A previous version of this story first appeared in TheWrap Magazine Fall TV issue.
If you’ve seen any of the multitude of films and TV shows from the Superman universe, you probably have a pretty good picture of Jimmy Olsen, the cub reporter sidekick to Clark Kent and pal to the Man of Steel: unkempt red hair, freckles, lots of energy but not much experience… Let’s face it: You don’t picture him as a six-foot-plus African-American former Calvin Klein model in his mid 30s. But that’s Mehcad Brooks–and in CBS and producer Greg Berlanti‘s highly touted Supergirl, Brooks is a new kind of Jimmy Olsen.
“I think we’re sort of reinventing Jimmy Olsen for the 21st century,” said Brooks, whose version of Jimmy also happens to serve as a love interest for Melissa Benoist‘s Kara Zor-El, a.k.a. Kara Danvers, a.k.a. Supergirl. “The character was created 75 years ago, and in the societal mentality back then, people were very monochro-matic. But we’re righting a lot of those social inequities from the past.”
Brooks, 34, who says he grew up on the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, is sure that a strapping black Jimmy Olsen will fit right in. “The DNA of this character has not changed,” he said, ticking off the similarities and differences. “I have less red hair and a better tan, basically. I’m a nerd–he’s a nerd. My mother’s a journalist, so I come from that background. I’ve got freckles–he’s got freckles. He’s a hopeless romantic–same here. He’s got a famous best friend–so do I. He’s got daddy issues–let’s stop there.”
He grinned. “It’s a character reimagined. He’s a little more heroic, but I think he’s going to be just as likable.”
See more exclusive photos of Brooks and the complete Fall TV issue coverage here.