Hypable spoke to Mehcad Brooks at Supanova Pop Culture Expo about James Olsen’s journey in Supergirl season 2.
In Supergirl‘s first season, James was both ally and love interest for Kara. The first episode of Supergirl‘s second season broke the romance off between the two, but James has remained a steadfast ally for Kara. In addition to taking charge at CatCo in Cat Grant’s absence, he took to the streets as a masked vigilante, Guardian. Working alongside his man in the van, Winn, James has helped protect National City.
Ahead of Supergirl‘s season 2 finale, we spoke with actor Mehcad Brooks during a trip to Australia for Supanova about James Olsen’s season 2 journey as well as why playing him is personal for Brooks.
On James becoming Guardian
For many, James becoming a vigilante was a big surprise. For Brooks, it was a dream come true. Brooks enthuses that when he discovered what James would be up to in season 2, “I teared up and I screamed…right in [executive producer] Andrew Kreisberg’s face.”
During the first table read of season 2, Brooks says that Kreisberg told him that while “the first two or three episodes are going to be really boring” for him, he promised that something special was coming. “Well, what’s that?” Brooks asked, and was told, in reply, “You’re going to be a superhero.”
“I’ve always wanted to be [a superhero],” Brooks explains of his excitement. “I was the kid with the safety pin and towel around his neck, jumping off the couch, almost breaking my legs.” And since becoming Guardian, he says, “It’s been great.” In the comics, the mantle of the Guardian, a non-powered shield-wielding vigilante originally created by the same team who dreamed up Captain America, has been passed on to a few people, but never James Olsen. Brooks’ stint is the first time this particular superhero identity – one Brooks calls “classic Jack Kirby,” – has belonged to this particular character.
On the relationship between James and Kara
Supergirl‘s first season pointed toward James and Kara getting together. But in the season 2 premiere, Kara put on the breaks. And with Mon-El entering the picture, it doesn’t seem likely, at least for now, that things might be rekindled. As for how their relationship has evolved, especially with James becoming Guardian, Brooks reflects, “It’s like any relationship that involves complex millennials today.”
“There’s unrequited love there. There’s a workplace relationship. There’s a friendship. There’s a guardianship, if you will,” he explains. “And I think we both feel responsible for each other’s safety in some ways. And that kind of works itself out and we start to trust each other a little more again, which is good.”
On whether James will move to the DEO
With Supergirl‘s narrative shifting to the DEO while James has remained at CatCo in season 2, we asked whether Brooks would like to see James move to the DEO in the future or whether his career in the media is still an important factor of his life. Brooks believes that “both are very important.”
He adds, “James is brought into that world a little more towards the end [of the season],” referring to him helping Marcus in “City of Lost Children.” Moreover, “there’s some hinting that he might be more in the DEO next season.”
On the relationship between James and Clark
With Tyler Hoechlin returning in the Supergirl season 2 finale as Superman, we had to ask about how Brooks thinks Clark, one of James’s closest friends, has responded to James becoming a vigilante over the past few months.
Brooks says, “Clark’s really supportive of James as a friend. He knows that I can take care of myself, and he knows that if I really, really needed some help I would call his cousin or I would call him.” Hopefully we’ll actually get to see something like this play out in the finale.
On ‘Supergirl’ tackling bullying
Brooks says “City of Lost Children,” the recent James-centric episode in which James bonds with a young alien boy, deals with a lot of issues that were really personal to him growing up. “I was raised in a place where I was different. I was the different one. We touch on racism, we touch on the immigrant challenges, and we touch on the fact that racism is one of the oldest forms of bullying.”
“If you’re treating someone different based on how they look or how they’re born, that’s the definition of bullying,” Brooks continued to explain. “We’re trying to reframe that conversation.”
In reference to the oft-used sci-fi trope of using prejudice against aliens to tell a metaphorical marginalization story, Brooks appreciates the fact that Supergirl is able to do both. “I love the fact that we have the balls to [touch on both fantastical and real-life prejudices].” When it comes to many properties using fear of the fantastic, such as aliens or mutants, as a metaphor for real-life prejudices, Brooks says, “If you’re hiding it, the adults get it. But the kids don’t get it […] Metaphors are cool, they’re great – they work for adults. They don’t work for kids, they go over kids’ heads.”
This is particularly important to Brooks. He explains, “When I was a kid and I felt bullied, I didn’t have any hospice, I didn’t have anywhere to go that I felt understood, and now I’m really happy to be a part of a show where I think kids who look like me are going to have an understanding of somewhere to go.”
Interview conducted by Natalie Fisher, additional reporting by Caitlin Kelly.