This girl is truly super.
It was announced Saturday at San Diego Comic-Con that Nicole Maines will make history in the upcoming fourth season of the CW’s Supergirl, playing the first trans superhero on television.
“I haven’t really wrapped my head around being a superhero, first of all, and then also being the first trans superhero on television,” Maines tells Variety.
“It feels fitting to say that with great power comes great responsibility,” the 20-year-old actress adds. “So I’m very, very hopeful, very excited, and at the same time I’m nervous, because I want to do it right.”
It was reported in May that Supergirl was casting the role of Nia Nal, aka Dreamer, a young trans woman poised to take over the CatCo newsroom. Nal will become the 10th major LGBTQ character in the CW’s Arrowverse, following news that Batwoman debuts on Arrow later this year.
On Supergirl, the titular heroine’s adopted sister, Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), notably came out as a lesbian in season 2 and had a relationship with Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima), a police detective.
“I think this character, Nia, is so good,” Maines says. “She’s pure, she has this fierce drive to protect people in marginalized communities. I think she’s going to be a lot of fun, and I think folks are really going to like her.”
“Most importantly, I want fans to take away an understanding of trans people—that we can be anybody, we can be whoever we want, we can do whatever we want, that we can be superheroes, because in many ways we are.”
Maines reveals her character’s storyline doesn’t necessarily revolve around her being trans. “Nia is so much more than ’the trans superhero,'” she explains, calling out television’s habit of focusing solely on a trans character’s trans experience. “We’ve seen that. But trans people have lives outside of our gender identity and our transness. It’s time to start sharing those stories.”
“I think we’re in a time right now where more than ever representation in the media matters,” says Maines, referencing the recent controversy surrounding Scarlett Johansson being cast as a trans man in Rub & Tug. “And what we see on television has a very dramatic effect on our society.”
“I think that cisgender actors don’t take roles out of malice, it’s just a failure to realize the context of having cisgender people play transgender characters,” she continues. “Having trans people play trans roles show that we are valid in our identities and we exist.”
Maines made history as the plaintiff in the Maine court case Doe v. Clenchy, in which her family successfully sued her school district for her right to use a female-assigned restroom. The 2014 decision marked the first time a U.S. state court ruled that trans students must be allowed to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.
Maines and her family were awarded ACLU’s Roger Baldwin Award, the organization’s top honor in human rights advocacy. Glamour named her one of their “50 Most Inspiring Women of 2014.”
Featured in the HBO documentary The Trans List, Maines also appeared as a trans teen in a 2015 episode of USA’s Royal Pains. It was announced last month that Maines will star in Bit, a film about a trans teen who falls in with a gang of intersectional feminist vampires in L.A.
Assigned male at birth alongside an identical twin, Maines is the subject of Amy Ellis Nutt’s New York Times bestselling book Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always recognized myself as a girl,” Maines said in a 2016 TEDx Talk.
Supergirl returns October 14 on the CW.