Supergirl: Melissa Benoist discusses the hero’s past and future evolution

With almost 100 episodes under its belt, Supergirl isn’t content to stay still. Melissa Benoist and EP Sarah Schechter reveal what’s next for the show.

Melissa Benoist makes juggling roles look easy. As the star of The CW’s Supergirl, she has to be both inspirational and relatable, alternating between the tireless, near-indestructible Supergirl and the insecure, emotional Kara Danvers. Last season, she continued to expand her range by playing Red Daughter, which required her to become a blank slate and learn Russian.

In season 5, she will try her hand at another role: director. Following in the footsteps of costar David Harewood, who was responsible for season 4’s “American Dreamer,” the actress is set to get behind the camera for this year’s as-yet-untitled 17th episode – a move two seasons in the making, according to Entertainment Weekly.

During this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Culturess joined other entertainment journalists at a press roundtable, where Benoist and executive producer Sarah Schechter spilled details about the former’s directorial debut and season 5 as a whole.

Asked about how she feels in advance of directing her first episode, Benoist acknowledged that there was “a bit of terror” mixed with her anticipation. Still, like her character, she’s not about to let nerves get in the way of a good opportunity.

“I don’t think you should ever do something that you’re not afraid of,” she said before laughing about her awkward, Kara-esque phrasing. “No, you should continue to do things that you are afraid of. What time is it?”

“Anyway,” she continued, “I’m really excited about it, and I think I’m going to really enjoy the process. David Harewood directed last season and he killed it… The energy on set was just palpable, and we have a great crew.”

Hats aren’t the only sartorial change Benoist will make this season. A new suit was unveiled at the Supergirl panel during Comic-Con, one more muted in color and equipped with pants. On a personal level, I admit to having a certain fondness for the classic suit, with its bright colors and mini skirt. But the revamped look does fit the show’s changing tone, mirroring the sleeker logo introduced in season 3.

“Supergirl in that skirt is iconic,” Schechter said. “And we wanted to do that. But I think as Kara has matured and evolved – and as the show has – then we wanted to honor her evolution.”

That evolution also includes increasing boldness when it comes to addressing social and political issues such as immigration, bigotry, and gun control. Even if it didn’t quite stick the landing, season 4 was thrilling for its willingness to play with fire at a time when superhero stories mostly shy away from anything that might provoke or alienate audiences.

“I was really proud of it,” Benoist said. “Every time I got a new script, I was cheering [our writers] on. I thought our writers’ room did a fantastic job. And I was proud to be a part of taking a stance and saying what we believed.”

Some of the show’s previous attempts at relevance smacked of opportunism, but this time, there was a genuine sense of urgency. After all, the people who make Supergirl are human, and when they aren’t busy creating a fictional world, they have to live in the real one.

“I think there’s a particular responsibility with Supergirl and Superman,” Schechter said. “It’s about the American way. So, what is the American way? And our writers, our actors, our crew, they’re – we’re living in really difficult times. I think it’s important, in any way you can, to see your values.”

Supergirl returns to The CW for its season 5 premiere on October 6.