From “Glee” to “Supergirl” — Melissa Benoist shares her struggles of becoming a superhero and how she hopes the show can make a difference
Photos: Warner TV
Melissa Benoist has described playing the role of Supergirl as “a dream come true”.
Melissa Benoist first came to prominence in the role of Marley Rose in season four and five of the musical drama series “Glee”. She has since risen to dizzying heights, having clinched the titular role in “Supergirl”.
According to IMDb.com, Melissa was the first of a thousand to audition for the role, just as Stephen Amell for “Arrow” and Grant Gustin for “The Flash”. When you watch “Supergirl”, you’ll see how she’s taken to it like a fish to water.
Supergirl, born Kara Zor-El, managed to escape from Krypton at the same time as the infant Kal-El (Superman) but didn’t arrive on Earth until much later. Once here, she’s raised by her adopted family, the Danvers.
At 24, Kara’s living in National City and working as an assistant for Catco Worldwide Media mogul Cat Grant (played by Calista Flockhart, famous for “Ally McBeal”). With the help of Daily Planet photographer James Olsen and the off-the-grid Department of Extra-Normal Operations (DEO), she takes to the skies to protect her new home world from strange invaders.
Melissa shares how she feels about taking on the mantle of Supergirl, and how she hopes the show can make a difference in the world.
Produced by Berlanti Productions, known for “Arrow”, “The Flash” and Pan, Supergirl is an action-adventure drama series for the entire family.
How does it feel to take on an iconic role like Supergirl?
I knew this role was going to be a challenge and a lot of responsibility but I love a good challenge. It’s a dream come true to play a character like Supergirl.
I love that the show is hopefully going to spread a lot of hope and positivity in the world. I hope the character is a good influence on the world.
What excites you the most about Kara or Supergirl?
What I love about Kara is that she’s still in this process of discovering herself. I look at this as a coming of age story.
I love it when she finds her strength and when she owns it. Those are my favourite parts to play.
Are you, personally, as kick-ass as Supergirl?
I try to be. It’s funny because in my everyday life I have always been such a pacifist. I grew up in a household full of women and if you hit someone it was a huge deal, even just a slap.
The butt-kicking is new to me. That’s a new muscle I’m flexing but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I liked it.
What physical training did you have to undertake to prepare for the role of a superhero?
I’ve had to train quite a bit. I’ve been training since before the pilot and I definitely had to learn new techniques along the way.
I had to learn how to not hurt yourself more than the person you’re punching, so boxing was part of the training. I also did a lot of core work, as well as biometric workouts.
Melissa said she’d be lying if she said she didn’t like the “butt-kicking”.
Wow. How exhausting is the role?
It’s extremely physical, so it’s challenging and it’s tiring but that’s a good thing. I think she’s got to be really, really tough and strong to show girls — and everyone else — that you can overcome the things that you’re afraid of.
How do you feel about your costume?
I grew up as a dancer, so it feels like the leotard and tights that I wore when I was a ballerina. I think I’m very lucky in terms of my suit. I know a lot of people have masks that don’t breathe at all and make them sweat but I don’t have that problem.
What’s impractical is that mine has a corset, which is sometimes a pain — but it’s fine.
How does it feel to portray a character that’s loved by so many comic and movie fans?
It’s a daunting feeling to work on a character that’s already been developed and that so many people already love. It’s a huge responsibility.
I love her humanity, even though she is an alien. I love that she really has a lot of discovering to do, as well as a lot of growth.
I love that she makes mistakes. I think she’s really relatable and I really want to stay true to that.
Which superhero TV shows did you like?
I liked “Lois & Clark” [The New Adventures of Superman]. I always thought that show was cool.
And now, Dean Cain, who played Superman in Lois & Clark, is your father in “Supergirl”…
I know! It’s crazy but it’s very cool. He is such a nice guy too. I couldn’t be more blessed.
“Supergirl” premieres on Warner TV on Tue, May 31, at 9pm (double episodes each week), on StarHub TV Ch 515 & SingTel TV Ch 306.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of Weekender, Issue 153, May 27 – June 9, 2016, with the headline ‘Supergirl Melissa Benoist is one in a thousand’.