Yes, being the first African American to play the iconic role of James (Jimmy) Olsen, aka Superman’s photojournalist best friend, isn’t going to stop this 35-year-old of achieving his childhood dreams.
What attracted you to the role of James Olsen in Supergirl?
Mehcad Brooks: First of all, the script said Supergirl on it and I’m a big fan of superheroes. I grew up with Batman, Superman and all those superhero comics but I never thought I’d ever be in the running for the role of Jimmy Olsen.
When did you realise you had a shot at playing the iconic role?
MB: When I was given the opportunity to audition for [the role of] James Olsen, I said, “Yeah, I’ll throw my hat in the ring.” Then I got to the next level and I met Supergirl executive producers, Greg Berlanti, Ali Adler and Andrew Kreisberg who were just amazing and cool. They were pushing for me to have the role and I kept saying, “Really? You do know I don’t look like him, right?” They always replied, “We don’t care.” The amount of support they gave me from day one has been unparalleled. I immediately felt like part of the family.
How does it feel to be creating new stories for iconic DC characters?
MB: It’s cool and scary for the actors because we’re like, “Am I doing this right? Should I be doing anything else at all?” We are told, “No, you’re good.” But I always question, “Really? People aren’t going to be upset?” As an actor, it’s a daunting task to play an iconic role like this. You really want to do it well and give justice to the character that people have in their minds, but at the same time, you want to be yourself.
How much have you been influenced by past portrayals of James Olsen? Which characteristics of the past portrayals will make it into your Supergirl character?
MB: I don’t know if you would buy me in a bow tie running around like, “Hey, how you doing?” I don’t know if you’d buy that. That’s the old Jimmy Olsen. Tom Hanks said a quote once and it really stuck with me. He was talking to Jim Lovett, who Tom played in the movie Apollo 13. He said, “You’re an amazing person and I’m really honoured to play you – but I’m also sorry.” And Jim says, “What do you mean you’re sorry?” Tom goes, “No matter who you were, they are going to remember you as me.” And it’s true. It’s almost like I grew up with Jimmy Olsen in a certain way. And I grew up with Supergirl in a certain way. I also grew up with Superman and Batman in certain ways. But we’re going to reinvent the characters for this generation with this show.
The old Jimmy Olsen was a bit of a nerd… How do you compare?
MB: I am a nerd. It may not look like it, but I am a complete nerd.
Will you be involved with much of the action of the show?
MB: They are going to bring me into the action. I’m really curious as to how they are going to do that. I can’t wait to find out. The initial, nerdified version of Jimmy Olsen didn’t really get involved in the action on television, although he did sometimes get involved in the action of the comic. In fact, he had different super powers every week.
How do you think the action will be introduced for your version of the character?
MB: I think they are going to keep everything a little more grounded in our show, but I’m going to get out there and be heroic every now and again. I’ll try to save the day and not get my butt kicked too badly. Some of the villains are pretty strong, though. I’d better start lifting some weights and getting into shape.
What can you tease about the relationship between James and Kara in Season One? Is there any romance there?
MB: I can tease you with the fact that the executive producers and writers are teasing me… I don’t know anything! There are a bunch of things that could happen, but I don’t know exactly what’s going to go down. We just have to hope that the show goes on for a long time so that we can explore different story lines for these characters.
James Olsen is a mentor to Supergirl at the start of Season One. Who are your biggest mentors?
MB: Both of my parents are great mentors to me. My mum is a journalist and my dad is an attorney – and I look up to the both of them. I’m very blessed and lucky to have them in my life. My older brother is also a mentor to me. And I had a bunch of people who looked out for me early on in the business. I look out for some people in return. I pay it forward.
How have the many mentors in your life inspired your portrayal of the character?
MB: That’s a great question. I’ve been a mentor to some people and some really great people have mentored me as well. To be honest, I just try to incorporate the lessons I’ve learned as a student into my acting. It’s interesting because it’s not often that the person you are mentoring has the ability to rip off your head and fly away – but that’s potentially what Supergirl could do.
How does it feel to say you’re playing Superman’s best friend?
MB: It’s so cool to say that! I’m a comic fan myself, so this is amazing for me. It’s really cool to be part of this family. It’s amazing and I honestly can’t believe my luck.
Tune in on 2nd of August at 9pm as the season one finale of Supergirl will air on HyppTV Channel 613 and re-runs of season one will start one September 14th at 9pm.