Katie McGrath Previews Lena Luthor’s ‘Really Important’ New Role on ‘Supergirl’

Katie McGrath Supergirl Rebirth
Dean Buscher/The CW

The race to free Kara (Melissa Benoist) from the Phantom Zone continues tonight on Supergirl, and this time, the Super Friends have a new weapon in their arsenal: Lena Luthor. After several seasons of playing in the morally grey area — and a few instances of just being wicked (with good reason!) — Katie McGrath‘s enigmatic alter-ego is earning her place amongst the heroes in “Lost Souls,” an hour that finds the self-made sister of villain Lex Luthor (Jon Cryer) employing her particular set of skills to help the team save Supergirl.

Of course, there are conflicts along the way, but according to McGrath, who is as delightful as Lena is damaged, a lot of the healing and hope that this Marilyn Munster of the Luthor family needs comes out of her new alliance with the good guys.

Lena has evolved so much since we last spoke. Is it more fun getting to play her as almost like a rehabilitated bad girl?

Katie McGrath: [Laughs] I feel like, in her heart, Lena will always be the best type of bad girl. She’ll be a good-bad girl… she’s still got bad girl energy, but she’s good. You know?

Almost using her evil powers for good.

Exactly! Her evil genius powers to better the planet. Although she did do that last season and that did not end well, so…[Laughs]

At least she tried. So talk about where she goes this season. Your showrunners Robert Rovner and Jessica Queller said that you’re basically a member of the Super Friends now.

I know, right?!

Supergirl David Harewood Sharon Leal Katie McGrath Nicole Maines

The CW

And this week, you actually join them on a mission?

I do! I know! It was a first. And at first, I was like, “Is this what you guys do all the time?” Because it’s very impressive. And this is the first time you see Lena sort of being accepted by the Super Friends. And what’s really important for Lena as a character is it’s this time when she starts to feel forgiven. She’s obviously forgiven by them, but it allows her to start to forgive herself. She feels so guilty for everything that she’s done and feels very responsible for Kara being in the Phantom Zone. Having other people forgive her allows her to begin to forgive herself. It’s lovely.

You had that great scene with Brainy in last week’s episode that clearly was positioning Lena as this accepted ally, really.

Ah man, I love Jesse Rath so much. He is one of those actors that you know, if you have a scene with him, you have to go in not only on your A-game, you have to up your A-game. He’s so brilliant and he’s so completely in-tune with his character and his performances are always so amazing that I’m like, “I can’t have an off day.” So when it’s just the two of you, you really do feel like you’re playing this very intense game of ping-pong, hitting the ball back and forth and back and forth. And so that was a very…”fun” wasn’t the right word. It was a very emotional scene to film, but it was very fulfilling.

Supergirl Katie McGrath Jesse Rath

The CW

And where is she with Alex (Chyler Leigh). Because I would imagine she has a lot of feelings about Lena’s role in her sister’s life.

Actually, in the episode coming up, it’s Alex that helps Lena sort of move on a bit. She talks to Lena and helps her accept that “Yes, you’ve made mistakes in the past, that doesn’t mean that you are a bad person now.” You know what I mean? It helps her in accepting that you can make mistakes and move on from them. And I think having Alex be the one that talks to her about this in these moments together where Alex very obviously forgives her is one of the main things that helps Lena move forward. Alex has a very definite role in helping Lena sort of come to terms with everything that she’s done.

Nice, kind of like a substitute Kara.

Yes, exactly. Exactly. And I think Alex feels the weight of that at the start, with Kara not being there, that she has to fill her boots. And not just as the leader of the group, but also as emotional support, which Kara always is for people.

Supergirl Chyler Leigh Katie McGrath

The CW

The fans obviously love that SuperCorp friendship. They love that connection. With Melissa off in the Phantom Zone for so much of this first part of the season, how was it for you all working without Supergirl there?

Oh, we missed her! Melissa’s a little ray of sunshine. When she’s not around, it’s [felt]. And it’s odd because you’re so used to working with somebody and you’re so used to having that dynamic. We’ve been doing it for so long—this is my fifth year and everybody else’s sixth—so when you take a piece out, it’s kind of like missing a limb. So having her back is amazing. I felt like something was missing. It’s almost like the show’s named after her or something. [Laughs]

Exactly! So with this week’s mission to save her, did you get to really get in on the stunts?

I mean, listen…stunts in those shoes Lena wears? [Laughs] You know what Lena’s good for? That one knockout punch. That’s who she is. She’s got a mean right hook. And her amazingly powerful intellect means that she’s very good at plotting from base camp. Since she’s not an alien and doesn’t have superpowers, her strengths are her intellect and her just basically genetic badassness.

That is her superpower!


Also, amazing fashion.

[Laughs] I mean, there is that as well. If you are going to go to a fight, you have to wear the right shoes. Your hair has to be perfectly in place. Everything must be tailored. Oh yeah.

I love that Lena, even when she was bad, has been such a fan favorite.

Is she? Okay, I’ll take it. Yes! I hope people like her. I mean, I love her. I’ve spent years with this character and I always feel like she’s the woman I wish I was. For me, she’s aspirational because she’s so confident and she has the ability to be broken and to still move forward, and to never give up. Life hits her down, but she’s like, “Okay, I’m going to keep going.” I find a lot of that is very admirable. And she’s a smart woman, a capable woman who stands on her own feet. So if she’s a fan favorite for those reasons, I’m like, “Long may it last.” Smart, intellectual, powerful woman? Go for it!

Supergirl Katie McGrath Jon Cryer

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Lena had this great realization of just how horrible Lex is by setting fire to a children’s hospital. I mean, that is literally…

I know! I know!

Aside from shooting off a cannon full of puppies, that is the worst thing you can do.

Give it time. Give it time. There were probably puppies in that hospital. There were probably emotional support puppies in the children’s hospital. [Laughs] Lex is a monster.

So is she officially just done dealing with this guy?

I think yes on a lot of levels, but I don’t think you’ve seen the end of their relationship. Of course not. The biggest weight in her life is her brother. He is who she’s afraid of becoming, who she thought she was. There’s still so much to come between the two of them. So I don’t think they’re done and I also don’t think Lena’s fully stepped away from him yet. I think more has to happen for her to be fully like, “You know what? I’m Lena, I’m not Lena Luthor. I am my own person.” We’ve definitely got more to come. Which, for me is great…happy to have more Jon Cryer!

Oh, I am sure!

The man is a gentleman and he would never kill a puppy! [Laughs] He’s the best. He is hands-down a good, good man. A funny man, smart, intelligent. But also he makes working fun. Like you’d go into work and you’re like, “Ahhhhh.” It’s always good when somebody who’s very talented, turns out to be a nice person as well. Do you know what I mean? It’s great when you’ve admired somebody for so long and they turn out to be a nice person, you’re like, “Oh, thank God!” Because you don’t want to know that somebody you admire turns out to be a dick. “Oh, we’ll just cross that one off my list!” Everyone, you can admire John Cryer till the cows come home. He’s a lovely man.

He really is. Now, what have you been told as far as how this is all going to wrap up?

Oh, well, you see…I’m not going to tell you that because we want you all to watch. [Laughs] What I will say is, and I used to say this about another TV show that I was on, it is a very rare privilege to be able to shoot and write the end of a TV series. Because so often what happens is you get canceled before that happens.

It’s a very rare privilege to be able to tell a story from the start to the finish exactly the way you wanted it. And this is something that Supergirl‘s getting to do. We know this is the final season and so we’re able to do right by all the characters and give them the journey that they’re deserved and that the audience deserves having been here with us. So that is what I will say about this season: It does bring us to a very good end. Does that make sense?

That does. And since we still have basically the second half of the season when you come back this summer, I’m just going to hit you up then to get more scoop.

That sounds great. I’ll fill you in then!

Supergirl, Tuesdays, 9/8c, The CW