Supergirl, the last daughter of Krypton, possesses superhuman strength, flight and heat vision to aid in her quest for justice. She’s used these assets to track down fugitives from the Phantom Zone prison Fort Rozz after it was destroyed following a crash landing on earth. This week she’ll encounter someone who wants to do more than catch the escaped prisoners on CBS’s “Supergirl.”
When Master Jailer (Jeff Branson) arrives on the scene during tonight’s all-new episode, “Truth, Justice and the American Way,” he’ll seek to capture the escapees — and then exterminate them. His own super-strength and an arsenal of gadgets, traps and weapons — including his deadly animated chains — mean Supergirl may have finally met her match when they find themselves on opposite sides of law and the moral divide.
Ahead of his debut on tonight’s episode, Branson spoke with CBR News about Master Jailer’s agenda, his super-powered bag of tricks, partnering with Supergirl and his unexpected connection to her mother.
CBR News: Most television viewers are probably in the dark when it comes to Master Jailer. Who is he and what is he capable of?
Jeff Branson: It depends on what incarnation you are talking about. You could go with the original lore of the fat kid that lost weight. When I was doing my homework, there were different backgrounds. If the Jailer does come around again, we’re going to find his powers unfolding one at a time. In this incarnation, he is capable of a lot more than we see because of his affiliation with the yellow sun. He is formidable and technologically advanced. He has a smart mind and a strong body. He has a laser-sharp resolution about what has to be done. He’s very specific.
What initially causes Master Jailer and Supergirl to clash?
He’s finishing the good work started by Alura [Laura Benanti]. He’s wrangling up these aliens. His form of justice is different than Supergirl’s. They cross paths going after the same target. Once they encounter each other, there’s a misunderstanding that the Jailer has. He feels there should be a partnership here. “We should work together. We’re doing the same thing.” It grows from there, but the Jailer’s confusion is they could be allies. But Supergirl obviously sees him as a sociopathic, serial killing alien.
His weapon of choice is chains. What makes the ones he carries extraordinary?
The chains are an extension of his arms, fingers and mind. They don’t just fall, dangle and whip around like normal chains do. They can go where he dictates. Let’s just say they have a mind of their own, but it’s his mind.
Were the chains computer generated or did you have to learn to master the real deal?
No, no. I had to whip some real ones about. Obviously, when it comes down to whipping real ones around Melissa’s neck, that’s not going to happen, so that’s CG. But Melissa [Benoist], to her ultimate credit, is such an ass-kicking gal. She was down for whatever. She was down for the long hours and she was down to get it right. There were many plastic versions of the chains wrapped around her neck.
Did you have any mishaps because chains can be difficult to handle?
Several. It came to be where we had to move to a separate spot. The conflict is the director wants one thing and the director of photography knows something else is going to happen. Then, you have the guy in the suit trying to throw these chains around. We had to stop a couple of times, and, to their credit, they sat there and figured out how they were going to get it done in post-production if it didn’t work out the way they wanted. It was difficult.
What was it like getting your very own costume and how did it help channel your character?
It was a childhood dream. There are two things most male actors want to do. They want to be on a superhero series and they want to be in a Western. To get your own suit made for you based on a comic book, and to be a very badass villain, is a dream come true. They did such a thoughtful job of putting the costume together because I assumed it was going to be a two-hour dressing every day, and it wasn’t. We got in and out of it in about 20 minutes. They literally sculpted it to my body, which was worth every minute of the hours and hours we did of fittings. It came on and off easily and it’s very form-fitting. When the tight suit is around you, it changes your entire body and disposition. You feel like you have more leverage, more weight and you’re more grounded. It changed the character and the voice. It lends itself to the performance quite a bit.
The series doesn’t hold back when it comes to the action. How much of that physicality did you get to enjoy?
As much as I could, until they told me I couldn’t do anymore. I’m down to doing all my own stunts, but, obviously, you can’t. The fight sequences on this show are incredible. You clearly can’t do all your own fight choreography because it’s just not safe for the actors. I did as much as they allowed me, but Lexi Alexander, the director of the episode, is a powerhouse. Given her background, she wanted more combat, more physicality. When you up the stakes and the ante, we had to bring people in to finish some of the shots.
What else can you tease about Master Jailer’s debut and recurring arc?
Given how well the Jailer knew Kara’s mother — and given the work that he’s doing and the fact they can run parallels in the Supergirl moments, but do it in very different ways — there’s going to be a backboard to spring ideas off of. I think she’s going to have intellectual conversations. He’s going to tell her stories about her mother. Whether she wants it or not, there’s a potential for closeness — an uncomfortable closeness. It’s not anything romantic, I’m just saying from her history and past that she’s unaware of.
There could be endless stories shared. There could also be a lot of the Jailer working at Supergirl, not to manipulate her, because he believes in what he’s doing, but to try and win her over to his side of how justice should be perceived, and what she’s doing isn’t just. It’s just throwing a band-aid on it. The problem needs to be eliminated. And, then obviously, when your words don’t work anymore, there could be a great fight scene between them.
Master Jailer is targeting Fort Rozz escapees. How important will it be for him to eventually snag Laura Vandervoort’s Indigo?
It’s probably on the top of his list to be honest. I would assume in the future when we see the Jailer again — and given his history — he’s also a master escape artist. If he was captured, we wouldn’t expect him to be locked up for long. At that time, I think who he would go after next would be Indigo.
They don’t call him Master Jailer for nothing. What were some of your favorite prisons or traps that he employed?
Without giving too much away, wait until you see my ship. He has a very interesting incarceration/elimination process. For imprisoning people, the chains and the gauntlets are key. They direct people and open things. The chains are pretty imposing and good for imprisoning.
“Supergirl” airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBS.
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