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 Sarah Schechter, who serves as an executive producer on the series. Schechter has worked with Greg Berlanti as a producer on Pan, Blindspot, The Mysteries of Laura, The Flash, Arrow and will soon work on Legends of Tomorrow as well.
Below, you can check out a video of the conversation (via Agents of Geek, with whom we shared a table) and our transcript of the roundtable as well.
In the pilot, there are a lot of references to Supergirl being a role model for young girls and obviously it's a show that brings heavy feminist connotations. Can you speak a little bit about how that influenced the creation and development, and what you want to do going forward?
Look, on the one hand, I think Supergirl stands on her own as just a great hero whose story deserves to be told. I think it's sort of a shame that it's such a big deal but the only way we're going to make it not a big deal is to continue to have real representation and a variety of representation. So if we can help to do that and to start to level the playing field, then we take that responsibility very seriously.
Greg Berlanti and I work on a lot of shows and you'll notie across all of them there are strong, female characters. It's something that's important to us personally and also important to our audience. So we take that responsibility very seriously, but we also think she's just a really cool, really interesting character.
But certainly, I have friends with daughters and I want them to be able to look up to a superhero who's not overly sexual, who's not a damsel in distress, and who's strong and capable and powerful but also wrestles with insecurity. At the same time, I think it's important for boys to see it, too. I think it's just as important.
We definitely take it seriously; there's a little meta in the show and we definitely wanted to address it, even down to calling her "Supergirl," which I think we handle really well in the pilot.
For us, on the first level I think it's just a great story and a great character, and on the second level, I think we can do something that people need to be doing.
Can you talk about the decision to bring Cat Grant in in the role that she was? Was that about just bringing in a female boss, or was there something specific about the character you wanted to use?
Well, we loved the character but also, first of all Calista Flockhart is really amazing and we're so, so happy to have her. But also, there are a lot of "supergirls" on the show. There's Cat Grant and there's Alex, who we did really create, and then there's Kara. So I think we wanted that diversity, that there isn't one way for a woman to be a hero -- that she can be a boss, she can be physically strong and she can do everything in between.
I do think, yes, it's really nice to have another female who's in charge, but it's also just a really fun dynamic and a film that Andrew, Ali, Greg and I all love is Working Girl, and so there's a little bit of that in there, too. So any way to honor Mike Nichols is a good idea as far as I'm concerned.
Greg Berlanti said early on that he knew the secret to this was finding the right girl to bring this character to life. Did you know it was her right away?
Well, what's funny is that David Rappaport, who also cast The Flash and Arrow, accidentally Stephen was the first person to audition for Arrow and then Grant was the first person to audition for The Flash. So David at this point, knowing how superstitious Greg Berlanti can be, actually made Melissa come back from vacation so that she could be the first one because he had that gut. So David was the first one who knew it.
We knew we couldn't do the show and frankly we wouldn't do the show if we couldn't find the right girl. It's a very complicated part; you have to have comedic talent, you have to have emotional talent, you have to have dramatic talent and you have to have a really big range.
Honestly for me, when Melissa auditioned, because she was first, I thought, "Oh, it's going to be so easy to cast this!" And then we saw hundreds of really talented actresses that are great, but none of them are Melissa and Melissa is Kara as far as we're concerned. We have said it repeatedly, that we wouldn't have done this without Melissa. Finding her was the secret to this show. She is so phenomenal and I'm so excited for audiences to see what she can do. You got a taste of it in Glee, you got a taste of it in Whiplash, but I think to really see all the tools she has in her arsenal is going to be so much fun.
Was there hesitation to include Superman and that mythology so prominently?
Yeah, but I think one of the reasons at least is, this isn't a story about Superman and it isn't the lesser, "Oh, we couldn't get Superman, let's do Supergirl." We wanted to get Supergirl! She's got such an interesting backstory; unlike Superman, she spent 12, 13 years on Krypton without any powers. She was a normal girl who had her whole world taken away from her, so she arrived at like 13 and she arrived into a world that tells teenage girls to suppress all the things that make her feel different. So these powers are something that she saw as a curse. They are not this blessing, they are not this great destiny.
So for us, the fun of this show is to see her embrace all of who she can be. So Kara Zor-El to us is just an awesome character that hasn't been showcased enough and it's really about that. For us, I remember early on, Warner Bros. Television said to us, "What about Supergirl?" And I was like "Supergirl! Supergirl! Supergirl!" and [Greg Berlanti] was like "Eh." Then he called me and he was like "I figured it out. It's Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Ginger Rogers had to do everything that Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in heels. And I think that's a great way of looking at it. It's also way more fun to tell that story, and it's a story that people deserve to see get a full and accurate trip.
You used the word "fun." That's something that's been a big, driving narrative behind this, too. If there's anything that's talked about as much as the feminism, it's the fact that this is a light, happy show. Can you tell us what went into that decision?
Well, I think first of all, Andrew, Ali, Greg and I are all huge fans of the [Richard] Donner Superman movies, the original Christopher Reeve ones. I don't know if it's our age or whatever, but those are really deeply implanted on our psyches. But the tone of those movies was just really fun. And it doesn't mean that the stakes don't feel real. It doesn't mean that there isn't danger. It doesn't mean that characters won't die. But the hopefulness of that world, the fun of that world for us was just irresistible.
Look, people have hard lives. People have to work at jobs they don't like. They struggle to feed their families. There's enough darkness in the world. To give people an hour of hope and excitement and possibility, I don't think it's a bad thing. I think it's a really good thing.
And if you're really feeling dark, you can watch Arrow, too.
Alex came off as kind of the model sister in that pilot episode, but there was a shot of her when Kara was being delivered by Superman that made it clear having that as a sister wouldn't be easy.
No! Alex was the golden child in her family, she was kind of great at everything, and then suddenly this girl came around who's the same age who has literal super powers. So there's a real complexity to that sister dynamic. What's also interesting is that as we learn about Alex in the pilot, in a lot of ways she's more of a superhero than Kara is at the start. And without the super powers, which is also great in terms of varied representation. So I think the dynamic between them is complicated, interesting and real. And I think what's good for Alex is that it drove her to be the best version of herself, just as Kara tried not to be the best version of herself. So Kara really can look up to Alex as a model and as a way to embrace all of what she's capable of being.