Warning! Major spoilers lie ahead. If you are not caught up on CBS’s Supergirl, proceed with caution! Seriously: this is a really big, big spoiler. So don’t say we didn’t give you plenty of warning. OK?
Well, ladies and gentlemen, after weeks of speculation and mystery, the question of who Supergirl‘s Hank Henshaw (played by David Harewood) is has finally been revealed, and it’s a doozy. As it turns out, Hank is none other than J’onn J’onzz himself — otherwise known as Martian Manhunter.
The decision to bring one of the most honorable members of the Justice League to the small screen was one that has been in the works since the beginning, and Nerdist just so happened to be on set with the cast and crew last week when the cat was let out of the bag. We spoke with Harewood as well as series co-creators Ali Adler and Andrew Kreisberg about keeping Henshaw’s true identity under wraps and taking on the challenge of bringing him to life.
“I think we’ve known about this great and amazing piece of Hank for a long time and it’s really shaped our movements throughout,” Supergirl co-creator Ali Adler says of the big reveal that came during Monday night’s episode (“Human for a Day”). “So it’s been nice to have that blueprint in place since we started this. What’s exciting is that we finally get to share that with people and so what’s fun about that is that he’s got such tremendous powers. So we finally get to use to our advantage all of these things that we’ve had to keep a little bit — like, the red eyes are fun but we really want to show off what he can do and we’ll definitely use that in upcoming episodes.”
According to Kreisberg, the idea came to them during production on the pilot episode. “I don’t remember which one of us said it, but it was like, ‘Oh, if we were ever going to make a Martian Manhunter show or something, David would’ve been the perfect Martian Manhunter.’ And it was Geoff [Johns] who said, ‘Well, why can’t he be?'”
Kreisberg continued, “Then we started talking about what the feasibility of it was. First, we had to tell David, ‘Oh, by the way….’ He was so funny, because Ali and I took him out to lunch, and he was like, ‘I’m not going to be Shrek, am I?'”
Once Harewood was assured he would not be playing a seven foot version of a Scottish ogre, he found that J’onn J’onzz could be the role of a lifetime. Said Harewood, “I don’t know if you know that much about the character, the Martian Manhunter, but having lost his own children, he’s got a lot of pain and a lot of melancholy, which is fantastic to play. It gives you an enormous amount of stuff to [work with]. I think these two girls represent something that’s very close to him.”
Harewood didn’t know much about Martian Manhunter before he learned the true identity of his character (he was a Marvel reader all through his childhood). But he quickly bulked upon the history of one of the most virtuous characters in all of the DCU—an opportunity he likened to playing Macbeth or Hamlet. Said Harewood, “When I started reading him, I was blown away. I thought, ‘Wow, how did this guy ever escape my comic book knowledge?’ I have been reading Martian Manhunter comics now for the last three months, four months, and they’re just awesome. He’s such a wonderful character.”
For Kreisberg, telling a Martian Manhunter story across an extended television arc has also been a bit of a dream come true, stating that, “it’s sort of the secret of Supergirl that, within the body of the series of Supergirl, there is a Martian Manhunter series rolling throughout it.”
He added, “J’onn has always been one of my favorite characters from my childhood, and then — you know, through the Justice League cartoon. And just that soulfulness and that sadness [coming from] the one who is the most frightening-looking of all the Justice Leaguers and, yet, is the one with the purest heart. And then watching this relationship that’s growing between him and Alex, and him and Kara—that started out at a very gruff place—[but] by the time you’re getting into the meat of the season they’ve become this little family unit. He’s become a surrogate father for them, but at the same time they’re helping him become more human.”
What do you think of the big reveal? Let us know in the comments.
New episodes of Supergirl air Monday nights on CBS.
Image Credit: CBS