On the Season 2 finale of The CW series Supergirl, Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) challenges Rhea (Teri Hatcher) to battle to save National City, which means that she’ll likely need the help of her friends and loved ones, in order to triumph. With so many storylines to deliver on and knowing that they’ll be back for Season 3, viewers are sure to be on the edge of their seats, as they get resolution to some threads while new doors are opened.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Katie McGrath (who plays Lena Luthor) talked about how cool it is to get to play such a bad-ass, why Lena Luthor has been so unexpected, how much more disappointment Lena can take, especially when it comes to her own mother, that it would be a mistake to think that Lena won’t play a role in saving the city, how Lena might react to learning Kara Danvers’ secret identity, and that she would love to return the favor and guest on iZombie with Rahul Kohli (who recently played Jack Spheer on Supergirl).
Collider: First of all, congrats on becoming a series regular for Season 3! It’s so exciting that we’ll get to see more of this character on TV because she’s just a bad-ass!
KATIE McGRATH: I completely agree! I wish I could take credit for her, but it’s an amazing team of writers. Basically, it’s all them, and I just say their words.
How much fun is it to play one of the most bad-ass women on television?
McGRATH: One of?! She is the most bad-ass woman on TV! Have you seen her collection of earrings? That, alone, means that she’s fuckin’ amazing! When I signed on to the show, I signed on for only a few episodes. I had no idea what I was going to become a part of. I had no idea that this woman was going to be created. To be a part of that, and to have it happen in an organic way, as they saw what worked and the producers responded to what the fans liked, is a very humbling experience. It’s very rare that you get to be with a character at the start of something. A lot of characters are known quantities. Even Supergirl, to a certain extent, is someone that you know because there are so many comic books and so many backstories with her. Lena is a little bit different. She’s kind of the unknown Luthor. You know Lex so well. You’ve seen him in so many different incarnations, whereas Lena is an enigma. To be able to be a part of that and to have it become something now that I never expected, is exciting. I never expected to be asked to be a series regular on a show like Supergirl. It’s unbelievable!
Since you didn’t know what this character would become, what was it that made you want to sign on to play her?
McGRATH: The scenes that I was given, on the page. She starts out with you thinking she’s the Luthor that everybody thinks she’s going to be, but then it turns out that she’s not. At that point, I was like, “Okay, this is going to be interesting!” And then, the more episodes that she was in and the more I learned about what she was going to be, I was surprised and it made me want to see more. I don’t know about everybody else, but that’s how I felt. She was unexpected. She wasn’t what I thought she was going to be. I wanted to know what was going to happen. Every time, I was surprised. As an actor, that’s what you want. You want to play something unexpected.
This last episode was so cool because you had Supergirl, Lena and Lillian Luthor, Rhea, Cat Grant, Alex Danvers, Maggie and the President, all being these really strong, really smart, really kick-ass women. What is it like for you to be a part of that, and find your place among all of those characters and actresses?
McGRATH: One of my best friends has a daughter who’s eight, and I really wanted to do something where she could watch it and it could be good for her. I wanted to do something that is good for a young teenage girl and that I could be proud of. I wanted to say, “This is going to be good for you. You will see strong, capable, wonderful, intelligent, smart women, to show you that everybody can be a million different things and still be a hero.” That’s what Supergirl, and that’s what the Arrow-verse does, so well. You can have a wide spectrum of different types of people, and yet they’re all heroes. You’ve got Cat Grant, Supergirl, Lena and Alex Danvers, but they’re all different and they’re all amazing. The fact that I even get to be put in the same breath as any of those women in that episode is humbling. It’s a little bit scary, but absolutely amazing.
There was such a bittersweet moment in the last episode, when Lena sounds so hopeful to see that her mother showed up on the ship to rescue her, but then immediately realizes that she’s still being devious, by leaving Supergirl and Mon-El behind. How much more disappointment can she take, from her own mother?
McGRATH: I was thinking about that, during the last couple of episodes that we were filming, and the difference between the relationship that Lena has with Lillian versus what she had with Rhea, and how much she can take. In a way, with Lillian, she just expects it. She’s so used to it now. She’s so used to her mother turning her back on her or disappointing her or being devious that, when it happens, she’s disappointed, but she’s expecting it. With Rhea, there was all of this hope, so the pain is more fresh. So, as far as how many more times can she take it with her mother? At the end of the day, they’re family, and family can always get back into your heart. No matter how many times she says to her mother, “I’m done with you!,” that’s still her mother. I don’t know if Lena will ever be able to say no to Lillian, unless there’s something really cool that the writers come up with, and I wouldn’t put it past them.
What can you say about the finale and the role that Lena plays in it? What will we see from her, before the season is done?
McGRATH: Going off of Season 2, I think it would be a mistake to think that Lena, who is smart, capable, intelligent, and runs what’s pretty much the most powerful company in all of National City, would not have a role to play in saving it. Ultimately, you’ve got to expect that she will be a part of that story. And not only her, but there are things that are still unfinished between her and her mother, which have to come to something. Episode 222 has a lot of things to deliver on, and I think it does it so well. It doesn’t stop. It picks up straight where Episode 221 left off, and it just keeps on going. Every time you have a question that you want to be answered, it will be answered. You’re taken along on a ride. The finale will have you white knuckling on the edge of your seat, biting your nails.
Lillian seems pretty sure that Lena will figure out that Supergirl and Kara are one in the same, and that it will upset her to know that that was kept from her. How do you think she’ll react, and what would it take for her to be okay with that lie?
McGRATH: I think a lot about that because, ultimately, the relationship between Kara and Lena is a question that is always in your mind, especially when you’re playing a Luthor and somebody else is playing a superhero. The thing that I like about the relationship is that neither of them have to be the other person when they’re together. Supergirl is only Kara when she’s around Lena, and Lena is only Lena. It’s based on them being real human beings, flawed and wonderful, but not the head of a company and not a superhero. I think if Lena ever finds out, it will be hard for her not to feel betrayed that her best friend didn’t tell her that. But then, she’s also a very smart woman and she has to understand that it has very difficult for a superhero to be that open and honest about that secret with a Luthor, based on the history of her cousin and Lena’s brother. But I like to think that Lena has proved herself so much, with the fact that she’s so accepting of other people and of aliens, that she’d be accepting of her best friend. Lena has spent so much time trying to be different from her family, so why then would she react in the same way as them? Ultimately, I’m hopeful that she will feel betrayed and hurt, but accepting of her best friend. I’m just going to put that out there and hope that the universe listens.
When I spoke to Rahul Kohli about his guest spot on Supergirl, he told me that he would love to have you show up on iZombie, and that he’d want you to get to use your own accent and have some sort of romantic relationship with his character, Ravi. Is that something you’d be game for?
McGRATH: Yes, absolutely! Hi, CW, I’d love to go on iZombie and play with Rahul. That would be great! He is tall and delightful.
Supergirl airs on Monday nights on The CW.