Supergirl has a new network, but she was already a changed woman before that. “The theme of last year was how does Kara become Supergirl. The theme of this year is how does Supergirl become Kara,” said executive producer Andrew Kreisberg at a recent CW screening. Along with the show’s Superman, Tyler Hoechlin, he spoke about the new season and why now was the right time to introduce Supergirl’s famous cousin.
Hoechlin studiously avoided watching any previous versions of the character, though the Superman he grew up with was Dean Cain of Lois and Clark. “I wanted zero temptation to imitate or emulate anything,” he tells Yahoo TV. The character is centered around the idea that “he is always doing what he wishes anyone else would do if they could do what he could do.” In the first episode, Superman stops to shake the hands of everyone at the DEO, and Hoechlin said the reason for that was, “Everything about him is to make everyone else realize that they can be their own version of Superman.”
Kreisberg is steeped in Superman lore, and he says that every version is in this new one. “The Superman that Tyler and Greg [Berlanti, one of the show’s executive producers] and I created is our favorite version of Superman because it has all the little bits that we like all put together.” Yes, he is a boy scout, but also, “I couldn’t see Christopher Reeve having that scene with J’onn, where the two of them are ready to come to blows over kryptonite.”
The main trick was to make sure that Superman didn’t take over the show, and that meant making him even more powerful. “The Superman that we designed was something that you really haven’t seen too much of,” says Kreisberg. While nearly every superhero movie or TV show begins with the superhero’s origin, Superman has “been doing it for a decade and got really, really good at it.” That meant he didn’t need a lot of focus or any kind of arc. He came in “as a supporting character for Kara: to be a friend and a cousin and a mentor.”
This also let them play with the notion of celebrity. Sure, Kara’s famous, but when her cousin comes to town, “it’s like Mick Jagger flew in,” says Kreisberg. But to her, he’s just Kal. “She’s completely over it. Just like your brother,” he says with a smile, speaking to Hoechlin, “does not care that you’re Superman.” Hoechlin laughs. “Oh, yeah. He does not.”
“We were planning to do this when we were on CBS,” says Kreisberg about the introduction of Superman, so the move didn’t alter things much. “Superman and Supergirl working together just felt like a great way to open the season.” They did enjoy laying the groundwork throughout the first season though. “Sometimes, like Vera on Cheers, just hearing about her made her a far more interesting character than if somebody had actually walked into the bar with Norm.”
This season, two big changes have grown organically out of the show’s trajectory. The first is that the set is no longer a dank cave; there’s now sunlight streaming in through windows. “We were always going to revamp the DEO. We just fell out of love with the cave set. It didn’t feel of a piece” with the rest of the show, Kreisberg explains.
The other is the relationship between James and Kara. “We felt like we were pursuing that relationship more because we felt like we had to rather than any of us was truly feeling it,” Kreisberg says. They discovered that “the best scenes between them were the nice, sweet scenes where they were just friends.” Rather than just abandon that, they let it take its course. “Most of us have had friendships that turned into something more, then you realized maybe it wasn’t. So it felt like a very real story that we could be telling.”
Supergirl airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on the CW.