6:30pm PT by Sydney Bucksbaum
'Supergirl' Bosses Explain the Major Premiere Villain Twist
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the series premiere of CBS' Supergirl.]
Supergirl's villain is a lot closer to Kara (Melissa Benoist) than she realizes.
CBS' freshman comic book drama ended its high-flying series debut with a major twist: the villain heading to Earth and targeting Kara is none other than her aunt Astra (Laura Benanti). And not only is Astra family, she also looks exactly like Kara's mother, Alura (also played by Benanti).
"When we were writing the pilot, we thought about that a lot," executive producer Andrew Kreisberg tells The Hollywood Reporter. "For us, we love when you have the hero and villain being linked, and what you can do to make what's happening between them personal. Nothing is more personal than family, but to then go one step further and have the villain be an exact replica of her mother is going to be really cool."
Kreisberg, along with executive producers Greg Berlanti and Ali Adler, reveal that having Kara fight someone who inspires feelings of love and safety in her is going to be one of the biggest obstacles for the character to overcome.
"There is also the tie to her home, it just makes it that much more emotional for Kara to deal with," Berlanti tells THR. "Every time she punches her aunt, she's really punching her mother. And how much of her mother might still be inside her aunt is something we're going to be looking at as the series progresses."
Producers always envisioned the same actress taking on the dual role, rather than having two different people play Alura and Astra.
"In looking ahead at the next batch of episodes, that was really important for us, to not do what's expected," Adler tells THR.
In terms of how much Benanti will be featured going forward, producers note that the Broadway favorite will continue to play both Alura and Astra, though only the latter will be seen alive in present day.
"We'll see her mother both in flashbacks and we're also going to see her as a A.I. program," Kreisberg reveals. "[It's] similar to the way you would see Marlon Brando in the Donner Superman films, as a living computer that Kara is able to commune with."
But Astra won't be the only big bad Kara will have to face this season. Supergirl also is set to debut the DC Comics villain Non, a former scientist in a league with the House of El. Transporter: The Series star Chris Vance will take on the role as the brutal, sinister Kryptonian military officer who is the antithesis of everything Supergirl stands for. Non will quickly become Kara's greatest threat.
"The Non in the comic books is not what you saw in Superman II," Kreisberg says. "That Non in Superman II had been lobotomized. When we meet him, he will not have been lobotomized yet so our take on this character is sort of a prequel to the Superman II mythos."
Along with these two big bads, expect to see Supergirl face off with villains-of-the-week, both alien and human.
"The pilot set up the idea that there was an alien prison from Krypton that crash-landed on Earth and all of the prisoners escaped," Kreisberg says. "We'll be meeting some of those alien villains; there will also be some human villains, like the Toyman."
While most superhero shows wait to reveal secret identities until much later down the line, Supergirl eschewed that particular comic book trope by having Kara confess her true origin to her best friend, Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan), immediately in the pilot.
"That gives us more potential for character evolution," Adler says. "We know it is going to happen at some point just like the audience does, and we know everyone roots for that card to be turned over. So we were just like, 'Let's do it as quickly as possible so we can get to those good stories we want to tell.' But there will still be that classic superhero trope of who is this woman who appeared all of a sudden to save National City?"
As for those sparks that are already flying between Kara and Winn, the producers can't deny that there is natural chemistry between Benoist and Jordan. But will a real romance blossom between the two friends?
"I think that's a fair guess," Adler says. "What's really nice about their relationship is Winn has always seen her as Supergirl, even before she put on the glyph and decided to fly around. He very much cares about her and she doesn't notice that yet and maybe we will explore some of that over the course of this season. And in the pilot alone, she has electrical chemistry with James Olsen [Mehcad Brooks]. Whether we explore that soon or later, I can't really say."
Berlanti is especially proud of how Brooks is putting a new spin on the classic Jimmy Olsen character.
"People were surprised by the actor choice but we weren't looking for a certain type of actor," Berlanti says. "This actor just came in and took the part. The chemistry he has with Melissa Benoist is incredible and that was just so obvious in the audition. And the DNA of Jimmy Olsen, Superman's pal who wore a camera around his neck, that's very much there. He's just grown now. He's had 12 years of adventures with his pal and now he's a man. He's worked out a bit more. He's seasoned and has experience and has an exclusive experience to offer Kara because he's spent time with her cousin so much."
And while Kara will find herself fighting out-of-this-world villains, Supergirl also is going to ground itself by employing a procedural element, making it a perfect fit for the network that's home to three NCIS series.
"We'll see more of Kara's sister Alex's [Chyler Leigh] workplace and explore that dynamic more," Adler says. "Will Kara or will she not dip her toe into the DEO waters? This show will have a procedural element within the DEO as well as CatCo and journalistic investigations. So we will absolutely cross these sisters professionally as well as personally."
Supergirl airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBS.