Over the past few months, Melissa Benoist has certainly gotten a sense of what “Up, up and away” feels like.
As the star of CBS’ freshmen series “Supergirl,” which hit big ratings heights immediately upon takeoff, the former “Glee” actress became an overnight icon as the current TV incarnation of Kara Zor-El. Her face and flying figure were everywhere in the fall, from buses to billboards to the sides of buildings. Viewer interest has remained strong as the series soars into the second half of its first season.
During a recent set visit by the Television Critics Association, Benoist joined a small group of reporters including CBR News to reveal the effects the show’s success and the DC Comics-based character’s innate decency have had on her on and off screen.
Has being this character changed you in terms of feeling what she inspires?
Melissa Benoist: Oh completely, yeah. It’s really, definitely taught me, I’ve never really been a passive person or a meek, I wouldn’t say, but I definitely know what it feels like to be a wallflower and to not want to impose and to be a yes man. This job in definitely teaching me to stand up for myself and to not take any — I don’t want to say a bad word. This is me being modest — not take any crap, yeah.
Do you also feel that sort of inherent goodness in her? Is she almost an example to you?
Yeah, I mean, what she stands for I think would be difficult for anyone to live up to, in today’s world especially. She totally holds me to those standards just in playing her every day.
How has your life changed personally since this went on the air? Are you buying yourself anything special for a treat?
Everyone’s always asking me that, but you know what? My life is here, really. I spend most of it [on set] at Warner Bros. I’m saving. I’m being smart. My mother would be proud of me!
How much ownership do you take of the costume now? When you see yourself in it, do you feel like, “That’s me!”
Totally. Now, yes. I think I’ve gotten to the point where I feel very comfortable in it. I feel like every time it’s on, I know something hard is coming up. Whether it’s a fight or some kind of crazy, emotional scene with someone that is a nemesis or something that is hurting her because I think Supergirl putting on the suit entails putting on all of her baggage, to me.
It’s not too uncomfortable, unless it’s 103 degrees outside — which we’ve done some days like that! You get a little bit of, if it’s really hot, nothing up [top] breathes. If it’s really cold, my legs are exposed.
Did you go read the original to prep for the upcoming episode based on it?
Did I read the comic? Oh yeah! The whole episode, it’s been my favorite to play. I think it’s beautiful. It’s got this “Wizard of Oz” type feel to it. We talked so much about how Kara has lost and how important Krypton was to her, and to actually be Kara Zor-El on Krypton was a pretty magical feeling.
It just feels good to honor the past. Not many people have played this character before. It’s a special thing to be a part of. Not many people play Kryptonians, really. That’s rare and unique. So I feel like Laura is an amazing addition to our show.
How much of a relief was it that the show was so well-received?
Well, there’s always trepidation. Especially when something’s being pushed. We were advertised everywhere. That was the only moment that I felt any trepidation like, “Oh God, that’s going to be embarrassing if no one likes it.” I never really had any true fear. I knew that most everyone would be able to take something away from it.
How is it working with your husband Blake Jenner again?
A dream! Any chance that we could ever have to work together I’ll take. I love working with him.
Is there a romance going on between Kara and Cat’s son?
There are sparks, yes. He definitely complicates things.
“Supergirl” airs Mondays at 8 pm EST on CBS.