Playing a comic book superhero has a way of making you famous overnight.
Melissa Benoist’s most notable roles as Marley Rose on Glee, the girlfriend in Whiplash and guest spots on Blue Bloods, the Good Wife and Homeland have kept her relatively anonymous, but that’s about to change with tonight’s premiere (8:30/7:30c) of Supergirl on CBS. Following DC Comics lore, Benoist’s Kara Zor-El is sent from Krypton to keep an eye on her cousin Superman, grows up with an adoptive family, and keeps her identity secret until a crisis forces her to out herself. From there, she leads a busy double life as lowly assistant to a media mogul (Calista Flockhart) and superpowered villain vanquisher.
It’s a lot for anyone to handle, but Benoist is up to the challenge, as she revealed in this quick Q&A.
“I’m rather lucky in terms of my superhero garb. I’ve heard that a lot of others are really constricting and hot and hard to wear but I’m in a skirt and a leotard. Essentially I’m in a dance outfit.”
Is it daunting to play an iconic character like Supergirl?
There are some people that are so passionate that you want to hear what they have to say about the character that they love. At the same time, this is the 2015 version of her and I love to bring myself to any character I play, and I’m going to do just that. The responsibility is pretty daunting, but in such a good way. The idea of being a role model, especially for young girls and young women, is pretty scary but I hope to do it well.
What’s the biggest challenge?
The challenge is just keeping up with the pace. We’re moving at such a quick rate to get everything that we’re trying to get, and a lot of these episodes are just behemoths—huge scope—so that’s what I’m trying to keep up with now.
Was Glee preparation for that at all?
The musical numbers, the sheer amount of work—really long hours and pre-recordings and dance rehearsals on top of everything—was a lot. And the fandom—the fans of Glee were as passionate as comic book fans. Of course, Supergirl has been around much longer.
Did you have to train to prepare for the physical aspects?
Quite a bit, just about everything—boxing, weight training, Pilates, yoga.
How is it doing the flying scenes?
It’s really difficult. There have been moments where I’m in that position and they’re like, “Try to look less concerned. You need to look comfortable.” But actually, it’s also really exhilarating. As difficult as it is, it’s exciting to feel like you’re flying.
Are you athletic?
No, I’m terrible at sports. I’m not coordinated in that way. But I always went skiing and camping as a kid.
Were you a fan of the comics?
I never read Supergirl. And I didn’t read too many of the other comics, but I loved Batman, Michael Keaton’s Batman. Batman Returns is still one of my favorite movies.
How is it rocking the costume?
I’m rather lucky in terms of my superhero garb. I’ve heard that a lot of others are really constricting and hot and hard to wear but I’m in a skirt and a leotard. Essentially I’m in a dance outfit.
What’s the key to playing a superhero?
She’s such a beacon of hope, and I knew that her bravery and strength was so intrinsic and important to who she is, and that I really needed to feel that in myself in order to play that. I really have to believe that I’m a superhero.
What superpower would you want if you could have your pick?
Flight, of course. I’m biased, but that’s what I would want.