With Lex Luthor’s introduction and subsequent betrayal, it’s been a tough few weeks for Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath) on Supergirl. While there are still tough times ahead, it sounds as though she won’t be going through them alone.
The last time we saw Lena, her former assistant/Lex’s minion Eve Teschmacher (Andrea Brooks) had left her trussed up in her office with sealed envelope. Thankfully, it won’t take long for her to be freed, and in Sunday’s episode, the appropriately titled “All About Eve,” we’ll see her join forces with Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) and Alex (Chyler Leigh) to track down Eve the betrayer.
“You’re going to see more Eve. You get a lot of the ladies fighting against said evil — evil Eve,” McGrath tells EW. “I think you get more understanding of where Eve is and how she got there. In true Supergirl fashion, they don’t give you a cut-and-dried villain. They give you one that you can sympathize with, one that you can understand, and one that you can maybe see how they got there. I don’t think Eve Teschmacher is any different from that.”
At the same time, though, Lena will be dealing with her guilt over, well, everything that’s happened: the mayhem that Lex’s nefarious deeds cause, Red Daughter’s existence, and James experiencing the side effects of the Harun-El serum. But she won’t let that guilt get her down.
“A lot of what drives Lena in the second half of the season is this need to fix those wrongs that she feels responsible for,” McGrath says of how Lena will react to Red Daughter. “[This] is an ongoing theme within the show: Her research, [which] is created for good, is taken and perverted, and it is often the source of all evil for the series. This has happened again to her. So much of the world is dealing with the results of her actions again. So she becomes very focused to fix it, and a focused Lena is a force to reckoned with.”
Below, McGrath opens up about her first scene with Jon Cryer’s Lex Luthor, Lena’s shaken confidence, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was it like shooting your first scene with Jon Cryer as Lex Luthor?
KATIE MCGRATH: Panicked, never-rracking. I was very desperate to do it right because, if you think about it, Lex and the character have been this overwhelming force in Lena’s life for as long as I’ve been playing her. It’s this unknown quantity, but also this person who has driven so many of her choices and formed her as a character, and we’ve never seen him. He’s just been talked about. Then, finally for him to be there and for you to have scenes with him, there’s sort of this weight that you want to get it right and that you want to do justice to all the things that they have said about him.
Our first two days were all just me and Jon Cryer, just full scenes. The first day was all him being sick with cancer. So, it was just us in a lab trying to figure all of that out. There was this idea that if I had an off day, that would’ve been really bad because that would’ve been most of our scenes!
When I watched the episode “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” for the first time, I knew Lex was playing Lena, because it’s Lex Luthor — but I found myself sort of wishing he wasn’t, especially in that moment when he tells Lena about the time he met her mother. How did you feel playing that moment?
He had me in tears. I was weeping down my face. We didn’t do that [scene] many times because I was crying so much. In that moment, I think he made Lex very human, and I don’t think we were expecting that. I don’t think we were expecting a vulnerable, human, relatable Lex Luthor, and I think that’s what’s really interesting about what Jon Cryer has done with Lex. He really [shows] all of these very different sides. There are moments, like you said, where you’re like, “Oh, maybe he isn’t a bad guy. Maybe there’s hope for him. Maybe we’re going to see a Lex Luthor that might be a hero.” (And maybe you don’t want to see another person be horrible to Lena, but that might just be me projecting.) But I think that’s what’s so wonderful about having an actor of Jon Cryer’s stature on the show. He can come in and take a character that we’re all so very familiar with and turn him into something new and something exciting and something unexpected.
One of the biggest twists is that Eve has been working with Lex the entire time. Were you surprised when you found out?
I was over-the-moon excited! Aside from the fact that I got more scenes with Andrea, who I love and adore, I think it’s so unbelievably clever of [showrunners Robert Rovner and Jessica Queller] and all the writers to have her there for so long in this seemingly innocent guise, and then only to have her be this mole the entire time. It completely turns the character as you accepted her on the show on its head. The shock on Lena’s face, I like to think, is the shock on everybody who is watching’s face because they can’t believe it. Then to have an actress like Andrea who can still play a villain with the same innocence and wide-eyed enthusiasm that she played a hero is something very special to watch.
Lena was basically doubly betrayed in that moment. How does this affect her going forward? Is her confidence shaken?
I think her confidence is completely shaken, but at the same time, it has hardened her resolve. She is a woman that when she is faced with a problem, she doesn’t retreat from it — she attacks it. Yes, this has completely shaken her, but it has focused her mind to go forward and to fix the problem. Her drive and her focus to fix this is sort of second to none.
Ironically, what it does is, rather than make her more wary of the people she trusts, it makes her cling onto them even more. So her relationship with Kara is ultimately strengthened by it because she’s driven toward the people she trusts because she’s had yet another person taken away from her — which, especially with Kara, for the viewer watching it, is so heart-rending because she’s growing closer to the friend who she trusts when ultimately the viewers know that this person is also lying to her, for very good reasons and not to hurt her or anything.
When we spoke to you at the end of your first season on the show, you said you were happy that Lena was the only person who didn’t know Kara’s secret because it made their relationship special. Two years later, we find out that even Lex knows her secret. Do you still feel that way, or are you dying to join the club now?
No, I still feel that one of the loveliest parts of the Lena-Kara relationship is that Kara can be human and frail and not a hero with somebody — that she can just be Kara Danvers, rather than having to be Supergirl. I think that’s a wonderful thing for Kara to not always have to be the person who has to solve every problem and face the world. I think she needs that. For as long as it may last, I’m very happy for it to be Lena that has that relationship with her. Up until Alex had her mind wiped, Lena was the only person who could have that relationship with her. For Kara, it’s not the same with Alex because Kara knows what’s missing in the relationship and Alex doesn’t.
How has Lena’s relationship with James changed in the wake of her working with Lex and a giving James the Harun-El, which has side effects?
Lena giving James the Harun-El was done out of desperation, of a last-ditch attempt to save somebody’s life. In doing that, she wasn’t aware of the long-term effects of what it was going to do. Now seeing what’s happening, she has to deal with that choice that she made and that he didn’t get a part of the decision. He has to deal with the results of a choice she made, and I think that is very difficult for Lena and obviously very difficult for James. Moving forward, you’re going to have to see her dealing with what that means for their relationship now even though they’re not together. It’s obviously quite massive and life-changing.
Lex’s scheming pushes Lena to join forces with Supergirl and Alex. Whereas Lena has this strong relationship with Kara, she and Supergirl have been on the outs since last season. What is their dynamic like when they do team up?
Although Lena and Supergirl are coming at the same issue from different points, they ultimately have the same end goal. They both believe in helping people and the greater good and saving mankind, which are all lofty goals. (What I love about my job is that I can sit here and talk about this like that’s normal. Honestly, sitting here half in my pajamas talking about saving mankind is a good day. But I digress). I think because they can agree on the ultimate goal often, this is the way that they can come together, because they all want to stop Lex. So, they can put all of their other differences aside for the moment to come at the one problem and to get a final solution together.
Supergirl airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.