Vanity Fair: Why Melissa is the “Annie Hall of Superheroes”

Why Supergirl Star Melissa Benoist Is the “Annie Hall of Superheroes”

Melissa Benoist was four years old when her aunt put her in a church play she was directing. It was the logical thing to do, considering that Benoist was acquainted with Singin’ in the Rain by age two—“My grandma popped it in for me”—and at age three arranged her stuffed animals in the living room, the audience for a show she then put on. “I just loved the feeling of performing,” the 27-year-old charmer says, “of using my imagination to take me somewhere else.”

Born in Houston and raised in Denver, Benoist acted in community and dinner theater throughout high school and then moved east to study musical theater at Marymount Manhattan College. Sophomore year she switched to straight theater. “I fell in love with 19th-century Russian plays. I fell in love with Shakespeare, with Shaw and Coward.” Since graduation, in 2011, however, television and movies have claimed the actress, and no wonder—this woman puts her heart in her eyes. She was the love interest in the surprise hit Whiplash and joined the cast of Glee in Season 4, playing adorable Marley Rose. “It definitely felt a bit like school,” she says of her Glee experience. “I learned the process of this kind of acting, how things run, how chaotic it can be, and what kind of different muscles you have to flex.”

Flexed muscles, literally, are on the agenda of her current endeavor. Benoist stars as Supergirl in the CBS series of the same name. Executive producer Greg Berlanti has called her character “the Annie Hall of superheroes” and said Benoist is the reason he went ahead with the show. The fit does seem ideal. “Interestingly and simultaneously,” Benoist says, “I’m growing up the way she is and learning the same things: how to be a woman, how to own my strength.” And then there’s that costume. What does Benoist like best about it? “The cape. It’s a really light leather, with silk on the inside. It’s so easy to flourish a moment with a cape.”

Benoist wears a dress by Valentino; shoes by Gianvito Rossi; jewelry by Logan Hollowell. Photograph by Dewey Nicks. Styled by Zoe Costello; hair by Luke Chamberlain; make-up by Jamie Greenberg; manicure by Nettie Davis, props styled by Abraham Latham; produced on location by Shawn Merz.

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