Heroes come in all shapes, sizes, methodologies, and species. On Supergirl, we’re used to superheroes that have legitimate super abilities. But, as we’ve seen before on this show, and others like Arrow, The Flash, that super powers don’t make the hero. The person makes the hero.
It’s what made the premise of James Olsen, a normal human with a desire to help people, as Guardian an intriguing aspect. While it’s felt under utilized, there was something that was powerful about the idea of James unmasking himself as Guardian. Not because he was caught, but because he wanted to make the people he was saving more at ease.
Mehcad Brooks loved getting to explore everything that went along with James unmasking himself as Guardian, including the social context of the storyline.
“It wasn’t only dealing with unmasking, it was also dealing with how people feel about the cultural dynamic of being African American,” Mehcad Brooks told us during a roundtable interview at San Diego Comic-Con. “So it’s almost like we got to put racism where it belongs in the social context of bullying.
“Most black superheroes wear masks,” he continued. “In the writers room, that came to our attention, as well. We’re like, ‘Wait a second, that’s not cool.’ You take these black actors and throw a piece of iron over their face or some sort of technology over their face, and that’s not really the point.”
Representation is more important now than ever in this day and age as children look to media for inspiration. For Brooks, it’s important that he can help contribute to that.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t have anybody that looked like me to look up to,” he continued. “Now, when I go to these Comic Cons or the grocery store, and there’s a young black kid that’s 6-years old, and he’s like, ‘Mr. Olsen?’”
As for unmasking superheroes, it’s not a storyline that we see much on television, especially for superheroes on The CW. Usually, we’re teased with the possibility of what would happen if their identity were to be revealed. But we don’t usually get to see it play out.
But from the sound of it, Supergirl is going to explore the consequences that come with James unmasking his identity as Guardian. Interestingly enough, James is going to get some unexpected support. But not everyone appreciates him, a normal human, as a superhero.
“Let’s just say because of the unmasking there’s some fallout that happens,” Brooks said. “And some unexpected support that happens because he’s human. He’s doing something that normally aliens do or mutants do or genetically advanced humans do. He happens to be this human being that’s taking his life in his hands being brave and heroic. Some people appreciate it, and some people don’t.”
Watch our interview with Brooks below, where he also talks about the cultural significance of Black Panther.
Supergirl season 4 premieres Sunday, Oct. 14 at 8/7c on The CW.