Chyler Leigh made her directorial debut on “Supergirl” this week, marking what she considers the “greatest honor of my career so far.” Of course, it was a bit different than when her co-stars have directed in the past. Where Melissa Benoist and David Harewood have pulled double duty, acting and directing in their episodes, Leigh only had to focus on directing — but she got to direct her younger self.
OK, technically it wasn’t a younger version of Chyler Leigh, it was a young version of Alex Danvers, played by Olivia Nikkanen. But at this point, the two actresses could be one and the same. In fact, Leigh notes that in directing Nikkanen – along with her on-screen sister Izabela Vidovic – she really didn’t have to give many notes at all because the younger actresses had such a grip on the characters.
“Olivia is just brilliant. And she and Bela over the years have really nailed, I mean, even to the tiniest nuances of Alex and Kara,” Leigh tells TheWrap. “And even me watching it, you know, I didn’t have to direct her. Really only on a couple little things. What I was trying to do, both with she and Bela, was just to have fun by giving them just little things — either the way that they were standing, or like a little look, or something to the two of them that’s almost like a little wink or a nod to how we are in the future. To watch them do what they were doing was such a trip.”
For example, that moment when a young Alex authoritatively puts her hands on her hips while talking to the gang? (You know the one). That was Nikkanen’s first instinct. As Leigh tells it, it seems the two were just on the same unspoken wavelength about it.
“One of the times, she completely did it by herself,” Leigh says. “And then, the second time, I was like ‘Hey this is a good opportunity’ and she’s like ‘Oh, I know exactly where.’ And I was like ‘Perfect.'”
The episode, titled “Prom Again,” was the second of a two-parter that began last week with “Prom Night!” In it, Nia (Nicole Maines) and Brainy (Jesse Rath) head to Midvale of the past, certain that the key to freeing Kara (Benoist) from the Phantom Zone can be found there. Of course, time travel is hard if you’re not a Legend of Tomorrow, and things quickly go astray, leading Nia and Brainy to run square into teenaged Alex and Kara.
Thanks to “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” life for the Danvers in Midvale looks a little different than we remember it. In this timeline, Kenny Li (Peter Sudarso) is alive and he and Kara are happily dating (at least until Kara ultimately decides to do what’s best for her and go to National City University, while Kenny does what’s best for them both and doesn’t follow her). As a result, Alex and Kara never bonded over his death as they did back in the original timeline of season three, and things are a bit fraught between the girls.
That said, they’re the Danvers sisters. Remember, if you can’t do it, Danvers can! By the end of the episode, the sisters are closer than ever. And for Chyler Leigh, getting to tell even a piece of that story was an honor.
“To be able to tell part of a Danvers sisters origin story? I mean, come on, how awesome,” Leigh says. “What better episode could I have been given than that? I mean, really.”
That said, it wasn’t just the Danvers sisters that got closer this week. After a series of shenanigans that really do merit their own spinoff, Nia and Brainy managed to correct the space-time continuum, grab Kara’s DNA to save her future self, and head home. But to do all that (and to finally fulfill the title of the episodes) they have to go to prom.
Granted, they don’t ever really make it there. But they do have their own private dance aboard the Legion of Superheroes’ ship. And yes, that moment affected Chyler Leigh as much as it affected the audience.
“Honest to God, I cried at the monitor,” Leigh reveals. “That, and the final scene of the episode was just… The both of them are absolutely brilliant. And that was something that I was SO excited about. You know, I work with them on camera, and we play around and have fun during the scenes, but to really watch them and just watch them on their journey.”
Leigh refers to herself as Jesse Rath’s “number one creepy fan,” but admits that, in reality, she was “slack-jawed the majority of the time” watching everyone during the episode.