Supergirl 4.02 – Fallout stills [x]
“Supergirl” will be gaining a new ally — TV’s first transgender superhero — when her series returns on Sunday. That night viewers will meet Nia Nal, who is a reporter in training working alongside Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist), the civilian guise of the title hero. As the season progresses, Nia will be revealed to be the superheroine Dreamer. The character will be played by Nicole Maines, an actress and activist who is also transgender.
“It is a phenomenal time to be a queer nerd,” Ms. Maines said. “We have so much representation on the superhero shows!”
Ms. Maines is heroic herself: In 2014, she successfully sued her school district after being denied access to the girl’s restroom at her school. During a recent telephone interview, she answered questions about playing Dreamer, the reaction to her casting and getting suited up to fight for justice. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
What do you hope the reaction will be to you being on “Supergirl”?
So far it’s been so positive and it’s just been this complete outpouring of love and support for me as an actor, for me as a trans woman and for this character. I think so many people are relieved and happy and excited to see someone like them on television. And to see someone like them on television as a superhero! Seeing yourself as a superhero is kind of the most validating thing. I hope that all people, not just trans people, fall in love with Nia and her energy and her as a superhero. And I hope it just grows and evolves from that.
The reaction from San Diego Comic-Con when your role was announced in July was extremely positive. Have you heard about any detractors?
Of course there are always negative reactions to everything that anybody does. At Comic-Con, I was just so blown away. Having the entire room applauding and cheering for a trans superhero — that was really, really inspiring for me. As far as negative stuff goes, I do see a lot of folks, and especially a lot of parents, talking about “I’m not going to allow my child to watch this show anymore. I’m not going to let my young daughter watch ‘Supergirl.’” That’s so sad to me. We have a female-driven show in a male-dominated genre, and you’re not going to let your daughter watch this empowering show because it has a trans character? I think what a lot of folks are afraid of is that we’re trying to cram some sort of agenda down their throats. And that’s not the case. It’s not preachy at all. Nia is presented as a very real person with real problems. And her story arc is outside of her gender, outside of her transness. I just hope people who are kind of anxious or cautious about this will give it a chance.
Why do you think it’s important for young viewers to see a character like yours on television?
This season of “Supergirl” is very reflective of the climate that we’re living in right now. It is using the lens of a superhero show to talk about real world issues. I think kids need to watch “Supergirl” for Nia, because there are more and more trans people coming out younger and younger. I think it is necessary to educate folks on trans issues and to make them aware of trans identities and normalize it, because it is normal. But when you’re shielded from something and it’s actively censored, it takes a negative connotation. If people are more educated and they’re more aware of these issues and more familiar, they won’t feel so foreign.
Why do you think it is critical to have a trans person playing a trans character?
Because it’s validating. Historically we have seen cis men play trans women and vice versa. That casting breaks through the fourth wall and it gives people the message that trans people are being played by cis men in real life, which is where we get this idea of men in dresses. But that’s not what happens. When we have a trans woman playing a trans woman then you see, “Oh wait, this is what trans really is. This is what it looks like: a person.” That sends a message to trans kids that they are valid in their identities, that they are allowed to exist. It also sends a message to cis gender people, to parents, that trans people are not dangerous or sexually deviant or any of these myths that have kind of been construed by conservative outlets. It’s just an identity that people live. As trans folks they have completely normal lives and some of them become superheroes. And that’s O.K.
What was your experience like on set?
It was phenomenal. It was like I was back in seventh grade, the new-kid-in-school kind of energy. Everybody was so friendly and welcoming. To use a popular term of the kids of today, they have been “woke.” They have been so sensitive to my identity and they have been so welcoming. It gives me the warm fuzzies.
Do you feel comfortable enough to suggest changes to the script, if something does not feel worded properly, with regard to being trans?
Absolutely. The writers said, “Listen we aren’t experts” — and of course neither am I. I can only speak from my own experience. But they’ve been very proactive in making sure that they are approaching the situation as best that they can and I’m doing the same thing. So we’ve been combing over everything trying to give the best representation of Nia that we can. And that includes all of her flaws and all of her strengths. I think accurately presenting a trans character means not presenting them as perfect — I think there’s been a pressure to do this with trans characters. They can have no flaws because they must represent the entire trans community. Now that we’ve seen broader representation of trans identities, I think it’s safer to explore the fault in these trans characters and make them entirely human and three dimensional. Nia’s not perfect. She has her own stuff going on which makes her compelling and sympathetic, and makes her relatable and interesting.
Have you been suited up for a costume yet?
I’ve been measured for a suit. We’re working on it and I’ve seen some things. I can’t say anything, but it is beautiful. I kind of think I have the best suit. Everybody’s suits are pretty great, but I kind of think mine is the coolest. But I might be biased.
“American Alien” — (8:00-9:00 p.m. ET) (TV-PG, V) (HDTV)
HOPE VS. FEAR — Diving back into reporting, Kara (Melissa Benoist) welcomes a new cub reporter to CatCo. Meanwhile, James (Mehcad Brooks) and Lena (Katie McGrath) argue about James’ impending indictment for acting as the vigilante Guardian, while Alex (Chyler Leigh) and Brainy (Jesse Rath) struggle to get in sync at the DEO. Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) is called into action when remnants of the anti-alien terrorist organization Cadmus try to assassinate pro-alien leaders, but their endgame turns out to be much more sinister than she expected. J’onn (David Harewood) relishes his peaceful new life, but an outing with an old friend causes him concern.
Jesse Warn directed the episode with story by Robert Rovner & Jessica Queller and teleplay by Gabriel Llanas & Aadrita Mukerji (#401).
Original airdate 10/14/2018. [x]