In a preview for next week's episode of "Supergirl," Superman appears holding Supergirl in a shot familiar to longtime DC Comics fans. And when executive producer Andrew Kreisberg spoke with CBR and other reporters during a press visit, he revealed the shot was no accident some viewers flashed back to 1985 for a moment.
"It actually says, 'We'll have a "Crisis on Infinite Earths" pose here,'" Kreisberg said of the script's call out to the classic event series. In fact, "Supergirl's" writers originally intended for the shot to appear in an episode its first season, on CBS. "When Superman rescues her from Reactron, we actually wrote in there that [the shot] was going to cut off his head so you could just see his body holding her in that classic pose," he explained. Now, with actor Tyler Hoechlin cast as Superman, the shot was able to be crafted as a more direct homage to one of the most famous images of the last children of Krypton.
Kreisberg also said the introduction of Superman on the series was always part of their plan for the second season, whether it stayed on CBS or, as eventually happened, made the move to The CW. To the producer, it was important that the character become more than a silhouette and an occasional text message. "[The show] was always designed to be about someone who had to deal with a famous relative whose shadow was very difficult to step out of," he explained. "You didn't need to see him to make it work, but we felt confident that Kara was in a strong enough place as Supergirl and Kara that it was time to bring in her cousin.
"It became more imperative when we jumped to The CW, because when you make a transition like that, you want to put your best foot forward," he added. "It was a great way to open the season."
At the same time, it's equally important to not have the character steal Kara's thunder. One way the team was able to prevent that was present a more seasoned Superman. Having completed his journey to becoming a hero, he is able to be a supporting character as Kara continues along her own path.
According to Hoechlin, "Support is what I tried to lean on" in his performance as both Clark and Superman. Comparing it to an athlete whose "game has slowed down," he felt his role is to help Kara discover the things that are important to her while defending National City. "Being a veteran presence, he's there to encourage the next group. He's there to build her up and support her when he can."
"He was coming in to play a cousin and a mentor," Kreisberg added. "We wanted a Superman who is relatable, and fun, and everything you remembered from your childhood, and, at the same time, de-mystifying him a little bit." The character also provides a little bit of tension as Superman proves the rule that "there's always someone more famous than you." Comparing his arrival at the DEO to Mick Jagger making a surprise drop-in at a local club, the producer said, "Everybody's jaw just dropped, but she's completely over [his being Superman]."
Even with Superman now a flesh-and-blood member of "Supergirl's" world, Kreisberg says the texting will continue, Now, however, fans will have the image of Hoechlin as the person sending the encouraging messages to Kara. Though it began as a gimmick to keep the character alive, if somewhat distant, in the first season, Kreisberg was surprised by the amount of emotional resonance the texting scenes held. "That is how people communicate, now," he said. "Those scenes are a pleasure to write. [Everyone] knows how happy you get when your best friend or sister or brother sends you a text that says, 'I've been thinking about you.' It's become such an important part of our lives."
In personifying Superman, Hoechlin said he avoided the previous incarnations of the character -- though he did admit that Dean Cain was his Superman growing up -- focusing more on the character he, Kreisberg and executive producer Greg Berlanti discussed in their initial meeting. "If something is similiar [to a previous actor], it's similar. If it's completely off, it's completely off," he said. "It was never intentionally trying to hit a beat or hit something that was done in a past. It's just the themes we committed to."
"Based on everything that there is -- whether it's Henry Cavill or Brandon [Routh] or Christopher Reeve or Dean or Gerard Christopher -- everybody takes everything and distills it down to a version of the character that they like," added Kreisberg. In his mind, the various performances of Superman are part of body of work actors, writers and producers that they can draw from in conscious and unconscious ways. "It is this gestalt version; just as they all should be," he said.
One thing the producer knew would change in the second season was the DEO itself. "We kind of fell out of love with the cave," he said. While happy with it in the beginning, it felt less and less a part of the show as the first season wore on.
Kreisberg also addressed recent comments by Miley Cyrus knocking Supergirl for being called Supergirl. "I think we worked hard in the early part of Season One to address the discrepancy, and actually had a scene with Kara lamenting being called 'Supergirl' and Cat with the great rejoinder about how the word 'girl' in and of itself is not offensive," he said.
While some may argue the name 'Supergirl' has a chauvinistic connotation, Kreisberg points to the show's strong message for women. "For us, the strongest feminist thing on the show is Kara herself as a character, and what she does week in and week out.
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.