"Supergirl's" Facinelli Explains Why Maxwell Lord Isn't the Show's Lex Luthor

Though he's not well known among the general public, for longtime DC Comics fans, Maxwell Lord is a big deal.

The shrewd businessman debuted in the mid-80s, helping to establish one of the most popular incarnations of the Justice League. However, he eventually showed his true colors when he killed Ted Kord (aka the superhero known as Blue Beetle) following the discovery that Lord was secretly gathering information on Earth's superheroes, who he considered to be a threat to the planet.

Now, the character, played by Peter Facinelli, has set his sights on the Maid of Might in CBS' "Supergirl" -- but will Facinelli be bringing the benevolent, superhero-championing incarnation of Maxwell Lord to life? Or will this Lord take his cue from the hero-murdering phase of his comic book counterpart?

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Ahead of his character's debut on tonight's episode, "Fight or Flight," Facinelli spoke with CBR News about Maxwell Lord's determination to humanity. We also spoke about his character's sense of style, his disdain for super-powered heroes and villains alike, and why he promises his Lord isn't merely a Lex Luthor stand-in for Supergirl.

CBR News: Between your research and the "Supergirl" scripts, what is your impression of Maxwell Lord?

Peter Facinelli: In the comics, he's kind of this Trump-esque businessman and very stern. For the TV series, we wanted to make him a different type of businessman. He's more like Steve Jobs, someone who is more sophisticated and smart. He's a Green Tech billionaire, so he's trying to save the planet in a way that's not related to superheroes. He feels humanity should save themselves. There are little differences, but he's less "Forbes" and more "GQ."

This is the first time Lord has been depicted in live action. In what ways did that give you more leeway in creating this character?

It gave me complete creative freedom. I didn't have to base it one someone else's performance, or have it compared to someone else's performance. I looked at the source material and what the scripts were and went from there.

What does Max make of Supergirl's heroics and all the Phantom Zone escapees?

He looks down on all superheroes or any sort or aliens that are interfering with the human race. He believes humanity needs to save themselves. That's one of his messages, that we shouldn't have any outside interferences. When you rely on a superhero too much, what happens when they are not there one day? For him, he admires the power that they have. He wishes he could harness that power in some way -- not for evil, but to save the human race.

What can fans expect from Max's first meeting with Supergirl?

It does happen in the next episode or two. I don't want to give too much away, but it's a lot of fun to watch the dynamic between them.

With a resume that includes "Supernova," "The Scorpion King," "Fastlane" and "The Twilight Saga," you're no stranger to action. How much of those beats are we going to see from Max?

It's not superhero action at all. He rolls up his sleeves when he needs to. He's more brains than brawn. You'll see his power in the form of intelligence and not physical power. He's a cunning businessman and you'll see how smart he is.

There's also a flare in the way he dresses. In the comics, he's always wearing these purple suits. We wanted to keep some kind of flare for him in the sense of he always has a handkerchief. I didn't want to wear ties. When you're confident, you don't have to show people your power. It's more inviting to get people to come to you through your charisma. I felt a tie would close people off. "Let's not do ties. Let's always have Max wear buttoned-up shirts." It's more inviting and trusting. We worked on little subtle things like that.

In the comic books, Max has telepathic abilities that allow him to control others. Has that facet been incorporated into this version of the character?

Not that I've seen, so far.

At the end of the day, do you view Maxwell Lord as good or evil?

There's a fine line between good and evil. He doesn't purposely do evil acts. In his mind, he does things for good. Sometimes you have to do bad things to get there. Even when you are at war, sometimes you have to sacrifice one for the greater good of many. That's where his mindset is. He's not a Lex Luthor, selfishly trying to take over the world. In his righteous mind, he's doing good.

Viewers got a brief glimpse of Max in "Stronger Together." How is he further introduced in tonight's episode "Fight or Flight?"

That episode has to do with Calista Flockhart's character, Cat Grant. There's a little exchange between the two of them, showing their history.

Cat and Max seem to run in the same social circles. How would you describe their relationship?

They are both powerful in their own right. There's a sense of a sexual undertone, so it's a playful rivalry as opposed to foes. They are not mean-spirited to each other.

"Supergirl" airs Monday night at 8 p.m. on CBS.

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