Supergirl star David Harewood discusses his dual roles in season 2 as J’onn J’onzz/Martian Manhunter and Hank Henshaw/Cyborg Superman. In its first season, Supergirl largely worked to introduce its titular heroine, Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist), and the delicate balance of her world as she embraced her superhero alter-ego. However, the first season also left breadcrumbs of story and character arcs that the series began to explore more fully in season 2, the most notable being the anti-alien organization CADMUS, and their role in the disappearances of Jeremiah Danvers (Dean Cain) and Hank Henshaw.
In season 2, it was revealed that Cadmus had rescued a badly injured Hank Henshaw and turned him into a cyborg, going under the villainous title Cyborg Superman. Since J’onn has the power of shapeshifting, and he impersonated Hank for many years, he largely remains in that form while still working with the DEO. As such, Harewood had the chance to pull double duty in Supergirl season 2 – but he much preferred portraying one character over the other.
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In a Supanova interview, Harewood was asked which character is more fun to play, either J’onn J’onzz or Cyborg Superman, and the actor was quick to choose the Martian Manhunter. In his explanation, Harewood revealed playing Hank Henshaw’s villainous alter-ego is “boring.” See his full response:
I don’t like playing Cyborg Superman. It’s boring. They didn’t really flesh it out, they didn’t really write for the character. They just gave me this rather cheap-looking mask and no costume, and said ‘Okay, you’re Cyborg Superman.’ But it didn’t really pan out – they didn’t really go into why he was a cyborg, how he became a cyborg, what his powers were … it was just kind of randomly calling him ‘Cyborg Superman.’
I was very excited about it at first, but then I very quickly realized that there wasn’t really much to it … so, it’s kind of boring. Whenever I’m walking to my trailer and I see that costume, I just switch off. Because I know it’s going to be a really boring day.
Supergirl has received criticism in both its first and second seasons for underdeveloped villains, particularly when it comes to one-off antagonists like Red Tornado and Jemm in season 1 as well as Metallo and Parasite in season 2. In terms of Cyborg Superman, the character was largely introduced to facilitate exciting action sequences in his battles with Kara – offering some emotional weight since he shares a face with her surrogate father figure. However, the villain was relegated to the background in later season 2 episodes, often acting as an evil henchman to CADMUS leader Lillian Luthor (Brenda Strong).
So, Harewood’s criticisms of the Cyborg Superman character being underdeveloped are arguably warranted. Many Supergirl viewers may agree with the actor that the villain was an adaptation of the DC Comics character in name and appearance only, with the show not quite nailing what exactly made Cyborg Superman such a formidable foe for Superman in the comic books.
That said, with both Lillian Luthor and Cyborg Superman still on the loose in the Supergirl season 2 finale, there’s potential for the character to get more substantial story and character arcs. In fact, Supergirl’s take on Livewire (Britt Morgan) wasn’t well received in season 1, but the villain returned for a much more compelling turn in season 2 – so there’s certainly the possibility for improvement when it comes to Cyborg Superman. Of course, whether the show develops Hank Henshaw/Cyborg Superman more in season 2 remains to be seen when Supergirl returns this fall.
Supergirl season 3 premieres Monday, October 9 @8pm on The CW
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