NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Sunday, October 25, 2015, 2:00 AM
Look Up in the Sky! Melissa Benoist stars as Supergirl in CBS’ new superhero drama.
Melissa Benoist began shopping for her 2015 Halloween costume the day after Halloween last year.
That’s when she auditioned to play the latest Girl of Steel in the new CBS drama “Supergirl,” which launches Monday at 8:30 p.m.
She was smart to start early, because that iconic costume took a while to secure. Auditions lasted three months.
The costume itself was no overnight quickie, either.
But by the time Benoist, 27, got the gig, she was ready.
“I wasn’t looking for a physical role,” she says. “But whatever comes your way happens for a reason.
“The second that I saw in my email inbox the title ‘Supergirl,’ I knew it was something important, and it was something exciting and rare that I wanted to be a part of.”
Before the show has even premiered, Supergirl has become part of the zeitgeist: GOP hopeful Jeb Bush said last week that he thinks “she’s pretty hot” and plans to watch the program.
And since superheroes aren’t exactly hard to find these days, creator Greg Berlanti – who also handles “The Flash” and “Arrow” over at the CW – designed Benoist’s Supergirl to take a different flight path from her predecessors.
Benoist likes that approach.
“I didn’t read the comic as a kid,” she says. “But I’ve immersed myself in the mythology now, so I know she’s a very different character than she is in the comic. We didn’t want to be the same iteration.”
Supergirl was still born on Krypton, of course, and she is jettisoned to Earth at 13 because Krypton is dying.
She’s now 24, raised for the past 11 years by the Danvers family. That notably includes her foster mother Eliza, who is played by Helen Slater, who played Supergirl in the 1984 film. Small world, er, universe.
Unlike her cousin Superman, Kara remembers life on Krypton, which opens the door to flashbacks involving her birth mother Alura (Laura Benanti).
But the story focuses on her new life as a young, single woman just starting out in the work world. She works for Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), who runs the media conglomerate CatCo with a style that owes as much to “The Devil Wears Prada” as to Perry White from “Superman.”
Oh, yeah, and Jimmy Olsen this time is black (Mehcad Brooks).
Still, it’s Supergirl’s show and Benoist says she feels the difference from her past roles, which include the wistful Marley Rose on “Glee.”
“It’s a very big change,” she says. “You see it in how people behave. You just try keep focused on what you have to do.”
That quickly starts to include some of the ultra-physical stuff Benoist hadn’t been looking for.
Benoist is joined by Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers (left) and David Harewood as Hank Henshaw.
Her superpowers were dormant through her teenage years and into her 20s, meaning she’s discovering them as we meet her.
“She never knew about her powers,” says Benoist. “So at first she’s nervous about trying them.”
That fear triggers an extended sequence that sets the tone for the whole show. It’s heavily laced with humor, abetted by Kara’s Earth sister Alex (Chyler Leigh), and it also builds to a girl-power version of “Rocky,” in which Cat gives an impassioned speech asking who in blazes decided a woman can’t be the same kind of superhero as a man.
That makes it hard to miss the symbolism when Kara begins to fly.
And, naturally, to fight, because some very bad guys can’t believe a mere girl could stop their nefarious schemes and thus instigate extended hand-to-hand battles.
This means Benoist, like other Supergirls before, needs a costume that looks heroic yet remains functional for flying and fighting.
Costume designer Colleen Atwood did a “great” job there, Benoist says, losing the glossy bright red and blue of the comic for more muted colors that let a girl move.
It’s a trick and a treat.