‘Supergirl’ Star Azie Tesfai on Success of ‘Blind Spots’: ‘There Is a Place for Diverse Stories’

Actress talks to TheWrap about the Sep. 21 episode she co-wrote

Azie Tesfai
Photo: The CW

“Supergirl” star Azie Tesfai made Arrowverse history this season with “Blind Spots,” an episode heavily focused on her character, Kelly Olsen, that she also co-wrote. It was the first time a franchise performer also shared writing duties, and three weeks after the episode aired, Tesfai is ecstatic over the way it was received by fans, and hopeful for what comes next.

“Blind Spots” was also good for “Supergirl” ratings, with a 19% rise in live audience numbers compared to the previous week’s episode, a 92% spike in live +7 views, and a 6% rise in total viewership, buttressed by a 24% viewership rise in the 18-49 demo.

“It just validated to me that there is a place for diverse stories, and that people will show up and support it,” Tesfai told TheWrap.

In “Blind Spots,” which marked Kelly Olsen’s debut as the new Guardian, she sees the racial injustices happening in National City, particularly in The Heights, and decides she wants to be the person to help them. And with that, came some pretty tough conversations with Supergirl and the Super Friends.

As the episode’s title suggests, Kelly called out the heroes’ racial blind spots — like how they were just too busy to come help the Ormfell victims at the hospital, with Kelly telling Kara that she needs to also care about the fights that don’t affect her directly. It served as useful reminder that even superheroes still have trouble seeing past their privilege, and Tesfai knew that there was potential for upset in that.

“I think [with] anything creative, it can be very polarizing. So the fact that there was such an overwhelmingly positive response was incredible, it was a lot of my heart put on the page and in the performance,” Tesfai told TheWrap. “So, for people to have received it well and have taken something positive away from it, and have connected to the material and to Kelly that way, meant so much to me.”

Fans have hailed the episode as one of, if not the best in the series in the weeks following its airing, and “Supergirl” cast members including Nicole Maines and Chyler Leigh have expressed to TheWrap how lucky they felt to be a part of it.

Really, the support itself wasn’t too much of shock to Tesfai — it was the sheer volume of it.

“When you give people the opportunity to tell stories that aren’t normally highlighted or featured, and you give them the space to do it authentically and fully and you don’t limit them, people will show up in a big way and that wasn’t surprising to me,” she added. “I think the numbers of how quickly and how many people showed up [was]. You know, a lot of these shows on our network, people don’t watch them live. We have a young fan base so they watch them on the app later and they watch them on Netflix, they stream it, so to have almost a 20% increase in live viewership, for me, really just validated not just that they’re interested in the story but they’ll support storytellers that are putting themselves out there.”

Going into the episode, Tesfai told TheWrap just how personal “Blind Spots” would be for her.

“I think this is the most transparent and vulnerable I’ve felt through Kelly,” she said. “So much of what she’s going through is my personal experience. And so much of what she says are [in] my heart and things that I’ve been through.”

Tesfai noted that she was given considerable decision making authority on the episode. And that personal influence was visible on screen for everyone, from fans to the show’s crew itself. But, Tesfai also wanted fans to know that this conversation is one that is much bigger and applies to a lot of people, not just her.

“I hope that our young Black fans and young Black female fans feel seen in some capacity,” Tesfai added. “And all of our fans, whether it’s through me or Diggle or J’onn, or amazing guest stars in Orlando [Jhaleil Swaby] and Aiden [Stoxx, who plays Joey], I hope that they feel like they’re not just a one-off side character that’s boiled down into one person, but there’s nuances in the story. And I feel like everyone else has a better understanding about how to have these conversations with their loved ones. And know that feeling uncomfortable and not having a resolve is the norm, and that that means you should lean into it more and hopefully it provides some sort of guidelines to explore those conversations. That would be my dream.”

Of course, now that the dream is coming true for Tesfai, the actress hopes that it can keep coming true for others. And really, the key to making it happen is just to keep going and keep the support flowing.

“I think it’s in supporting diverse voices, supporting women, women of color, and telling their stories and making sure that they’re in the writers rooms,” Tesfai said. “And to me personally, just validating the continuation of my writing journey, which is right now developing some things. It just gave me the validation to know that there’s an audience there that that wants to share stories that are from the heart and that are authentic and genuine.”