Supergirl is set to fly tonight on CBS, giving fans a brand new take on Superman’s Kryptonian cousin Kara Zor-El played by Melissa Benoist. The show also stars Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen, going by James in the show, and we caught up with him during round table interviews at New York Comic Con for the inside scoop on the latest incarnation of the DC Comics icon.
QUESTION: How would you best describe the character you’re playing?
MEHCAD BROOKS: How would I best describe the character I’m playing? Best describe… It’s Jimmy Olsen but he’s all grown up. When you hang out with Superman long enough it’s almost like a confidence boot camp. Maybe you start working out, maybe you change your clothes a little bit. He’s now won a Pulitzer prize for shooting Superman. He’s now art director at National City. Superman’s asked him to leave Metropolis and go to National City to help Supergirl become who she’s supposed to be. He’s kind of like his liaison in between her hidden identity and who she’s supposed to be. It’s a really cool role. It’s really great.
MEHCAD BROOKS: That’s a multi-faceted question. Let’s start with why you said beloved fans. I think because Jimmy represents how we feel about Superman almost, right? He represents the truth and justice that’s I think in our hearts. If we had a friend who was able to preform these actions, we would help them. Maybe we couldn’t fly ourselves, maybe we couldn’t do this, but we’d be right there providing whatever that person needed, right?
I think that’s a really cool entry way to that world. I think that most of that are just humans, who don’t have any special powers could look to someone and have that person be your eyes and ears and your voice, right? I think that’s why people love Jimmy and it’s an honor to play that.
What am I bringing that’s different to it? Swag. It’s the same character, it’s the same DNA the only thing we’ve changed is the ethnicity. To speak on that point, Jimmy was created in 1940. It was a very monochromatic existence back then, you can’t blame anybody for writing or drawing what they knew. If Jimmy had been created last year perhaps he would look like me. Perhaps he would look like you. You don’t know. We’re just sort of writing a lot of the social inequities of the past.
MEHCAD BROOKS: Correct, sir. He’s going to serve as a mentor but there is an attraction. If Superman asks you to go cross country and look after his cousin, there is a bro code. You can’t just go hit on his cousin immediate. You’ve got to structure that. He will choke you and bad things will happen because he’s really strong.
QUESTION: What is it like being on a show that is a female at the center, which we don’t usually get with superheroes?
MEHCAD BROOKS: It’s about time. I love how our country talks about women like they’re a minority group, but they’re half the world. It’s half the human population. It’s almost like, my mom to me is a superhero. She did things that I could not possibly do. I look back at how I was raised and I think about how she was a single mom for a portion of my childhood and I go, “I could not have done that.” That’s incredible
I feel like there’s been real life women superheroes for a long time. I feel like there’s been comic book heroes for a long time that are women. I think our society’s just now getting ready for that prime time. Change takes a long time, sadly. I’m glad we’re just kicking down the door though. I’m really happy to be a part of that. To empower women is long overdue. It’s ridiculous.
QUESTION: Is this something you sought after, they came to you?
MEHCAD BROOKS: I begged. I pleaded. I cried. I stealed. You know you stole something when you said stealed. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t like an offer. They were open to seeing everybody, thank God. I went in for a pre-read. They don’t even tape it really. It’s like: “Can you talk?” That’s basically what happened. I went in like five or six times for it. Two screen tests and here we are.
QUESTION: Talking a little bit about the tone of the show. How would you describe the tone of the show? How does it compare to other superhero shows that you’ve seen?
MEHCAD BROOKS: I would say it’s better than them. I mean, really. To me, honestly, it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen on TV. I’m not even kidding. I know I’m supposed to say that but I really actually mean it, I really do mean it. It has like a Donner-esque quality to it. It has that sort of romantic sort of comedy element but also inspirational, but also a dark side to it too. We don’t delve into the darkness so much you can’t watch it with your kids. Also, we don’t make a show for kids, the adults are going to love it too. I think there’s something really cool about that. The Simpsons did it really well right? Adults would snicker behind their kid’s back’s. The kid’s would be like, “Oh that’s so cool and cute.”
We have both. The tone of our show is much more Donner-esque than the later Christopher Nolan’s. Those are very dark.
MEHCAD BROOKS: We’re on eight now.
QUESTION: What can you tease that’s coming up after the pilot as far as in terms of what surprised you?
MEHCAD BROOKS: What can I tease? I could just tease you in general, but I can’t tell you much about it. I could tell you you’re definitely going to be surprised and shocked. It’s going to be like watching a movie every week. Did you have a question?
QUESTION: Sometimes we hear the stories about fan boy / fan person, moments from the set about the first see someone in full costume as an iconic character. What was it like the first time you saw Melissa suited up as Supergirl?
MEHCAD BROOKS: I didn’t recognize her. I was like, “Who are … Melissa? Wow!” She’s in good shape anyway but the costume has pads a little bit here and there, not big ones, but a little bit here and there. She really is in great shape. There’s times where we’re in scenes still to this day, maybe we’re not getting along in the scene or whatever the case is and I’m like, “Please don’t kick my ass. You could beat me up right now. This is crazy. Why do I feel like I’m 240 lbs. Why do I feel like she could beat me up? Could you cut please? Could you lower your voice, Melissa please?” It’s that kind of thing, it’s pretty amazing. The wardrobe is unbelievable. It’s incredible. I touch it every day.
Supergirl stars Melissa Benoist (Kara Zor-El/ Supergirl), Calista Flockhart (Cat Grant), Chyler Leigh (Alex Danvers), David Harewood (Chief Hank Henshaw), Mehcad Brooks (Jimmy Olsen), Faran Tahir (The Commander), Peter Facinelli (Maxwell Lord), Jenna Dewan Tatum (Lucy Lane) and Laura Benanti (Alura Zor-El). Former Superman and Supergirl Dean Cain and Helen Slater are also on board as Kara’s earth parents Jeremiah and Eliza Danvers.
Supergirl premieres tonight on CBS at 8:30 PM.