‘Supergirl’: The Touching Way Helen Slater’s Mom Helped Her Get the Movie Role

For many viewers today, Supergirl is Melissa Benoist. That’s understandable. She’s been on The CW every week for four and a half seasons. Benoist’s TV mother, Helen Slater, has a history with Supergirl too. She played Supergirl in the 1984 movie spinoff. 

Helen Slater attends Magic City Comic Con | Johnny Louis/FilmMagic

Supergirl celebrated its 35th anniversary this year and Slater has been appearing at anniversary screenings. At a Q&A in July at the Egyptian theater in Los Angeles, Slater told the touching story of how her mother helped her with the Supergirl audition.

Helen Slater was fresh out of high school when she auditioned for ‘Supergirl’

Helen Slater had just graduated Performing Arts High School when her agents sent her to audition for Supergirl.

“I had told my parents that I didn’t want to go straight to college,” Slater said. “I wanted to take a year off and see if I could get work. And then I think I graduated June of 1982 and then in that September was when the audition came in for Supergirl. I had two agents at the time. One sent me up for the best friend and the other sent me up for Supergirl.”

Helen Slater’s mom helped her make a good impression on ‘Supergirl’ casting directors

After the success of the Superman movies, the producers of Supergirl cast a wide net looking for new actresses they could discover. Helen Slater’s mother helped her stand out.

“Supergirl for sure was one of the biggest parts [I’d gone for],” Slater said. “We had a really good training at Performing Arts High SChool so when I got the audition for that, my mom helped sew a cape for me. “

The cape was not a security blanket for Helen Slater

Showing up for an audition in character doesn’t always work. Sean Young snuck onto the Warner Brothers lot in a Catwoman costume, but Michelle Pfeiffer still won the role in Batman Returns.

Helen Slater in Supergirl
Helen Slater in Supergirl | |Richard Blanshard/Getty Images

“I don’t know which of our acting teachers told us this but there is this acting idea, the obstacle strengthens the will,” Slater said. “I remember I walked into the audition and nobody had a cape. So that wasn’t happening. I had the nerves were so crazy and I remembered that thing, the obstacle strengthens the will, and just sort of pushed through.”

Where is the cape today?

Helen Slater was surely the most Supergirl actress the filmmakers could have met in 1982, so she would have gotten the role cape or not. Does she still have the cape her mom made for her?

“I do not,” Slater admitted.

Christopher Reeve gave Helen Slater some heartfelt advice too

Helen Slater did meet Superman Christopher Reeve. Filming of Superman III overlapped with Supergirl.

“I think he was very aware that the success of that movie was very difficult to go into other parts,” Slater said. “I think he was just more transparent about that saying this can happen. One of the silver linings of Supergirl not doing a 2 and a 3 is I was able to do other roles.”

Supergirl: Helen Slater
Helen Slater as Supergirl | | Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images

Reeve also had a great sense of humor.

“We did become friends and we were in New York City,” Slater said. “It was very late at night when I used to stay up late at night. We were on Central Park South I think it was and it must have been quite late. These two fire trucks go by. Really, it was obvious that something very bad was going on and Chris turned to me and said, ‘Well, here’s Superman and Supergirl and there’s just nothing we can do.’ He had a great sense of humor.”