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



Portraying multiple characters is amongst the most difficult task a performer can be given. They are often forced to act opposite tennis balls, stand-ins, and sometimes empty air. Then, for a little extra added difficulty, they have to find ways to differentiate their characters. Plain and simple, this is not something everyone can do. In fact, only a small percentage of the acting community can do it in a successful and believable way. Writers only bestow these sorts of storylines on the elite performers most likely to have a fighting chance at succeeding in the task at hand. And in some cases, even extremely gifted performers falter under the weight of trying to juggle more than one character. That's certainly something that the writers of the big Crisis on Earth X CW DC crossover event between Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and The Legend Of Tomorrow must have been concerned about. Though several performers tackled dual roles it was Melissa Benoist who had the most pressure on her. She not only had to portray one of the central heroes but also the chief villain. Add into the mix that the whole story centered around the struggles between her dual identities and everything depended on Benoist delivering a performance of the highest magnitude. Not only did she accomplish that, but the performances she delivered across every part of the crossover exceeded expectations. For those reasons and all the reasons to follow, it's no surprise that the viewers bestowed upon her the title of November's Most Outstanding Actress.

Benoist succeeded in creating two very distinct if not polar opposite characters in the episodes. First, as expected is the Kara Danvers we know and love. Determined to get her and her sister out of their broken romance funks, she brings her to another Earth to share in the happiness of a good friend. Not only is she an incredibly talented actress, but she is also a very gifted singer. She's showcased her magnificent voice on Glee in the past and on The Flash last season, but no one really thought that she'd get to stretch her vocal cords again on the show so soon. Apparently, the writers saw what Barry (Grant Gustin) saw in Kara and realized that they couldn't let an opportunity pass to not have her sing. Her singing voice was tonally a perfect fit for Iris walking down the aisle. Her tone was smooth and right on note throughout. When Kara is set free to sing there is a carefree feeling to it where for that brief moment she didn't have the weight of the world resting on her shoulders. Kara was completely in her element and so overjoyed for her friends and Melissa Benoist couldn't have done a better job capturing that. It was one of the lighter and calmer moments that she got to explore in the crossover.

Yet, as the wedding ceremony was attacked, she quickly stepped into her hero mode, calling for the others to get the guests out of the church as she and the heroes present took on the intruders. It was a smart choice to have her fight the intruders while still wearing the light colored and feminine dress she wore to the wedding. The Girl of Steel represented the light in this fight and she took on the black leather-garbed masked woman who seemed to be the leader the attack. An excellent foreshadowing when the show reveals this woman to be Overgirl, also played by Melissa Benoist. Supergirl and Overgirl were in essence polar opposites if Kara/Supergirl was the light, this woman was the darkness. While fans were used to seeing Benoist as Supergirl fight for friends and family, it was jarring at first to see her playing evil. And she did it so well. She also made it very clear with her demeanor who exactly was in charge with the forces from Earth X. Benoist handled every aspect of this complicated setup with intense precise fluid acting that allowed her to easily adapt Kara to all the rapidly changing situations literally exploding around her.

Benoist's Overgirl was pure evil and there was no doubt about that in her portrayal. She convincingly showed that in several scenes but there are ones that stand out. Her threatening to break every bone in Thawne's body when he challenged Evil Arrow, for example, the menace in her tone and her stance totally convinced you that she would have done exactly as said without hesitation. Then later, when the Earth 1 heroes were captured in the warehouse, she seemed to take particular delight in informing Alex (Chyler Leigh) that she had killed her "sister" on Earth X.

While accents helped to differentiate the two characters, Benoist threw in a lot of other different mannerisms that furthered aided in individualizing the two women. The two characters shared the screen multiple times, but none perhaps more prominently than in the scene in Star Labs where Kara is restrained and Overgirl is alone with her. This scene could have so easily fallen into the absurd with one actress clearly just acting opposite a stunt double, but it never once felt like that. The performance that she delivered was so dynamic that it truly felt like two completely different actresses volleying lines off of one another. There were clearly different mannerisms to the two women. With Kara being her usual controlled self while Overgirl had a very cocky better than everyone attitude in the way she spoke and moved.

On Earth X Overgirl was a ruthless General, there was a deep overwhelming darkness that consumed Melissa Benoist's eyes when she was portraying Overgirl. It was, in fact, almost a bit startling to see her like this. Though, for anyone familiar with some of her other work outside of Supergirl, it isn't all that surprising that she was able to pull this off so effortlessly. She's what can best be described as a chameleon actress in that she can blend into and adapt to everything thrown at her without ever taking the audience out of the moment. The writers couldn't have entrusted this complex duo to a better actress.

For all the intense dual acting responsibility and everything that came with that she also had to deliver some pretty epic fight sequences. Most of those scenes were between Kara and Overgirl leaving Benoist to act opposite a stunt double while also trying to match everything she knew she'd either be doing or had done during coverage on the other side of the fight. She never missed a single beat and showcased the very different ways the two women fight while also, very interestingly, showing off the areas where they were similar. It's was fascinating to see Benoist show that at one fundamental time in their histories they weren't all that different. Overgirl was once an innocent young Kryptonian refugee on Earth but was shaped very different to the Kara that would become Supergirl. Choosing when to lock into the similarities and when to differentiate would have taken a tremendous amount of perfectly calculated execution to pull off and she did it flawlessly.

With Supergirl being the newest addition to the Arrowverse, it took the writers a bit of time to figure out how to slip her and the cast of the show into these crossover events. To make up for it, this time, they took Kara and Alex and dumped them right smack dab into the middle of the action. With all of these crossover events, they have to leave some members of each cast behind to keep their respective shows pushing forward. In this case, it was critically important to have Alex join Kara. One of the strengths of the third season of Supergirl has been the refocus on what many consider to be the heart and core of the show, the relationship of the Danvers sisters. Thankfully the producers of Crisis on Earth X recognized the importance of that relationship and provided several great Danvers sisters moments in the crossover. Even though all the heroes have welcomed Kara in as one of their own there is still no one alive on any Earth that will fight for her as hard as her sister will. Not to mention, Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh easily have the best sisterly relationship on television right now and are two of Supergirl's strongest performers. They work off of each other so effortlessly making for some truly powerful scenes together that really showcased beautifully the magnificent chemistry Benoist has with her TV sister.

Their Danvers Sisters crossover scenes also allowed Benoist to shine. The first such scene was one of the always popular "sisters' night" couch scenes. This one features Alex and Kara leaning on one another while lamenting on their love lives. Benoist has brought Kara such a long way since the show's premiere and her growth shows even more when she sets aside her misery to help her sister with hers. Benoist and Leigh have developed such a natural ease and rhythm in their work together that sometimes it appears they aren't acting and merely having a normal conversation. This scene is a prime example of the Danvers sisters taking care of each other, being there for one another in good times and bad.

The second Danvers sisters' moment in the crossover occurs outside the church following Barry and Iris' rehearsal dinner and Alex's one-night stand with Sara (Caity Lotz). It's one of the crossover's more comedic moments. Pulling off a good comedic scene takes trust and timing, which fortunately Benoist and Leigh handle with ease. At first, Kara is concerned when Alex shows up hungover after disappearing from the rehearsal dinner, but Benoist elevates it into a masterful comedic moment when Sara appears and Alex is busted for having a one-night stand. She shows Kara's delight in seeing her normally together sister, embarrassed and flustered perfectly, with very little dialogue and on-point facial expressions and body language. That trust and timing again came in to play when guest star Caity Lotz throws in a well-timed ad lib by asking Alex "How's your butt? I heard you fall out of bed, that must have hurt." that catches both Benoist and Leigh off guard. Her facial expressions and reactions throughout this scene are a pure delight. She then puts Kara in the role of the protective sister by reassuring Alex she did nothing wrong and what she'd done with Sara was normal, even if Sara was an assassin.

The next Danvers sisters' scene, taking place in Star Labs is perhaps their strongest of the crossover. Kara again takes the protective sister role, reassuring Alex that she'd done nothing wrong when Alex began doubting and berating herself not only for her one-night stand with Sara but for also breaking things off with Maggie (Floriana Lima). Benoist taps deep into Kara's love and concern for her sister and firmly but gently delivers the strongest line of their scenes together when she tells Alex that as great as she and Maggie were together the greatest thing was that Maggie had helped her be true to herself and do what was right for herself. Then, she puts a reassuring arm around her sister and pulls her close. It was a nice tender moment and Benoist perfectly latched onto Kara’s immense love for her sister. Even in the midst of a Nazi invasion she showed that Kara always puts her family first.

The last solo Danvers sisters' scene is one that some feared would not make the cut based on the last crossover's faulty habit of not finishing scenes. Thankfully, the sisters' reunion following their ordeals at the hands of Overgirl and the Nazis of Earth X was included in a short, but impactful scene. Benoist again conveys more of Kara's feelings with actions than words in the intensity with which she grabs and holds onto Alex when the two are reunited. She also shows more of Kara's continued growth and maturity when she stated that fighting evil doppelgangers and Nazi's had helped make her realize what was important and put things in proper perspective.

All of these magnificent scenes beautifully showcased the powerful bond Melissa Benoist has with Chyler Leigh as actresses and friends. And while it was lovely to see that highlighted in the crossover the writers gave Benoist a lot of terrific new dynamics to play with. In every case, she delivered performances with an equal amount of chemistry as to what she shares with her own cast. By the nature of the story, Kara spent a lot of time confined to Star Labs with Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and Iris (Candice Patton). While these three knew each other from the prior crossover they were far from best friends yet they acted like they were. They were all willing to give up their lives for the others. When Felicity is being threatened because she won't end the blackout at Star Labs, Benoist enters the scene as the severely weakened Kara and makes a very heroic decision by telling Felicity to give up the code. Kara was effectively sealing her own fate, but she did it without a second thought because Supergirl never lets those she cares about risk their lives for her. Melissa Benoist really shined in this scene because she had to showcase how externally weakened Kara was while also showing that nothing can take away Kara's inner strength and heroic nature. Weak and strong are the very definition of antonyms and they shouldn't go together in any context. Yet, that didn't stop Benoist from marrying them together to deliver a truly heartfelt moment that showcased Kara's true strength of heart.

With that said, there is a scene later on in the crossover that might be considered to contradict this except when one watches Melissa Benoist's performance more closely. The scene in question happens as Felicity and Ray (Brandon Routh) are trying to get Kara out of Star Labs. When Ray goes down at the hands of evil Oliver (Stephen Amell), all that are left is the severely weakened Kara and the very human Felicity. With clear intent, Felicity slides between Kara and evil Oliver. It's a clear surprise to both characters as Kara was posturing to make her last stand. Benoist made a terrific acting choice in this moment. She showed that Kara was prepared to fight, but she also didn't stop Felicity because Kara knew it was a physical fight neither woman would win. In that moment she trusted Felicity to use the power of her words to at least buy them time. Even after the initial posturing gives way to Felicity using herself as a human shield, Kara never fully relaxes and seems prepared to grab Felicity if it comes to it. In the background of the scene, Melissa Benoist keeps Kara tensed up and shows her watching the situation very cautiously seemingly calculating scenarios for a fight. So even though Kara let Felicity take lead in that moment she was prepared to jump in at a second's notice.

Thankfully, for Kara, it didn't come to that as Oliver showed up with her evil doppelganger, Overgirl, as his hostage. This was another scene that really showcased the incredible range that Melissa Benoist has. As the two Olivers negotiate it's clearly evident that Overgirl is becoming increasingly annoyed at her husband for not doing what is best for their cause. There is a fierce fire burning in her eyes right up to the point where it all boils over and Overgirl snaps at her husband. The way Benoist delivered the line came across with a very strong German sounding edge to it which would be accurate given the Nazi culture she would have grown up around on Earth X. While this was very prominent in this scene she carried it throughout all of the other Overgirl scenes. She infused her words with accents different from her normal pronunciations. This also really helped to differentiate Overgirl and Supergirl.

There wasn't a single point throughout the crossover where she wasn't right on point and delivered stunning performances. Whether in a scene by herself or surrounded by her co-stars she stood out and shined bright. She brilliantly showed Kara's weakness as well as her immense strength. She was fierce throughout hitting every mark and nailing every single scene. Given her exceptional track record, no less than that was expected of her. She has a rather extensive and widely varying resume and in all of her projects, she brings to life very different characters. She's played everything from the loyal wife of a terrorist in Patriots Day to an ambitious self-conscious young singer in Glee and everything in between. One of the things that has defined her career is diversity. She has brought to life some very diversely different women and can just as easily play an evil sinister character as she can a strong powerful hero. It's this ability to become whatever is required of her that will keep roles coming her way.

On top of being an extreme talent, she's also an exceptional person. She was given a platform when she was cast as Supergirl and she's used her celebrity status to encourage and inspire women of all ages. Any talented performer can land a lead role, but it's the ones who use that platform for good that make themselves standout and Melissa Benoist has certainly done that. A gifted actress, a talented singer, champion of women's rights, and all around good person, these are the qualities that make someone like her so special.

The crossover event gave Melissa Benoist so many brilliant moments, so many that they couldn't all fit into this one article. Please use the comments to discuss all the scenes that weren't covered here as well as all the amazing work she did on Supergirl during November. She poured so much heart and soul into this crossover and it was very fitting that she was recognized for her work in Crisis on Earth X by being given the title of November's Most Outstanding Actress.

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

This article was co-written by Aimee Hicks and DJRiter.

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


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