The CW’s Arrowverse shows came in hot for this past weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con, with a slew of casting announcements and general hype for this winter’s Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover. None came in hotter to SDCC than Supergirl, though, which debuted a brand-new suit for the titular Girl of Steel, and announced that series regular Mehcad Brooks (James Olsen) would be leaving partway through the newest season.
The full cast, including Melissa Benoist (Kara Danvers/Supergirl), Chyler Leigh (Alex Danvers), Brooks, David Harewood (J’onn J’onnz/Martian Manhunter), Katie McGrath (Lena Luthor), Jesse Rath (Brainiac-5), Nicole Maines (Nia Nall/Dreamer), Andrea Brooks (Eve Teschmacher), and Azie Tesfai (Jenny Olsen), as well as Executive Producers Jessica Queller, Robert Rovner, and Sarah Schechter, were all on-hand to answer questions for press and fans during separate events, and The CW has released the sizzle reel that was shown at the beginning of the show’s spotlight panel.
First up in the morning press room were Rath and Harewood. On the topic of whether Brainiac-5 would be feeling the after-effects of having been rebooted at the end of last season, Rath said he thinks he’s 100 percent back to the old Brainy, but that he’s aware of the part of himself that was revealed as a result of the reboot. Rath said the first few episodes would explore Brainy’s relationship with Nia, and his willingness to open up to her after having hurt her last season.
Asked about last season’s Crisis-related cliffhanger for J’onn, Harewood said he can’t talk about Crisis a lot, but he and Rath both said they’re really looking forward to it. Rath called it the biggest thing they’ve ever done, and said he’s thrilled about seeing it as a fan. Harewood mentioned Brandon Routh suiting up as Superman again, and Rath said he’s been pitching to have Sam Huntington return as Jimmy Olsen as well, with no luck so far.
When asked if alternate versions of either J’onn or Brainy would appear, Rath and Harewood glanced nervously at each other, and Rath said he can’t say officially, but that he’s very excited. During the panel later in the day, Rath revealed that his sister, Meaghan Rath, would be appearing as a female Brainiac-5, but whether that’s the alternate version in question or just a relative stopping in for a visit was left unclear.
Speaking of relatives, asked about who their dream guest stars would be, Rath said he wants Brent Spiner to play Brainiac. Spiner was supposed to play the president last season but had to bow out, and Rath said he was glad he did because it leaves him free to play Brainiac-5’s ancestor. Harewood said Carl Lumbly, who play’s J’onn’s father on the show as well as J’onn J’onnz himself on Justice League Unlimited, was his dream casting. Harewood joked that he and Lumbly would have J’onn J’onnz-offs between scenes.
Asked about the possibility of more Legionnaires appearing on the show, Rath said he wants Bouncing Boy to appear, which he said people usually laugh at but he’s serious. He named his friends Jesse Camacho and former No Tomorrow co-star Jonathan Langdon as people he’s trying to get roles for on the show as other Legionnaires. He also named Lightning Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, Element Lad, Lightning Lass, and Cosmic Boy, ultimately saying he wanted to see the entire Legion in a spin-off series.
Next up were Mehcad Brooks and Nicole Maines, and the first topic was Brooks leaving the series and how he feels about it. The actor said it’s harder than he thought, and that while he knew he would miss everyone, as the deadline gets closer it gets tougher. He joked that he’s trying to stay hydrated today because he would probably cry at some point (which he did eventually do during the full cast panel). He called the cast his family, and said he’s never been a part of a show where everyone gets along as well as they do.
Maines said, of characters or actors she wants to have more scenes with, that she doesn’t get to do a lot of scenes with McGrath, Andrea Brooks, Tesfai, or Leigh. She wants to do more scenes with all four of them. Brooks joked that Maines wants to do more scenes with him, but he won’t be there anymore, and he praised Maines for coming out of “Hollywood nowhere” last season and immediately doing a great job. The scene the two of them shared together last season in which Nia comes out to James as trans was mentioned, and Maines called that a really special scene to do.
Maines also expressed excitement about Nia meeting characters from the other Arrowverse series during Crisis. She said she’d met a lot of them personally through cons and Shethority, but that she hasn’t gotten to act with any of them. She said she wants to see Kate Kane, Sara Lance, Nia Nall, and Alex Danvers all interact with each other, calling it a ‘gay power-up.’ Brooks misheard her as saying ‘gay power album,’ which led to discussion of that group of characters recording an album together with James Olsen as a guest-star in the music video.
Maines said that for Nia, adjusting to balancing journalism and superheroics is going well, both in terms of kicking butt out in the field and holding down the fort at Catco now that new character Andrea Rojas has come in to take over the company. She said a lot of her scenes involve the other characters scrambling to figure out what’s going on with the new season’s villain, and Nia back at Catco calling them frantically because they need to get back to work. She said she also had some great episodes coming up with Harewood that she’s excited about.
On how James will react to his sister, Kelly, dating Alex, Brooks deadpanned, “Alex, if you hurt my sister, I will kill you.” He said he would likely react like any older brother, but that the relationship between James and Alex adds a lot to that dynamic. He said ultimately James doesn’t care because Alex is like family to him.
As McGrath and Andrea Brooks sat down, McGrath commented on the Jessica Cruz Green Lantern phone case that one reporter had, and joked that she could play that character. It was mentioned that she could do it in Crisis, and McGrath told everyone to pitch that idea. McGrath welcomed Brooks as the newest regular cast member, and Brooks was asked where Eve Teschmacher is going to go following the end the last season reveal that she’s secretly a Leviathan agent.
Brooks said she needs to make some decisions as to what she’s going to do, including will she return to Leviathan or run away, and how will she confront her past (or her many pasts, as the case may be). She called the character an “enigma”, and the favorite character she’s ever played, and said that she belongs in therapy. The issues between Eve and Lena came up, and there was discussion of how everyone on the show needs to be in therapy, and how amazing an episode in which everyone goes in for a therapy session would be. McGrath called all of the characters “very broken people.”
McGrath said they’ve only filmed a couple of episodes and that the full season will be a long journey for Lena, who now knows that Kara is Supergirl after Lex revealed it to her last season. The show has been building to this huge moment, she said, and the question now is what it does to you as a person to find that everyone has been lying to you from the beginning. The Lena seen at the end of season 4 hasn’t really thought about it, and when season 5 picks up about a month later she’s still struggling with it.
She said Lena, in typical Luthor fashion, doesn’t decide to go to therapy as a result, but instead decides that she’s going to save humanity, and she joked that Luthors don’t think small. She said Lena’s story arc explores the idea of, when everything you know has been taken away from you, how do you stand up and keep going? She said Lena’s moving forward, but who is she at this point?
Next, actors Leigh and Tesfai were happy to have been paired up together, and Tesfai praised Leigh as being really good at determining what they’re allowed to share and what they’re not. Asked about the status of things at the DEO, Leigh said last year was rough for the organization, and this season they’re starting off with everyone trying to find their footing in light of everything that happened at the end of last season. She said they’re easing in just a little bit, and that some really cool, crazy stuff is coming later this season, but she can’t talk about it.
Leigh was asked about Alex’s emotional state after last season’s failed adoption, and Tesfai echoed McGrath’s earlier joke that everyone needs therapy. Leigh said Alex gets a lot of therapy through Kelly Olsen, and it’s free. She explained that, after Floriana Lima’s Maggie Sawyer left, Leigh was very protective of wanting to address the fact that Alex still wants kids without diving straight into another story about it. She said that Alex and Kelly are very like-minded in what they want, and that it’s not a question of if they will make it work but how.
Tesfai appreciated the show exploring the realistic pitfalls of adopting a child, and Leigh said she talked with the writers and producers about how to convey the whirlwind of emotions that go in to adopting or having a child. She said she thought it was handled delicately and realistically, and that the show accurately represented how painful that experience can be, to which Tesfai added that nothing great comes without pain.
Benoist and Schechter were next. Asked how she’s feeling with Crisis coming up, Benoist said she hopes that what happens in the comics doesn’t happen to her, but she doesn’t anticipate it happening for a couple of reasons. It was mentioned that she had already cheated death at the end of last season with her ‘Ferngully’ moment.
Benoist will be directing an episode this year, and she said she’d been shadowing a few of the show’s directors to get a feel for what it’s like. She said she thought every actor should do prep work even if they’re not going to direct, as it gave her a whole new respect for everyone she works with and how complicated the process is. Schechter said Benoist had expressed an interest in directing a while ago, and that they do their best to be supportive of their actors who want to direct so long as the actors are prepared to do the work that goes into it.
On the new suit, Benoist said she loves it. She was really happy with the old one with the skirt, she explained, and had never felt the need for an update even though Grant Gustin and Stephen Amell pretty regularly go through suit updates, but filming in Vancouver where it was very cold finally convinced her that she wanted to make a switch.
Schechter pointed out that Benoist had also worn a few alternate suits last season that included pants, and that she’d loved both of those. Benoist said this felt like the right evolution for Kara, and that it feels more powerful and modern. The choice to change the way the cape connects at the shoulders to be more in line with Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman suit was also a conscious choice to reflect Supergirl as the sole super-person on Earth.
Schechter described the conflict between Kara and Lena as being central to the new season, and said that if Kara had told Lena at the end of last season that they wouldn’t have any conflict this year.
Queller and Rovner were the final pairing. They were asked how they determined how Lena learning Kara’s secret would play out, and Queller said that as soon as they knew they had Jon Cryer as Lex Luthor, it came to them pretty quickly, because “no one puts salt in a wound” for Lena like Lex can.
Leviathan will be a key part of the new season, but Rovner said they’re doing their own version of the organization that’s not necessarily tied to what’s currently going on in the comics.
On coordinating with the other Arrowverse series for Crisis, Rovner called it exhilarating and fun but also a lot of work. They couldn’t talk about how the season builds towards the event yet.
In terms of character dynamics in the new season that haven’t been seen before, the dynamic between Kara and Lena will be completely changed, Queller said. Lena’s Achilles heel is betrayal, and she’s devastated by Kara having lied to her for so long. Rovner said they’re returning to more of the relationship storytelling that they’ve done in the past and more of an escapist vibe.
Asked about the political and topical elements of the series from last season and whether they would linger in this season, Queller said that was part of what brought them to the technological aspect of the new season. Ousting the president last season left the characters with a lot of work to do to rebuild, which can be overwhelming and lead people to want to escape and hide, which is something that technology provides for them. Last season bleeds into this season in terms of, will people want to step up and do the work of rebuilding or will they want to shut down and escape from that responsibility.
The series spotlight panel was held later in the day, beginning with the sizzle reel above. After the video played, panel moderator Jon Cryer came out to introduce the panelists including the full cast of the series and executive producers Rovner, Schechter, and Queller.
Cryer’s first question to the EPs was about drawing inspiration from classic Superman and Supergirl stories during the previous season, and would they be bringing in more of those for the new season. Rovner said the big bad of the new season is Leviathan, and reiterated that the new season would be about how technology impacts us and how people use it to escape their everyday lives and what’s going on in the world, in particular what happened last season. Rovner also revealed that Lex Luthor would be returning in the new season, though was cagey about what version of Lex it would be, seeing as he died last season and there’s a multiveral Crisis coming up.
Cryer asked how the EPs go about starting from scratch with a new story each season. Rovner said that they liked to reflect what’s going on in the world. He said that, as they were discussing what to do this season, they realized they were all obsessively checking their iPhones. It inspired them to want to explore the role of technology in society.
Rovner announced new casting in the Catco department, with actress Julie Gonzalez joining the series as Andrea Rojas, the new head of Catco, and Staz Nair coming on board to play reporter William Dey. Rath also announced that his sister, Megan Rath, would be appearing on the series as a female Brainiac-5. Cryer added that Kara’s new suit would be joining the cast, and the panelists chanted ‘Pants!’ Benoist stressed how much she loves the suit. Cryer recounted an embarrassing anecdote about when he first met Benoist, saying that when he was Lenny Luther in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, on his first day he had to do some flying which involved a very tight harness, and it was suggested that he shave his butt beforehand. When Cryer joined the cast of Supergirl last season, he said he asked Benoist if she still had to shave her butt.
Cryer also joked about Mehcad Brooks leaving the cast just as he joined. Brooks said that he loves everyone in the cast, and got emotional talking about it. He said he’s proud of what they’ve accomplished the last five years. He didn’t grow up seeing a superhero who looked like him at all, and he called it the most important job of his life so far. As he grew more emotional the rest of the cast surrounded him for a hug. Schechter said she was proud that the show had redefined what Jimmy Olsen looks like for an entire generation.
On the evolution of her character, Maines said she still couldn’t really believe that she gets to be Dreamer, both in terms of getting be that character herself and in terms of hearing from other members of the trans community who have expressed gratitude to her about the character. Cryer asked her about making sleep puns during fight scenes, and Maines said she loves saying them. She keeps a list of her own dream puns, and shared a few particularly groan-worthy ones with the crowd.
Tesfai and Leigh talked about Alex’s adoption storyline from the last season, and whether that would come back given how it ended last year. Leigh said it would likely come back, but that they want to address it with the proper weight, particularly now that Alex and Kelly are together and on the same path together. Tesfai praised Rovner’s writing on that storyline for its realistic portrayal of those situations.
Cryer called out the actors on the cast who have directed or will direct episodes. Harewood, who directed an episode last season and is directing 5.11 this season, said he loved the process and can’t wait to do it again. Benoist will also be directing an episode this season, which is something she’s been wanting to do for a while. She said knowing the show so well and the characters so well has her really excited to bring an episode to life. Cryer praised Benoist’s disposition despite the difficulty of her job. The actress said she wasn’t sure how much she would be in the episode she is directing, and she praised the crew, specifically calling out producing director Jesse Warn, who the entire cast said is awesome.
McGrath talked about the difficulty last season of playing the scene in which Lex reveals Kara’s identity to her and Lena kills him. She said she had no idea how to convey that her whole life had been destroyed without saying a word, just standing there, and she hopes she was able to pull it off, which everyone agreed she did. She said she’d never seen the episode, and Cryer joked about tricking her into seeing it somehow. McGrath thanked the writers for putting the scene together.
When Andrea Brooks signed on for Supergirl, she thought she would be playing a comic relief character. She called the character of Eve Teschmacher ‘an onion’ who is not only a double-agent (secretly working for Lex while working for Lena/Catco) but a triple-agent (secretly working for Leviathan). She said she was inspired by Valerie Perrine’s work with the character in the original Superman films, and that she’s gotten to know her predecessor in life. She said she was excited to become a full-time cast member.
An audience member asked if they thought Lena was capable of becoming as evil as Lex. Benoist said that she thought Kara would fight tooth and nail to keep Lena from going down that path, but that it would definitely be understandable. McGrath said she thinks any great character can be either a hero or a villain, and that that doesn’t make them bad or good, just human. She said she loves that about Lena, and ultimately whatever Lena does she will always feel like she’s doing the best she can.The question of the new season is whether the betrayal by Kara defines Lena and her character.
Another fan applauded the show for being so strongly feminist. She asked when we would see plus-sized representation on the show. Rath reiterated what he said earlier about wanting Bouncing Boy to appear on the show, and Queller and Schechter both thanked the fan for the question and said the point was well-taken.
Cryer quickly went down the line to get everyone’s favorite moment from the previous season. He called out the scene where Rath experienced every human emotion in the span of four sentences. Rath said he tried to keep every Brainiac he could think of in mind while playing that scene. Rath himself said he loved when Supergirl got ‘grass powers’ at the end of the season. Schechter said seeing Dreamer come to life was her favorite, and Benoist said she loved being in ‘Kaznia’ with Cryer. Cryer praised Benoist’s accent as Red Daughter, then joked that no Russians in the audience should disagree. Tesfai added that she loved the episode “O Brother, Where Are Thou?” where she and Cryer both joined the show.
With that, Cryer thanked fans for attending, and the panel — and the Supergirl cast’s time at SDCC — ended.