The first transgender superhero on TV is coming to National City.
Supergirl will introduce Nia Nal, aka Dreamer, in the upcoming fourth season of The CW's superhero drama, it was announced Saturday at Comic-Con. Transgender activist and actress Nicole Maines (Royal Pains, The Trans List) will play the series regular role.
Nia Nal is the newest addition to the CatCo reporting team, with similar traits to Cat Grant. A soulful, 20-something, transgender woman with a fierce drive to protect others, Nia’s journey means fulfilling her destiny as the superhero Dreamer, much like Kara (Melissa Benoist) came into her own as Supergirl.
"I think, first and foremost, Supergirl has always been about being inclusive," Benoist told ET's Kevin Frazier on the Warner Bros. red carpet ahead of the show's panel. "I like to think of her as a humanist even more than a feminist, and that she's accepting of everyone, so I hope that this character will represent a story that hasn't been told for a lot of people, and I hope she'll inspire a lot of people."
Benoist's co-stars agreed, praising Maines' casting and the show's new character. "When they offered me this show, the one reason I wanted to do it is because I had an 8-year-old goddaughter, and I wanted to be able to say, 'This is something you should watch. This is what women are, this is what women should be and this is what women can be,'" explained Katie McGrath, who plays Lena Luthor. "There [is] every type of women to admire on this show. There are the superheroes and then there are the scientists. There are the reporters and then there are the badasses. There's something for everyone."
"It means that, no matter what woman you are, you are a hero," she added. "And also men as well; it doesn't just stop with women. But what's great about this show is it shows so many different types of people and so many different types of heroes. You don't have to just wear a super suit to be a hero."
Maines made a surprise appearance during the Supergirl panel, where the cast gave her a standing ovation.
“It feels crazy to be honest,” Maines said of her casting process. “I’ve just been doing a lot of auditions lately, because a lot of different shows have been really eager to tell the stories of transgender people, especially transgender youth, because it’s an important issue right now in our society and in our world. It seems only fitting to have a trans superhero for kids to look up to.”
As for how Nia finds her way to National City, Maines teased that she worked for Cat Grant in Washington, D.C., and relocates to be under Kara’s wing at CatCo and taught the ways of “superhero-ing.” “She’s so wide-eyed. She’s just happy to be included,” Maines said. “She has this ferocious drive to protect people and to fight against discrimination and hatred and she’s the superhero we need right now.”
Maines, who was the subject of the 2015 book Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family, is a transgender actress whose story was featured in the HBO documentary The Trans List. She also played a transgender teen in a guest appearance on USA Network's Royal Pains.
Maines has been vocal about transgender rights. She was the plaintiff in the 2013 Maine Supreme Court case Doe v. Clenchy, which set the precedent for allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice.
Maines' casting isn't the only groundbreaking move by Supergirl. Two seasons ago, Supergirlrevealed that Kara's older, adoptive sister, Alex (Chyler Leigh), was gay.
"Having a queer character on the show, it’s a really big deal. And I knew the magnitude of this -- there’s not a lot of representation out there," Leigh told Variety in February 2017. "We wanted to bring great awareness and tell an authentic story."
On Saturday's carpet, the actress told ET, "I think this is just a wonderful opportunity to open more eyeballs and for people to understand that we're all human and we all love what we love, love who we love, and there's no reason to be, in any way shape or form, judgmental about that,"
Other new additions to Supergirl next season include new series regular April Parker Jones, who will play hard-line career military woman Colonel Haley, who always acts in the country's best interest even if it's not her own; and recurring guest David Ajala, who will portray man-with-a-dark-past Manchester Black. He's the kind of guy who brings a knife to a gunfight and still walks away the winner. He easily deflects the brutality of his mission with his charm and sense of humor.