On CBS’ Supergirl actor David Harewood plays Hank Henshaw, director of the DEO. He’s already put Lois Lane’s Army Dad in his place, but Henshaw has just revealed his true identity — and it’s out of this world!
While The CW’s Arrow is busy taking on mystically charged street thugs and his Central City counterpart The Flash is battling any number of parallel-earth rogues desperate to wield the “speed force” over at CBS Supergirl has some serious problems of her own. The Man of Steel’s cousin is carving out her own legacy and in the process is facing some interplanetary bad guys.
Even some of her own Kryptonian kin are running rampant and creating all sorts of chaos, but another alien threat may be looming closer to Earth and may test the Maid of Mights metal.
It’s a good thing for our heroine, she’s not alone in her fight! As the head of the paramilitary organization known as the DEO, Hank Henshaw recruits the alien Kara Zor-El, aka Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) to help contain the alien insurgents that are popping up all over the planet. Henshaw has also used his authority to keep a very close eye on Supergirl, who alongside her earthbound sister Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) have been able to take on the various challenges that have come their way, but the director of the “Department Of Extranormal Operations” has been keeping a secret of his own.
David Harewood, the actor who brings Hank Henshaw to life on Supergirl didn’t entirely know what he was getting into when he accepted the role on producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg’s latest project for DC Entertainment. The English born Harewood was certainly aware of the popular comic book legacy he was about to step into, but not the twists and turns in the plot his own character was about to take, and if the big reveal of Henshaw’s true identity — that of J’onn J’onnz, Martian Manhunter was a surprise to fans, imagine how David Harewood felt when he learned he’d be stepping into the role of one of the founding members of the Justice League.
We spoke with David Harewood from the set of Supergirl and he shared his insight and experience on joining the DC TV Universe, and what fans can expect from
DC Comics News: “David…Congratulations on the success of Supergirl!”
David Harewood: “Thank you very much! Everyone seems to be enjoying it.”
DCCN: “What was it that most attracted you to the project?”
Harewood: “I wanted to find a role that I could make my own, and also something that would appeal to my children. They haven’t really seen me on screen, mostly on stage — and they’re absolutely hooked on the show.”
DCCN: “It seemed that even before the show premiered on air and debuted at San Diego Comic-Con last year — you could already feel that you had something special — fans really embraced it.”
Harewood: “It’s funny you would say that, because we were really cocooned from everything. It’s such a tough schedule and everyone is really working flat out to get these shows produced…really get them right — so it is difficult for us to get a sense of how people are responding, but it certainly looks like we have a genuinely solid audience now. It can only get better!”
DCCN: “Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg have a great track record of putting together great casts, including Arrow and The Flash and now Supergirl. What was your first impression of Supergirl herself Melissa Benoist when you first saw her in her full costume?”
Harewood: “I kind of had to catch my breath a little bit! I mean to just have someone standing there wearing that [letter] ’S’. We’re so used to seeing that in the movies — but to see her walk on set it’s quite an impression — so symbolic! It is kind of cool really…and I have to say: Melissa is just a wonderful girl! She’s so approachable. For someone who is one of the hardest working actresses right now — I mean she is working every single day — she’s just fantastic. A real pleasure to work with.”
DCCN: “That’s great to hear, especially with the tough schedule that you’re all expected to maintain, but when you took the role, how much about Hank Henshaw did you know?”
Harewood: “I didn’t know anything! I started to research the role but I couldn’t find anything on ‘Hank Henshaw’ that I could get a hook on. They also hadn’t really told me who I was going to be. It was all very new to me, but it was after the pilot that I got a message from my agent saying that they were ‘changing’ the character. It was a little confusing to me.”
In the comic book continuity Hank Henshaw is the alter-ego of the maniacal Cyborg Superman who causes all sorts of mayhem for the Man of Steel during the “Reign of Supermen” storyline which resurrected Superman after his fatal confrontation with Doomsday. After the most recent DC Comics reboot, Hank Henshaw was reimagined as a fully human doctor who specializes in prosthetics. Supergirl’s father Zor-El has assumed the role of the Cyborg Superman in the new history, although following the recent “Convergence” the fate of Hank Henshaw appears to have once again played a role in Clark Kent’s life.
DCCN: “So you did Comic-Con without really knowing what your character was going to be?””
Harewood: “About a week letter they sat me down and handed me a huge pile of comic books and these green, martian figurine and then they told me…this is who you’re going to be playing.”
Coming out of its mid-season break the threat of alien invasion has escalated beyond just the range of rogue Kryptonians ecoterrorists with a chip on their shoulders. The White Martians have revealed themselves, and they’ve brought their own brand of genocide to Earth. In the most recent episode Harewood’s “J’onn J’onnz as Hank Henshaw” faces the guilt that lead the martian to our planet after the merciless White Martians decimated his people, and killed his family.
It’s a story ripped right from the comic book pages of JLA and an arc that was a favorite for fans especially of contemporary great Grant Morrison who introduced the White Martians into the comics continuity.
Harewood: “I hadn’t heard of J’onn J’onnz before — it’s been like a crash course [for me] into the DC Universe. I’m so glad this character landed on my lap. He’s such a wonderful character — great mythology — with such a great backstory. He’s just fun to play.”
DCCN: “Fans are curious about how much of J’onn J’onnz is going to be revealed. The White Martians were also just introduced. Do you think this will be an arc that will be going through to the rest of the season?”
Harewood: “We have to primarily remember [the show] isn’t called The Martian Manhunter. I think Supergirl has a lot to teach Hank about being himself — his natural self — but yes…we’ll get to see Hank doing some martian manhuntering and it’s going to be a lot of fun. Fans are going to be very happy to see him doing his thing.”
With Maxwell Lord also taking preventative measures to contain the extra-terrestrial invasion, Supergirl is going to have her hands full. Fortunately she’s in a league all of her own, and in very good company.
There are plenty more surprises this season on Supergirl and David Harewood promises that there will be much more to reveal about Hank Henshaw’s martian secret identity. Supergirl airs on CBS Monday nights @ 8pm EST.