Back in the day, CBS was the home of “The Incredible Hulk” and the original version of “The Flash.”
It’s been a while, but the network now driven largely by crime procedurals is welcoming another superhero … or, more accurately, a super heroine.
“Supergirl” lands Monday (Oct. 26), with “Glee” alum Melissa Benoist in the plum part of the Man of Steel’s cousin from Krypton, also known as Kara Zor-El or (in her earthly life) Kara Danvers. The character also fueled a 1984 movie starring Helen Slater; in a nice move, that actress will recur as Supergirl’s adoptive mother, with former television “Superman” Dean Cain as Dad.
“I auditioned the day after Halloween last year,” Benoist tells Zap2it of her initial brush with the much-pursued title role, “and it was a Saturday morning. And I think the second that I saw in my email inbox the title ‘Supergirl,’ I just knew automatically that it was something important and it was something exciting and rare that I wanted to be a part of.”
Still, Benoist notes she’s been undergoing a considerable physical education for the part. “I’m terrible at sports,” she allows. “I’m not coordinated in that way. I would have moments where I felt confident and where I felt strong and brave and like I could do anything. But then, like everyone else, I have really, really awkward horribly awkward — moments.”
Also in the impressive “Supergirl” cast: Calista Flockhart (“Ally McBeal”) as Kara’s high-powered media-mogul boss, Cat Grant, who also employs former Daily Planet photographer James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks); Jeremy Jordan (“Smash”) as a tech-expert co-worker and confidant; Chyler Leigh (“Grey’s Anatomy”) as Kara’s foster sibling, Alex Danvers; Jenna Dewan Tatum (“Witches of East End”) as Lois Lane’s sister Lucy; Laura Benanti (“Nashville”) as Kara’s birth mother; Peter Facinelli (“Twilight”) as the enigmatic Maxwell Lord; and David Harewood (“Homeland”) as an ex-CIA man with a keen interest in Kara.
If “Supergirl” seems more suited to sister network The CW, where its executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg have the current version of “The Flash” and “Arrow” (plus the forthcoming “Legends of Tomorrow”), soon-to-exit CBS Entertainment chief Nina Tassler says she was sold from the start on acquiring it: “The journey that they were taking the character on, we felt, just spoke to sort of where today’s generation is.
“We also really responded to the fact that it had a very broad appeal,” Tassler adds, “so we felt that we could have genre fans, but we also felt the relationship of this young woman to the people at work … it was a great workplace comedy. And, more importantly, we thought that this was a genre and this was a franchise that would certainly open up and bring in new viewers.”
Benoist instantly becomes one of the new television season’s most prominent stars, a position Flockhart knows more than a bit about from her “McBeal” days. However, not a lot of advice is being shared there, apparently.
“She knows what she’s doing,” Flockhart says of Benoist. “She’s very confident. I have a little bit of insight, I guess, that I could probably provide for her — but she’s got it all together. She’s got it going on.”