Nicole Maines Fights Anti-Trans Violence in Groundbreaking “Supergirl” Episode

Also: A gay, a funeral parlor...and a sitcom?

Pictured above: Nicole Maines as Dreamer in Supergirl.

Nicole Maines—TV’s first trans superhero (who’s portrayed by a trans actor!)—plays Nia Nal, code name Dreamer, on the CW’s Supergirl. Nia/Dreamer is described as “the strong, hopeful and inspirational second half” of Kara Danvers/Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) and a tough, honest news reporter at CatCo.

Maines, 22, is also something of a hero in real life. In 2014, she fought and won the Supreme Court case, Doe v. Clenchy, that approved her right to use a female bathroom at school in Maine. I talked to her about her multiple triumphs, as well as a very special Supergirl episode which deals with anti-trans violence, airing on March 15.

Hi, Nicole. How has your character evolved since debuting last year?

Her journey started with her not even wanting to recognize that she has the powers and not wanting to make those a part of her identity. Now, she’s fully embraced that. She’s gone from wide-eyed cub reporter to badass superhero. Some might argue she is a sidekick—and I might argue a partner—of Supergirl.

Bettina Strauss/The CW
From left: Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers and Nicole Maines as Nia Nal in Supergirl.

In love?

No, a crime-fighting partner.

Do you consider her to be two different characters or two sides of the same coin?

Two sides of the same coin. Dreamer is really cool because she’s very self-aware as a superhero, and there’s always Nia in there because Nia is so aware that being a superhero is the coolest thing. She has moments where she looks around and says, “Oh my God, are we doing this? This is amazing.”

I hear episode 15—airing March 15—makes a very important statement.

This episode is showcasing Dreamer as a protector of the trans community. We saw Dreamer come out as trans last season, when she was doing her interview with Kara. The episode involves her seeking vengeance against a guy who physically attacked her roommate, who’s trans. We’ve seen the roommate a couple of times. We haven’t seen the negative backlash of having such a powerful figure come out. Now we’re seeing someone who doesn’t believe the world needs a trans superhero. We really see Dreamer go off the deep end. I’m really excited about it. It’s looking really amazing.

So there are new characteristics from Dreamer?

Yeah, we’ve always seen Dreamer as the wisecracking superhero. She wrote “Sleeping Beauty” on a guy’s face with a Sharpie. She doesn’t take herself too seriously. Now we’re seeing the angrier side of Dreamer as she dips her toe more into that vigilante area.
 

Speaking of interviews, did you enjoy being grilled by Ellen DeGeneres on her daytime talk show in 2018?

That was amazing. I’m not a person who gets really nervous, but I got out there and I started rambling when answering questions I’d answered a million times before. Ellen asked me how old I was when I first thought I was trans. I started spiraling, even though I’d given the answer 1,000 times. I could not find the answer in my head and I started going off, rambling about my twin brother. When I mention it to people, they say, “I didn’t notice.”

I have to admit I’m one of those people. I’ve done a lot of TV and sometimes you think you bombed, but you watch the playback and it was fine.

Oh, good. Ellen was professional. She saw me start to spiral and ramble and threw me that lifeline.

In another coup, your 2014 Supreme Court case ended well. Do you feel you almost used superhero powers to achieve that?

Not really. It’s always weird when people say, “Oh, she’s a superhero in her own right.” Nah, I just wanted to pee. And I had my parents doing this with me and also these amazing allies to hold my hand and my family’s hand through this. It was not something done alone. It didn’t feel super heroic, it just felt necessary.

Putting the Fun Back in Funerals

John Lamparski/Getty Images
Michael Urie at the premiere party for Happy Birthday, Doug.

My personal hero, actor/writer Drew Droege, was feted at a Coco Pazzo lunch for his play Happy Birthday, Doug, which is produced by Michael Urie, so I seized the chance to ask Urie about Fun, the CBS sitcom he was about to shoot a pilot for.

Urie said it’s set in a funeral home and it’s sort of like Six Feet Under meets Will & Grace (perhaps with a tad of Fun Home thrown in). He plays a gay actor/writer/director/producer who sinks a lot of money into a movie that combusted, so he crawls back to the struggling family funeral home and does a eulogy for his own career. An outgoing type, he becomes sort of the face of the place, and starts realizing he was more like his father than he ever imagined. Urie explained that his character’s sister (played by his Ugly Betty cohort Becki Newton) “is good with bodies, and I’m good with the mourners.” Sounds funny. I’m dead!

As for survivors, here’s another gay tidbit: I hear The New York TimesT magazine has been shooting culturally significant groups through the years for a particularly meaningful spread about grassroots history. This prompted an ACT UP reunion, with people coming in from all over the country, and even activist kingpin Larry Kramer himself showing up, to be photographed for the issue. If silence and invisibility equal death, then these legends deserve to live and be photographed forever.

Review: Girl From the North Country Makes Bob Dylan Sing Again

Matthew Murphy
Todd Almond (center) with the cast of Girl From the New Country.

Legendary singer/songwriter Bob Dylan got screwed with The Times They Are a-Changin’, Twyla Tharp’s disjointed dance musical using Dylan songs, which flopped on Broadway in 2006. But that’s all blowin’ in the wind now that Girl From the North Country—applying 21 existing Dylan songs to a Conor McPherson script set in 1934 Duluth—has arrived on Broadway after well-received runs at the Public, the Old Vic, and the West End.

This a swirling show with multiple storylines, intersecting characters, and ambient music, the result feeling like Our Town meets The Grapes of Wrath via Eugene O’Neill. The show’s post-Depression sad sacks all seem to be both running from something and running towards something else as they bury their pasts and strive for new beginnings. Along the way is a checklist of social issues that even rivals the all-encompassing angst of Jagged Little Pill, but it’s put over in a persuasive way that only verges on self-satire a couple of times.

Narrated by the seamingly decent Dr. Walker (Robert Joy), Girl is set in a guest house where everyone seems to be on the lam. The place is owned by a bad businessman, Nick Laine (Jay O. Sanders), whose wife, Elizabeth (Mare Winningham), has become demented, leaving him to dabble with a wealthy widow (Jeannette Bayardelle) in a way that’s bound to be unfulfilling for both. The Laines’ son, Gene (Colton Ryan), is an alcoholic writer who’s reluctantly dumped by his girlfriend, while their adopted black daughter, Marianne (Kimber Elayne Sprawl), is pregnant and acting mysterious about it. Enter a shady reverend (Matt McGrath) and a recently incarcerated boxer (Austin Scott), plus a broken down dreamer/schemer (Mark Kudisch) and his frisky wife (Luba Mason) and unruly kid (Todd Almond), and sparks are set to fly and lives about to change.

The overstuffed narrative—with lots of outbursts—manages to build and become mesmerizing, abetted by McPherson’s smooth direction and the fascinating use of Dylan’s music, which is quite haunting throughout. The songs may not fit exactly into each moment they’re assigned to, but they generally evoke rich moods and are put across with the help of 1930s-style instruments and a cast with the best vocals on Broadway.

There are no buttons put in for applause—the whole thing keeps going like a “Slow Train Coming,” with highlights including Marianne’s lament, “Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anyone Seen My Love?)” and Elizabeth’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” which reflects the dire isolation experienced by virtually everyone on the stage.

Winningham sings like an angel and captures her character’s quirks (she has to spout accusations like how one character wanted her to touch his “Viennese sausage”), Bayardelle is powerful, Mason has quirky allure, and Scott is truly magnetic. This isn’t recommended for anyone looking for a No, No, Nanette revival, but it’s easily one of the most unique and effective musicals of the season.

Michael Musto is the long running, award-winning entertainment journalist and TV commentator.
@mikeymusto