The CW's DC Comics-based TV universe is going strong with Arrow and The Flash, and will expand further with Legends of Tomorrow. Meanwhile, DC properties adapted on other networks have not fared quite as spectacularly. Fox's Batman prequel series Gotham held on throughout an uneven debut season and will return for another, but NBC's Constantine has been canceled.
Which makes Supergirl, which debuts this fall on CBS, seem like such a gamble. On the other hand, Arrow and The Flash executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg are the show's creators, and their run of success is one reason for fans to remain cautiously optimistic... even if reactions to the leaked pilot have been mixed.
In an interview with IGN during the CBS Upfront event last month, the show's main cast members Melissa Benoist (Supergirl), Chyler Leigh (Alex Danvers) and Mehcad Brooks (
Jimmy James Olsen) discussed their roles in such a high-profile new series. Benoist acknowledged how high the expectations are, saying:
I think we’re just as excited to work on it and create it. There’s a lot of pressure, but the good kind to just blow everyone out of the water and inspire some people.
Chyler Leigh talked about the atmosphere during the Upfront:
Across the board we’ve had some great conversations about the show and it was just awesome to see the presentation. It’s such a great electricity in the room, with all the shows coming up and just watching and getting a piece of all that, that was really cool. That was exciting.
Mehcad Brooks - whose character "James" Olsen perhaps underlines the separation between DC's newly established movie universe, given that he doesn't exist in it (yet) - said the following when asked how it felt to become part of such a storied universe:
Beyond flattering. I’m ecstatic, as we all are. It’s a dream come true but at the same time, it’s also our job so we have to respect the world we’re stepping into but also bring our own voice to it. That’s exciting, doing that juggling act and trying to have a good time and not be stressed out about it.
As for Benoist's Kara Zor-El/Kara Danvers/Supergirl, her character was sent to protect her cousin (Superman) but wound up entering the fray as a superhero in his shadow. Benoist discussed why, saying:
There are numerous reasons that you’ll discover throughout the show. Also I think part of her thinks Earth already had a hero. It’s been 24 years and she comes to Earth and Superman, who was a baby then, is now grown and is Earth’s hero and she kind of feels like she won’t live up to what he has created for himself.
And Leigh, as Kara's adopted sister Alex Danvers, hints that her character will act as a conscience of sorts for Kara:
My character is very concerned about it because now she’s put herself out in the public so that the public could identify her and then it becomes a big threat and an issue just for safety purposes and what not. You come to learn a lot about my character and what she does and who she really is and how it correlates to where Supergirl is right now and how it’s really super bad timing... I didn’t mean to say super like that!
The Supergirl trailer contained broad teases of a possible romantic relationship between Brooks' James Olsen and Kara Danvers. This is bound to become complicated, given Olsen's experience as Superman's 'BFF,' which means that Olsen will play a big role in in guiding the fledgling superhero. According to Brooks:
Like any good mentor, I think you step back and you allow someone to be who they are and then you tweak if they ask for advice. Superman asked me to come - that’s so weird to say, “Superman asked me to come.” Superman asked my character to come and watch over his cousin, who he cares about very much, and help her reach her potential. So it isn’t about me as it is I’m a tool to help her get there.
Supergirl has a committed cast, a pair of showrunners who have a proven track record within the genre, high expectations and a unique position as superhero TV counter-programming. Early critics of the show have invoked the trailer's perceived reliance on tired rom-com tropes, but Berlanti and Kreisberg proved with The Flash that a buoyant, colorful approach to costumed do-gooders can strike a real chord with audiences, and Supergirl is poised to tap into a whole new demographic. We'll find out this fall just how well the cast delivers under such pressure.
Supergirl premieres on CBS on October 26th, 2015.