Supergirl broke new ground this past season with the introduction of television's first transgender superhero. Introduced as a young reporter at CatCo, Nia Nal, aka Dreamer, soon became a significant part of Team Supergirl, with the character not only serving as a superhero in her own right but as a proud transwoman as well. For Nicole Maines, who plays Dreamer, the role not only allowed her to bring the inclusive character to life but also had impact on her own by giving her a greater voice.
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Maines opened up about how her role on Supergirl has changed her life, specifically in that her role has led to an increased social media following, something that has allowed her to reach more people -- and see for herself how much Dreamer means to those in the trans community.
"I love Twitter, not just for comedy reasons, but because I'm able to interact with people directly," Maines says. "I'm able to see exactly how Dreamer has affected younger trans kids in rural areas who really didn't have anyone before. One of my favorite parts is just [being] able to interact with folks on social media in a very dark time and getting to share that kind of positivity."
Playing Dreamer has also offered Maines an opportunity to be herself through her character. Specifically, in the episode "American Dreamer", Nia goes on television and, in a climate of ever-increasing anti-alien sentiments in Supergirl's National City, reveals herself to be not only half-alien, half-human, but a transgender woman as well. It's a moment where the hero presents herself as being just like everyone else, complete with sharing things she loves. Maines explained that the scene broke the fourth wall a bit.
"That inadvertently [broke] the fourth wall because as Nia's doing that, so am I," Maines said. "I'm going on television and declaring my identity as a trans woman, proudly, unapologetically, and in hopes of inspiring people."
It's that inspiration that Maines hopes translates to real life as well. As she explained in an interview earlier this year, her being trans herself and playing a trans character makes things more meaningful -- even if people don't realize right away the connection.
"I mean, setting out to cast trans actors in trans roles is so important," Maines said. "Now seeing Nia suited up as Dreamer has been like, 'We did it.' This is what we can do. It just makes it so much more meaningful and so much more like ... I've seen so many folks on social media be like ... It's really weird. People are like, 'Wow.' People assume, without knowing me, they hired a cis actress to play a trans role. They're like, 'Well, this is great, but I wish they'd have hired a trans actress.' Someone comes in and they're like, 'Um, they did.' They’re like, 'What?' I'm like, 'Hey kids.'"
Supergirl returns this fall on The CW.