With so much happening in the world of CBS’s “Supergirl,” can even the Girl of Steel keep up with all the tweaks and twists on DC Comics mythology that producers throw at her?
Just last week it was announced that Laura Vandervoort, who played Kara Zor-El on “Smallville,” has been cast as the alien biocomputer Indigo, and that the series will introduce its own spin on Alan Moore’s classic Superman story “For the Man Who Has Everything.”
Following that on-set press conference for members of the Television Critics Association, “Supergirl” executive producers Andrew Kreisbeg and Sarah Schechter joined a smaller group of reporters to put even finer points on those announcements, as well to add details about the show’s takes on some other DC Comics characters, including Bizarro and Silver Banshee.
Andrew Kreisberg: There’s going to be an episode coming up that’s going to have Melissa [Benoist], Laura Vandervoort and Helen Slater all in the same episode; we’ll have three generations of Supergirls. And to think that the next Supergirl, who’s still a little girl, is out there watching this — we always consider ourselves to be the custodians of this leg of the journey. But these characters came before us, and they’re going to come after us. We’re just the lucky ones who get to be at the wheel for this portion of the ride.
Is Helen in the same episode as Laura?
Kreisberg: She’s not in that episode, but another episode.
Is the “For the Girl Who Has Everything” storyline the episode that we’ve heard has young Kal-El in it?
Kreisberg: That would be a good guess.
Thirty years ago, DC Comics said “We are going to let Supergirl go,” with an iconic image of Superman holding her in “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” And now, who would have thought, 30 years later. … What is it about this character that keeps coming back?
Kreisberg: I think for us, Clark was raised in Kansas from the time he was a baby. For all intents and purposes, he’s a Kansan; he’s an American. He came from Krypton, but he really has the attitude and the growth and the childhood and everything about him is human. For Kara, she grew up on this alien paradise with other worlds. She’s been to multiple planets, she’s met multiple alien races. That was before she left. And all of that was taken away and suddenly she was alone. Her mother was dead and her father was dead. She was going to junior high in a beach community in California.
Sarah Schechter: As we know, junior high is a terrible place on any planet.
Kreisberg: It’s a terrible place on any planet. So I think that that pathos that’s been built into the character, for us, just made it far more interesting. And it’s no disrespect for Superman in any way, but I just think that there’s so much more to Kara to play. Without that backstory, you don’t really get episodes like “Red Faced” with the Red Tornado. You don’t get episodes like “Blood Bonds.”
In a way, I think it actually makes “For the Girl Who Had Everything” even more evocative, because she’s now going back to a place she remembers, as opposed to, geez, I always wanted this to be true. She’s actually getting back everything that was taken away from her. The only way out of it is to reject it. Imagine how horrible that’s going to be.
What can you tease for the Bizarro episode that’s been announced?
Kreisberg: Cat coins her Bizarro, which I think is very appropriate. As she says, “I named Supergirl, I can name her enemies.” I think the biggest thing about that it was sort of a surprise for us as we were constructing the character and the arc is how sad Bizarro is. In a way, we sort of think about her like Frankenstein. She’s a monster, but she has a pure child’s heart.
Ironically, in the episode, while everyone else is saying we’ve got to figure out a way to destroy her, Kara is the only one to say, “No, no, we have to save her.” I think that makes that episode so emblematic what’s so special about Kara, that she’s looking to save everybody, even if they’re the bad guy.
With Indigo, are there any inside jokes to Laura’s past role as Supergirl?
Kreisberg: I’m trying to think, in the script … First of all, when the show was announced, Laura sent out the sweetest tweet just saying how honored she had been and how excited she was for Melissa. That meant so much to me. I just thought it was such a classy move. Then I met her at the Saturn Awards. We had such a great talk. There has actually been a couple of other parts that we tried to get her for but she wasn’t free because “Bitten” is in production. As always, with casting, I always find that when a role doesn’t work out with somebody, it’s because the right role is coming down the pike.
And now to have her step in and be a recurring character on the show. Even at that first table read, it was like, we always introduce the guest cast, but to sit there and to say, “Brainiac 8 as Indigo, we have Laura Vandervoort here.” Badass. She’s going to look awesome. She’s definitely not going to look just like Laura
Anything you can tease about how she comes in? Who she’s connected to?
Well, being one aspect of the Brainiac Program, she comes in through computers. So Winn is actively involved in that episode. She has a very interesting backstory: She was one of the Fort Rozz prisoners, but how she came to be and she ended up in the prison, what she’s been doing on Earth is part of the fun of the surprise of the episode.
Schechter: Her backstory fits in quite nicely and is integral to our overarching mythology, which is great.
Are there some other specific stories from the comics that you’re really looking for ways to translate to a “Supergirl” story or character?
Kreisberg: No, We’ve never looked at the show as a Superman show that we could just plug Supergirl in; she is such a different character. There was just something about that particular story that to me is almost even more resonant for her. For Superman, when it happens to him, it’s his wish for something that he never had. But for her, she wants something back that was taken from her. So it really is like her stepping into this fantasy of what life would have been like if she had never left Krypton, if she’d grown up there, if her parents were still alive, if she had grown into the person and had the life that she wanted to lead.
Again, because it’s coming at a time where she’s feeling so low about her life on Earth, it becomes that much more potent and because, really, it’s the Black Mercy, it’s a bit of a sirens call. She wants to hear it now more than ever. So again, it’s not like we’re sitting around combing through old Superman books. It’s no disrespect to Superman, who I love. It’s just that this is Supergirl and it just so happened that that one particular “Superman” story I thinks works even better for Supergirl than it did for him in some ways.
Will you have to do any casting for that? Do we see her father?
Kreisberg: We’ve seen him a couple of times. Zor-El is definitely in it, but it’s also the episode that features young Kal-El.
Who’s the villain of the piece?
Kreisberg: The villain in that episode? It’s her fate, if she doesn’t make the right choice.
What about Silver Banshee?
Kreisberg: Silver Banshee will be making an appearance. How that happens we’re going to keep under wraps – we’ve told you so much! My God. Again, just like when we brought Colton [Haynes] on to “Arrow,” we brought on the character of Roy Harper. That didn’t mean that we were going to turn him into Arsenal right away. You saw there was a progression. So we have Italia Ricci, who’s so amazing. We can’t wait for people to get a look at her playing Siobhan Smythe and how, why, when, if she becomes Silver Banshee. If.
You guys have been so successful incubating other series on your DC shows. Did you see this as a vehicle to do that? Or do you really want to keep it strictly to Supergirl’s world?
Schechter: One day at a time.
Kreisberg: One day at a time. Right now, as we’re doing this, yesterday we talked about “Legends.” This show has been incredibly difficult from a production standpoint, far more than we were anticipating. So while we’re so thrilled with where the show is creatively, we’re really just now getting to a great place with it. A great place to our ability to actually realize what it is that we’re writing. I think you saw that [here] in episodes eight and nine. You’re going to see that moving forward. So for right now, we’re just trying to … we’re happy with what we have and where we’re at.
“Supergirl” airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.