Who says you need to be kind to be inspirational? Certainly not Cat Grant, the National City media mogul played to perfection by Calista Flockhart on Supergirl. As the C.E.O. of CatCo, Cat runs her company with the precision of a stiletto heel. She demands perfection of her employees and is quick and easy with the pointed remarks and threats of termination when she doesn’t get it. But harsh as they may be, her methods work. Along with making CatCo one of National City’s biggest success stories, Cat Grant’s become one of Supergirl’s biggest champions, even going so far to coin the name “Supergirl.”
All of which is particularly ironic seeing how Supergirl is actually her very own executive assistant, Kara Danvers. (Though really, could anyone other than a super hero ever expect to keep up with Cat’s demands?) Since Cat’s debut in the Supergirl pilot, we’ve watched as Kara’s discovered considerably more about her. We’ve met her son, learned that she’s often toughest on those she sees the most potential in, and discovered that she genuinely cares about her city. But is there anywhere Flockhart doesn’t want to see her character go?
Every episode so far seems to peel back a layer of what makes up Cat. Can you talk about that? Because it's so amazing…
Oh, thank you. It does, actually. I'm not in charge of the writing, but they do such a brilliant job. Just like you said, they peel it back every week. We see her sensitive side, we see the reason she behaves the way she does. We're slowly getting clued in to a more three-dimensional kind of character. And what I really love about it is she can snap right back into the old Cat as well. So it's flexible in that she can do whatever she wants.
She also unwittingly helps Kara out with whatever's going on with her own life and her journey. Can you talk about that relationship?
Well, I think that Cat sees something special in Kara and is really smart. And she gives her advice without giving her advice and sort of tells her what to do by being nasty and suggesting it in her way. And nobody really gets that, but I think that's because Cat is so good at it and so smart. She can manipulate that advice in a way that it doesn't sound like advice. That's how I think of it.
How much of Cat's overall story have you been told, or do you just get it script-by-script?
I just get it script-by-script. I was told a little bit in advance that I was going to have a son, but other than that, I haven't really. I just get it script-by-script.
Is there an aspect of Cat you’d be excited to explore going forward?
I think it would be fun to see her in therapy. I always mention my therapist. Maybe that would be fun to explore? Maybe she should have a few more relationships other than just talking to Kara all the time. I have a couple of episodes coming up with Winn and that was really fun.
I feel like Cat is a very realistic portrayal of a boss—
Where do you work?
I mean, look, there's tough love everywhere, right? She's very layered and I'm curious, for you, is she based on anybody in your real life or a figure you may have seen on television? Or maybe a combination of people?
No, she isn't. I get everything I do from the script. It is all right there. I barely have to do anything and the writing is just so good, it comes right off the page.
But sometimes, I'll try different variations. I think of her as a really busy person and she just has to get the job done. And then sometimes, I'll think, “Well, what if I just was really nasty? We'll see how that works.” I've just been kind of playing around. I still don't really know who she is yet. And it's kind of having to find the balance and the tone of when she's just busy and when she's kind of nasty and when she's impatient and when she's angry. You don’t want to be shrill all the time and annoying—that can get really old.
It's just trying to find the colors in her. But at the core of it, she's just a busy, strong, unapologetic boss who has to get the job done. And she does not tolerate fools at all. She just won't. She gets impatient with them. I have a script coming up where I say something like, “I'm impatient with dumb people.”
Cat and Maxwell Lord have such a complicated, interesting relationship, so what are we going to see from that dynamic going forward?
I don't know. You know, we were just talking recently—we saw each other in the parking lot. And I said, “Well, what? They don’t like us together or something?” Because we have had no scenes together since that one episode where we were dancing. So I don’t know where that’s going to go.
You mentioned Cat being smart. Is there any possibility she might have a clue that Kara is Supergirl?
Not yet. No, not yet. She’s smart, but she’s not that smart.
In the Thanksgiving episode, we see Cat get into the fight a little bit and things get a little more active for you. Do you like doing those actions scenes or do you want to keep it more behind the desk?
No, I thought it was really fun. I really enjoyed it. I would like to see her get out more. I think it's kind of funny to see that character be so out of her element, and then not be out of her element. And it would be really fun to see her kick some butt. It's fun to do.
I feel like Cat has some great, great lines. Not just funny ones, but really poignant ones. That monologue about the word “girl,” saying you can't get angry at work… I'm curious, do these things resonate with you? Does that add something to you getting to bring this woman to life?
Absolutely. Absolutely it does resonate with me. The things that she says are very true and very honest. In fact, I was talking to my mother this morning on my way to work and she said, “So I saw the episode…and you know, it’s true! You don’t know why you're mad, but you have to figure out why you're mad. Because sometimes you're not mad at the person you think you're mad at!”
And I was like, “Mom, that’s so deep at 6 o'clock in the morning!” It was really funny, but it does resonate. It resonates with older people and younger people and it resonates with me.
Will we be seeing any more of Cat and her mother? I mean, there are so many issues.
I hope so. There are so many issues. I think we get a glimpse of why Cat is the way she is. I like the dynamic of the mom and Cat.
Is it exciting to be playing a role model for some of the younger viewers? Is that exciting or is it kind of strange for you?
It's the reason I did the show, to be honest. It really means a lot to me and I'm so excited when… You know, there were a couple of my friend's daughters who dressed up as Supergirl for Halloween and I thought that, for me, it's absolutely the reason. It makes me really happy.
Just going off of that, are there little kids now who are recognizing you?
Yeah, it's funny. I dropped off my son at school and there were 7th grade girls… They saw me in the car and they were, like and I was waving back and my son was mortified, but it's really nice.
Have any of them been scared of you? Cat frightens me sometimes…
You would think they would be terrified, but no. I haven't had that experience yet. And I was wondering, the other night, I was drunk in that scene. I remember thinking to myself, “I wonder if this is a good thing?” Every time they want me to go get a drink in the office, I say, “Well, we don’t want her to go get a drink every time she’s upset.” So, it's that balance between the older audience and the younger audience that I try to keep in mind.
How much influence do you typically have on set to control the character?
It's really collaborative. Everybody is really open to any ideas that you have. Everybody wants to explore. Nobody really knows yet—it's so early in the process. So it's very collaborative, very open. You try something, it doesn't work, you throw it out, you try something else. Ali Adler is a producer on the set, and I said I didn’t want alcohol, I can't keep going to alcohol. So she put a little jar of jelly beans. So I went over and started eating jelly beans. Everybody kind of works together and it's great. It's really open-minded there.
Do you improvise any of your quips at all?
Very rarely. But I think I started saying “chop chop” and then, the next script, it was written. So little things like that. Occasionally I'll add a little line at the very end of the scene so they have the ability to cut it out if they don't like it.
Is there anything you’re really pushing for your character to do?
No. Not yet. I don’t think I want a romantic relationship in the show. I like that she's a single woman: Just Cat. I think I would push for that if it ever came up. I would say “Ehhhh.” But it hasn’t come up yet.
Is there going to be any CatCo merchandise, do you know, that we can look forward to?
Now there's a good idea! Not that I know of, but that would be fun.
Supergirl airs on Mondays at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on CBS. This is the fifth in our weeklong series of Supergirl interviews. Be sure to read our earlier interviews with Chyler Leigh (Kara Danvers), Jeremy Jordan (Winn Schott), David Harewood (Hank Henshaw) and Mehcad Brooks (James Olsen).