Supergirl star Nicole Maines on tackling hate-related violence against trans people
In last season's "American Dreamer," the precognitive superhero came out as transgender in a powerful interview with Kara that helped show many people in the then-fractured National City that it was okay to be different. Unfortunately, as in the real world, not everyone in the city is happy progress and acceptance. In fact, in this Sunday's episode, titled "Reality Bytes," a bigot attacks Nia's roommate Yvette (Roxy Wood) because he wants to send a message to Dreamer that a transgender superhero isn't welcomed in National City.
"This [episode's theme], I think, is a lot realer than we normally deal with on the show," Maines tells EW. "A lot of the time we make analogies on the show and we kind of show parallels to the real world in our fictional setting with capes and flying. To get to tackle a very real issue while still having the capes and the flying and everything was really exciting to me, and I was really looking forward to it all season."
She continues: "Everyone else was so excited and so lovely to work with. They were so open minded and receptive, and completely not stubborn or anything. They were just so eager to make this the best possible episode it could be."
In the episode, Nia becomes frustrated with the city's failure to protect the trans community from violence and decides to pursue justice for Yvette on her own, even if it means doing things that Kara wouldn't.
"We see Nia start to dip her toe in that more vigilante area that Supergirl doesn't really dwell in because she is such a hopeful beacon of light and this is Dreamer kind of saying, 'No, I'm going to do what I have to do,'" she says. "I was really excited to do it because it fleshes Nia out as a more three-dimensional character and it gives her more depth. Of course, we always see her happy and we always see her as this bubbly, outgoing character. We've seen her heartbroken and we've seen her sad, but we've never really seen Nia angry. So it was really cool to explore that and kind of see her pissed."
Vengeance isn't the only thing driving Nia, though. She's also struggling with the trauma of everything she's experienced over the past year with her family and Brainiac. "At this point, she's lost her mother, her sister effectively, Brainiac to her knowledge, and, [because] this is post-Crisis, she's lost her universe. So, she really doesn't feel like she has a lot left and then someone attacks her roommate and she snaps," she says. "This episode really shows Nia dealing with the culmination of all that pressure and all of that loss."
Having to work through and play Nia's fraught emotional state made this episode challenging yet rewarding for Maines. "The hardest part was just the rollercoaster of emotions," says Maines. "She just goes through everything. It is the culmination of two seasons of grief and loss and stakes built up to breaking point."
Supergirl airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on The CW.
Kara (Melissa Benoist) steps out from her super-cousin’s shadow to become Supergirl and defend National City in the third Arrowverse show.