Supergirl met the press Monday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour, where producers noted the CBS drama would be inspired by Richard Donner‘s Superman films — and feature a new roster of DC Comics characters, though Superman would not be one of them.
Born on the planet Krypton, Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) escaped amid its destruction years ago. Since arriving on Earth, she has been hiding the powers she shares with her famous cousin. But now at age 24, she decides to embrace her superhuman abilities and be the hero she was always meant to be.
Exec producer Greg Berlanti (Arrow, The Flash) noted that he grew up “worshiping” Donner’s Christopher Reeve films and hoped that his CBS rookie would capture the same magic, joy, wonder and fun, though the iconic superhero is not currently slated to appear on screen.
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“He will be a factor in her life but you won’t see him exactly on screen; he’ll be in the background but he does play a part in her evolution,” executive producer and DC Comics exec Geoff Johns told reporters. Added co-showrunner Ali Adler: “As much as we respect the history of Superman, it’s very much [Kara/Supergirl’s] point of view.”
Benoist recalled auditioning for the role the day after Halloween and, from the first time she saw “Supergirl” pop up in her email, she knew she wanted to be part of it. The Glee alum was the first actress producers saw for the role — a trait Benoist shares with The Flash‘s Grant Gustin and Arrow‘s Stephen Amell. Producers also recalled Warner Bros. Television topper Peter Roth noting that Benoist’s Supergirl was “like seeing Christopher Reeve as Superman.”
Co-star Calista Flockhart, who plays Kara’s CatCo boss, called the series a “celebration of girl power,” and called Supergirl a show that mothers and daughters can watch together. She also pitched a super storyline for her character: “I think it’s a really good idea if Cat becomes romantically involved with Superman,” she said to laughs before adding later in the panel that perhaps Cat should be involved with Clark Kent.
Berlanti noted that the key to translating Supergirl — and his other DC Comics shows — for television was to make it relatable. He imagines what the show is without superpowers. To that end, he added a workplace element and adult sibling for Kara to Supergirl‘s story.
Producers also revealed that they’d be adding three new DC Comics characters to the series: Lucy Lane’s (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) father, Gen. Sam Lane, who EP Andrew Kreisberg said would come to town “with an agenda,”; hero Red Tornado; and Non, a Kryptonian villain featured in Donner’s Superman II who producers said would have a “slightly different take on the character.”
As for why the show was called Supergirl instead of Superwoman, the answer was simple: “Superwoman is a different character,” Adler said. Added Berlanti: “We knew going in that Supergirl might imply a younger audience but we thought we could take the power of the word back,” with the title also implying strong and bold.
Johns noted that Benoist’s Supergirl “has more to deal with than Clark Kent did” when it came to adjusting to being on Earth, while Kreisberg said that she’d be placed in different situations where she isn’t “all powerful” so that viewers can root for her.
“The tendency with Superman is to make him so powerful that there isn’t any danger. Week in and week out, you want to feel like Supergirl may not survive these things.,” Kreisberg said.
Supergirl debuts Oct. 26 at 8:30 p.m. before moving to its regular time slot Nov. 2 at 8 p.m. on CBS. Check out the new trailer, below.