After early screenings at both Comic Con International: San Diego and New York Comic Con -- plus a leaked copy of the pilot showing up online -- Supergirl finally flies into living rooms around the country tonight on a wave of excitement and high expectations.
The series, from executive producers Andrew Kreisberg and Greg Berlanti of Arrow and The Flash fame, brings together Glee veteran Melissa Benoist with Grey's Anatomy veteran Chyler Leigh, Ally McBeal star Calista Flockhart and a talented ensemble cast who have the responsibility of adapting one of the most recognizable female characters in comics -- and doing so in a way that differentiates itself from Superman, the character's even-more-famous cousin.
During Comic Con International, ComicBook.com sat down for a roundtable conversation with David Harewood, who plays DEO Director Hank Henshaw in the series. He's still a far cry from his comic book counterpart, who currently is appearing in Superman: Lois and Clark, but that doesn't mean Harewood hasn't thought about it...!
Hank Henshaw is a character who has a lot of backstory in the comics. How much research did you do for the script?
Well, being an actor in the 21st Century is so awesome because you can just tap things into Google and just see what comes up. So I've been doing a lot of reading on his backstory, his mythology and he's an interesting character. The thing I like most is, he's indestructible. And in the last two shows, I've been blown up, so I'm kind of looking forward to recovering from that, you know?
Since there is such a wealth of source material, is it more pressure to bring that to life, or is it just a gift as an actor to have all of that to go on?
I think it's more of a gift, becuase there's so much to draw on. I think the more reading you do, it just adds to the layers and colors you can put into the character. I think it's important that you don't fix anything, or you don't necessarily read one thing and say "Oh, I must bring that into this show," because what's wonderful about our show is that it's very new, very modern, and it's a new interpretation of the Supergirl mythology.
I think we're going to be trying to work in all these new angles and hopefully fans of the comic book won't be too disappointed. I think they're going to be really excited about things that we're set to bring out.
So when you land a part in a show like this, are you a little disappointed to find out you're going to be one of the people who doubts the hero right off the bat?
Well, that's what's exciting because you have to find out why! Everybody else is going to go "it's Supergirl!" and get really excited about it, but there's this one guy who has a real problem with her. And it really struck me from the script, and then when I watched the pilot, I'm like, "I hardly smile at this girl. She's the hero, she's got super-powers. Why am I not rushing to welcome her to the DEO?"
And that's going to be interesting to play that and to find out why he's got a huge problem with aliens and people from another planet. I have heard some things in the last couple of days which could be really exciting to play. That's not a problem for me, that's a real encouragement.
People will watch the show and see Hank Henshaw and put it into Google.
I'm sure that people will Google or read the comic books and say "Oh, I didn't think it was going to be like this." It's impossible, I think, to completely 100% stick to what you read. Then it's not original.
Hopefully we can keep an essence of that Hank Henshaw but make him very fresh, very new, and I'm certainly going to embody a lot of that essence. In the comic books, he's very revengeful and has a deep, deep loathing for Superman. I'm hoping to bring elements of that in, but if I can keep it original and still bring the Hank Henshaw fans with me, I think I will have succeeded in doing my job.
I think there's often a temptation to make aliens a metaphor for LGBT, or people of color, or other "outsider" and oppressed groups. Do you think it's an interesting creative choice to have the biggest person who's on her case be a person of color?
You'd have to ask that to the producers. I'm just, as an actor, happy to play a character who's so layered and has such a trajectory. I don't really worry about those kind of things.
I certainly think that the word "aliens," particularly in Europe, has got massive connotations, and I think that's really interesting, but again, I think the people who protest the most, what have they got to fear about this sense of otherness? And when you unpack that, sometimes you get some really interesting answers, so it's going to be very interesting to unpack Hank's history and I think you're going to be in for a very big surprise.