Three months since its premiere, Supergirl continues to be a solid hit for CBS on Monday nights (8/7C), thanks in no small part to Melissa Benoist’s winning portrayal of the Kryptonian superheroine who does publishing mogul Cat Grant’s (Calista Flockhart) bidding when she’s not saving National City from evil-doers. It’s the kind of breakout role actresses dream of, and for Benoist, previously best known for playing Marley Rose on Glee and for a small role in Whiplash, it’s been quite a ride.
Married last March to Glee co-star Blake Jenner, now recurring on the show as Cat’s son Adam, she’s adjusting to the spotlight pretty well. Taking a break from filming on the set, Benoist talked about her passions, her style and how playing Supergirl has changed her.
The Gloss: Have you changed since becoming Supergirl?
Melissa Benoist: I’ve never been a passive person or meek but I definitely know what it’s like to be a wallflower or a yes-man, and this job is teaching me to stand up for myself and to not take any crap!
But is there pressure in playing a superhero?
MB: Yeah, what she stands for would be difficult for anyone to live up to, in today’s world especially and she totally holds me to those standards, just by playing her every day. I feel an incredible amount of pride for what we’re doing, and how all of us are creating this. We all care about it a lot. I feel that people were ready to see a strong female heroine, the way that Supergirl is. And I get to experience that every time a little girl comes on set, or just any child really. Anytime I’m in the suit, I see the true effect of what we’re doing here, and I feel a lot of humble pride about that.
Do you have a favorite episode?
MB: For the Girl Who Has Everything [Feb. 8] has been my favorite to play. It has this Wizard of Oz type feel to it. We talked so much about what Kara has lost in it and to be Kara Zor-El on Krypton was a magical feeling. Red Faced, the Red Tornado, episode is one of my favorite episodes that we’ve done to date, just because of what I got to explore in the theme of women’s expectations on how to handle anger. And I didn’t realize when we started shooting and when I got to do those scenes where it was literally just all hell broke loose, how good that felt because of how little I do that in my daily life.
Laura Vandervoort, who played Kara/Supergirl on Smallville, is coming on the show as Indigo. When will we see her?
MB: Yeah. It’s episode 15 [Feb. 22]. It feels good to honor the past. Not too many people have played this character before and it’s a special thing to be a part of. Laura is an amazing.
Your husband Blake is recurring as Adam Foster, Cat’s son. What’s it like working with him again?
MB: A dream. Any chance that we could work together, we’ll take. I love working with him.
Is there a romantic storyline?
MB: There are sparks, yes. He definitely complicates things.
There was so much hype about Supergirl last fall. Were you relieved when it was well received?
MB: Yes! We were advertised everywhere and that was the only moment I felt any trepidation. “Gosh it will be so embarrassing if no one likes it.” But I never really had any true fear. I knew that everyone would be able to take something away from it.
Is the workload more manageable now that you’ve done this for a while?
MB: It’s always kind of an uphill battle, in a really good way. It’s always challenging me, always pushing me to another limit, physically, mentally, emotionally. I’m still figuring out the balance. It’s getting to an even keel.
How do you feel about the costume now? Are you getting used to it?
MB: It’s not too uncomfortable unless it’s 103 degrees outside, and we’ve done some days like that. If it’s really hot, nothing up here breathes, and if it’s really cold my legs are exposed. I feel I’ve gotten to the point where I feel very comfortable in it. Every time I put it on I know something hard is coming up, whether it’s a fight or some crazy emotional scene with a nemesis or someone that’s hurting her. Putting on the suit entails putting on all of her baggage.
How would you describe your real-life style?
MB: It totally depends on my mood. Lately it’s been a lot of sweatpants and whatever I roll out of bed in. I always tend to go toward the understated, minimal. Usually I’m not too flashy. I love Marc Jacobs but I’m not too much into fashion. I wish I was.
What are your passions outside of work?
MB: I love riding bicycles. I love making pottery. I love my dogs. I’m pretty simple. I love reading. I’m kind of a bookworm.
Have you bought anything for yourself? Like a house, or something else?
MB: I’d like to, someday soon. Or another dog, maybe. My life is here, really–I spend most of it here at Warner Bros. I’m saving. I’m being smart. My mother would be proud of me!
(Photos: Cliff Lipson/CBS, Monty Brinton/CBS)