The CBS action-adventure drama series Supergirl follows Kara Zor-El, now known as Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist), as she decides to finally embrace her superhuman abilities and be the hero she was always meant to be. After 12 years of keeping her powers a secret on Earth, Kara will need to find a way to manage her newfound empowerment with her very human relationships, as she takes to the skies as Supergirl to fight crime.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, co-stars Mehcad Brooks (“James Olsen”) and Jeremy Jordan (“Winn Schott”) talked about how excited their friends and family are about the show, the overwhelmingly positive support they’ve already received, how each episode keeps topping the last, who this Jimmy Olsen is, being in on the secret, what their characters think of Kara, and what they think of each other.
Collider: Who in your life is most excited that you’re a part of this show?
MEHCAD BROOKS: By far, it’s my mom. My mom is actually a Jimmy Olsen fan. She’s a journalist. And Jimmy is the third most popular DC character. He has his own comics and everything. She grew up as an Olsen fan, so that’s crazy. And my little cousin is 19, and she is a huge Supergirl fan, so she flipped out. She was always like, “Oh, True Blood was cool.” With Supergirl, she almost cried.
JEREMY JORDAN: Yeah, it’s my mom. In terms of this show in particular, I’d probably say my little sister or my friend, Brian, who’s a crazy comic book nerd. He’s the first person who ever introduced me to Comic-Con and we always go to all of the comic book movies together. I told my podiatrist and he was like, “Oh, yeah, I heard about that. That’s awesome!” Everybody knows about it and is excited about it.
Because Supergirl is the most anticipated new show of the season, what’s it been like to already be getting feedback on the show?
JORDAN: When they screened it at Comic-Con, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. There’s going to be a few haters, here and there, who are the purists that will never be happy with anything you do. There are people that are just going to be intrinsically negative because you don’t meet whatever expectation they might have. But our aim is to take those expectations, change them and shatter them, by producing something that’s really special, and I think that’s what people are starting to see. Some people saw the first trailer and had negative things to say, and then they saw the pilot and said, “Oh, wait, nevermind. I actually take all that back. It was really cool.” We’re just aiming to put together a really great show. Overwhelmingly, the support has been really positive, so far.
BROOKS: It was my first Comic-Con and it was just an honor to be there. I didn’t check Twitter and I didn’t check the reviews. I just allowed people to tell me what was happening. I don’t pay too much attention to the positive reviews or the negative reviews because if you believe one, you’ve gotta believe the other. I know we’re doing a good job. I love the show. I’m a comic book man, myself, and I think that we’ve exceeded expectations. I am part of the demographic and I love it.
JORDAN: What makes me really excited is that the scripts just get better and better and better.
BROOKS: Even if you take out the flight, the laser beams and all of the powers, it’s still a good script. And the comedy is really funny.
When you do a pilot like this that has so much in it, were you more nervous to read what was coming next?
JORDAN: Not anymore.
BROOKS: They keep topping it, week by week.
JORDAN: You realize that the pilot is really just the tippiest tip of the iceberg.
BROOKS: It’s an ice cube. It’s an open-faced sandwich, if you will. They get right to the meat, my friends.
JORDAN: The fact is that there’s a lot of territory to be uncovered. You don’t want to mire yourself in who she’s keeping the secret from and who really knows. You jump into the meat of the story to find out where she goes from there. That’s why the pilot felt like a movie. It felt like a complete thing. It wasn’t just a prologue or a set-up. It’s a complete story that we then go off of.
Mehcad, you’re playing a character that has a comic book history, but this is a different version of him. What were you looking to bring to this Jimmy Olsen?
BROOKS: The DNA of the character is the same, but there are a couple of things that are changed. When you look at when most of these characters were created, Jimmy Olsen was pre-1940 and there was a much more mono-chromatic existence for people who were creating things like that back then. Now that we have a much more varied existence in our society, we’re re-imagining these characters and how they may have looked, at any point in time. I know that there’s a great responsibility to respect what people have grown to love about him, but at the same time, I really just hope that they can judge James on the content of the character and not what he looks like.
Clearly, James Olsen knows more than he lets on. Will we learn, pretty quickly, just how much he knows about what’s going on?
BROOKS: He’s Superman’s best friend, and Kara is Superman’s cousin. Obviously, there was a connection there before she even knew what he knows. James is very good at keeping secrets, and that’s going to come into play later, as well. He’s there for her. He’s there to help her come out of her shell, and to help her become the woman and the hero that she’s meant to be. He’s her support system. I doesn’t mind being a foundation for her success. That’s a really cool thing to play.
Does he have personal reasons for keeping secrets?
BROOKS: One is for protection. One is to not get in her way. If you know somebody is an incredible chef, you might suggest paprika, but you’re not going to just throw it in there. Also, Jimmy has his own life, and he really wants to be loved and appreciated for who he is, as his own man. He hasn’t really had that. A lot of his success has come to him because he is Superman’s best friend, and that’s it. It’s not because of anything he’s really done. He’s also coming into his own. Kara and Jimmy are finding each other at the perfect moment in both of their lives, where they’re both coming out of their shells and stepping into what is their destiny. There’s a certain amount of reluctant fortitude in that, which is a beautiful thing to watch.
Jeremy, is it fun to have Winn Schott let in on the secret of Kara’s true identity, so early on?
JORDAN: What I think is great about it is that he’s the proxy for the audience. He is the guy who feels how a normal person would feel in all of these situations. To see both sides of it is important for the audience. It’s really fun. The second I read this script, I was like, “I relate to that guy. I totally get him.” I think a lot of young people who are fans of comic books and people who love this genre will instantly relate, as well. I always think it’s stronger storytelling to be in on the joke, unless there’s a really compelling reason not to be. By the end of the pilot, the only person that doesn’t know is Cat Grant. Through the course of the series, you’ll see Cat develop two very specific relationships, one with Supergirl and one with Kara. For the rest of us, our stories revolve around understanding her as who she really is.
Kara really has to jump in and start saving the world very quickly. How do your characters each think about the job that she’s doing?
BROOKS: We’re both really supportive. I think anybody starting any new career needs work. She has a few mishaps. She saves lives, but she has some mishaps doing it.
JORDAN: At least for me, I’ve certainly never helped anybody save the day, in any capacity. If anybody is going to understand making a few mistakes, it’s me. I think they’re totally supportive and really encouraging of her to not let that deter her.
What do your characters think of each other?
BROOKS: James is a mild-mannered guy who’s very well liked, and he’s an engaging and an engaged person. He likes Winn just fine, but they don’t have a lot of interaction until they both realize that they both know who she is and they create a friendship out of that. They’re the guys in the group, so they have this comradery where they think alike, in some ways, but there’s this unrequited love between Winn and Kara that James doesn’t really pick up on, at first, because he’s so busy doing other things.
JORDAN: Winn immediately understands Kara’s attraction to James, and he immediately sees James’ attraction to Kara and realizes that he may never even come close to overcoming that. The fact is that he’s stuck with this guy that he’s unwittingly in competition with. It’s difficult. You see him struggle with it, and it creates a fire and ice relationship. There’s a very palpable tension between the two of them, anytime they’re together. He may not fully understand why, but Winn knows exactly what it is. It makes for some good comedy, that’s for sure.
Supergirl airs on Monday nights on CBS.