Supergirl's Melissa Benoist is ready for tomorrow
Tomorrow has finally come for the Girl of Tomorrow, Melissa Benoist.
After six seasons, a network change, and multiple crossovers, Supergirl fans will finally say goodbye to Benoist's on-screen alter-ego Kara Danvers when the sunny CW superhero drama's two-part series finale airs in a couple weeks; however, the show's star already said her goodybe to Kara Zor-El two months ago when she wrapped production on the series in Vancouver. Now, she's back home in Los Angeles with a shorter haircut; preparing to release of her new children's fantasy book Haven's Secret (out now), which she co-wrote with her sister Jessica and Mariko Tamaki (Supergirl: Being Super); and developing projects under her overall deal with Warner Bros. TV. Despite all of these exciting changes, closure on Supergirl still feels elusive.
"I don't think it's really set in," says Benoist, 33, in an interview with EW at the Hollywood Roosevelt in early October. "I definitely felt a different kind of closure when we wrapped on set, very bittersweet. I felt all the emotions you could feel in the last two weeks of shooting that show. But I think once the final episode airs, and I know that I really don't have to go back up to Vancouver to shoot, that's when it'll probably set in."
It's easy to understand why she still feels connected to both the show and character: Supergirl has been a major part of Benoist's life for the past six years. Originally developed for CBS — where it aired for one season before joining the rest of Greg Berlanti's Arrowverse shows on the CW in season 2 — the series follows Superman's do-gooding cousin as she juggles her responsibilities as National City's hero and as a reporter at CatCo magazine. Despite the many crises Supergirl and her Super Friends have faced, Benoist has never lost sight of the fact that the series is ultimately about Kara reconciling her human and Kryptonian sides, and Benoist went on a similar arc herself. While the silly and quirkier aspects of Kara's personality came very easily to Benoist, the superheroic confidence and fearlessness did not.
"I had to learn how to walk as a superhero because I was certainly not carrying that strength physically because I didn't believe that I was that strong at that point in time in my life," says the Glee alum. "The more experience I had on the show and the more experience I had in my personal life, that sort of informed my growing more into being comfortable with conveying things like that, like strength and fearlessness and courage and bravery."
She continues: "I love how it feels to me like the story I was telling was how those two women found each other and become one person, and how one woman figured out how to marry every part of herself and be proud of who she was in every aspect. Because I feel like every woman has a million women inside of them. So I'm really proud of the story that I feel like I was telling as Kara and as Supergirl where it was a discovery of herself as one whole person. And I found that really empowering and it was a journey that really resonated with me that I feel like I also went through simultaneously while working on the show."
The show's sixth and final season pits Supergirl and her Super Friends against Nyxly (Peta Sergeant), a vengeful Fifth Dimensional imp who is desperately searching for seven magical totems that, when combined, will give her ultimate power. Without giving away too much, Benoist assures us that the arc will tie back into Kara's series-long journey.
"I would say the end goal is to really come to terms with her powers and who she is as an alien on the planet, and then who she is as a human and finding a way to embrace both of them at once," says Benoist, who believes this was the right time to say farewell to Kara. "I don't know if I was ready to say goodbye to the characters, which I think is healthy. You always want to be sad and miss something and I'm so glad I didn't have that, 'Oh my gosh. I'm so ready.' And just the feeling of wanting to throw it away and not think about it again. I definitely will miss playing the role, but I was ready for a break, personally."
That being said, she doesn't think this break will last forever and she's open to throwing on the cape again in the future. "I am not opposed to putting on the suit again and I know there probably will be opportunities to," she says. "It would have to feel right for the character and I know they would probably do it justice. I love playing with Grant Gustin. I love Tyler Hoechlin and Bitsie Tulloch on Superman & Lois. So no, I'm not opposed to it."
Ahead of Supergirl's conclusion, Benoist sat down for the latest installment of EW's Bold School series (which you can watch above) to reflect on her career and share her hopes for what comes next. Here's what she had to say:
On the best advice she's ever gotten:
"The best piece of advice I've gotten in recent years, I think, came from [Greg Berlanti and he said it to me numerous times, where he's told me in specific situations where I'll be opening up to him, and he said, 'Melissa, you have to tell people what you need and you have to fight for what you know you need to take care of yourself.' And that sounds like such a simple sentiment, but I think it's easy to take for granted and to overlook that fact, especially in this business — and especially on set. They were always on set when I would know that something didn't feel right, or a moment where I knew I needed to take a step back or take a moment to myself, even just to breathe and meditate for five, 10 minutes, whatever I needed. But it also, I think, just is applicable to just life in general and I find myself using it all the time now. But it took me a really long time to actually embrace that idea."
On when she's felt empowered:
"I've had a few moments where I've felt extremely empowered and it's always at this precipice in my life where I could either stay in what I've been doing and how I've been behaving, or jump off the cliff and really grow as a person and as a woman and not redefine myself, but find another part of myself. One of those moments for sure would be leaving the abusive relationship I was in. That was maybe the most empowered I've ever felt. And that kind of still fuels me. I still feel that empowerment.
I think I felt also extremely empowered when I first moved away from home and went to college in New York City and I was by myself in the city for the first time. That first year, I would say, even, was a lot of, self-discovery a lot of failures, a lot of hardship and struggling, but I think I felt really alive and empowered then because I was, like we all do when we leave home, making decisions for myself the first time. But I was just in a massive city that was so foreign from where I grew up."
On what she wishes knew back in Supergirl's first season:
"I wish I'd known that I didn't have to be a good sport about everything. I wish I'd known that I could have said, 'No, I can't do this. It's too much.' Or, 'I'm overwhelmed.' I honestly sometimes can't remember that entire season because it was so busy and such a whirlwind, so I wish that I had been able to step back and say, 'I need a second.' And I feel like I would have maybe had more memories of that time."
On handling the pressure in season 1:
"I look back on that season and the pressure that just innately was involved in all of the buildup and [this] being the first female-driven superhero show since [Lynda Carter's] Wonder Woman and I just see a young woman who I don't think knew how to cope with that or to live up to that or to even acknowledge the pressure involved. And I carried it because I had to, but a part of my journey on this show and a part of why it will always be the most formative job I'll ever have in my career is because I think I learned how to really embrace my womanhood. And I grew up with this show, essentially, because I definitely look back and see a girl that just... I won't say I was in over my head [because] I was very excited about it, but I don't think I truly recognized or understood the weight of what I was signing up for and what being a role model meant and how to carry myself. And I think I did the best I could in that time of my life, but I definitely learned more along the way how to shoulder that burden, and it's not even a burden. How to just walk through the experience with my head held high and knowing exactly what I stood for and what I wanted to convey to the world."
On the episodes she'd like to revisit:
"There are two episodes that stand out that I wish I could revisit. One because it was so fun and that is [season 2's 'Supergirl Lives.'] It was Kevin Smith's first episode. It was like this buddy adventure, almost a bottle episode and we did a Star Wars homage and we were on a different planet for the first time and it was so fun. And also working with Kevin Smith is just a blast, especially when he's in his element like that and working on sci-fi and the geeky things that he loves, we just had so much fun. So I would revisit that one specifically because it was just a gas. We were laughing the whole time and really collaborating and improvising, which I love doing.
And then the second one I would want to revisit was in season 1 — a lot of season 1. I don't know if it would work because I think knowing what I know now, it probably would inform the scenes differently, but there was a scene where I was confronting my mother's hologram for the first time. That's a scene I wish I could redo, just emotionally feeling something different or trying different colors."
On her favorite memory from the Arrowverse crossovers:
"Do you know what's so funny about the crossovers is that [they were] crazy and insane and so frantic and hectic and chaotic, but I had so much fun doing them. All my memories are just of laughing with Grant and Tyler, and Stephen [Amell] — just laughing our butts off and getting so slaphappy and delirious and just having the best time. There was like an electric energy there. And one of my favorite moments too, was when Grant Gustin and I were running in a scene [during 'Crisis on Infinite Earths'], and it was a group of us, and I said, 'What if we just speed-walked, because I don't feel like running anymore?' And he speed-walked and that guy is actually abnormally fast! I've never seen anyone... It was incredible!
On her final days on set:
"The last week on set was really intense, really emotional, really joyful and fun. We had a lot of cast come back and playing with those guys again made me really happy. It was so, so good to see Mehcad [Brooks]. It was so wonderful to see Jeremy [Jordan] and my husband [Chris Wood] came back, which made me really happy. And there were days where it was the big group, everyone that I've just loved so dearly that has become like family. Those days were great. And then other days it was tedious and difficult and those were the days where I'd be like, 'Ah, this is why it's good that it's ending.' But it was just kind of a melting pot of every single thing I could possibly feel happening in five days, concentrated."
On launching a book series with Haven's Secret:
"I was really lucky in this endeavor with the book because I had my sister with me and we did it together. And my sister is an amazing writer. I found it really enjoyable, while also the publishing world is such a different industry. So I was learning those ropes and still don't really feel like I understand all of it, but it was such a joy and to be able to collaborate with my sister and really tell a story that we cared about. We were so heavily influenced by nature and grew up going to all the national parks our grandparents would take us to when we were younger and that's a massive story point for the book. And we were huge bookworms! A Wrinkle in Time and Madeleine L'Engle and Harry Potter were favorite books of ours. So it was fun to just make this new world with these lovely little characters that I hope fills somewhat of a Harry Potter void for people. I would love to keep these characters going. It's just so fun. And it's so fun that they're sisters and that was also a massive theme of Supergirl was sisterhood and relationships between women, whether it's romantic or friendship or sisterhood, so to be able to explore that again for younger readers was really rewarding."
On what she'd like to do next:
"I would love to work on a period piece, I'm talking like 18th, 19th century. I would go way back. I think that's something that I haven't done [yet]. The last time I did something like that was in college and obviously that's so different, but I loved doing things like that."
On how acting will inform her producing:
"It's given me this crazy passion for storytelling that I think I've always had, but now that I've seen it from so many different avenues and especially being the lead of a show for as long as I was, you really learn the ropes of logistics of things too. So I do feel really fortunate in that way that I'm coming into this overall deal and producing work with the different hats that I've worn. And I'm so excited to really dig and mine for the stories that resonate with me that I hope will resonate with other people. I'm only pursuing the things that I really am passionate about because you have to fight really hard to get anything made. It's a marvel that anything is made and I applaud every single person that has a show on the air that has done it. It's so hard, but that makes it all worth it."
Supergirl airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW. Haven's Secret is available to purchase now.
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