Supergirl: David Harewood talks Hank Henshaw reveal
Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Monday’s episode of Supergirl. Read at your own risk!
Hank Henshaw’s true identity has been revealed — and in true Berlanti-verse fashion, there was a twist.
During Monday’s episode of Supergirl, Alex (Chyler Leigh) unearthed the truth after getting trapped in the DEO with Hank (David Harewood) in the wake of an earthquake. It turns out that the man who viewers believe to be Hank Henshaw is none other than J’onn J’onzz.
Otherwise known as DC Comics superhero the Martian Manhunter, J’onn is a genius shapeshifter from the planet Mars who was being hunted by the real Hank Henshaw, which lead to the death of Alex and Kara’s father, Jeremiah (Dean Cain). What’s next now that the green alien is out of the bag? EW caught up with Harewood to find out:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you know from the beginning that Hank was actually J’onn J’onzz?
DAVID HAREWOOD: No, I didn’t. I had no idea. After the pilot was picked up, my manager told me that they were changing my character. That’s as much as they’d tell me. I was intrigued by that. I didn’t quite know what that meant. When I came to shoot the series, they still didn’t tell me. I did the whole of Comic-Con just lying through my teeth. I didn’t know what I was talking about. They told me about a week after Comic-Con. They presented me with a little Martian Manhunter doll and several comic books of Martian Manhunter. I went home and devoured them. I thought they were just fantastic. I was delighted.
I must say, I was struggling with Hank Henshaw. I didn’t particularly enjoy the pilot. For me, it was a lot of exposition. I just couldn’t find an angle that was interesting with Hank Henshaw. He was all, “I don’t like aliens, I don’t like Kara.” It was all a bit too one-dimensional to me. So I was delighted that they gave me this guy to play. He’s just so fantastical and it’s such a wonderful backstory and history. It just gave me so much more to play.
Growing up, did you have dreams of being a superhero?
Are you kidding me? I grew up reading comics. When I saw the first Avengers movie, I was blown away. We’re living in an age where we can make this stuff look so fantastic now. When they told me I was going to be doing this guy, it was slightly surreal. I was at first thinking, “Okay, this is going to be at least four hours in the makeup chair,” and then I got a little bit scared about all that and thinking, “Do I want to be Shrek for the next five years?” [Laughs] Then I told myself to relax. Literally so many of my friends were telling me, “You’re going to be a superhero someday, I just know it.” I thought to myself, this is such a wonderful character, I’m just going to embrace it and run with it.
I love the whole idea that he’s almost scared of revealing his true nature, because his true nature is somewhat frightening to many people. He’s a 7-ft. green Martian. While Kara and Kal-El are very attractive humanoids, he’s very much not that. I really love that. I love the idea that he’s probably the most human superhero, yet he looks the most alien. There’s so much conflict in that and ambiguity that he doesn’t fit in. It gives me so much to play.
Now that Alex knows, how does J’onn feel about the truth being out there? Will he embrace who he is to help Kara and Alex?
We’ll see in upcoming episodes. It’s certainly not an easy thing for him to reveal. Only one other person knows the truth, and that’s Superman. It’s a big thing for him to suddenly have somebody else know his true identity. He’s saying in future episodes that even people that he’s loved have tried to kill him once they find out he’s an alien. That’s one of the things they touch upon in the comics. Even people who get very close to him almost feel betrayed when they find out that he’s not who he says he is. He runs the risk of falling foul of people if he does tell the truth.
I don’t think he’s comfortable with people knowing who he is, I don’t think he’s comfortable with Alex knowing who he is, but because he made her father a promise, he had to reveal himself. He’s very protective of both Kara and Alex. He will do anything to protect them, which is why, as Hank Henshaw, he was so against her becoming a superhero. He basically wants to keep her safe. It’s a dangerous profession, being a superhero. People do want to take you on or kill you. Now I understand why he was so against her becoming Supergirl, because she was putting herself in a lot of danger, and he doesn’t want that.
Can you tease what will happen once Kara finds out?
It’s a lot of fun. It’s interesting, because I think she’ll teach Hank a few things about being human, and he teaches her a few things about not being lonely. She perhaps feels as though she’s the only one of her kind. She grew up without parents and she feels somewhat alone. Not that she knows my story, but she will perhaps begin to learn that there are other ways of dealing with your emotions as an alien, as somebody who is feared, somebody who is somewhat extra-normal. She will take some comfort in the fact that she’s not the only one who she knows. They both will teach each other things about being different as we go forward. He’s really warming up. In the second episode, he calls her Supergirl for the first time. Gradually, each episode, he’s warmed to her to the point where in episode 7 and 8, they stand as two superheroes.
Is it safe to say that his dynamic with Kara and Alex is almost strengthened with the reveal coming out?
Oh, completely. Alex, particularly, has several doubts, as you see. Those doubts will continue right through next week’s episode. Going forward, a hell of a lot of her worries and fears are allayed, and she almost finds him somewhat remarkable. She’s full of pride in what he’s doing. She’s also full of questions. J’onn is not necessarily forthcoming with those answers, because I don’t think he’s ever had to answer those questions. Where do you come from? Where is you family? Do you have family? Those are things that are very deep inside himself, because of his own tragic history. It’s going to be both uncomfortable for J’onn, but also a cathartic experience having Alex know about his past and know about his identity, because it’s probably the first time he’s ever really gotten to speak about it.
Will we get any flashbacks to what happened with Jeremiah?
I hope so. We don’t actually see that particular story. We hope to. I know Andrew [Kreisberg] has spoken about it. I’m telling you it’s great fun playing the real Hank Henshaw. He’s really unpleasant. So I’m hoping to play him again. He was a lot of fun to play. We purposefully set out that the real Hank Henshaw is a very unpleasant man, so that episode in the previous flashback was great fun to do. We would be remiss to not tell that story. So hopefully we will see Jeremiah and the real Hank Henshaw trip through the jungles of the Warner Bros. set on the trail of this mysterious alien. Working with Dean was fantastic. It’s such a rich story that it would be a shame not to go there.
Why do you think Hank was so desperate to kill J’onn?
The Hank Henshaw that I know and have been playing is not a particularly nice person. The DEO under him was a particularly nasty institution. He’s got a secret government organization, so he’s got access to resources beyond the CIA and the FBI. Hank has always had this God complex, which I suppose is why he comes back as Cyborg Superman. He wants to be the biggest, toughest guy on the block, and anybody bigger and tougher than him, he needs to bring them down. He not only dislikes Superman, but there’s also this other alien that mysteriously keeps cropping up in different guises and different identities doing all manner of different things. The fact that he can’t catch him because he doesn’t know what he looks like is enormously frustrating to Hank. Getting a beat on him, I suppose would be a real success for him. I just don’t think he likes the idea that anybody could escape him, so he went after [J’onn] with everything he had.
Will we get any flashbacks to Mars and see how J’onn ended up on Earth?
You won’t see how he ended up on Earth, but you will see flashbacks to his family, to how they died, which was a very emotional episode for me. It was around the same time as those terrible attacks in Paris. It was just emotional, the idea that people want to kill others. In our story, and it’s in the comic books, there are two Martian races — there are the Green Martians, which J’onn is a member of, and there are the White Martians. The White Martians exist purely to kill Green Martians. They burn them. They literally put them in furnaces. Playing that on the day was really emotional for me to think that we live on a planet where we kill each other. It was wonderful playing that with Chyler. Hopefully that will be another great episode. J’onn feels deeply that he’s the last Martian. He’s the last of his kind, the only Green Martian left in history.
Hank is the last of his kind, but will he have to face any ghosts from his past down the line? Maybe prisoners from Fort Rozz?
Yes, absolutely. There’s a White Martian that turns up that wants to kill him. He’s ready to give his life. There are a whole litany of guys that J’onn wants to take out, that’s why he’s called a Manhunter. He doesn’t necessarily kill humans. He wants to protect humans and wants to kill anything out there that threatens humanity.
Supergirl airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.