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Supergirl Director Explains the Power of Hoechlin’s Man of Steel

by  in TV News Comment
Supergirl Director Explains the Power of Hoechlin’s Man of Steel

It’s the moment “Supergirl” audiences have been clamoring for; after getting a brief glimpse of Kara’s super cousin Kal-El in the series premiere, audiences will finally see Supergirl unite with Superman when Season Two bows tonight at 8 PM on The CW.

Over the first season, his name was frequently referenced, and the Man of Steel even fell victim to Non’s mind-control scheme. However, Superman was never fully in the picture and his face never seen — until now.

RELATED: Supergirl’s World Won’t Merge With Arrowverse

The Season Two premiere, titled “The Adventure of Supergirl,” presents the two Kryptonians on screen together for the first time in an action-packed, emotional hour. Director Glen Winter — who has become a staple on “Arrow,” “Flash” and “Legends of Tomorrow” — captured the monumental on-screen team-up. And in a conversation with CBR, he opened up about “Supergirl’s” take on Superman, what Tyler Hoechlin brings to the role, the challenges of delivering epic action sequences and what’s in store for Supergirl once her famous cousin heads back to Metropolis.

CBR News: What did it mean for you when you discovered you would be introducing Superman in the premiere?

Glen Winter: First of all, having done “Smallville” for so many years — where we just teased [Superman] and never got to see him fully formed — it felt like it was coming full circle for me, just because of my own personal connection. Not only that, just finding a fully-formed Superman — you didn’t have to get into all the backstory. We already knew his connection to Kara from the pilot and little nuggets that were dropped along the way. We also got to finally see him in person because all through the first season, we only hinted at him.

In casting Tyler Hoechlin, he brought his own unique take on it. It was just so satisfying. Their vision of him was so bright and cheerful compared to Zack Snyder’s version — his brooding Superman. These guys made a choice to take him in a lighter direction. That was fun to play with.

When it was announced Superman was going to appear in the premiere, a few names were rumored to be in the running for the role. What made Hoechlin the right guy for the job?

Tyler was the perfect choice because he was so unabashedly enthusiastic to be there. Not only as an actor, but in the same way his character was within the actual story that we were telling. What Tyler was bringing to the show, it was the same dynamic as Superman being parachuted back into Kara’s life and spending the time with her. That dynamic paralleled each other. In the episode, he’s only there a short time. It’s fleeting, and it’s precious. At the end, when he leaves, he mourns having to leave Kara and misses her.

It was sort of the same with Tyler. “Oh, my God. We only have a couple of days left, and then I’ll be gone.” I was like, “Oh, I hope you’ll come back and join us for some more in the same way.” Superman does the same thing to Kara.

Tyler was just so thrilled to be there. He has this inner warmth and light in his personality and a noble strength. He felt very comfortable in the role. If he was nervous, I certainly didn’t sense it. We just worked on finding the tone of our Superman together. It just came naturally.

In your mind, how important was it to get an actor who can not only nail the Superman persona, but Clark Kent as well?

That was actually the part we spent some time trying to figure out. What are the characteristics of Clark Kent that everybody knows and loves from the movies? That’s the one that took a little finessing. Superman himself is stoic and a little reserved, but certainly warm. Clark Kent needed to have an inner glow and a bumblingness. In the story, he’s faking it, so we just played with levels of how far does he go in faking the awkwardness and how does that infuse into the character? You didn’t want it to be a caricature, either. That was the part that we spent more time on than the actual Superman persona. I think it was fun for Tyler to go back and forth.

What was the energy on set that very first time Hoechlin walked out in the Superman costume?

It was electric. We were shooting out on a country road. We were filming the aftermath of saving this giant plane from crashing to Earth. He looked amazing. On our TV schedule, there was very little time to prepare the suit. We had a whole schedule built that was a house of cards, that could have been destroyed in a cloud of dust had the suit not fit properly. We were all on pins and needles for the fitting photos to arrive. I don’t know what we would have done if it needed major alterations. Thank God it fit perfectly. I’ll never forget that collective sigh of relief when that happened.

What kind of discussions did you have about that scene where Clark rips open his shirt and runs down the alley before taking flight?

I had a vision in my head of what I wanted to do. In the script, it basically said, “Clark ducks into an alley and opens his shirt.” The shot from behind where you see him running in the suit and taking off wasn’t even in the script. I was like, “He’s here. He’s in the suit. We have to do it.” Originally in the script, he rips open his shirt and you cut to him flying up in the stratosphere. I didn’t want to deny the audience the opportunity to see him take off for the first time.

For me, any kind of graphic, cinematic moment that I can play out — if it’s not in the script, I’ll add it. Sometimes it’s a nice surprise for the producers. It can’t hurt to do a little bit more instead of a little less. Running him down the alley was super-fun, exciting and iconic. Again, I never got to do that on “Smallville.” That was certainly noted, too.

What were some of the challenges of filming that plane disaster sequence?

The biggest challenge is usually the visual effects and doing them on time and being able to afford it in the first place. On a TV show, that’s the biggest challenge. As far as what we had to film practically, it is the combination of green screen and plate shots. I would say for the production, it was budget, time and money for the visual effects to tell the story. For us, we never had two people flying together. Coordinating Melissa with Tyler flying in front of the green screen was tricky. Our stunt department did an amazing job with that.

What kind of relationship are you establishing between Kara and Clark?

That they are as close as we ever imagined that they would be. They have this unspoken connection between the two of them because of where they come from. There’s a lot of sharing between the two of them. Regardless of the friends and families that they have connections with here on Earth, ultimately they still feel like outsiders, that they are alone. Their real blood relatives are no longer with us. They really are all they have left. That’s a very vulnerable place for them to feel. So, when they have this really fleeting time together, it’s really special. That’s what these two episodes are about. It’s about spending time with family and how precious that time is. And no one knows you better than family.

You’re the action guy. How did the episode push you in that respect?

Typically, my biggest challenge is how to do a sequence in the time we have on a TV show budget and schedule. I would say the biggest challenge with the action on this was our studio wasn’t ready yet. We built a new DEO this year. The set was simply not ready yet when we started the season. They were building all the sets. So, we had to go out on location for the first two weeks, which was fine, and I love shooting on location. But all the action took place on location, which means the first week was solid action from beginning to end. There are super fights. There’s a very complicated fight that involves both superheroes.

It took some real coordination to figure out how to make it feel big and epic, but you have to shoot it in a day or two. There’s a Superman fight and a Supergirl fight, and they are intercut with each other. I actually got a day for each. Both days were so intense that the challenge was how to strategise, to shoot it efficiently and, yet, still get the scope of these fights that we needed within the time that we had.

You directed multiple episodes already this season. What else can you tease about what’s on the horizon for Supergirl?

You’re going to see a new villain this year that’s going to be a formidable foe not only for Supergirl, but a lot of her friends. There is going to be stuff going on with Kara and her sister that will push their boundaries. And there’s going to be some new superheroes coming down the pipeline.

Starring Melissa Benoist as the Girl of Steel, “Supergirl” airs Mondays at 8 pm ET/PT on The CW. The series also stars David Harewood as Martian Manhunter, Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen, Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers and Jeremy Jordan as Winn Schott and features appearances by Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant as well as Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman.

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