'Supergirl': Sam Witwer Talks the Challenges of Agent Liberty's Origin Story in "Man of Steel"

Supergirl introduced a major new foe this season in Sam Witwer's masked anti-alien figurehead Agent Liberty, but tonight's episode will give audiences an origin story for the villain -- something Witwer says is a "risky" move.

In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Witwer said that the episode "Man of Steel" will take Supergirl in an unexpected direction by focusing not on Kara Danvers/Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) and the show's regular characters, but almost exclusively on Ben Lockwood -- the man who becomes Agent Liberty.

"403 is a risky episode in that it does take the show in a different place," Witwer said. "Agent Liberty/Ben Lockwood kind of hijacks the show for an entire episode and the regular cast kind of pop in and out, but it really takes you through the seasons of Supergirl from this guy's perspective. There was an alien invasion, what was he doing? Where was he?"

Described as "the ruthless and terrifying leader of the Children of Liberty, a human-first hate group," Agent Liberty is also described as a "brilliant orator in the guise of a family man". It's a complexity of character that doesn't happen overnight and it's that journey that Witwer hopes audiences are accepting of.

"I'm crossing my fingers that the audience accepts it because if you turn on Supergirl, you want to see the characters that you know and love," he said. "So, they took a big risk and said, 'Well, we're actually going to pause for a second and take you on a different journey. Then, we're gonna bring you right back to the show that you love.' Let's just hope it works."

What does work, in terms of the episode, is how it has influenced Witwer's overall portrayal of Agent Liberty. Witwer explained that "Man of Steel" was the first episode filmed this season, so he was able to develop Agent Liberty out of Ben Lockwood well before audiences meet him briefly in the Season 4 premiere.

"Here's the funny thing: Episode 403 was the first thing we shot this season," Witwer said. "So by the time I shot the stuff you saw [in episode 2] with him orating and saying these bigoted things, or him hurting Tiya Sircar [Fiona] ... I was very, very familiar with this guy's motivations and I understood how to play those scenes because we had shot 403 before any of that stuff. It'll be funny for audience members to go back and watch those two episodes after they watch the next episode and see if they can understand where the vitriol comes from, understand where this character's beef lies."

Understanding Agent Liberty's motivations aside, he's still representative of a larger villain in Season 4 -- the concept of fear.

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"The writers' room is being really great this year," Benoist said. "Last season, it was a lot of fire and brimstone and a lot of homages to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was great because I was such a big fan of that show. This season they really want to thematically tackle more topical stories that maybe mirror what's going on with the state of the world and our country. There's a lot of anti-alien sentiment at the beginning of Season 4 that Supergirl is going to have to grapple with. I think their main premise is that fear itself is a villain, and can hope conquer it? Supergirl stands for hope, so we'll see. I think fear is her biggest opponent yet because it's more of a wildfire-type emotion."

Supergirl airs Sundays at 8/7c on The CW. "Man of Steel" debuts October 28th.