At CBS’ panel for the new series Supergirl at this morning’s Television Critics Association (TCA) panel, executive producer Greg Berlanti (The Flash, Arrow) said that he grew up worshipping the Superman films directed by Richard Donner. That is clear upon watching the pilot of his new series, which maintains the same type of fun and epic style as those earlier blockbusters (and will even include one of the memorable villains seen in Donner’s Superman II).
With Berlanti’s other DC Comics TV hits on The CW sharing the same corporate parent as CBS’ Supergirl, a logical question, and probably one in the minds of many comics fans, came up during an earlier executive panel with CBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler: Will there be a crossover with Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow?
According to Tassler, “We have not had conversations about the crossovers, but we are doing crossover promotions. So you will see that. You will see promotional crossovers but not in terms of the characters.”
It seems like it would be natural to have the three DC properties cross over at some point. Perhaps right out of the gate they want Supergirl to thrive on its own, and it should, based on the pilot. Melissa Benoist is very winning as Kara Zor-El, Superman’s cousin (she goes by the name Kara Danvers on Earth). Benoist told reporters that she auditioned for the role the day before Halloween last year, and that as soon as she saw “Supergirl” in an email subject line, she knew she wanted the role.
And it was clear producers wanted her, too. Executive producer Andrew Kreisberg said, “Stephen Amell was the very first person we saw for Arrow. Grant [Gustin] was the very first person we saw for The Flash. And Melissa was the very first person we saw for Kara. You know, as soon as we saw her, we just knew she was the one. She had the strength, the hope, the heart, the humor, and just that instant likability, and Peter Roth said after watching her that, like, it’s the closest feeling he’s had since he saw Christopher Reeve, and it really is the truth.”
“We had to see maybe a thousand more women,” added executive producer Ali Adler, “and we never stopped being in love with Melissa.”
Benoist does capture the joyful feeling of being a superhero that producers say they wanted for Supergirl.
“That’s one of my favorite moments in the pilot,” said Kreisberg, “is just at the end when she’s flying around, just seeing the unfettered joy on her face as she’s flying around and as she’s, like, reveling in this power, in this freedom. I think that there are a lot of heroes who are sort of very ambivalent about their powers and very dour, and we’re certainly guilty of putting some of those people on TV. But one of the great joys of Supergirl is that she really loves being Supergirl, and you see you only believe that and you only get that because Melissa loves being Supergirl.
That joyfulness may stem from Berlanti’s inspiration from the Donner films.
“I grew up really worshiping the Donner films and their magic and their wonder and their joy and their fun,” said Berlanti, “and when we went in last year to talk to Warner Bros. and DC and they mentioned the possibility of us working on a show like Supergirl, our real hope was to bring just a smidgeon of that magic that those films had. … I think that those movies just had sort of references at the top, but they had charm but a believability and really epic. I think that’s the thing, is when you go back and you watch them, again, if you remove the action set pieces, just the sort of sweeping vistas and the size and scope of it, it had something that, I think, just imprinted on our brains at that time in our lives, that I associated that with what it meant to tell a superhero story.”
Speaking of the Donner films, fans of Superman II will be happy to learn that General Zod’s No. 3 in command, Non, will appear in Supergirl, though in a different take (in the film he was a brutish, mute thug sometimes used for comic relief). Kreisberg addressed some other DC Comics characters who will be appearing in Supergirl.
“We’re also going to be introducing a bunch of characters from the DC Comics world in the first nine episodes,” he said “some of which have already been announced. We’re having Lucy Lane, but we’re also going to be having her father, General Sam Lane, who will be coming to town with an agenda. We’re also going to have the Red Tornado, who’s another DC Comics iconic character.”
Not appearing, at least in Season 1, is Superman himself, though his presence is felt, especially in the pilot. Costar Calista Flockhart, who plays Kara’s boss, Cat Grant, joked that she felt her character should get into a romantic relationship with Superman if he does show up. When a reporter joked about what Han Solo or Indiana Jones [Flockhart’s real-life husband Harrison Ford] would think of that, she changed the idea to dating Clark Kent.
The sense of fun shown among the cast and producers on the panel carries over into the show, and CBS should have a hit with Supergirl.
Here’s a new Supergirl trailer shown at TCA today:
Supergirl premieres Oct. 26 at 8:30pm ET, and moves to its regular time period 8pm ET Nov. 2 on CBS. It airs Mondays.
Photo: Darren Michaels/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved