With production halted due to COVID-19, Supergirl still has a few episodes left, and promises to finish up most of what it had planned for the show's current season. Some of the most recent episodes have centered heavily on Nia Nal (Nicole Maines), whose relationship with Brainiac-5 (Jesse Rath) has been strained while Nia herself had to deal with an attack on one of her friends by a political radical who hated Nia's visibility as a powerful and influential trans woman. Her personal life is almost as chaotic right now as the work lives that the Danvers girls and others have, now that Lex Luthor has conned his way into being in charge of the DEO.
Luckily for Maines, who had never played an ongoing character like this prior to coming to Supergirl, she is so much more comfortable as Nia now that she can focus on getting into the headspace that her character is struggling with. During a recent chat with ComicBook.com, she broke down the process.
"Playing Nia now, I feel that I have to take far fewer steps to kind of find her and to kind of get into character," Maines told ComicBook.com. "Whereas before, I'd have to, do the whole, 'all right, blast the music. Get in character, walk around in her shoes a little bit, kind of figure out where I am,' now I just go on set and I know who Nia is, I know what she's about. It's much easier for me to kind of just ask myself, 'all right, what does the Nia want in this scene?' Well, this is who Nia is, this is what she would do. I'm so much more familiar with Nia as a character. I kind of have her habits down a little bit more. And of course that being said, I think the line between Nia and Nicole has blurred much more. And so I don't know if I've become more like her, or if she's become more like me, but I guess that's kind of the nature of the beast when you play a character, I guess for so long."
Maines's connection to the character, in some ways, mirrors Nia's own journey, since she spent some time finding her footing and coming to terms with her new role -- and now is able to take that progress, use it to support herself, and face external threats rather than internal insecurities.
"Nia's journey and Dreamer's journey has been, initially, figuring out she is. Figuring out, I have these powers. Coming to terms with that. Being okay with having these powers, because it was such a point of guilt for Nia," Maines said. "Now it's a question of, what do I do with these powers? I was in no way, shape or form prepared to have them and so it's really, season five for Nia has really been about... She's blossomed as Nia and now she needs to blossom as Dreamer and that's what she's kind of been doing season five. She's been struggling all much with the pressure that comes from having these powers, from being the one who sees the future. She puts a lot on herself to be like, 'I have to see everything. I have to know what's coming, when it's coming. It's on me to protect my friends.' And so now it's kind of her spiraling because of that. I mean she has been beating herself up for months over the loss of her mother and her not seeing that. She didn't see Crisis. And because of that, in her mind, because she didn't do what she was supposed to do, everyone in all of the universes, including herself, except for seven people, died. And she felt responsible for that. And then she couldn't save that. She couldn't save her mom, she couldn't save everybody. She couldn't picture that, and she couldn't salvage and save her relationship with Brainiac. So she's lost every time. And so it's about her trying to be okay with having the powers and trying to deserve them."
Now that Nia is a little more secure in her own skin, this season saw an episode really tackle discrimination against trans people, something that made for a bittersweet and heavy episode. During early interviews, Mained had said that she enjoyed playing a trans character whose stories were not all about being trans, but that doesn't mean she had any plans to shy away from an allegory as important as the one tackled this year.
"I think it's important and I still feel that way. I still feel that it's good that every story surrounding Nia is not about her being trans. But that being said, I think it's still important to have moments where she's like, 'No, I'm still trans. Everything I'm doing, I'm doing while trans,'" Maines explained. "It is not the focus of every part of her life, but it's still a part of it. And it should still be allowed to be addressed. And that's what I liked about this episode. The last time Nia's trans-ness had really been talked about was in American Dreamer last season where she came out. And she came out not to have a trans moment, but she came out as trans to show National City and she'll show America, I am human, I am Naltorian, I am trans and I am a Gryffindor. I have all of these different parts of who I am and they are all valid and they're all beautiful. And it was used as a kind of way to show we all have so many different facets of our identity and none of them should be considered inherently wrong."
What's next? Well, it's hard to say. The series filmed all but one episode before the novel coronavirus pandemic brought production to a halt -- and the now-finale will apparently be reworked.
"The Supergirl folks have talked to me because we couldn't shoot our last episode," Cryer said during an interview this week. "We had shot some of the last episode, and they're gonna use some of that footage, but they're writing a whole bunch of new stuff around it. Which is interesting because the way my character was thwarted now doesn't happy anymore. So, I was like, 'Oh, did I not get defeated? Wait a minute, I like this!' Supervillains, we relish our chance to actually not be defeated every now and then."
This reworking of the season finale may explain why Supergirl isn't returning this week with the other current Arrowverse shows. The Flash and DC's Legends of Tomorrow both returned on Tuesday night and Batwoman will return on Sunday, April 26. Supergirl was initially slated to return that same night, but was recently pushed back for a May 3 return. Earlier this week, The Flash star Grant Gustin revealed that that series' season will end with episode 19 instead of the originally planned 22, though with Supergirl being further along in its production, it may get a few additional episodes to air.0comments
What we do know at this point is that when Supergirl does return, it will be with the Lex-centric "Deux Lex Machina". The episode, which will be series star Melissa Benoist's directorial debut, is set to reveal just how the villainous Lex ended up coming to power after "Crisis on Infinite Earths".
Supergirl airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT, following Batwoman on The CW. "Deus Lex Machina" airs May 3rd.