Nicole Maines, cast as TV's first transgender superhero in Supergirl, has acknowledged that she feels a tremendous sense of responsibility in taking on the role. "It feels fitting to say with great power comes great responsibility," she observed.
The CW's superhero shows have always had strong themes of inclusivity and representation. That message was reinforced at San Diego Comic-Con 2018, when The CW announced that actress Nicole Maines has been cast as Dreamer, the first transgender superhero. Her character was described as "a soulful young transgender woman with a fierce drive to protect others," and the character arc - which sees Dreamer evolve into a superhero - will deliberately parallel Kara's own journey to rediscover what it means to be Supergirl.
Maines, who was featured in the HBO documentary The Trans List, admitted she's well aware of the pressure that comes with taking on this role. In an interview with Variety, she admitted she hadn't really wrapped her head around it yet. "It feels fitting to say with great power, comes great responsibility," she observed. "I’m nervous because I want to do it right." The actress feels this is an ideal opportunity to help fans and TV viewers understand the trans community. As Maines explained:
"We can be whoever we want, we can do whatever we want, we can be superheroes, because in many ways we are. We’ve had trans representation in television for a while but it hasn’t been the right representation."
It's clear that Maines is delighted that The CW actually chose to cast a trans actress for the role. She reflected back on the recent controversy that saw Scarlett Johansson depart from Rub & Tug, and insisted she doesn't believe cisgender actors take on this kind of role out of malice. But Maines still insisted that this kind of representation is important. "With trans folks we have a lot of people accusing us of just playing dress up for whatever reasons," she pointed out, "and that’s just not true." The implication of Maines's logic is an interesting one; she fears that casting a cisgender actor for this kind of role role subtly reinforces the prejudice.
The CW's superhero shows have a strong tradition of this kind of representation. Legends of Tomorrow, for example, features live-action media's first Muslim superhero, Zari Tomaz (Tala Ashe). Black Lightning had the first black lesbian superhero, while Supergirl season 2 featured a major plot involving Kara's sister Alex accepting that she's a lesbian and starting to date a woman. This is just the next step in reinforcing the message of inclusivity and cultural representation that has been core to the DCTV superhero shows. For all Maines may be feeling the pressure, her showrunners are well used to supporting their actors through it at this point.
Supergirl season 4 premieres October 14 on The CW.