Lexi Alexander knows her superheroes. To some, she even is a superhero. After directing Punisher: War Zone in 2008 and this year”s “Beyond Redemption” episode of Arrow, she”s set her sights on Supergirl. Tonight will premiere Alexander”s first foray into directing a female superhero as Supergirl takes on a serial killer in “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”
HitFix Harpy spoke with Alexander by phone last week about working with Melissa Benoist, what superhero project Lexi hopes to take on next, and what it”s like to be at the forefront of the push for diversity in Hollywood.
Image Credit: CBS
HITFIX HARPY: How did you get involved with Supergirl? Did you reach out to them or did they reach out to you?
LEXI ALEXANDER: It was kind of a mix. Andrew Kreisberg – he's the showrunner – he tracked me down in the first place. Even for Arrow. He was a fan of Punisher and what I found out later was Greg Berlanti told all his showrunners that he doesn't want to be a company that doesn't include women and people of color. He wanted them to all find diverse directors. And Andrew out of all of them did a really fantastic job and found all these underused directors. He hired Hanelle M. Culpepper for The Flash and Rachel Talalay for Legends and me for Arrow and others. He really went out and tracked a whole bunch of us down.
So Kreisberg loved your work on Arrow so much that he brought you back for Supergirl?
ALEXANDER: With me it was funny. I didn't actually speak to him much during the making of Arrow because he's not that involved with that show anymore. He's more on The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow. I didn't associate with him much during production. But then when my episode aired he tweeted how amazed he was with it. He said we have to have you back and I jokingly sent a picture of Supergirl back. The next day he called my agent and hired me for Supergirl.
You've done action sequences for Punisher and Arrow, both of which are darker in tone than Supergirl. Did you get to do anything new or fun for this episode?
ALEXANDER: People don't realize that of all the times I choreographed or directed fight scenes? This was the first time I was allowed to do it with a female hero, a female lead. This occurred to me on set and it became a big thing. I couldn't believe in all my years as a former female fighting champion and a stunt woman, I'd never been able to choreograph a fight scene with a female lead.
Did you get to choreograph the fights scenes?
ALEXANDER: I spoke with Andrew about if I could have some freedom. Normally the stunt people give you the choreography and it's already set in tone. You're not changing much as a director. And he said, “That's why I hired you! Please feel free to do what you want.” He not only told me, but he set the tone in front of the entire crew. This was what he was expecting from me, that I know my s–t and he believed in me. It was a dream come true not only being hired but to be treated as a star player that people want to have on board. I don't think I've ever been treated that way. Which is why I think I did my best work on Supergirl.
Image Credit: CBS
Now that you've got Arrow and Supergirl under your belt, do you have your eyes set on Marvel and Netflix?
ALEXANDER: I just met with the Marvel guys not too long ago. One of the heads of production is Karim (Zreik) who also happens to be a fellow Arab. We bonded and get along really great. I think I have great hopes of working with them in one way or another. But before I met with them I was already up for Luke Cage and was basically in competition with other directors. I didn't get the job and was heartbroken. They're some of my favorite characters. I've got to get it together because that's some of the best TV out there. Especially Luke Cage. I've lost a lot of jobs and you don't talk about the ones you lose, but the Luke Cage one killed me. So we'll see. I definitely put my name in the hat for both Iron Fist and Jessica Jones. But I think at this point Marvel is sick of hearing from my agent. [laughs]
You've talked in the past about losing jobs because of how vocal you are on social about the industry. Are you happy to be holding the flag and pushing the front lines for the women and PoC of tomorrow or are you ever just exhausted?
ALEXANDER: I don't there's a woman or a PoC around – who if we had a choice – would rather be activists than just doing our jobs and be treated equally. None of us wants to do this. In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to beg to be equally looked at, or demand it and make noise about it. It's annoying. It's a distraction. The whole thing about discrimination that is keeps you from doing what you're supposed to do. That doesn't mean I don't think we need to do it.
The reason I started doing it is because I'm mad at the women who left Hollywood in this state. Like “Where the f–k were you? Were you sleeping when this happened? Why would you let women go back to less than 2% directors?” I don't want to be one of those women. Film students graduate in parity, 50% boys and 50% girls. What are we going to say to these girls? “Great, you have an education but now find yourself a producer or casting director job because they like women there?” I can't do that. I this isn't for me because frankly I knew how it would go.
I don't think I lost Luke Cage because of that because there are enough people who are so oblivious to social media who are not even aware that I speak out. I'm pretty sure Marvel TV is one of those places. That job I lost because they must have found someone better. But there are some companies I'll never even meet because of how outspoken I am and you know what? That's fine with me. I don't want to work with them anyway. If you object to me speaking out for equality, you're in an unhealthy place anyway.
Like a canary in a coal mine.
ALEXANDER: Exactly! I was quiet for so long and I did the whole political thing and never talked about things. And you know what? It feels really good to be me, to just tell people what it's like.
Image Credit: CBS
Supergirl airs tonight on CBS at 8/7c.