With the recent success of Deadpool, many have been talking about the new world of possibilities for R-rated superhero movies. While Deadpool has now proven that an R-rated superhero film can be successful, director Lexi Alexander had made her mark eight years ago with her own R-rated superhero movie, Punisher: War Zone. While the movie didn't fare well at the box office, the film has since earned a cult following and been brought up in conversation again, with the huge box office success of Deadpool.
Alexander has now made her transition away from the film industry to becoming a television director. Recently, she has been working on Arrow and now has another directing credit on CBS’ Limitless. With the success of Arrow, Alexander has become familiar with directing superheroes on the TV screen and has even gained the trust of executive producer Andrew Kreisberg - who then let the director take on Supergirl herself.
Screen Rant recently talked to the Supergirl director about her new episode, “Truth, Justice, and the American Way”, how she’s influenced Kara’s (Melissa Benoist) fighting style on the show, and what superheroes she would like to direct next.
We’re here to talk about your new Supergirl episode, which is the first one you’re directing, and I know that you’ve worked on Arrow previously. How do you approach that differently from something more dark like Arrow?
Supergirl is only in its first season and the writers and creators are developing this character and were happy to have input, like the fighting style. I came just at a time when they were thinking about what’s the next step to her fighting style. They were really excited to have someone like me, who is actually a former fighter. So I was able, creatively, to add much more than I am usually able to do in TV.
You were a previous stuntwoman and a martial artist, you’ve influenced that in Supergirl. Will they be using your fighting style in future Supergirl episodes?
I asked if I could change the fights that they planned and they said, ‘Absolutely, that’s why we hired you’. I made it slightly more grounded, like she doesn’t need to rely on her powers, she’s more of a badass without using them. They liked it a lot, I mean think Andrew Kreisberg has said that it’s best fight sequences we’ve ever had on the show.
They told me afterwards that it’s a blueprint for every fight they’re doing from now on. For someone like me, it’s a huge compliment. In TV, it’s not often that you’re asked to contribute so much creatively.
Maybe, they haven’t invited me. Here’s the thing: I’m so grateful that Andrew [Kreisberg] I consider who the person who opened the gates for me directing on TV, it’s going to be hard to say ‘no’ to anything he wants me on because I feel like I owe him a lot.
I’m currently working on a show called Limitless. I’m stoked to not have not to have a single stunt scene, so I’m really happy about that people are hiring me that have nothing to do with action. I don’t need to direct any superhero show in town, but I’m always not going to be ungrateful that they consider me the go-to girl for superhero shows.
Since you mentioned Limitless, you’ve been gravitating more towards directing on TV. What does television offer that movies don’t right now?
First of all, movies generally treat women like shit. I don’t have a good time there. In terms of equality, movies are worst than some third-world countries that we look down upon. Movies are the Saudi Arabi of gender equality.
That’s why whenever my manager tries to convince to direct a movie again, I’m always telling them it’s like you’re asking me would you like to go back to the locker room of the National Football League. Now I’m finally allowed in, but it’s not a great environment for me, I don’t want to be around guys like that. It’s not fun. No one believes in you. They might hire you, but they’re not excited about hiring you. You’re a constant risk. It’s a just a belief that because you don’t look like Spielberg or there hasn’t been a woman who’s made a shit-ton of money. Nevermind that we’re not in the position the where we were able to do that. We’re always the underdog. It’s not fun for me. TV is such a better environment. I say this often, but Supergirl is the best experience in my entire career. I don’t know what people can offer me to even consider a movie again. What I think they would have to offer me, they wouldn’t offer me anyways because they don’t really care about women directors.
You’ve pitched TV shows, do you see yourself becoming a showrunner? What show would you like to direct?
I pitch a lot, I’ve been doing that for years. I’ve had a lot of shows optioned and spec pilots optioned, but they’ve never made it on the air. That’s my dream come true, to have one of my shows on, because I think that the best version of me is when I can completely contribute.
I think back to one of my best feature experiences was Green Street [Hooligans], which was something I experienced in my teens. It was developed, co-written and directed by me and it’s a true filmmakers’ journey. It was my world that I brought to the audience. I feel like, creating my own TV show would be similar version of that on TV. Yes, I pitch a lot and write a lot.
Is there any comic that you’ve liked recently that you would like to adapt as a TV show or on the big screen?
There’s so many of them. I really like Greg Rucka’s work, I loved Lazarus and I loved Stumptown.
I’m very outspoken for women and a middle-eastern crowd. My dad is Arab, I’m not Muslim, but half of family is, so I see a lot of injustice happening in the portrayal of Muslims that they don’t have any heroes. A personally favorite of mine would be is Kamala Khan. There’s so many more that could be put onto the screen.
With Jessica Jones, Marvel is really going for darker storylines, do you see there’s an opportunities for these type of comics?
I hope so. One of the great things about Jessica Jones, I love that show, we’re talking about rape and consent and not understand the word ‘no’, which is such a big subject, but no one spoke those words. It was an entire show about consent or rape, but no one said consent or rape. I think comic book writers are really genius. I’m saying beyond DC and Marvel, we should go into other publishers and find stories that are Jessica Jones-like. Imagine things we can change, telling stories in a way that young people may attention to them. They can’t create enough of that.
Frankly, I’m seeing it go on and they’re still kind of listening and letting only certain people pitch. Whenever they have to send our millions, they say let’s trust the guys who did 24 and did X-Files. They’re not giving newcomers a chance or new publishers a chance. I’m hoping that changes, so much content needs to be produced for TV that I feel like it’s going to happen.
With the success of Deadpool, it’s open a whole range possibilities of R-Rated superheroes. From your experience with Punisher: War Zone, what do you see the future of the R-Rated world in both TV or movies?
The whole Deadpool thing is bittersweet for me. I did get credit, but I didn’t get anything at the box office. They left me hanging with no marketing. For weeks, I’ve been watching this genius marketing campaign, so it’s hard for me to watch it, but at the same time, enough of the smart people have written about me or written me emails saying that it was ahead of your time.
It’s a double-edged sword, I made a R-Rated film eight years ago that became a cult hit, so it’s great everyone is on the train now. I think there needs to be a limit to things. I hope there’s not five years where everyone is trying to do Deadpool. Deadpool is massively successful because they made a very unique movie. That uniqueness and originality, try to imitate that. Not, how about let’s try to do Deadpool on a train. They always take the wrong thing from a box office success. Trust new filmmakers and trust them with budgets that haven’t really been proven in the box office.
You’re one of the few directors to direct both Marvel and DC characters. Is there a superhero that you would want to direct?
Vixen is my favorite! We need a Vixen show. Look, the next step we need is a women of color superhero. We can do that, that is the next step. She’s in an episode coming up on Arrow on the 25th and I assume this is a test from the network. I hope that crowd gets behind this. The worst thing that can happen to us that happen to equality is getting a white superhero female, but we can’t have a black one. It’s not good for intersectionality for equality, for anything. It’s not good for our culture. We all need to be represented.
Is there any other comic book hero that you would love to see their own show or movie?
Kamala Khan, definitely.
Is there anything you’ve want the Supergirl fans to know?
I really would like for people to tune in and for everyone else to tune. In TV, what’s not certain is that a show comes back for a second season and super important that this show doesn’t get cancelled. I want it to have the best ratings possible.
Thank you so much for your time to chat with me.
Thank you, I appreciate you for doing this interview.
Supergirl continues with ‘Truth, Justice and The American Way’ on Monday, February 22 on CBS.