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Performers Of The Month - December Winner: Outstanding Actress - Melissa Benoist

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In this era of interconnectivity, it was only a matter of time before entertainment followed suit. Crossovers aren’t a new concept, they’ve been around for a very long time, but it wasn’t until recent years that shows started to use them more and more. Now there are entire blocks of shows that exist within the same Universe permitting the characters to freely move around each show. Suddenly the basic understanding of guest stars has changed drastically. No longer is a guest star just a one off character that may or may not ever be heard from again. These performers get the benefits of already being familiar to a large portion of the audience.

That comes with its own set of unique challenges, though, because a lot is expected from these performers despite the fact that they aren’t working with the teams they are familiar with or on the sets they know. When a performer is on another show, even a sister series, they are working with a different crew, more than that they are also working with a different set of co-stars that they aren’t as familiar with. There is always the risk that the performer, who is likely also juggling responsibilities on their own show, just won’t be able to bring their same energy to their character on a different show. Other performers, those who are at the top of their field, tackle this challenge as if it’s just another day. They don’t miss a beat and just undertake the tasks ahead as though it was no big deal.

Melissa Benoist has more than proven herself a formidable lead on Supergirl, but her involvement in the CW’s big DC crossover event proved that there may be no limit as to what she can do. Between Supergirl and the crossover, her turn as Kara Danvers has truly thrown just about everything at her and never once has she fumbled. The fact that she was able to carry the same energy to Legends of Tomorrow, in addition to The Flash and Arrow, without a single blip in her performance is quite impressive. Anyone who has ever seen Supergirl expected no less, this four-show crossover event certainly allowed others to discover just what this talented performer is capable of. Her performance in the Legends of Tomorrow, “Heroes vs. Aliens” crossover, was a perfect showcase for her abilities and led to her being voted Outstanding Actress, Performer of the Month for December.

Chemistry is a word thrown around a lot when it comes to talking about television casts. It’s not something that always just organically happens, and while some performers are lucky enough to share that bond, not all do. A prime example of perfect chemistry between performers is that of Benoist and regular Supergirl scene partner Chyler Leigh (Alex Danvers). They are sisters on screen and as close as sisters off-screen which is rarer than most realize. Not all performers put in the time and effort involved with forging a bond like that outside of work. Going into the crossover event Benoist went sans her entire cast, Leigh, David Harewood (J’onn J’onzz), Jeremy Jordan (Winn Schott), Mehcad Brooks (James Olsen), Chris Wood (Mon-El), and even Floriana Lima (Maggie Sawyer). Even the latter two, new Season 2 additions, have an impeccable chemistry with her. Lima, who has barely shared a handful of scenes with Benoist, has easily fallen into a flowing rapport with her when they work together. All are exceptional in their own right, but when they work with Benoist something powerful and magical happens. Perhaps it’s kismet that the Supergirl cast came to be, the right performers playing the right characters with the right group of fellow performers at their side, or perhaps it all filters down from the top. When a strong lead is in place nothing but good things can happen to a series.

This is all important to take into account when analyzing the work Benoist did in Legends of Tomorrow. She was away from people she’s formed unbreakable bonds and perfect acting rhythms with. Her cast, her people, her friends, and not a single one of them got to join her, leaving her the sole representation for Supergirl, which many fans felt was a slight towards the show, but was expertly and graciously handled by Benoist. Fortunately she’d worked with Grant Gustin (Barry Allen/The Flash) in the Supergirl and The Flash crossover from last season. Truthfully, it wouldn’t have mattered. She had no prior acting experience with the dozen plus other performers she worked with during the crossover, but in every instance, a viewer couldn’t be faulted for thinking she’d worked with them for years. She has this natural ability to bond with people. There is a reason she’s a lead of her own series, it’s because of her infectious personality and the immense natural born talent that just flows through her. Every single person from Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow are gifted performers and Benoist could have easily gotten lost amongst them, but she never did, in fact, quite the opposite. She stood out for her admirable work throughout. In every scene, whether she had lines or not, she left an impression.

Legends of Tomorrow is a powerhouse series in its own right, but Benoist brought that little something extra that made her unforgettable despite her limited screen time. Kara got sidelined by Oliver (Stephen Amell) early on in the episode, in a scene that perfectly captured the essence of what makes Kara such a unique character perfectly portrayed by Benoist. There is this underlying innocence to Kara that sometimes slips out when she least wants it to. It’s her innate goodness that makes her a special sort of superhero, but it also hinders her from time to time. She doesn’t want to upset her peers, and while she’ll usually stand up in situations of inequality there does come times where she’s almost too in tune with human emotion. This was one of those times. Kara really wanted to fight Oliver on his decision, as was evidenced by her pursed lips and the occasional tightening in her jaw. The problem was that Oliver never raised his voice, in fact, he sounded quite reserved after what he’d been through, and she tuned into that knowing that this wasn’t a battle she needed to choose. Benoist did some fine nuanced acting in this scene, showing Kara struggling with how to handle Oliver’s dismissal of her. She allowed Kara to push at certain points early on in their interaction, but as Oliver opened up more, and no matter how personal it felt to Kara, Benoist started to pull back and softened her posture just a wee bit. Kara was by no means at ease with Oliver in that moment, but near the end of their chat, she had, at the very least, chosen to allow him the space he basically begged her for. Kara sympathized with him and let him have what he requested. Even if she wanted to help, she accepted, true to her Supergirl credo, that it was for the greater good of the team that she needed to give their de-facto leader a chance to regain his bearings in this complicated and unusual situation. As Amell was delivering his lines, she can be seen off to the side slack-jawed, trying to interrupt him. Kara wanted to be heard but restrained herself. It’s impressive. With the slightest appearance of effort, she gave Amell a performance to work off of despite the camera not being on her. That, there is a testament to who she is as a performer, she’s one that cares enough to make sure that her fellow performers always have her full support in every scene.

While that was a bit of a low-key moment it did frustrate a lot of viewers who hated that Kara, and by association Benoist, got sidelined for a large portion of the middle part of the episode. She came back with a vengeance as the team rallied together to prevent Barry from going off on his own. Benoist stood tall amongst this group of super talented performers. Her heroic fixed pose and a firm tone to her voice made viewers take notice. Supergirl was back in the fight and she was fired up to go. Barry is her friend too and no one was going to keep her from standing with him in this fight.

And stand with him she did as she charged into battle with the team, Barry’s team. While she was extremely unlikely to get injured, she wasn’t going to let anything happen to any of the others. She even extended that to Oliver with whom she was having issues. When his life was on the line she swooped in and saved him. Yet, in true superhero fashion, she expected nothing in return. When she placed him back on solid ground she held a steely look, not sure how he was going to react to her saving him, but when he gave his nod of approval and thanks, there was a slight softening in her look. Benoist walked a fine line where Kara could have easily come across as defensive or trying to prove a point, but instead, she portrayed Kara as capable and not in need of permission to help out in a tough situation. Even though that’s what came across in the main body of her performance, there is still a very small underlying part of Kara that wants acceptance from those she sees as authority figures and teachers in her life. Like J’onn and Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) on her Earth, and she did want that acceptance from Oliver even if she didn’t want to admit it. Like a human, she craves acceptance of those she respects not because she needs it, but because she wants to do proud by those around her.

With all that in mind, Kara is Supergirl, a hero in her own right, and wasted no time getting back into the fight to help everyone else. In the end, when the fight was over, she rightfully took her place with the guardians of this Earth as the President praised them. There are these two dueling sides to Kara that Benoist has to manage, and that’s her innocent self and her superhero side. This episode really challenged the fine line Benoist has to cautiously walk with Kara when she’s in Supergirl mode. The Presidential scene of stoic Supergirl was almost immediately contrasted by innocent Kara as the group celebrated. It’s quite impressive how easily Benoist can move in and out of and around these two very contradictive personality traits while never bogging down her performance. She knows exactly which qualities to pull into her performance in any given scene.

Then there are those moments where she somehow, beyond comprehension, fuses the two qualities together. Such was the case when Kara informed the rogue politician that she’d made some recommendations to the President for him to get a nice posting in Antarctica. The amount of disdain in her voice was intense, but the look on her face portrayed innocence. It is that perfect balance of sweet and steel that keeps Supergirl’s opponents on their toes. Benoist needs to be applauded for that moment, she put just the right amount of venom in her voice with a perfectly executed fake smile on her face. That’s not an easy task for any performer to pull off and yet she did so with ease. Most performers would have overacted that moment making it feel contrived, but in her skilled hand, the moment played perfectly in the grand scheme of the crossover.

As the episode drew to an end, Kara said her goodbyes to the team, primarily Barry and Oliver. Barry, her close friend and Oliver, a man she came to respect as a fellow superhero. When they meet again, they will likely have a much easier time working as a unified force. The goodbye was also very well handled by Benoist as she showed Kara’s melancholy over having to leave, but an eagerness to get back to her Earth and her people. She left viewers hoping and praying that Kara needs to use Cisco’s (Carlos Valdes) communication device sooner than later. She had phenomenal chemistry with her co-stars and delivered one amazing performance after another. While it is good to have her back on her own series, expertly carrying the full weight of Supergirl, it was fun to see her carry Kara over to these different shows. Kara/Supergirl did amazing work as an ambassador for her Earth and Benoist did admirable work in bringing awareness to all the things that make Supergirl a role model.

That’s the thing about Melissa Benoist, she’s not just an extremely gifted actress, she truly cares about the world around her. She’s obsessed with animals, cares about empowering women all the way down to young girls, and more importantly she cares about giving everyone a voice. Instead of just sitting back and letting the world go on around her she uses her celebrity status to fight for the rights of others. When Benoist makes headlines it’s because she’s doing something that benefits others and the world as a whole. That sort of caring nature shows how big of a heart she has. Kara Danvers is Supergirl the Girl of Steel but Melissa Benoist is made of steel and is the epitome of how a leader should act. A gifted performer, humanitarian, and an all around extraordinary person, she most certainly deserved this fan-given title of December’s most outstanding actress.

Since Supergirl was on break in December this episode of Legends of Tomorrow was her only foray in the month, but this article still didn’t cover every single moment, so please feel free to use the comments to discuss her amazing work in this episode.

Melissa Benoist was your fan pick as the most Outstanding Actress of December 2016. Hit the comments below to tell others why you think she earned this title and what you most enjoyed about her December performances.

PLEASE READ: This is an article to recognize Melissa’s work and to honor her performance in December on Legends of Tomorrow. Shipper-related bashing will not be tolerated in the comments, even from Melissa's fans. Honor the performer and her performance. Have fun and be kind to one another.

Note: This is a generic warning to avoid any issues in the comments section and to help keep this a fun and safe place to gush about the winners. This is geared to no fandom in particular.

Special thanks to Donna Cromeans, freelance editor/proofreader (@DJRiter on Twitter) for editing this article.

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