'Supergirl' study guide
Warner Bros. is looking to continue its streak of sleek, successful superhero shows with this fall’s Supergirl on CBS. Superman has always worked best as a TV show; Smallville, for instance, captured the character’s essence and motives much more effectively than Man of Steel. Hopefully his cousin will benefit from the same treatment. To prepare you for the series’ debut, EW has rounded up everything we know about Supergirl so far.
What’s it about?
Former Glee star Melissa Benoist stars as Kara Zor-El, Superman’s cousin who also rocketed to Earth from their dying home world Krypton years ago. When we join them on Earth in the present day, Superman is already the established hero we know and love, while Kara sweats her job as an office assistant while struggling with how to use her superpowers. The show will follow her journey toward becoming a powerful, righteous superhero in her own right.
Why not ‘Superwoman?’
The show’s producers have anticipated possible backlash against the show’s title from the beginning, pointing out that Supergirl and Superwoman are actually two different characters in the DC comic universe.
“We knew going in that Supergirl might imply a younger audience, but we felt we could take a powerful word back and participate in introducing that to a new generation and say that doesn’t just mean young or inconsequential,” executive producer Greg Berlanti said during a panel at the TCA press tour in August. “It should be strong and bold. That was our goal.”
Will we see Superman?
Superman is a known presence in the world of Supergirl; he’s a role model superhero, gives Kara the material for her cape, and even shows up for a few (heavily-backlit) seconds of the trailer. His presence, however, opens the show up to the classic problem of DC heroes: if you have Superman, why do you need anyone else? Apparently, the explanation for Supergirl’s necessity will be that Superman’s busy with other things most of the time. Executive producer Ali Adler told EW at Comic-Con that their portrayal of Superman is based on the President in Veep, who is mentioned often enough that his presence is felt, but rarely (if ever) seen.
So who IS on the show?
Superman or no Superman, Supergirl is already building up quite a deep cast. Kara’s foster parents are played by Helen Slater and former Superman Dean Cain. Chyler Leigh is playing Alex Danvers, Kara’s adoptive sister. Alex has a big role in the trailer; her plane going down is what finally inspires Kara to use her powers for good. This dynamic should help separate her story further than Clark Kent’s setup, now pretty familiar after 10 seasons of Smallville, and possibly give the show a dose of Frozen-like sisterly love. True Blood‘s Mehcad Brooks is playing Jimmy (sorry, James) Olsen, typically known as “Superman’s best friend” but apparently pals with Supergirl too. Olsen is usually portrayed as a hapless, nerdy redhead, but Brooks’ version is a strapping young man and possible love interest for Kara. Still an award-winning photographer, though.
Calista Flockhart and David Harewood will play Kara’s different bosses in her different worlds. As Cat Grant, Flockhart (whom Berlanti begged to take the role) is a mean, demanding journalist for whom Kara has to fetch coffee and schedule meetings. As Hank Henshaw, Harewood is an operative of the Department of Extra-Normal Operations, coordinating with Kara to fight off dangerous alien invaders. No word yet on whether Henshaw will eventually transition to the villainous Cyborg Superman, his identity in the comics.
In addition to the regular cast, Supergirl will see some recurring appearances from various DC Universe characters. Peter Facinelli will play tech billionaire Maxwell Lord. Lord has a storied history in DC comics; he was once a good friend (and important financier) for the Justice League but eventually revealed himself as a villainous telepath, so there are plenty of story possibilities for the character in Supergirl.
In the tradition of shows like Smallville, Supergirl looks to adopt a villain-of-the-week format, at least for the beginning. Two such villains, the mutated insect Hellgrammite and the nuclear-powered Reactron, are already confirmed (portrayed by Justice Leak and Chris Browning, respectively).
In the third episode, Jenna Dewan Tatum will show up as Lucy Lane, Lois’ sister, who has a history with Olsen. Her father, General Sam Lane, is not far behind her. Glenn Morshower will be playing the old soldier who enlists Kara “in a dangerous government initiative,” according to Variety. General Lane will also have a connection to the Red Tornado, an android with the power to create powerful winds. Actor Iddo Goldberg will portray both Tornado and his mad scientist creator, T.O. Morrow. It remains to be seen, of course, whether Supergirl’s Red Tornado will prove able to overcome his programming and become a true superhero like his comics counterpart. With all these Lanes running around, it’s probably only a matter of time until we meet Lois herself, but that role remains uncast.
Finally, it’s possible that Laura Vandervoort, who portrayed Kara Zor-El on Smallville, may make a cameo in this Supergirl.
Will we see a crossover with Arrow and/or The Flash?
Greg Berlanti, the producer behind Arrow and The Flash, is also involved with Supergirl, which creates the tantalizing prospect of a crossover. Of course, since Supergirl is on CBS proper rather than the CW, this is a bit more logistically complicated than just having Grant Gustin’s Flash pop up in an Arrow episode. For now, the shows will cross over only in united promotional campaigns, according to CBS brass. We’ll have to wait and see how Supergirl might intersect with the Berlantiverse, which will soon include DC’s Legends of Tomorrow as well.
Want more? EW’s Fall TV Preview mega-issue has the scoop on 115 shows! Pick up your copy on newsstands now, or buy it here.
Supergirl premieres Oct. 26 at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS.
Kara (Melissa Benoist) steps out from her super-cousin’s shadow to become Supergirl and defend National City in the third Arrowverse show.