“Supergirl” audiences assuming new alien arrival Mon-El will act as a carbon copy of Superman are in for a rude awakening. Actor Chris Wood, who brings the classic DC Comics character to life, tells CBR that while his character may share a similar power set to the title hero, he’s not going to be portrayed as Kal-El Lite.
Ahead of tonight’s episode, “Survivors,” we discussed what the future holds in store for the arrival from Daxam — a planet that was in proximity to Krypton, and which was destroyed in the wake of Kara’s home world’s explosion. Wood opened up about Mon-El’s frat-boy attitude, Krypton’s turbulent history with Daxam, adopting a secret identity, and whether he’ll be suiting up to fight crime any time soon.
CBR: From day one, the producers stated this would not be your grandfather’s Mon-El. What is “Supergirl’s” take on the character?
Chris Wood: When I first sat down with the producers, they talked about the role and what they were hoping to do, as well as describing why I should come on board and hang out as this guy. In the comics, he has that dark, sad, lead poisoning, planets gone, locked in the Phantom Zone [attitude] – he’s got a heavy back story. In a lot of the comics, he’s portrayed as very straightforward and serious, much like Clark, but he almost seems more haunted by these demons. It always seemed like he was a little bit sad and removed.
Their spin on it was taking Mon-El and putting him where he lives in the light side of things. Whereas Clark takes his work very seriously and is grounded by the seriousness of who he is, what his powers are and what he does, Mon-El is sort of on the opposite side of the spectrum. Mon-El likes fun. Mon-El likes drinking. He’s a bit of a frat boy. He likes girls a lot. He has these abilities for the first time. Coming from his planet — he didn’t have powers there. Now, he has all these crazy skills that he doesn’t know what to do with, and no one told him he was going to have them. Instead of feeling a sense of responsibility, Mon-El feels a sense of play. That can be dangerous. That can also be entertaining for viewers. It can create some inherent conflict Kara is going to have to be responsible for.
Kara and Mon-El are among the last survivors of their planets. Does that help them relate to one another?
It helps in the sense that Kara, for the first time, sees somebody who is exactly like her. Clark is obviously identical to her in terms of powers and being one of two survivors. But Clark has already gone through everything a long time before her. He was so figured out by the time Kara even got here. By the time she started using her powers for good, she was however many years behind.
Kara sees this guy who is basically the same as her, but just starting out. She didn’t fulfill her duties of coming to Earth to protect Clark, to raise him and mentor him. She sees Mon-El as the chance to redeem that card and use that opportunity to guide somebody and hopefully get them on the right track. Mon-El is obviously alone. Coming to Earth, he doesn’t know anyone. He finds out at the end of the episode that his world is gone and he’s the only alien left. He has to deal with that realization. Thankfully, Kara recognizes that and will take him under her wing and try to mentor him and help him work through the adjustment to Earth.
With great power there must also come great responsibility. What makes Mon-El hero material? What’s his sense of justice?
That’s where Mon-El stands apart from the rest. That’s one of the places where he and Kara differ. Kara feels this inherent desire to protect and stand for good. She’s naturally not a selfish person. Mon-El likes to pursue pleasure and fun and things that benefit him. We get to see some of his backstory and we find out more about coming from Daxam and who he is in the next episode.
We still don’t obviously know everything about his life. You can see whatever his experiences were in life, that he’s about himself, and has a bit of a self-centeredness to him that he’s going to have to work through if he’s going to be able to do what Kara is hoping he can do, which is use his powers for good. That results in the separation between them because Daxam and Krypton were complete enemies in terms of understanding and co-operation. There’s discrimination on both of their parts where they are really going to have to work through that in order to get along.
There are numerous Mon-El costumes in the comic books. Have you tried any on, and which design speaks to you?
There’s quite a few out there. The Mon-El red is consistent between all the comic book versions. If and when we ever get a suit, obviously I’m hopefully it’ll at least pay homage to his costumes. I haven’t tried on anything yet. Obviously, signing up to wear spandex all day, every day, is not everyone’s first choice. When you choose to go play a superhero, there’s also the little kid in you that absolutely wants to put on a super-suit and go kick some ass.
Supergirl, Martian Manhunter and Superman all created secret identities. Will Mon-El also adopt one, or will he just be running amok?
Well, Kara’s mentorship includes insisting Mon-El has a second persona that he can live under without disturbing everyday life. That doesn’t necessarily sit easily with Mon-El. Kara’s first stab is trying to bring him to CatCo because that’s the obvious choice. “Come do what I do.” That’s going to provide a nice, entertaining quality when we get to episode 205, where you see this fish-out-of-water experience for Mon-El.
What else can you say about Mon-El’s trajectory this season?
What’s really great in this story is in the first season with Kara’s storyline, in the very first episode, she goes from existing and hiding her powers to full-on superhero mode. She gets her costume. She quickly resolves the selfishness versus the selflessness instincts and chooses to save the world.
There’s a nice story opportunity that’s missed when you are the lead character that has to do that, which is your natural instinct to want to take care of yourself and survive and not put your life at risk every single day. Having a character go through that story in season two – possibly the hero’s journey and possibly not – that’s a compelling story you don’t get to tell when you are doing a superhero series in the first season. Thankfully, we have a new character who has a similar backstory to Kara in terms of arriving here and being super all of a sudden and not being able to navigate that.
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