Supergirl's Melissa Benoist Shares What It Really Takes to Transform Into a Superhero
InStyle caught up with Supergirl star Melissa Benoist at Comic-Con 2015, and she shared her secrets for transforming into a superhero for the new CBS series—from her workout routine to mentally preparing for the title role.
So taking on this character, there's comic book history. There's Helen Slater's interpretation [in the 1984 version of the film]. What do you make out of this?
Wow. Well, obviously, there's a daunting feeling to arrive at a point where this is a character that is so developed and so many people already love. So there's responsibility, and I arrive wanting to just stay true to a lot of that. But what I want to bring is, I love her humanity, even though she is an alien. I love that she really has a lot of discovering to do and growth and makes mistakes. I think she's so relatable, and I just want to stay true to that.
Did you immediately run to the gym?
[Laughs] Kind of.
So what did you do? Did you have to step up your work outs?
Oh, yeah, I did. I immediately – I am such a pacifist in my everyday life. I don't think I've ever hit anyone before, and so I definitely had to learn technique. Like how to actually punch someone and not hurt yourself more than you're hurting the person you're punching. And so boxing was part of it, and core work and Pilates and biometrics, were a lot of it.
Did it change your mind set getting yourself physically transformed?
Yeah, yeah, the motivation there, and the drive, it definitely affects. Because I don't have a choice, and I can't sit down and be like, oh, I'm done. I want some popcorn. I have to stay on top of my game.
What about the wire work?
It's hard. The wire work is really difficult, but so fun. And when you get it right, watching the result is exhilarating. It's a really, really cool feeling to know what it felt like, the energy I had to exert to create those flying scenes. And then the way they look is really rewarding.
And how do you feel playing Supergirl with the movie Wonder Woman coming out in the same year? Do you feel that there should be a conversation between you two?
Oh, for sure. We've not met yet, but I'm sure. Yeah, I will probably relate a lot.
How did it feel to see yourself in the costume?
There's this internal feeling. Something changes. It's this transformation, almost, to the point where I don't recognize myself when I'm in it. I feel like a different person.
On a practical level, what do you love about the costume and what do you not love?
That's a really good question [laughs]. I love that–I grew up as a dancer, so it feels like a leotard and skirt and tights that I wore when I was a ballerina. But what is impractical or sometimes painful, even though I think I'm very lucky in terms of my suit. I know a lot of people have masks that sweat and don't breathe at all. Mine has a corset. My cape is a corset, and so that sometimes when I'm on the wire is like—it's constricting.
Are you doing your own stunts?
I'm trying to do a lot of them because I want to. I think they're so fun. There are some that I just can't – I really could get injured. But I'm trying to. My stunt double is amazing. She was Jen Garner's on Alias and Buffy's. She's all over the place, and she's so cool. I wish people could see what they go through. It's insane.
Are you trying to bring that dancer's grace to the flying and to the movement?
Of course. What I think is cool is to try to bring kind of a femininity to her strength. You see Superman and it's obviously this solid thing. But I do like the idea of bringing in like a grace to it. And a fluidity and kind of this femininity to flying. It's fun.
When you did this pilot, what did you think?
I really believed in it. And I think I knew deep down that people would like it, especially like young girls. That's who I really wanted to affect. But, of course, there's always that moment where you're like, oh, man, I don't know what's going to happen. But now, I'm fairly certain that people are really excited from what everyone's been saying.
Supergirl will debut October 26 at 8:30 p.m. EST on CBS.
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