'Supergirl' Boss on "Thoughtful" Coming Out Story and "Bury Your Gays" Fears

The Hollywood Reporter

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Monday's episode of Supergirl, "Crossfire."]

Kara (Melissa Benoist) isn't the only one hiding a secret on Supergirl.

Her older, adoptive sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) has been keeping something under wraps for her entire life, and she finally confessed it in Monday's episode, "Crossfire." After detective Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima) was dumped by her girlfriend, she mistook Alex's invitation to get drinks as asking her out on a date. Maggie was taken aback, and she told Alex she didn't realize that Alex was gay. After denying it and leaving abruptly, Alex did some soul searching, and by the end of the episode, she came out as gay to Maggie.

In an emotional heart-to-heart, Alex confessed that she had always strived to be perfect in all aspects of her life, but growing up, the one area in which she couldn't be perfect was dating. She never wanted to be intimate with anyone, and she hadn't realized until now that that was because she didn't want to be intimate with the men she was dating. 

"What I'm interested in, because I love Alex, is that I want Alex to be happy," executive producer Andrew Kreisberg tells The Hollywood Reporter. "There was always this sadness about her last season that I think we're really getting underneath now. No one should ever feel like they're trapped. No one should ever feel like they've got a secret inside of them. The idea that, in going through this, even if it is painful and rough going, that Alex is going to come out the other side a happier and more complete person, as someone who loves Alex Danvers so dearly like a sister, that she is going to go on this incredible journey makes me so happy."

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Supergirl is going to be focusing on exploring Alex's coming-out journey in a big way in upcoming episodes. 

"It's going to be funny, it's going to be serious, it's going to be romantic, it's going to be heartbreaking," says Kreisberg. "It's going to be everything that any relationship that you see on TV, no matter what the gender, should and will be."

When the Supergirl producers, along with The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow producers, gathered for an August panel at the Television Critics Association press tour, they announced that a major character on one of the DC Comics/CW shows would be coming out this season. Speculation immediately began swirling around Supergirl, but instead of predicting that Alex was the character in question, many viewers and critics believed it to be Winn (Jeremy Jordan) despite the fact that he dated and pined after two women last season.

"We thought that was interesting because, you know, Winn was so clearly in love with Kara, he couldn't have seemed more straight to us," Kreisberg says with a laugh. "We thought it was interesting that people were assuming it was going to be Winn."

As for why no one predicted it to be Alex until only recently when her storyline began to take shape with Maggie, Kreisberg doesn't have an answer.

"Alex didn't really have any social life last season," says Kreisberg. "She didn't really have anything beyond her work and her love for her sister, which for us, rather than it just being explained away by, 'Oh, she's a workaholic,' what was going on in Alex's mind? What was she dealing with on an internal level? The idea that part of the reason why she did throw herself into work and part of the reason she did throw herself into keeping her sister safe and protecting her sister's secret was that she had a secret of her own that she was protecting."

He continues, "It just made so much sense to us. It was actually something that we had discussed doing last season and didn't think we were in the right place to be doing it. But coming into this season, it just felt so natural and like such a strong storyline to give to Alex this year."

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Usually this kind of personal journey is explored on the small screen with a younger character, most often with teens in coming-of-age stories. But it was important for the Supergirl producers to be true to life and explore this with an adult character.

"After talking to [executive producer] Greg Berlanti and doing some research on my own, anecdotally it seems like people who come out later in life come out because they've met someone," says Kreisberg. "There's a specific person for whom they've fallen. The idea that Alex, who never really had a strong romantic connection with anybody and had come to dismiss it, and then meets Maggie and has her world turned upside down, it seems like interesting territory to us, that it wasn't about a young teenager coming to grips with it. It was somebody who was an adult and in some ways had more to overcome on an internal level to get to the point where she could recognize that she has these feelings."

Because Alex's coming out was inspired and encouraged by her feelings for Maggie, Kreisberg explains that the stories of Alex's budding romance with Maggie will be "linked" to Alex discovering her sexual identity on her own.

"Alex has put her hopes and dream on Maggie, which may or may not sit well with Maggie," says Kreisberg. "But watching them navigate Alex's coming out, their own ongoing romantic relationship will make up the emotional crux of the next few episodes."

When it came to developing this storyline for Alex, Kreisberg recalls working with both DC Comics and The CW as an "easy" process, although they did not meet with GLAAD.

"Everybody was totally supportive," says Kreisberg. "We had actually come up with this plan when the show was still going to be at CBS, and they were equally as supportive of it. The only difficulty we've had has just been the challenge of crafting the best possible tale. We've received nothing but support from everybody. Everybody is excited about this particular storyline, whether it was the studio, either networks, Chyler. Everyone has all been rolling in the same direction and that's been great."

The decision to add a lesbian character to Supergirl comes not long after several TV shows were criticized for killing off prominent lesbian characters  -  a controversial trend that became known as the "Bury Your Gays" trope. 

However, Kreisberg says that hasn't factored into Alex's narrative. "Well, they're not dying, either of them, so we're not really thinking about that right now," he says.

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While Kreisberg admits he didn't know about the term "Bury Your Gays," he promises that producers made sure to "try to be as truthful and real as possible" when it comes to writing Alex's coming out story.

"Especially on a show like Supergirl where there are so many fantastical elements, we try to make sure that the emotions are as real and true to life as possible," Kreisberg says. "That's just the same litmus test that we apply to Alex's coming out story. We just wanted to make sure we were telling the story in as respectful, educational, entertaining and thoughtful way as we could."

One facet of Alex's coming out story that Kreisberg is especially looking forward to telling is how Kara will react to her sister's confession, and how their relationship will evolve because of it.

"Alex mistakes Kara's reaction for not being entirely supportive," he says. "When Alex tells her, Kara feels guilty because she feels like their entire worlds growing up were so much about Kara and her secret that there wasn't enough room for Alex to feel comfortable bringing this up to her. But the people who love Alex continue to love Alex, as it should be in life, and everybody is going to be there for her."

Supergirl airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on The CW.