Earlier this week, The CW premiered the second season of SUPERGIRL following a very headline heavy summer that saw the show jump from its original home, CBS. At a press event following a screening of the season’s second episode, due to air next week, showrunner Andrew Kreisberg and new Superman actor Tyler Hoechlin took a moment to get to the heart of what they are trying to achieve in the new season.
A lot of the feminism on the show has come from Cat (Calista Flockhart) explaining what she’s had to go through to be so powerful as a woman, and teaching Kara (Melissa Benoist) about that. How are you going to continue that now that Cat’s moving on?
ANDREW: Hopefully, she’ll be back. But for us, I think the strongest feminist thing about the show is Kara herself. Just as a character, what Kara does week in and week out, and the challenges that she’s presented with and how she overcomes them, both physically and emotionally. That, to me, is the biggest statement towards having a powerful female on television. Not by talking about it, but actually showing a powerful female on television. That’s the biggest feminist statement we could make, that she, especially when you compare to our other shows, there’s nothing she goes up against they don’t go up against, and she’s just as glorious and just as confident and just as emotional and just as flawed and just as strong as any of the other male heroes we’ve created. That, to me, is the best example of being pro-woman the show can make as a statement week in and week out.
Building upon that, in Season One, the elephant in the room was that you had Superman, a character that a lot of people know, that you didn’t show him and then finally, in the Season 2 premiere, you were able to. We see Superman instead of just the silhouette. Can you talk about, in terms of the writing, and Tyler, in terms of your depiction of the character, bringing in Superman, probably the most well-known superhero, and really using him to build up Kara instead of overpowering her.
ANDREW: We were very cognizant of not wanting him to come in and steal her thunder. The Superman that we designed was something that you really haven’t seen too much of. Usually when we see Superman, whether it’s, even in the Christopher Reeve movies or “Man of Steel,” there was … Clark, he’s just starting out. We wanted to show Superman who’s been doing this for a decade and has gotten really good at it. Usually when somebody comes in they have a massive character arc, and that wasn’t entirely the case here. He was really coming in as a supporting character for Kara to be a friend and a cousin and a mentor and somebody that she could … She’s always uncomfortably compared herself to him, and comes to realize, “I’ve got it all going on too.” We simultaneously wanted to have a Superman that was relatable and fun and everything that you remember about Superman from your childhood, while at the same time demystifying him a little bit. That’s why we had those scenes where, we sort of described it as, no matter how famous you are, there’s somebody more famous than you. Yes, she can fly, and she’s famous, but there’s a familiarity with all the people that she works with. Then Superman comes in, and it’s like … You know. Mick Jagger just flew in and everybody’s jaws dropped. She’s completely over it, just like I’m sure your brother does not care that you’re Superman. That’s really the angle that we came at.
TYLER: It’s funny. That word “support” is, I think, the strongest one I’ve tried to lean on, because the whole thing again, this is not his origin story. This is someone who’s been doing this for a long time and has become very comfortable in the way I can always relate to things best. It’s like a sports thing where the game has slowed down for him, so these things that maybe seem like a big deal to her, he’s gone through those issues already, and so the role of him coming into this, for me from the very beginning, was to support her. That kind of lends itself to being a supporting character. There was never an intention for this to be about him. It’s always about her. It’s called SUPERGIRL. It’s about her and Melissa done such a great job. That was kind of the thing. It’s like being a veteran presence in the sports team and having the young guy … The young guy needs the encouragement. The young guy needs to be elevated and told how great they can be and what their potential is. The veteran knows. It’s not about them. They’re there to encourage the next group. For him it’s always about building her up and being there to impart wisdom when he can, support her when he can, but in no way try to make her feel like she’s not capable of doing anything that he could do.
Now that the season premiere has aired and people are actually starting to see the new Superman, are you guys looking at what they’re saying and making any tweaks at all into how you set about doing the character?
ANDREW: No, we’re thrilled. We’re thrilled with how it turned out, we’re thrilled with working with Tyler, which has been an amazing experience. We just selfishly hope we get to do it again, because I think it really added to the show in a way it didn’t overpower it. We love Superman. As few people have gotten to play Superman, it’s a rarefied group of people who’ve gotten to write it and sit down at the computer and type Clark Kent and to type Superman and to type the words Lois Lane and Perry White and Daily Planet. It’s really humbling and a real honor.
We’ve already met Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan-Tatum). What are the chances we get to meet Lois?
ANDREW: I think there’s plenty of talented actresses out there who could do it justice, so I would never necessarily dream casting, but hopefully a dream person to work with, somebody who’s a very supportive actress and very present in there. That was always great and nice to the crew, that’s always a nice bonus. Any of those requirements would be great, but I think, yes, I think it could be fun. There’s no real plans right now. We’re happy we have Superman.
Why did the first 2 episodes of the season seem like the right time to bring him onto the show?
ANDREW: A couple of things. One, we were planning to do this when we were still on CBS. I think it became even more imperative when we jumped to the CW, just because you always want to start, especially when you make a giant transition like that, you want to start with a bang and put your best food forward. We’ve been hinting and teasing at Superman all last season and so the idea to actually see him and get to see Superman and SUPERGIRL working together just felt like a great way to open the season and bring … Perhaps if people had either not seen the show before or had watched early on and given up on it, was a way to bring eyeballs back to it. Especially because we really felt like we’ve hit another gear with the show creatively. The show is called SUPERGIRL, and it was always designed to be about somebody who had to deal with a very famous relative whose shadow was very difficult to step out of. In some ways you didn’t need to see him to make that work. Sometimes, like Vera on Cheers, just hearing about her made her a far more interesting character than if somebody had actually walked into the bar with Norm. But we really felt like over the course of last year, she started not so sure of herself, and by the end of the year she’s saved the world. We felt confident that Kara was in a strong enough place as SUPERGIRL and as Kara that it was the right time to bring in her cousin and not have it overshadow her, not make you feel like, “Finally, Superman’s here.”
The first 2 episodes really establish how important Clark is to Kara. How do you guys plan to continue that when we won’t see Tyler again for awhile? Is it text messages and IMs or sort of, we just assume that he’s supportive silently in Metropolis?
ANDREW: We always like the text messaging, because I mean it’s funny. That is how people communicate now, so those text message scenes were always a pleasure to write. Any one of us knows how happy you get when your best friend or your sister or your brother just sends you a text and just says, “Hey, how are you? I was thinking about you.” That’s become such a important part of our lives, so yes, in the first season, we couldn’t show Superman, so it was our best attempt to show that. Those scenes always had a strangely strong resonance, even though they were a gimmick. Now that Hoechlin inhabits the part, whenever there’s discussion about Superman in subsequent episodes, or the thought of them talking to each other, or somebody says, “I’ll check in with Superman,” it’s like, now you can imagine Tyler. It makes all of those mentions, and then the idea of him being out there, that much more powerful, because you can imagine it and you know that he’s out there and he’s ready to help.
Speaking to that transition from CBS to CW. How important was it to resolve a couple of storylines or honor the relationship between Kara and Cat?
ANDREW: This was pretty much what we envisioned. As far as the changes were concerned, we were always going to revamp the DEO, we just kind of fell out of love with the cave set. It felt … It just didn’t feel of a piece. It was cool in the beginning and then for some reason it just didn’t feel like it was bringing everything together. We were always going to have Winn (Jeremy Jordan) join the DEO. There wasn’t as much difference between the CBS pitch and the CW pitch. Some of the stuff that we’re doing down the road in subsequent episodes was, once we knew we were on the CW, we felt more comfortable framing the show in our terms. For lack of a better phrase, it’ll feel more of a piece with Flash and ARROW and LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, maybe embracing some of the more comic book elements. But they weren’t that different. Certainly the idea to have Superman was from the get go.
Andrew, God knows you have enough on your plate from all the various shows and crossovers, but seeing how easily Tyler slipped into this character in this world, did you ever think, “Gosh, this could be some show, we should spin this guy off”?
ANDREW: This is going to sound like we’re abused kids, but we’re so happy with what we get to do. I don’t mean for that to sound as bad as it does, but we asked if we could have Superman in the first episode and DC and Warner Brothers said, “You can have him for the first 2 episodes!” And we were like, “Great!” I’m not going to sit here and say that there’s never going to be a world in which there is a Superman TV show and that Tyler’s going to star in it, I mean, I don’t know what the future holds, but right now that’s not our focus. Right now we’re working on SUPERGIRL, which is the flagship, and working on a way for Tyler to reprise the role is really what her focus is on SUPERGIRL right now.
With Kara at a different part of CatCo, Cat leaving CatCo and Winn at the DEO, James (Mehcad Brooks) is just kind of chilling in Cat’s office right now. Are there plans to incorporate him more in outside of things? How are you going to still make him as part of the story?
ANDREW: James has a pretty big turn coming up. These next few episodes are going to make him realize that being a photographer and sitting behind Cat’s desk is not enough for him, and so he’s going to go on a pretty exciting career trajectory that we’re really pumped by. James is going to decide that he can no longer sit back and be a sidekick, so he’s going to decide to become a vigilante. He’s going to become Guardian. Complete with the shield. It’s going to cause a massive problem in his relationship with Kara, because he has decided not to tell her. So now there’s this new masked vigilante and she has her own feelings about vigilantes and it becomes sort of a push and pull about who gets to decide who gets to be a hero. He’s recruited Winn(Jeremy Jordan) to help him, so Winn is his man in the van. The two of them are doing this together. Winn and James together is comedy gold. Watching Winn have to, as he takes his job at the DEO but then is lying to everybody about how he’s spending his nights, because he’s going out with James, and how he walks in exhausted, or walks in with a black eye, and says he walked into a door, is sort of the fun, excitement of building these first 10 episodes.
You talked about how a lot of these decisions like bringing on Superman or establishing Season 1, they were in the CBS pitch, but it did feel like Kara’s relationship with Jimmy Olsen, romantic relation, was a big part of Season 1. We come back and in the first episode, suddenly she’s like “No I’m not interested.” It felt a little bit like a course correction maybe. I’m curious if that was always the plan from the Season 1 finale to Season 2 to have her no longer pursue that, and if it was always the plan to have him become the vigilante, which feels like it fits a little bit better into the ARROW-verse.
ANDREW: James’ becoming Guardian was definitely one of the things that changed when we were going to CW. As far as the two of them are concerned, they’re both tremendously talented actors, and they’re both lovely people and they both love working with each other. I think we sort of felt like we were pursuing that relationship more because we felt like we had to, than any of us was really truly feeling it. It was interesting because we brought in some new writers in the middle of the season, you know to keep some fresh blood. Even they were coming at it fresh, felt like we weren’t quite sure how we were making this happen. We realized that the best scenes between them were just the nice sweet scenes were they were being friends. Whether the show was on CBS or CW, it has a large fan base and a loyal fan base, and we didn’t feel like we could just drop it, because we had made such a big deal about it in the first season. But we thought, rather than just opening the episode with, “Well, we had our summer romance, sorry that didn’t work out!” Actually making it part of the story. The theme of last year was how does Kara become SUPERGIRL? The theme of this year is, how does SUPERGIRL become Kara? It felt like there is a way to have that realization actually be part of the story. Most of us have had friendships that turned into something more, then you realize maybe it wasn’t. It felt like a very real story that we could be telling.
Going back to Cat, do you know how many episodes she’s going to be in for this season?
ANDREW: I don’t know yet. Hopefully as many as we can get. We love working with Calista, and Calista loves the show, which is why she came back to do this.
Now that the show’s on CW trying to make it feel more like ARROW and THE FLASH and LEGENDS OF TOMORROW… With the crossover coming up soon, what was the thought process in how SUPERGIRL was going to… because now SUPERGIRL’s is going into the ARROW-verse reality as opposed to the other way around… Have you thought about how she would relate to those characters and what can we expect when she ends up over there?
ANDREW: I think some people like Barry (Grant Gustin) already know her. Barry’s completely cool with her. Some people are instantly charmed by her. I think Sara’s (Caity Lotz) got a little crush on her. Digg (David Ramsey), as always, just when he thinks he’s seen it all … There’s a moment in it where somebody says, “What? This is SUPERGIRL” and they say, “What’s so super about her? She just like lifts off the ground” and Digg’s like, “I’m convinced.” With Oliver (Stephen Amell), part of Oliver’s journey in those episodes is, he’s kind of hit his breaking point for things he’s willing to accept. He’s had Mirakuru soldiers and the Lazarus Pit and magic and Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) but like … you know, flying aliens that can incinerate you with their eyes, it’s like one beyond the pale for him, so he’s keeping his distance. Which is a very Oliver thing to do. Even Kara comments, “Does he not like me?” Barry’s like, “No, that’s kind of how he treats everybody.” There’s fun interactions. It’s exciting. Every time I get those dailies and you see them all together, it’s just insanity.
Speaking of crossovers, is there any hope for Superman to meet Jeremiah Danvers (Dean Cain) or Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) at some point?
ANDREW: I don’t know. If it works out when an episode where Dean comes back, I don’t know about Brandon, but there’s no definitive plans, but it’s always cool.
The doctor at Cadmus seemed to indicate Jeremiah is not necessarily quite human anymore, that something has been done to him. Can you tease a little bit about that?
ANDREW: We want to keep the mystery of who and what Jeremiah is. He’s been under Cadmus’ control for the last 12 years and the Jeremiah that we see might not be exactly what people expected. Just to complicate the storyline for Kara and Alex (Chyler Leigh). I don’t know. It’s too good to spoil.
In your opinion, in terms of your work as an actor, the choice that you’ve made, what choices, if any, did you make physically, acting wise or whatever, to distance your Superman from the other animated or live action Supermans that we all grew up with? Is there any way in your mind that, “Okay, this is my Superman because…”?
TYLER: I distinctly stayed away from every other Superman thing. I’m very ignorant of the past films and series. The one I grew up with was Dean Cain on LOIS AND CLARK. That was my Superman growing up. I did not go back and watch any of the Christopher Reeves movies, did not go back and watch any of the previous ones that’ve been done. I haven’t seen the current ones. I wanted to do that because as an actor I wanted zero temptation to imitate or emulate anything. I had a great meeting with Andrew and Greg (Berlanti) where we all hit it off about what we all personally found interesting about the character, and I felt very convicted in committing to those ideas. I never on set wanted to do something and be like, “That felt a little bit too much like (Christopher) Reeves” or “That wasn’t close enough to what they did with that.” If something similar, then sorry, it’s similar. If it’s completely off, then it’s completely off, but it was never intentionally trying to hit a beat or hit something that was done in the past. That’s just the things that we committed to from the very beginning. There’s something very freeing creatively when you commit to something you believe in personally. If the reception today was that everyone hated it, I’d be like, “Well that sucks. That really sucks. But I committed to what I honestly thought was great about it, and if that’s not what everybody else sees about it then that’s fine”. But the worst thing is to try to do something thinking that it’s what other people will think is right about it, and then they still don’t like it. Because then you’ve failed without actually trusting yourself to do something that you believed in in the first place. I think that was really the process going into it.
There’s been a lot of commentary about Superman in the past few years just as there’ve been different pop culture depictions of him, and it feels like there are sort of 2 sides of it. 1, the Superman in the comics, he goes and confronts the bridge jumper and brings him back from the ledge, and then the other one, which is Superman battling with the idea of being seen as an unjust god. It feels like you touched a little bit on both of those sides in this episode. I’m curious if that was intentional. Tyler, can you talk about those two sides of Superman and who you view Superman as being and were those intentional nods in this episode?
TYLER: I think that inherently my biggest thing about Superman is, I think that he is always doing what he wishes anybody else would do if they could do what he could do. That’s really kind of it. If it’s a moment of comforting somebody, then it’s a moment of comforting somebody. If it’s a moment of stopping someone else from harming someone else, then that’s what it is. But I think for him it’s really just to be … I think he recognizes the symbol that he is and what he means to everybody. The moment of walking, the first episode of walking through the DEO and shaking everyone’s hand, I think everything about him is to make everyone else realize they can be their own version of Superman. He’s only doing what he’s capable of doing because of the talents and abilities that he has. But that as long as you are also doing everything you can with the abilities that you have, you’re doing the same thing. So you in essence are Superman. You just can’t see through walls and you can’t blow things up with your eyes, which is a different thing, but at the end of the day, the intention is the same.
ANDREW: That’s a great answer. I think it’s like anything that Greg and I do. We don’t do straight out adaptations of specific comic book stories. It always goes through the alchemy machine. We cherry pick the best parts of things that we’ve seen, that we’ve read, that we’ve watched. There’s obviously a big heaping of Richard Donner … Also there’s a big heaping of Richard Donner in THE FLASH. That was the Superman that Greg and I grew up on, that was the one that really colored our view of the character, but there’s a healthy dose in the animated series which I was a huge fan of. There’s a little bit of LOIS AND CLARK, certainly in the office place. There’s a little bit of “Man of Steel” in there with Cadmus and their viewpoints. It all gets put into the machine and it comes out as something fresh and new. But just as Tyler was talking about not wanting to watch the old ones and take our cues from that, we sort of, based on everything that there is, whether it’s Henry Cavill or Brandon (Routh) or Christopher Reeve or Dean (Cain) or Gerard Christopher … Everybody takes everything that there is and distills it down into one version that they like that has maybe a little bit more of this, a little bit more of that, and the Superman that Tyler and Greg and I created is our favorite version of Superman, because it has all the little bits that we like, all put together. I read some reviews, that they loved how it was a call back to this more boy scout version of Christopher Reeve, and yet I couldn’t see Christopher Reeve having that scene with J’onn (David Harewood), when the two of them are ready to come to blows over kryptonite. What I loved about that scene is that they both have a valid point of view. They’re both right and they’re both wrong, and those are the best scenes. The anger that Tyler was willing to show, which I thought was so brave, especially when you’re wearing that costume, made him feel adult and contemporary and more than just a boy scout in tights. It is this gestalt version of Superman, just as they all should. I’m sure when Brandon (Routh) was doing it, he had all the previous versions, and I’m sure when Henry (Cavill) does it, he has all the previous versions, and not just the actors, but the creators. We talked of, last night, Tyler and I, that it’s like Hamlet, a little bit, that everybody plays it, but everybody brings something different to it. The people who come subsequent sometimes take a little bit of what has come before and then you add something new.
Obviously, last season was a lot about Kara trying to prove herself to Cat and trying to just establish herself in the workplace. What can you say about her dynamic with Snapper and how that’s different or the same or kind of what she’s trying to prove to him.
ANDREW: I think, despite her not exactly warm personality, I think Cat, both with Kara and I think with others, is actually devoted to mentoring people and seeing them rise. She challenges them and she challenges them hard, but I think she does that with the idea that she’s forging them, and they’re going to come out the other side as stronger, better people. Then I think she takes pride in that. I think she genuinely takes pride in the person that Kara has become, up until this point, that she helped her, get her there. I think Snapper Carr doesn’t give a crap. I think he believes in the written word. He believes in facts, and he believes in “Are you good at your job, or are you not, and if you’re not good at your job, I don’t have time for you.” There’s a subsequent episode where there’s a scene where Ian (Gomez) literally doesn’t look her in the face in the entire scene, he’s so busy doing his things. Kara’s not used to that. As tough as Cat was, I think Kara knew that Cat was her mentor and they would have convivial conversations and they would share emotions and share things about their lives, and Snapper doesn’t care about that. And Kara isn’t a good reporter yet. She’s learning. The next episode, she writes this piece that she thinks is so great, and he just rips it to shreds, and he’s right to. I think that’s what’s interesting here. Kara became an … She’s probably the best assistant you could ever have, between just being Kara Danvers and being the responsible person that Kara is, but then on top of that just being SUPERGIRL, she was able to accomplish a lot. Now she’s picked a profession that she, by some rights, shouldn’t even be in. She really has to prove herself. That’s interesting because, last year, even though she had to deal with Cat, Kara had it all going on at CatCo. SUPERGIRL was where she was sort of flummoxed sometimes and earning her wings. Now she’s fully SUPERGIRL, she’s saved the world a couple of times, she knows what she’s doing there. Now she’s sucked into a job that she barely … she isn’t great at. Watching her slowly win Snapper over, is that much more satisfying. Ian (Gomez) is so great. He doesn’t give her much, but there’s a great scene in a later episode where he’s so mean to her, and she leaves, and he just smiles to himself. It’s like, “Is he happy that he was mean to her, or was he actually like, ‘Good for you kid, you got some gumption.'” They’ve got this very Lou Grant/Mary Tyler moral relationship, and it’s certainly not a relationship that’s going to have any hugs any time soon, but it’s something new for her to come over. It’s that thing of … I don’t know if any of you guys have been assistants, but you know, you’re an assistant, you learn everything there is to know about your boss, and then your reward is to get a promotion, to go work for somebody who you don’t know at all, and you’re right back at the bottom again and you suddenly know nothing. That’s a very common thing that happens to people, and that’s what’s happened to Kara, which is why her day life has become even more complicated than her heroics.
To see where and when Superman continues to pop in and out of Kara’s life and how she adjusts to her new boss, be sure to tune in for all new episodes of SUPERGIRL on Monday nights at 8:00 p.m. on the CW. (Same night, same time, just a new network!)
Merrill is a big fan of TV, and when we say big, we mean BIG. If it's a scripted show, he's seen it. If it's a reality show... well he's still probably seen it at least once. Merrill lives for the small screen, and loves himself a bowl of popcorn and Netflix marathon on those warm Los Angeles nights. He also has a pension for web videos, but that's a discussion for another day.