‘Supergirl’: Eliza Helm on How She Sank Her Claws Into Cat Grant

Eliza Helm in Supergirl
Bettina Strauss/The CW

Supergirl ties up its two-part trip back in time on May 4, with Nia (Nicole Maines) and Brainy (Jesse Rath) trying to help teen Kara (Izabela Vidovic) battle a pair of aliens ahead of Midvale High’s prom. To complicate matters—given that the duo’s original mission was solely to visit the past in search of something that could free adult Kara (Melissa Benoist) from the Phantom Zone—is the increased meddling of Cat “CJ” Grant (Eliza Helm), the nosey journalist who will eventually become the media mogul originally played by Calista Flockhart.

“I think I watched everything that was out there,” laughs Helm of channeling Flockhart’s former series regular. “I mean, you’re given this amazing performance, you have to study it, right?” Admitting to taking deep dives into Flockhart’s work during her two-week quarantine before filming—including early Ally McBeal episodes—the L.A.-based graduate of Chicago’s Second City then got to putting it all together for her take on the up-and-coming Cat.

Supergirl + Eliza Helm

Dean Buscher/The CW

“[Calista’s] performance is so wonderful and iconic, so how lucky am I to have that to study and to work off of? I really did study her mannerisms and her cadence and then just sort of thought ‘How do I adapt that for a younger CJ Grant?’ Like, what would she be like then if her circumstances were different, but she’s still that same person?”

The end result is equal parts uncanny similarity, affectionate homage to the character that came before and absolute hoot. As we first learned in last week’s “Prom Night!” episode, gossip columnist CJ is bored with her Daily Planet beat, but sure that she can land a killer story after spotting what she believes are the aliens targeting Midvale’s Kryptonian. Along the way, she intersects with our heroes and learns a bit more about herself and what awaits her in the future. And while she is still a far cry from the boss Kara had to deal with in Season 1, tonight’s hour (fittingly titled “Prom Again!”) is at its hilarious best whenever Helm’s Cat gets the chance to toss out shade like a seasoned pro and play around with the cast.

Supergirl + Eliza Helm + Nicole Maines + Jesse Rath

Dean Buscher/The CW

“It was so wonderful,” notes the improv master. “They know each other so well and have been with each other for so long, that it’s a really safe space to sort of experiment and push the boundaries.” And even though this is probably the last time we’ll get Helm on Supergirl, showrunner Jessica Queller’s recent comments to The Wrap have her ready for more visits to Midvale. “I know there’s been whispers of a spin-off,” she says. “We’re not going to say no to that!”

As if Cat would even let her.

Supergirl, Tuesdays, 9/8c, The CW