“‘Girl’ Doesn’t Mean Young and Inconsequential”: CBS’ ‘Supergirl’ Producers on What to Expect From the Show

LOS ANGELES: One of CBS’ most anticipated new shows of the fall season is Supergirl, a comic book adaptation from producers Greg Berlanti and Ali Adler. The preview received mixed reactions, but throughout this morning’s Television Critics Association panel, the cast and crew were optimistic and confident about the upcoming series.

The question on everyone’s mind was whether or not Supergirl’s cousin Superman would appear in the series. As it turns out, though Superman does factor into his cousin’s life, the series will be wholly Supergirl’s. “You won’t see him exactly on screen. He’s going to be more in the background, but he does play a part in her evolution of becoming a superhero,” said CCO of DC Entertainment Geoff Johns. “It’s very much [Supergirl’s] point of view,” added EP Ali Adler. Because of Supergirl’s origin — she was a young child when she came to Earth — she does remember Krypton, unlike Superman, which Johns said “makes it more painful.”

Other first-season teasers included the revelation that iconic DC characters like General Sam Lane, Red Tornado, and Kryptonian villain Non will all appear during the first couple of episodes. Also, Supergirl will have real stakes. “Week in and week out, you want to feel like Supergirl might not survive these things,” said EP Andrew Kreisberg. “There are plenty of things besides Kryptonite that can take her down. It’s not to diminish her but to make it feel like there’s actually jeopardy for the show.”

When asked about the struggle to create a successful adaptation of a comic book, Berlanti (who is also executive producer of The Flash and Arrow) explained his approach: “We always try to imagine what the show is if you remove the superpowers from it.” Specifically for Supergirl, they added a workplace element (“We felt like that hadn’t been represented in a show like this”) and an adult-sibling relationship. As for other factors, Berlanti mentioned emotional dynamics, staying focused on the character (as opposed to superpowers and big set pieces), and emphasized “casting, casting, casting.”

When discussing how they get to introduce these iconic characters to a younger generation while still keeping their original DNA, the crew remarked on why the character isn’t named “Superwoman” instead of “Supergirl” (“Superwoman is a different character,” Johns quickly responded): “Supergirl might imply a younger audience, but we felt like we could take the power back and participate in introducing that to a new generation. [‘Girl’] doesn’t just mean young and inconsequential. It should mean strong and bold.” Actress Melissa Benoist also praised the character of Supergirl: “She’s such a beacon of hope. I knew that her bravery and strength was so important and intrinsic to who she is,” she said. Kreisberg added, “One of the great joys of Supergirl is that she really loves being Supergirl.”

Later on, Berlanti explained that he takes the same approach to writing a woman superhero as he does with a man: “We have a similar formula for all the shows regardless of the gender of the character. You want a show that has romance and action and all of the things you’ve come to love about the comic book itself.”

Supergirl premieres on CBS on October 26. Watch the new trailer below.