‘Supergirl’: Azie Tesfai on Writing Kelly, Big Life Steps Coming With Alex & Becoming Guardian

Azie Tesfai as Kelly Olsen Guardian in Supergirl
Spoiler Alert
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[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Supergirl Season 6 Episode 12 “Blind Spots.”]

The September 21 hour of Supergirl very much is Kelly Olsen’s time to shine — and what better episode for Azie Tesfai to co-write (with J. Holtham)?

As Kelly officially debuts as Guardian, she focuses on how the fallout of imp Nyxly’s (Peta Sergeant) attack has affected the community and makes sure the Super Friends understand how important it is to acknowledge their blind spots and see how much the Heights need someone to fight for them. That’s what she’s going to do both in and out of the mask (or helmet, in her case).

The episode ends with Kelly and Alex/Sentinel (Chyler Leigh), who admits she understands she won’t ever fully understand what her girlfriend goes through. Kelly likens it to a valve being released and she can’t control the emotions pouring out and just asks her to “let me be and don’t push me to unpack it all right now so it can be communicated for you. Hold this space and love me, without having to understand all of me and all of my experiences.” Alex gives her what she needs: She holds her.

Tesfai breaks down “Blind Spots,” teases how Supergirl will end, and shares where she’d like to pop up as Kelly in the Arrowverse.

This was an episode Kelly has needed — to figure out who she’s going to be as Guardian, stand up to the others about what needs to be done, help the community …

Azie Tesfai: Kelly and I went through parallel experiences at the same time: She was finding her power in her voice and I was stepping into this new career as a writer and finding my power in my voice and that experience. [There was] so much of finding your footing and realizing that your instincts are right. [It] was pretty incredible to go through [that] and to co-write Kelly in a way that was what I hoped to end up at for myself. It was the closest, I think, I felt to a character that I’ve ever played.

David Ramsey as John Diggle, Azie Tesfai as Kelly Olsen in Supergirl

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Diggle [Arrow‘s David Ramsey] was the exact person Kelly needed to talk to because as he says, they have similar struggles. How much will we see her take his words to heart going forward?

So much. It’s the first time she really has that support. With Jimmy [Mehcad Brooks], she came in the middle of his crisis and really supported him, and so to have someone that not only got her but had been through it before her was a game-changer. I could say the same for Ramsey and I. He had done his run on Arrow and had so much great advice for me as someone on a show that came after and finding my place in that world and being empowered to do that as a writer, as he was as a director. There were so many parallels in this experience.

Kelly steps so deeply into her purpose, once she gets clarity on what it is, there’s no looking back for her. Having that supportive Diggle was a game-changer because she was able to talk things out and get some perspective and really just have someone as a mirror who validated her feelings and her instincts. So much of what we need most of the time is just validation and feeling heard and understood and being told, “Yeah, go in that way. You’re right, and you’re on the right path.” You see her step into that so fully from this point on that it’s inspiring.

We also got that “worlds await” line teasing Diggle’s future. How do you think Diggle’s time with Kelly will affect him?

Him having his family and his daughter and seeing what kind of hero she steps into her purpose as and him on Arrow having his role being supporting that character and watching Kelly say, “I have supported Supergirl, but now I’m challenging her and stepping into my own power in that” obviously affects his [trajectory]. What it’s like to not just be a support to someone, but step in my own purpose of power from only from my own place unapologetically?

Azie Tesfai as Kelly Olsen, Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers in Supergirl

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That was a powerful scene to end the episode for Kelly and Alex. What’s next for them?

Everything. They have a huge season ahead of them and I just am so in love with their love and have such a deep love and a close friendship with Chyler that going on this journey with her, even in the uncomfortable moments, the moments where they have conflict — which is rare because they communicate so well — [and] getting to fight next to her as we both become superheroes is so beautiful.

They take huge big life steps towards the end of the season, and that feels so exciting. The fans get everything that they hoped and wanted. The storylines are so beautiful and Chyler and I were so protective over all of these big life moments they have and had a say. Every morning in hair and makeup, we, at length, talked through them and made sure that we were honoring these characters. We are the most protective over these two characters in their love and finishing Kelly’s journey separately and Alex’s journey separately that started before Kelly got there, her personal life and honoring that storyline, and then them together as a couple and their commitment to one another, which blossoms beautifully.

Speaking of the uncomfortable moments, we’re going to continue to see those conversations, right?

Yeah, and you see it ’til the finale, which is wonderful, but it allows them to start looking at bigger life decisions together. Then there are these check-ins as we go through that. So they have these huge moments that are coming up in their relationship, and it’s now under a filter of a different understanding between them. They come from very different backgrounds and perspectives, but [there’s] also power in that and what they both bring to the table is different. They have a lot of similarities, but the differences are what makes them such a great partnership and their version of a family, which they do step into.

Azie Tesfai as Guardian in Supergirl

Bettina Strauss /The CW

Kelly officially debuts as Guardian!

The helmet is comic book accurate. I love the Malcolm Duncan iteration of Guardian, the second version of it, and both Guardians in the comics had the half-gold helmet. I was like, “I want the gold, that’s the best part of it.” We worked with Ironhead in LA. They’re the best, they did the Black Panther and Wonder Woman costumes, and they got to do Kelly’s costume, which was epic. Once they were like, “OK, we can actually make this half helmet work logistically with you doing stunts and it staying on,” then it was, “OK, well, she’s a Black woman who’s a superhero. If she’s going to show herself, we need to lean into it and own it.”

What does that mean in terms of her power as a superhero? Then the braids came, which is something that I was really excited about. I wanted the braids long. That felt fun to me. And they were cool with that. Then I’m adding gold accent pieces, which — I’m East African, I’m Eritrean, and my mom grew up in Ethiopia — is a nod to my culture. I was able to have little things that were personal to me in it, honor the comics, and then also make a version of it for Kelly and her storyline that felt like there was no hiding her representation.

Given who Kelly is away from suiting up, it really is fitting that she’s fighting for the people. How are we going to see Kelly as Guardian and out of being Guardian continuing to fight for the community?

[We’ll see that] throughout the whole season. We do go more into her storyline as a social worker, which is great because her being a hero is two-fold. One of my closest friends from college is a social worker and she is a true superhero. Seeing how she can as a civilian effect real change is inspiring and then also how she utilizes her superhero powers and having a very cool crew of friends and using both felt really exciting. There are also really fun scenes with Guardian and Sentinel as a couple in love kicking butt together, which is the dream.

Azie Tesfai as Kelly Olsen in Supergirl

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Will we see Kelly and Kara [Melissa Benoist] working together in and out of the masks after their conversation in this episode?

It was interesting in this episode and addressing the fact that so many times the superhero is the savior and they solve all the problems and it doesn’t tend to translate when one person fixes everything in our society. I think we’ve learned that. The real power is empowering other people and getting others’ perspectives and supporting them and being an ally to them. It really is a storyline that we explore throughout the season with the show ending and what that looks like for Supergirl. What does it really mean to be a hero? It’s allowing people to be their own heroes. This is the beginning of that journey for her, which is exciting, and realizing what a hero means in today’s society as a woman.

What else can you tease about the ending?

Probably nothing. Every minute of the finale is a spoiler and so epic. The final fight scene is the most massive thing we’ve ever done with a lot of superheroes in it. And again, there are so many fun scenes with Sentinel and Guardian making out and then going and taking on the bad guys all in one scene. You get this fun almost Mrs. And Mrs. Smith vibe. A lot of it can be so heavy and serious, and there’s a lot of fun that Chyler and I get to have in punching a guy in the face and asking what you made for dinner. What does it look like when you and your girlfriend are superheroes?

We know Alex is coming to The Flash. What are the chances we’ll see Kelly again?

I would love to [appear on] Batwoman because I’m so close with that whole cast. I love Javicia [Leslie] and Meagan [Tandy] and Cam [Johnson] and Rachel [Skarsten] and Nicole [Kang]. And one of my really good friends from Jane the Virgin, Bridget Regan, is now joining as Poison Ivy. A Guardian-Batwoman situation, Javicia and I always thought would be epic. There are three of us that are Black queer women superheroes and Black Lightning‘s done, so there’s two of us left.

Supergirl, Tuesdays, 9/8c, The CW