As more and more men and women are cast to bring comic book superheroes to life, a mixture of excitement and overwhelming pressure seems to be the most natural reaction. When it comes to playing a female superhero, the expectations are only more intense. But that’s the challenge facing Melissa Benoist, star of Supergirl.
As the pilot nears production, the network is calling on established talent to round out the cast (and no doubt invest in some impressive special effects). However, despite the ties to DC Comics’ biggest hero, it seem Benoist is most excited about the elements of Kara Zor-El not tied to her Kryptonian powers – and sees them as the most likely to win over audiences.
The unique perception and challenges facing the few female faces in the superhero space – and the rest of the CBS slate of dramas – may make Supergirl seem like a risky bet, but it’s certainly got more proven talent behind it than many other comic adaptations in development. Executive producer Greg Berlanti has learned the hard way how to craft a solid comic series in both Arrow and The Flash, with his efforts now placed on adding a female complement.
Of course, much (if not all) of the pilot’s strength or promise will be placed on Benoist’s shoulders. But when addressing the upcoming role with CBR, the actress didn’t claim that it was the superpowers, the action, or even her very own Super-suit that has her eager to tackle the part:
“What’s so wonderful about her is that she is such a relatable character, amongst her powers… What I’m the most excited about is telling a story about a human being really realizing their potential and their strength, and I think that’s something that everyone will root for and want in their own lives – I’m really excited about that.
“It’s a little daunting… but that’s good. I like being pushed. I work well under pressure.”
Benoist seems to be reiterating the message sent by CBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler, who previously stated that it was the strength of Kara’s character (presumably for younger audiences as well as old) that won the network over, which originated in Berlanti and producing partner Ali Adler’s initial pitch. Using terms like ‘feminist’ to communicate what version of Kara Zor-El CBS is wanting to showcase is guaranteed to court discussion and dissection these days, so hopefully, that’s a sign of just how confident the network is in the show and Benoist’s portrayal.
Add in the fact that Kara will be crossing paths with some of the most beloved “Superman” characters around, and that she will apparently share the screen with the Man of Steel himself, and it’s no surprise that Benoist is still pinching herself at the opportunity. With roles in Glee and the critically-acclaimed Whiplash under her belt, Benoist seems all too aware of just how fast her star could potentially rise in the coming months:
“I think if you told my five-year-old self that all this would be happening in this period of time, I would not have believed you! Because it’s been really wonderful. I feel so privileged to be working and doing what I’ve always loved to do since I was four years old… I’m a little overwhelmed by it, to be honest.”
A gracious star is always helpful in winning an audience, but only the finished product will reveal how much potential Supergirl has in finding a regular spot on the small screen. What do you think of Benoist’s comments, and the actress’ fit in the role? Do you think there’s room for another network superhero show following The Flash‘s lead, or do you have concerns?
Supergirl is expected to air on CBS in 2015.