Director Lexi Alexander Is Fighting for Truth & Justice on CBS’s Supergirl and in Hollywood

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In a world where speaking out against injustices can get you fired or worse, director Lexi Alexander is a superhero. Her latest gig has her wrangling CBS’s Supergirl and I got the chance to speak with her about the experience with the DC hero and the diversity conversation in Hollywood.

If you’re not familiar with her work, Alexander is famously known in the geek realm for directing 2008’s Punisher: War Zone starring Ray Stevenson. Last year she directed an episode of The CW’s Arrow and tonight’s “Truth, Justice And The American Way” episode of Supergirl will be her second foray into the DC TV universe.

To say she is outspoken about her experiences with Hollywood would be putting it lightly and is one of the reasons so many people look to her on the topic of diversity. She’s also known for being able to kick some serious, and literal, butt if need be (Alexander is a former World Kickboxing Champion). Here’s what she had to say in our recent email interview.

Jill Pantozzi: Those of us on who follow you on Twitter were able to see the development of the Supergirl gig but talk a bit about how the opportunity came about?

Lexi Alexander: Andrew Kreisberg was a fan of my work and tracked me down to meet and talk about directing TV. The first opportunity I received as a result of that meeting was on Arrow and the episode I directed aired a day after Supergirl premiered. Andrew Kreisberg tweeted a compliment about my episode and of course, since I’m not known to be shy, I replied with a picture of Supergirl…basically putting my name in the hat. Sure enough he called my agents the next day to check on my availability for Supergirl. So…that whole thing will forever be a fun story to tell.

Executive producer Andrew Kreisberg said, “Greg Berlanti made it a priority for the company to find more opportunities to female directors who have been grossly under used Industry-wide. I had been a fan of “Punisher: War Zone”. I thought the action and scope were exceptional (especially the chandelier gag!) and thought Lexi would bring an intensity to the action sequences on Arrow. That episode was success on every level, action and performance combined, so we invited her to join Supergirl for an episode.”

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Pantozzi: How did you prepare for the job? And how was it different from your time on Arrow?

Alexander: With Arrow I had to catch up on four seasons of TV over one weekend to even get an idea of the landscape and tone, but Supergirl was in its first season when I got hired and I had been watching from the beginning. So on both shows I was clear on what style and tone I was walking into…it just took me a little longer to catch up on Arrow.

Pantozzi: Talk to me about Melissa Benoist. From everything I’ve seen and heard she seems absolutely wonderful and dedicated to the role. Any specific memories from set you could share?

Alexander: I can’t praise her enough and people who know me know that I don’t do the fake praising thing our industry is so famous for. She’s a former dancer and extremely hard on herself when she doesn’t understand a fight move right from the get-go (which doesn’t happen very often, despite the fact that the show’s fast and furious schedule doesn’t really allow for any proper rehearsal time). So needless to say…she reminded me a lot of myself when I was younger. Never met a former athlete who wasn’t at least somewhat of a perfectionist…but with Melissa the great thing is that her perfectionism is about herself only, she is 100% kindness to all the people around her, doesn’t matter if they’re Executives or PAs. She’s truly one of the coolest, kindest people I have met in this business.

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Pantozzi: How important do you think it is for young people, not just those who identify as girls, to see this particular type of superhero in the mainstream right now?

Alexander: I think it’s crucial…frankly we should have twice as many shows where women do the rescuing rather than men just to make up for the Cinderella and Snow White fairy tales that have been messing us up for centuries now.

Pantozzi: Did your fight expertise come into play at all during filming?

Alexander: Yes and it was an important event for me as well. I didn’t realize until the day we shot this scene that in all the years of choreographing and directing fights I had never been in charge of a fight with a female lead. So while I was able to bring my experience as a fighter to table, the show gave me my first opportunity to work with a female superhero and I will forever be grateful for that.

Pantozzi: A lot of fans are looking forward to seeing Silver Banshee brought to life, what can you tell us about her backstory and characterization here?

Alexander: Nothing at all. I just know her as Siobhan Smythe and she is played by a wonderful, talented actress name Italia Ricci.

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[Editor’s NoteEntertainment Tonight debuted the first official image of the character.]

Kreisberg said of ‘Truth, Justice And The American Way,’ “Hands down one of the best fight sequences we’ve ever had on the show between Supergirl and Master Jailer. There is also some great dramatic conflict between Kara and James on the ethical nature of superhero justice. And we also have the introduction of Italia Ricci as Siobhan Smythe (aka Silver Banshee). The latter storyline is played for laughs and Lexi proved to be just as adept at comedy as drama and action.”

Pantozzi: It feels like we’re finally getting some traction, even if it’s slow, with comic book women in film and on TV. What other female comic characters would you hope to see brought to life in the near future on screen?

Alexander: Obviously, my number one wish would be Kamala Khan and definitely a live action Vixen as well as Rucka’s Stumptown….and when are we going to get [Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro’s] Bitch Planet….there are simply too many to count.

[Editor’s Note: Alexander will get her wish this week on Arrow as The CW brings the voice of their animated Vixen, Megalyn E.K., makes the jump to live action! Could a spinoff be far behind?]

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Pantozzi: What are your hopes for Jessica Jones Season 2? (Besides being able to direct some of it, of course!)

Alexander: I think the first season of Jessica Jones was very grounded and it needed to be grounded. Maybe in season 2 we get to see her superpower slightly more spectacular? Frankly I’m hoping they not only call me in to direct, but that they specifically call me for a massive fight episode.

Pantozzi: How do you think Twitter has changed the diversity in Hollywood conversation, for you personally and for the conversation at large?

Alexander: I think people underestimate the power of Twitter. I mean…to me it represents a microphone for the marginalized. We had no voice before, or we had a tiny voice that was easy to ignore. Now our voice matters, we can boycott shows, urge people not to buy products advertised on networks that discriminated, etc. You can tell how important that voice is by how hard the status quo tries to gaslight us i.e. “outrage culture”, “PC crowd”…whenever I see that I know our microphone is on and working.

Pantozzi: Your blog post “Of Fear and Fake Diversity” really resonated with a lot of people but also probably surprised a lot of others outside of Hollywood who had no idea how things can be. You talk a lot of what needs to change, how it can change, but you’ve also said how frustrating it is to have to be the one cheerleading when you really want to work. I know it’s a complicated issue but do you see a fix? Is there hope for even more progress?

Alexander: Maybe. In 1986 women directors sued the studios for discrimination and although the law suit was thrown out on technicality, it scared enough people to make the numbers of women hires jump from 0.5% to 14%. But as history has taught us, nothing good comes from actions based on fear….therefore the numbers went back down again and are now at their lowest in 3 decades. People have recently started hiring more diverse talent, but if they’re only doing it because the EEOC investigations looms over them…then it won’t be a change that lasts. Hollywood really needs to want to defeat bias and discrimination and to become inclusive. That means listening and learning. I haven’t witnessed much of that.

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Here’s a promo for Alexander’s Supergirl episode, “Truth, Justice And The American Way” which airs tonight on CBS.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tN_6xNjfho&feature=youtu.be

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