‘Supergirl’: Melissa Benoist and David Harewood on the Show’s Politics & Their Characters’ New Dynamic

It’s no secret the CW’s hit show Supergirl gives the audience a heavy dose of politics as part of its weekly action-adventure story. The sci-fi, horror, and fantasy genres have always been a way for creators to put a mirror to society at large and show us the best (and the worst) of ourselves. And given the climate of the last couple of years, the writers and producers of the show have leaned into the topic more heavily this season, in large part because a lot of the characters are employed in the press, and the free press is under attack every day in the real world.

During a recent set visit in Vancouver the topic of the show’s politics was front and center and stars Melissa Benoist (Supergirl) and David Harewood (J’onn J’onzz/Martian Manhunter) gave their takes on the direction of the show.

How will Kara begin to deal with basically seeing this ugly side of humanity that has so much hatred for aliens, since she’s a very empathetic character? Is it very hard for her to be in this almost hopeless situation?

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MELISSA BENOIST: Well, I think she’s sort of embodying what I think a lot of Americans feel right now and that helplessness and really a very hopeful and optimistic soul being tried. Her feelings of hope and positivity are waning and she has to really grasp exactly what she believes in to overcome it. And I think its fear more than anything. You could say Agent Liberty is our Big Bad of the season, but I think fear as an entity is more of our villain this season. So, I think we’ll continue to explore stories like that throughout this season and how Kara will deal with it.

There are so many journalist characters on the show. Is that a responsibility of the show to highlight that, especially as the climate against the press and journalists is so hostile right now?

BENOIST: Absolutely. Yeah. And I think it’s something we’re all really passionate about here. Staying true to that and fighting against what we think is wrong and really supporting the power of the press and showing people that it’s for the good and that you can really make lasting change by how you report to people. And Kara luckily is always reporting from a very genuine and caring, hopeful place, and always trying to find the facts and report responsibly so I think that’s also something that we’re trying to show.

Does J’onn feel a sense of guilt about leaving the leadership role of the DEO, considering the climate in the world right now?

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DAVID HAREWOOD: I don’t think it’s guilt. I mean, I think you have to look at what’s happening right now, in America particularly. I mean, it’s hard to believe that it was only three years ago, we had a very different leader of the free world and everything seemed kind of cool, and suddenly you’re three years later and you see the forces of darkness, real right-wing forces growing all over the place. And it’s a scary time. So, I think that’s just a change. I think it’s the change in administration and changing times. I don’t think it’s for J’onn to feel guilty about, I think he’s proud of his tenure at the DEO, but now it’s a different reality, a different world, and a different administration. And if anything, I think he feels more and more now that it’s time for him to go to work and really protect people and just work in a different way as opposed to trying to do that through the DEO.

Collider: J’onn’s character arc this season has essentially been a spiritual journey. That’s a different thing for J’onn because he’s always been a law and order guy. How do feel about this arc that has you butting heads with friends who still want to do it the law and order way?

HAREWOOD: Mixed feelings about it, because he’s the Martian Manhunter. He had 300 years of being a guy who’s got a purpose, to right wrongs and to see justice done and I think I’m wrestling with it, and I think he’s wrestling with the notion of how to do that. And so, the spiritual journey, I liked it. I loved working with Carl (Lumbly). That was great last season working with him. And I liked the fact that they’ve put this dilemma forward for him, but I’m not sure if it’s his true nature, so I’m wrestling with it as much as the character. I think violence isn’t always the answer. I also think that as a character on the first three or four episodes, I was kind of struggling to find a way into this new character and I found that quite difficult because the spiritual element to it just doesn’t seem true to him. It’s not a natural fit. I like the fact that he’s finding other ways to solve problems, but I’m looking forward to J’onn punching people in the face again.

Collider: But as an actor is that ultimately a good thing? Do you like the change-up?

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HAREWOOD: Yeah, the fact for me that he’s left the DEO is fantastic because it gives him an opportunity to be much more of a rounded character and I’ve found that just as an actor, in speaking his lines, they are different because in the DEO his dialog was exposition and sort of barking orders, and I’ve found that I’ve had to just find a different tone for J’onn’s voice because he’s talking to people and not barking orders. And that’s been really fun to play actually, having a conversation with somebody and having a relationship with somebody rather than trying to be stuck behind the sort of boss role. So, it’s been, it’s been fun for me.

Collider: J’onn has been on more of a spiritual journey this season. What do you think about Kara’s interactions with him and the philosophical differences that your characters now have? As an actor, do you like having such a different dynamic with his character this season?

BENOIST: I do. I think the most interesting stories to tell are the ones where there are obstacles and challenges to face and conflict. But what I love the most about this particular conflict between the two of them philosophically is that there’s an immense load of respect there between the two of them. I think that J’onn J’onzz is the wisest character in this universe so Kara really respects his opinions and his choices and what he wants to do in terms of being a pacifist. I think that resonates with her, but I don’t know if she’s able to be that. Yeah, there’s a lot of interesting scenes and it’s such a familial relationship that it’s only ever constructive when they disagree.

No doubt Supergirl will get more and more political as the conflicts intensify. Do you like the more political tone of the show so far this season? Let us know in the comments section: we’d love to hear from you!

Supergirl airs Sundays on The CW.