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2016 Performer of the Year - Chyler Leigh *Includes Special Message From Chyler*

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At the start of 2016 SpoilerTV set out to honor the best performers as deemed by the fans. In the end, the fans determined who their Reader’s Choice Performer of the Year was to be. Behind the scenes, the staff of SpoilerTV decided that there were so many extraordinary performers in 2016 that it warranted the staff picking a performer to represent the site as our Performer of the Year. After a tense process of nominations and voting a winner emerged, though only by an extremely small margin as it was a tight race to the end. That winner, SpoilerTV’s 2016 Performer of the Year is Supergirl’s Chyler Leigh who portrays the fierce Alex Danvers. She delivered performances that covered the storytelling gamut, touching on virtually every emotion possible. Throughout it all Chyler Leigh was flawless in her execution, regardless of what the writers threw at her.

Chyler Leigh has had an extraordinary career that has spanned over two decades and taken her on a journey through almost every genre. She’s built a resume that makes her a highly sought after actress. Her extraordinary career hasn’t come without its struggles. Leigh has been very open about her past troubles. To her extreme credit, she persevered through everything life has thrown at her and come out the other side a better, stronger person. Very few performers are willing to be that open about the dark times in their past. She’s not just an exceptional performer, she also has an enormous heart and is not hesitant to let it be known that she values family above all else. That says so much about her character as a person and that alone warrants her the utmost respect.

Perhaps it’s events from her past or perhaps it all boils down to exceptional training in a person born to perform, but she can convey emotions that most performers struggle to portray. When she cries it’s not basic on screen crying, it’s full on entire body consuming sobs that leave her glassy-eyed with emotion. This was exceptionally well displayed in Solitude (1x15), Changing (2x6), and most recently in Homecoming (2x14). Though that latter one falls into 2017 it is still worth noting as an example. These sorts of scenes are exceptionally draining on a performer. Imagine having to cry all day long, but not really having something to cry over. Imagine it’s your job to give over your body in the most vulnerable and intimate way possible as you open up your soul for millions to witness. Imagine then doing that over and over again. That’s what Leigh is put through every single time Alex has one of these big emotional moments. Except Leigh doesn’t just go halfway with it, she goes all in, delivering some of the most realistic emotional releases to every be portrayed on screen. Those tears aren’t fake saline drops that some performers have to use because when Chyler Leigh cries on screen those are the real deal. Her deep emotional honesty when performing makes it easy for viewers to connect with her characters.

She’s lucky, because she has supportive fellow performers Melissa Benoist (Kara Danvers/Supergirl) and Floriana Lima (Maggie Sawyer) who valiantly step up to guard over her and protect her when she has to go to these extremely vulnerable places. They allow her the security to know she can completely let go and go to wherever she has to go in her head to deliver these deep scenes. This isn’t just acting at its best, but the spirit of true humanity on display. When Alex has to go after Kara in For The Girl Who Has Everything (1x13) it was an intense time for the audience. Leigh infused so much nervous energy into Alex that the audience couldn’t help but be just as nervous. One way or another Alex wasn’t leaving without her sister even if that meant the end for them both. Alex begging Kara to come back to her was so sincere and the acting so emotionally raw that it was enthralling to watch. It was impossible to turn away from much less blink. Leigh dominated that scene as she juggled fight sequences, with her hands quite literally bound, while delivering a heavily emotional monologue. Most performers would be hard pressed to pull off one of those things flawlessly let alone combining them. The writers of Supergirl know they have an exceptional performer at their disposal and know that no matter what they throw at Leigh she will deliver tenfold. She is one of the very few actresses that can be so vulnerable and is consistently willing to go there with her character. It takes a very strong person to be brave enough to be that vulnerable.

Strength is something Chyler Leigh has in spades. When she’s portraying Alex in full on badass DEO agent mode the sky is the limit as to how intense her fight sequences will be. While normal everyday DEO agent Alex is incredible to watch, it is a true adrenaline rush to watch her get to kick it up a notch when she wears the Kryptonite fueled exoskeleton as she did in Better Angels (1x20) and The Last Children of Krypton (2x2). In that suit, Alex is supercharged and Leigh doesn’t hold back. Not only does she make Alex look like a superhero, making her movements look realistic, but not robotic in any way, she does it while dealing with that cumbersome contraption attached to her body. Impressive on all fronts when taking into account that the exoskeleton is definitely not the sort of wardrobe performers are used to working in.

Leigh thrives when things get tough for Alex, but she also handles the lighter moments with equal amounts of grace. While some of the stuff between Alex and Kara is intense, a lot of their at home interactions are on the lighter side. Leigh has a bond with Melissa Benoist that is rare to find in television casts and that bond makes them one of the best acting duos on television today. It’s a bond that goes beyond their work and straight into a real-life friendship. It’s that bond that allows the Danvers sisters to come across as being family because it would seem that Leigh and Benoist consider each other sisters.

This ability to instantly bond with co-stars has followed Leigh throughout her career. She seems to always go that extra mile to ensure that she has a true connection with her co-stars. Those strong bonds are the foundations she uses to anchor performance after performance. She takes extreme pride in how beautifully connected the whole Supergirl cast is. As she’s stated in multiple interviews, she was insistent that the role of Maggie Sawyer was properly cast, even participating in the casting process. That’s taking things to a whole other level when a performer cares enough to want to be a part of the process. It’s also a major sign of her commitment to Alex’s coming out storyline from the very beginning.

Alex falling in love with Maggie and going through this big coming out journey allowed Leigh to really delve into a deeper side of her character. While Alex is a badass heroic DEO agent with everyone else, being around Maggie brings out a vulnerability in her that up until Maggie’s introduction had been reserved for Kara and occasionally her mom, Eliza (Helen Slater). Lima was an exceptional choice to play opposite of Leigh in this storyline because they have this natural energy that allows them to have a very intimate connection on screen. From the moment Alex and Maggie met in Welcome to Earth (2x3) the sparks were evident. Their journey only grew from there allowing them to jointly bring to life one of the most realistic coming out journey’s to ever be portrayed on television. Their relationship has progressed slowly and honestly allowing Supergirl to create one of the healthiest relationships on television today, gay or straight.

Chyler Leigh is an exceptional performer, one of the very best, but she’s also a humanitarian who cares deeply about the world around her and her fans. Knowing the importance of Alex’s coming out story to so many viewers has prompted her to be extremely vocal on social media. She engages with the audience on a consistent level that most performers shy away from. That’s understandable because sometimes fans can become quite intrusive and occasionally feel as though they are privileged to some sort of response prompting them to obsessively target certain performers. Social media is a slippery slope for performers to walk these days, but Leigh handles everything thrown at her with such grace that it’s impressive. She actively seeks out stories from her fans and more than once has produced quick video snippets for them. She sends out candid photos for fans to enjoy while regularly praising and promoting fan-produced art that comes her way. This is a level of engagement that is hard for most performers to manage but is such a natural process for Leigh who wants to let her fans know she cares.

If that wasn’t enough, she’s also a huge advocate for positive social change and as such co-created the Charity Pulse organization with her husband Nathan West. It’s a truly inspiring organization and even more so because at the center of it all is the fact that they want to help create a more positive world. Their children likely play a huge part in their choice to fight for a better future, one where every child can have the same opportunities and love that theirs do.

But, they carry it beyond that. As parents, it is their imperative and parental duty to do everything they can to ensure the best lives possible for their children. Understand that wording, “their children”, their motivating factor for this organization doesn't have to extend beyond them, except for them it does. Through everything they do their generosity and kindness is front and center. They don't just talk the talk, but they walk the walk. Together Leigh and West are poised to be able to do a lot of good in the world. Not just because they are celebrities, but because they seem to genuinely care which is a rare thing to come out of Hollywood let alone a Hollywood marriage. The couple has been together for 18 years and will celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary later this year. They are the real deal that couples should aspire towards. Together, with their organization, there is no telling how much positivity they can bring to this ever darkening world. All it takes are the few to affect the many, so hopefully, with their hope-filled beacon shining bright they will encourage others to spread the same positivity they themselves spread on a daily basis.

From incredible performances, full of emotion too intense action sequences and everything in between it’s no surprise that Chyler Leigh was chosen to be honored as SpoilerTV’s very first Performer of the Year (2016). The site is proud to have such a gifted and inspirational performer carrying this title. She has certainly set the bar high for the 2017 winner.

Many members of the SpoilerTV staff also feel passionate about Chyler Leigh and wished to say a few things about her as well:

Laurel Weibezahn: It's hard to be the loved one of a superhero. If you are a family member of a caped crusader, you only get a few emotions to play. There's confusion over being kidnapped by the villain of the week, hysterical frustration over being kept in the dark about all the superheroics, and then eventually some kind of resignation when the secret is revealed. Even when you're in on the secret, you're usually designated for pep talks, appearances at holiday parties, and dramatic deaths during sweeps. With the character of Alex Danvers, Chyler Leigh broke the traditional mold. The writers kindly gave her a variety of nuanced plotlines, including a coming-out character arc, and she hit it out of the park every single time. Alex Danvers isn't always in touch with her feelings and Leigh plays her with just the right mixture of reservation and tentative vulnerability. It's amazing how her character has developed over one and a half seasons. The Alex of season two is comfortable in her skin and finally in a happy relationship and it's a testament to Leigh's acting that this feels like a natural, welcome progression of her character. The show is full of actors who aren't afraid to go big with their performances, but Leigh works best when she's hitting the small notes.

Zandarl: What can one say about Chyler Leigh, I always knew of her acting capabilities being an avid watcher of Grey’s Anatomy. I was beyond excited when I heard she had been cast in Supergirl. From playing a ‘Bad Ass’ DEO agent to showing a quiet vulnerability. Chyler has certainly shown her range of talents. Supergirl was a hit and largely in part to the heart of the show, the Danvers sister’s relationship. The natural chemistry between her and Melissa Benoist had you believing in their special bond as sisters and crying with them as they went through challenges faced with Kara revealing her powers to the world. Her 'coming out story' as it were.

However, the focus this year in the Supergirl storyline was Alex’s coming out story. Alex reveals to family and friends she is gay and falls for Detective Maggie Sawyer. I have read recent interviews that have told the story of how Chyler not only wanted to do the story justice she wanted to be part of the casting. She knew she needed the right actress opposite her to generate the right chemistry.

Well, they certainly nailed it as fans reacted and the awards nominations have been coming in. When you can see reflections of your own experiences and life onscreen. You realize this story is real for a lot of people who struggle with not only their own identity but coming to terms with sexuality. Her portrayal struck a very real chord with a lot of fans and that is why she has won not only POTM several times (it would be more if we didn’t have certain guidelines). SpoilerTV staff, voted for her to be their performer of the year for her heartfelt and honest portrayal. Well done Chyler Leigh.

DJ Riter: At a rare appearance at a fan convention last spring (March 2016), Melissa Benoist related how Chyler Leigh “swooped in at the last minute” to win the part of Alex Danvers. And now, I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part. Beginning in the second half of Season One with a bravura performance in For The Girl Who Has Everything (1x13), Chyler Leigh has been peeling away the many layers of Alex. She’s elevated the character from Supergirl’s scientist sister to a complex character capable of being just as much of a superhero as her little sister, only she doesn’t wear a cape or have superpowers.

There are so many sides to Alex Danvers, bad-ass agent, sister, friend, protector to those she calls family, and vulnerable woman and every week it is a privilege to see what aspect Leigh reveals to us next. While I love the bad-ass agent Danvers kicking alien butt, and watching Alex fight physically and emotionally for her family, it’s the little nuances/ moments she adds that I enjoy watching most. Wiping Kara’s tears with the back of her hand in Falling (1x16); showing her support of J’onn placing her hand on his cell to show she stood by him in Manhunter (1x17); tears in her eyes, clinging to Kara’s necklace as she says her farewells to her sister in Better Angels (1x20); charging into the Fight Club ring with just a handgun to take on a 7 foot alien that hurt her little sister in Survivors (2x4); developing a sweet, big sister relationship with Winn complete with smacking him on the head when he needs it in The Darkest Place (2x7); the behind the action scene and comedic timing of retrieving her liquid courage from Kara’s refrigerator to survive another Danvers Thanksgiving in Medusa (2x8); the list goes on and on.

Now with the incredible journey the writers are taking the character in Season Two with Alex’s coming out story, and Jeremiah’s return you wonder just how much more to this character is there to discover. With a performer like Chyler Leigh, the writers and producers know the sky’s the limit. She has truly been this season’s MVP, consistently turning in award-caliber performances episode after episode. I sincerely hope that critics throw away their bias toward genre shows and remember just how phenomenally good she's been this year when putting together Emmy prediction lists!

This article couldn’t even scratch the surface of a smidgen of the exceptional work Chyler Leigh did in 2016, so please use the comments section to highlight everything that it wasn’t possible to fit into this article.

After Chyler Leigh won Performer of the Month in October and November I reached out to her to see if she wanted to say anything about the wins. She was very excited to be able to directly address the wins. However, since she was writing the response herself she had to fit it in amongst her busy filming schedule and her time with her family. Needless to say, she is exceptionally busy and before she was able to prepare something she had already been awarded this honor. After she was informed that she had won Performer of the Year she sent me a message to share with everyone to address all of her wins. She was given the freedom to say whatever she wished with no constraints. Here is her response to her three wins:

Aimee, I am humbled and honored by your heartfelt words. Like it's said about children as they're growing, we are all (more often than not) a product of our environment. It's no different here in my case.

I am surrounded by incredible, gifted artists that are just as equally passionate about their craft and are making sure the stories we tell are authentic and compelling. Honestly, our set has become like a second home, between cast and crew. I feel that I've grown so much this season because of that. I've been handed such powerful material to work with for Alex's arc and have been so inspired by my Supergirl Family to push past prior limits or boundaries that sometimes dictate how much freedom I, as an artist, utilize to remain relatable.

I so greatly thank our fans as well. Their investment into what we are doing, the encouragement I know I personally receive, is what drives me to perform wholeheartedly and truthfully.

I am SO grateful to be awarded an honor such as Performer of the Year, and it's something I definitely do not take lightly. Equally as such, I am thankful for you, Aimee. Your willingness to value the fact that we as actors and actresses get to play dress up and use our imaginations for a living is like appreciating a hearty meal, satisfying to all of our eclectic souls. You have a way with words and they have flattered me tremendously.

I'm excited for you all to see what we have in store for the rest of the season. Buckle up... its gonna be a helluvah ride ;)

Much love and respect...

PLEASE READ: Please keep comments on topic and just discussing the performances of the winner.

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

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