Windy City Times spoke with Nicole Maines days before the airing of Supergirl's mid-season finale in early December. The actress plays Nia Nal on the CW series, and the character breaks new ground by being the first transgender superhero.
Windy City Times: Do you feel any increased pressure being the first trans superhero to appear in TV or film?
Nicole Maines: Of course there is the pressure that comes with being a superhero and being given a rather large platform for the first time. As far as being the first goes, it's scary because of course I want to do it right, and I want to give the trans community the superhero that we've deserved for a while. But I feel that a lot of the pressure has been taken away with the amount of increased trans representation that we've seen on television in the recent years, with shows like Pose coming on and other programs stepping up and introducing trans characters into their cast.
I think with each new bit of representation that pressure is taking away a little bit, because that gives actors, characters and writers more freedom to have their characters be different. You don't have to be someone, a guide. The characters' role does not have to be to educate. Their role can just be to represent an honest and respectful version of a trans person.
WCT: One of the best moments on TV this year was when your character comes out to Jimmy Olsen. … Did you have any input into how the script was written for that scene?
NM: The writers have actually been really great, and we've been working really closely making sure that everything that we talk about is done in the best way possible. Actuallyyes, they always give me the script, especially when it's a really trans-related scene, to kind of comb over and make sure that everything was good. There were a couple minor changes but actually that scene was incredibly, incredibly well-written. … I really didn't have to do a lot of editing on that.
WCT: The midseason finale going into the crossover saw some of your most important work while in action. Has there been a moment where you feel the need to pinch yourself because of how important Nia is to so many fans?
NM: I think it's more I'm always kind of aware of it. I bring that with me every time I'm on set. I feel I've gotten the hang of it a little bit better now, so I'm a little less worried about it when I go on set now because I think people have gotten to know me and really appreciate her. I see the outpouring of love on social media. But every time I go and do a scene, I'm always aware of how important this character is for a lot of people.
WCT: You made your acting debut in an episode of Royal Pains in June 2015 alongside Mark Feuerstein. What was one of the biggest things you took away from that experience?
NM: Oh my gosh. Honestly kind of everythingthe experience. I mean that was a wonderful, wonderful first set to be a part of, because everyone was so nice and welcoming. … I kind of took away a drive to want to go do that more. Because of course it was my first time, so I've never done anything like that before. It was so positive and it was so amazing that I was like, "Yes, I could absolutely do this as a career."
WCT: Prior to the Supergirl casting news, there was the announcement that Bit completed production. Can you talk about this film and what it was that attracted you to the project?
NM: Of course, Bit is incredible. It was written and directed by Brad Michael Elmore, who is awesome in every way. So Bit is the story of a trans girl from Oregon who goes to visit her brother in Los Angeles for the summer. While she's there, she falls in with this intersectional group of feminist vampireskind of think like a feminist version of Lost Boys.
I love the character of Laurel because she was so different from other trans characters I've read for before. Her main point in that film is not to be trans. … It was done so beautifully. Brad wrote it so amazingly that I was like, I need to be a part of this. It was so amazing and it the most fun I've had in my life.
WCT: The Supergirl news came a bit after the casting announcement. How long were you holding that in?
NM: I was holding that in for about a month. I found out halfway through Bit shooting in June. I was holding that in from like mid-June to mid-July.
WCT: What was it like walking into San Diego Comic Con for the first time and seeing that hall?
NM: Oh my gosh. Just as a comic book fan and as a superhero nerd, going into San Diego Comic Con itself for the first time was insane. I'm so excited. It was so surreal to be going in through the back door in a way, because it kind of felt like I'd slipped under the velvet rope for a second and I feel like I snuck past somebody.
Getting to walk into that big hall for the first time and seeing everybody was so overwhelming. I'm so excited, happy, and relieved at how many people were clapping and cheering for an openly trans actor and openly trans charactera trans superhero. It really made me appreciate how far we've come in all the work that we've done as a community. I think especially in a time when it's really, really scary and it kind of feels like we are constantly under attackand there is a new bill targeting us every week. It was really, really great to see people supporting a trans superhero and it made me feel hopeful.
WCT: Have you made any additional Comic Con appearances or is this something that you're looking forward to doing in the future?
NM: I haven't made any other Comic Con appearances yet, but I really hope that I get to. I'm really looking forward to Comic Con next year.
WCT: Is there something that you're looking forward to doing in the New Year?
NM: Getting to do more action scenes. I think I get to do more as Dreamer, which I'm really excited to do because of course, as of the midseason finale, we kind of got a little taste of what Nia's like in action. But with Dreamer and the suit and everythingit's something else entirely. It's so amazing and I can't wait for people to see that!
Supergirl returns Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, at 7 p.m. on the CW.