially when you have a character like Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima) coming on. What role is she going to play this year?

We’re taking from the comics, where Maggie works for the Science Police, which is the division of the police department that deals with all the out-there crap — all the aliens, all the metahumans, and all that stuff. So that’s how she’ll be coming into the lives of our characters. One of the things we’re doing on Supergirl this year is embracing the idea that there are aliens out there and it’s not just the Fort Rozz aliens, but there’s a whole universe of species, creatures, invaders and explorers that make pit stops on Earth, a little like Men in Black. So Maggie is a strident advocate for alien rights. She says in her introductory episode, growing up gay and Latina in Nebraska made her ideally sympathetic to people who are different and people who don’t quite fit in. So that’s how she comes into everyone’s lives.

What’s up for Alex (Chyler Leigh) this season?

In the first two episodes, Alex is struggling with Clark being in town. It sets up this interesting dynamic where she has been everything to Kara; she’s her family, and she has a little bit of a chip on her shoulder about Clark. She loves him, he’s family and she knows he loves them, but he left Kara on their doorstep. Kara is so excited to see Clark and so excited to be with him, but it’s almost a little bit like Alex feels taken for granted, because she’s the family member who’s put in the time. It sets up an interesting conflict between her and Kara in the first couple of episodes.

Talk about Project Cadmus and whether it’s the big bad this season.

They’re the big bad of the first part of the year — a second big bad will emerge later in the year — but they’re dedicated to eradicating alien life on Earth. They’re fanatics, they’re true believers. What’s interesting about them is it’s this collection of scientists, it’s this collection of very bright, patriotic people who truly believe what they’re saying. That makes them even more dangerous, because they believe they have a point, that ever since these aliens started coming here, the Earth has become this free for all, and human beings are about to get knocked off the food chain. They don’t care that you’re wearing a cape one day, what happens when you turn around and decide I don’t want people cheering for me anymore, I want people bowing before me? So their goal is to eliminate the J’onns and the Supermans and the Supergirls of the world along with all the other evil aliens that are out there — they don’t make that distinction, which creates an interesting problem for our good guys.

What can you tease for characters like Hank (David Harewood), Winn (Jeremy Jordan), and James (Mehcad Brooks)?

James is going to struggle with a new position at work. Winn is actually going to work at the DEO. Cat’s going to fire him, but he’s OK with that, because he’s going to work for Hank and Alex. It’s like the big giant nerd getting to work for the nerd factory, so he’s very happy in that new environment. But also, he’s Winn, and suddenly he’s in this place where people are very serious about their jobs, so we just feel like it’s such a better use of Winn. The stuff that Jeremy is getting to do now, and the way he plays off of David and Chlyer, is hilarious. So I think it’s made those scenes, which last year were sort of devoid of humor, a lot more fun and more Flash-like, in a way. For J’onn, we’re introducing Miss Martian, so J’onn is suddenly going to have this connection to Mars that he’s been lacking for the last 300 years. It’s interesting for him because he’s dealing with survivor’s guilt. Why was I the one who got away and why was I the only one who got to live? He’s spent the last few hundred years burying that, and it’s only because of his interactions with Kara and his deepening relationship with Alex that he gets to start to tap back into that. The arrival of this Martian is really going to open the flood gates.

Will Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan Tatum) return?

We hope so. We don’t have any immediate plans, but that’s not because we aren’t in love with Jenna.

Is Laura Benanti coming back at all?

Yes, she is. She’s coming back as the A.I. hologram. But it’s actually a funny scene with the A.I. hologram, which we didn’t get to do last year, so it was very fun to write that scene.

Talk about bringing Lynda Carter on as the President of the United States.

Like I said earlier, we’re exploring the idea that there are aliens on Earth. The president has decided to do an executive order to have an alien amnesty act, so if you are a literal illegal alien, you can come forward and get citizenship; you don’t have to stay in the shadows. She very much believes in this cause, which is going to put her in danger, which is going to necessitate Supergirl protecting her. But it’s interesting, it’s allowing the show to talk a little about the world we live in, and talking a little bit about the fear of the unknown and fear of others who are different from us. It’s an interesting take on the immigration debate. We’re really excited about that script and we’re so excited to have her. We’ve had a long and proud tradition of having actors who portrayed these iconic characters, like John Wesley Shipp, Dean Cain, and Helen Slater, and now to add Lynda Carter, we can’t believe it, we can’t believe she said yes. We actually were going to have her in the finale last year, but we couldn’t work her dates out. Rather than just cast somebody else, we pulled the president out of that script hoping we’d get a second season and we would get a chance to do it. When we got the pick-up, literally one of our first phone calls was to her to see what dates she had available. I got to talk to Lynda Carter on the phone. [Laughs.] When I scroll down my phone list sometimes looking for a number, I’ll pass and I’ll see Lynda Carter is in there, Helen Slater is in there, John Wesley Shipp is in there, and it blows my mind that these actors, who were such a part of my life and so part of the national conversation about heroes, I get to work with them.

Lastly, what themes will you explore this year?

Really this year is about coming into one’s own and becoming who you are. In a way, all of the characters are dealing with that. Kara is certainly dealing with that at work; Winn is becoming who he is by working at the DEO; J’onn is stepping out and embracing more being the Manhunter, which is something that he spent 300 years hiding, but now he doesn’t have to hide that anymore.

Supergirl returns Monday at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.