Exclusive: Supergirl’s Nicole Maines on Social Distancing, Star Wars and Nia’s Journey

Supergirl is the Arrowverse property that most openly wears its heart on its sleeve. Maybe that’s a result of the fact that it was the first superhero series starring a female lead. Perhaps it’s because this show doubles down so often on themes like care, empathy, and kindness. But whatever it is, the show’s progressive politics are not subtle – the plight of aliens on Earth has been used to advocate for LGBTQ rights, immigration policy and much more.

That Supergirl turns out to be the show that quietly breaks another important television barrier isn’t surprising in the slightest.

The show made history when it introduced Nia Nall, the young CatCo reporter who would become a superhero known as Dreamer. Nia is the CW’s take on the less than remarkable DC Comics character “Dream Girl”, with one fairly remarkable exception. Both Nia and Nicole Maines, the actress who plays her, are trans. 

This, of course, is a pretty big leap forward for the network and the superhero genre as a whole, providing much-needed trans visibility in a space that is far too often still primarily cisgender and male. And it’s certainly something that should be applauded.

But, what’s so notable about Nia’s story, is that it’s not about her life as a transwoman. Instead, her arc focuses on her journey as a hero. Thanks to her psychic dream abilities, Nia can predict the future. Sort of. It’s a power she can’t always control. But she’s learning.

The Flash Podcast’s own Lacy Baugher got to sit down for a hilarious socially distanced conversation with Dreamer herself, Nicole Maines. The ladies discuss everything from how they’re surviving that quarantine life and their shared love of dream puns, to more serious issues like Supergirl’s dedication to telling trans stories with depth, care, and heart.

It’s one of the most fun interviews we’ve ever done, and that’s not exaggerating. You can listen to our unedited – admittedly, somewhat meandering and messy – conversation with Maines below. (We talk about quarantine laziness! Yoga pants! Hair snarls!) But we thought we’d cut and paste some relevant Supergirl highlights here. You can listen to the rest of it yourselves.

Nia is such a joy to watch. So I will serve you up the greatest softball ever like what is the best part for you about playing her What do you love the most about her?

I love getting to see her grow. It’s one of the best parts, but also one of the weirdest –  I recently went back and I watched that first scene of Nia in the elevator with Kara. Like that is such a completely different character from who Nia is now. And so that’s been really cool to see.

But I think my favorite part about playing Nia is – she has these moments with other people where you kind of sees the snark under her a little bit. You see like, oh, the rose has a couple of thorns! That’s always really fun because Nia is so pure and she’s such a bright light. (So) that when you see her kind of like, prick somebody, you weren’t expecting it, but it’s so fun.

One of my favorite things actually is the way that Nia and Dreamer have been – she’s been included in Supergirl in a way that’s absorbed as a natural part of the story. It’s not like she’s the token trans character – I’m making air quotes here – like that’s, that’s just a piece of who she is.

Well, that’s one of my other favorite parts about her is she’s not – she has other stuff going on besides being trans. She’s I mean, she’s Dreamer – she is seeing the future and eating breakfast burritos and living her best life. And it is so cool to get to have trans characters, not even just trans superheroes in general, but just having trans characters who have storylines outside of their transness. And they’re- the conflicts in their life do not revolve around whether or not they’re accepted by other people.

Nia’s arc, it comes at a point where, what that is she is past that, she has wrestled with that part of her identity. She has had that crisis and she has solved that. She is, when she comes into Supergirl, her issue is not about being a trans person trying to figure out what it means to be trans in the world. It’s about Hey, gang, I’m seeing the f—-g future. And this is crazy. I don’t know what to do about this.

Nicole Maines

The “Reality Bytes” episode that was on really recently. And I was – first I have to say I was pretty stunned that a network TV show was like, okay, we’re going to step up and tackle this anti-trans violence story. In a superhero show. I just thought that was incredible. So tell me a little bit about what that like to make, that kind of story.

That was so incredible getting to do that. It was so amazing getting to be a part of that whole process, from writing to shooting. I was on a call with them before we wrote anything they called me and we had like an hour-long conversation. We just talked about everything.

So much stuff ends up on the cutting room floor. We were like, what absolutely needs to get nailed down and cemented in and can’t go anywhere? What are the points we can’t lose? And talking about this transphobe, Gregory Bauers, who is he? What point is he trying to make? Who is he representing? And he is, you know, kind of the amalgamation of a comment section coming to life.

We wanted his motivation to be, he’s someone who had an interest in a trans woman and panicked when he realized she was trans and thought, “Oh, I need to prove something.” And he was so insecure, that to repair his own ego he felt he needed to take down a superhero.

Which is another thing that I loved about this episode is that he wasn’t a meta. He wasn’t an alien. He wasn’t part of Leviathan. Just a guy with a switchblade who was still capable of doing so much damage. But this guy is real he exists and all of his arguments are things that I have seen and I have heard and I mean of course that’s terrifying, and then just also the way that Pearson Kobe played him was f—-g terrifying too.

We tried to use as many real tidbits from life, from Gregory Bauers kind of thinking. Statistics – when you have that scene where William and Kara were talking, we use the real mortality rate for trans women at the time of filming in the United States. It was 24 recorded deaths in 2019 at the time of filming.

Let’s see if we can (talk about) something a little happier. Although, I was about to ask about Nia and Brainy – but I’m like well, that’s kind of sad right now too.

Well, I mean it’s sad right now. But that relationship is still a lot of fun. And getting to do scenes with Jesse is always so much fun.

Do you think we will see Nia and Brainy get back together anytime soon? Or are we more of like a Nia on our own for a while? Which is not a bad thing.

It’s not a bad thing. It’s sad because I think that that couple is so – there’s so much to that pairing that’s been unexplored. You know, at the start of season five, we’ve been together for a month. Just the month between Season Four and Season Five!

And then at the start of Season 5, all of their moments, even their happy moments have been overcast by miscommunication. We haven’t really seen them hit their stride, be in their groove. And I mean, he’s the smartest man in the universe and she can see the future…I want to see them like Sherlock and Watson, solving every crime like it’s freaking nothing. And like just having this crazy, like, really cute banter over all of it.

I feel like they have- there’s so much in that relationship that we haven’t seen this because it has been so overcast by them not really knowing what to do with each other.

 Can we talk about all the dream puns, please? Because I love them.

Yes! Oh my god, I love that. See, that’s what’s great about Dreamer. In the midst of all of this tragedy and all of this loss, she still finds the time to be f—-g ridiculous. I have like a whole notepad on my phone.

Like of ones you’ve done or ones you want to do?

One I want to do. I have ones I’ve done; I have ones I want to do. In 15 nap time was from the list.

Our full conversation contains much more fun stuff, including Nicole’s controversial admission of her favorite Star Wars film, so make sure you listen below!