While Supergirl and her Super Friends fight Leviathan head-on, they have someone working for them on the inside: Kelly Olsen. A soldier-turned-psychologist, Kelly has been employed at Obsidian North since the Season 5 premiere. As she became more and more involved with the virtual reality tech, she began to notice a concerning glitch that trapped users inside the program. Now, she is working beside her girlfriend Alex Danvers and the Super Friends to prevent a global catastrophe.
Speaking to CBR, Kelly actor Azie Tesfai previewed her character’s role in the upcoming Season 5 finale. She discussed how Chyler Leigh, who plays Alex, helped shape her character and Kelly’s continuing commitment to her girlfriend. She confirmed Alex’s debut as a masked vigilante and addressed Kelly’s partnership with CatCo reporter William Dey. She also teased a new role with the Super Friends, her favorite scene, the resolution to the Obsidian North storyline and more.
CBR: Kelly Olsen is a totally new character with no comic book history. How did that impact the way you developed her personality and her voice?
Azie Tesfai: You know, when I auditioned for Kelly, I actually had a pretty good amount of information of what they were going to do with her and her arc and her backstory. So that was helpful. Then I did a chemistry test with Chyler [Leigh] and I think, right now, a lot of the little magical pieces of her came in the chemistry with Chyler, in our read, and just seeing the energy between us. It was super great.
I knew she was strong. I knew that she had this kind of incredible journey with her career and being in war and being a psychologist and had this deep love for her brother and had been the stable force in her family. So I had that to hold onto, her strength as a woman. It’s always been the grounding for us: that Kelly has had to take care of herself. She’s really strong for everyone around her.
A big thing that the writers had come in with was, with all of that, she’s incredibly kind and empathetic and leads with her heart. So those were kind of the initial points for me to focus on and, man, I’ve been lucky, because Chyler is so talented. I just go on the ride with her in terms of everything else.
In the Season 5 premiere, Kelly was terrified of Alex throwing herself into dangerous situations, but now she is actively encouraging Alex to mask up. What do you think that says about her and her growth this year?
I think a lot of strong women and men that tend to take care of their loved ones sometimes don’t pay attention to their own trauma and their own pain because they’re so busy taking care of everyone else. With Jimmy leaving and following his dreams and stepping into his purpose, she had time to look at her own self and then, as we all kind of have experienced in our life, falling in love can bring out all kinds of crazy feelings that you maybe hadn’t addressed. So I think all of that came out.
I think Kelly has experienced a lot of trauma in her life, such as her fiancee dying in such a sudden way, and falling in love with Alex brought all that up for her. One of the many reasons I love their love so much is, even with knowing all of that and knowing that Kelly has been through all that and struggles with it — you know that scene where Alex comes into her office and says, “I get what you’re feeling and I’m here for you no matter what,” I think the power of what healthy love can do is so moving and it can be very healing.
Kelly knows that Alex’s purpose is to fight for good. It’s what drives her. It’s what she’s good at. So even though she may have had this past trauma, she loves Alex so much that she’s not going to stop her from living out her purpose. I think that’s so admirable.
On a similar note, Kelly has been getting more and more involved in uncovering Leviathan’s plot. Where does that take her in the season finale?
I think Kelly is really the only Super Friend who has access to Obsidian and will help them, so you’ll see that in the finale. She is gonna support Alex always. So, as Alex is fighting for good, she’ll always have Alex’s back, which you’ll see in the finale. She stands on the side of good, no matter if it’s her job. The only reason that she’s committed to Obsidian in the way that she is, is because she really did believe that it was helping more than it was hurting. I think, as we are realizing that that’s not necessarily true, Kelly continues to stand on the side of what’s just and right, which is awesome.
I know the season was shortened due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but would you say Kelly’s Obsidian storyline gets resolved by the end of the season?
I think it will get resolved. I mean, we still have what would have technically been our finale that we’re still going to shoot. We have one episode left. So our end of this season/beginning of next season will be shot at the same time, but the Obsidian storyline will be resolved at some point soon. I think they were the big bad of this season and we’ll move into some new stuff, which is really exciting.
As a therapist, Kelly has lent her expertise to a lot of the other characters. How does that factor into the season finale?
I just think she’s so solid. You know, she’s so solid and grounded and empathetic and, as Kelly has more scenes with the Super Friends, I think it’s really nice to be that kind of grounding voice. In those moments when there’s chaos in the world and the Super Friends are physically able to defend, Kelly is very much there as an emotional support and to help in any way that she can.
How does Kelly and Alex’s relationship continue to evolve?
I know I keep saying there’s such a healthy bond, but as their roles separately changed, Alex steps into this new — now that the DEO is gone and she’s stepping into this vigilante role, they very much support each other. They will continue to have separate careers and storylines apart from one another, and they will come together in the moment of — how can I say this? [laughs] They will continue to support one another in their separate endeavors. Also, I think there’s a commitment, from what I’ve heard of next season, to them both collectively fighting for the good for everyone, which is just really cool.
What is it like to work with Chyler Leigh?
She’s great. Chyler gets a lot of love, but I still think that she is such an underrated actress. She’s really talented. There’s so many times where I work with her that I forget that there is hundreds of people on set, because she’s just so good. I cry a lot on her coverage because I’m so moved by her performances. She cares so much.
It’s not just that she’s a really good actress, but Chy will call me before or want to talk in hair and makeup about scenes and she thinks about them and she’ll message the writers and she really is very protective, especially over Alex and Kelly’s dynamic, and takes the role of what they represent on the show very, very seriously. I think to work opposite someone who cares so much just makes me more passionate and excited to show up to work and give everything that I have. So I don’t know if I will ever have an experience opposite someone that’s that so artistically fulfilling. I tell her that all the time. She’s so talented.
The CW has always been pretty good about representation, but Alex’s coming out journey is particularly poignant. What has it meant to you to be part of a story like that?
I mean, I just feel so humbled. What Alex’s character has represented has been groundbreaking and Chyler is such a vulnerable, beautiful actress and Chyler cares so much about the fans. Before I auditioned, I watched the storyline with Alex and Maggie, and I cried I was so moved. I think Floriana [Lima] and Chyler did an incredible job with that storyline.
I just came in and wanted to add a different perspective. I was very conscious to make it as different as I possibly could, because what they had done was so groundbreaking and so beautiful. As a black woman, I thought maybe I can bring a different perspective and try to create something new, so that I can honor what they did. I know what Alex’s storyline and her coming out storyline has done for fans. I read all the messages and I see it and it’s so incredibly beautiful that art can can translate into making people feel seen and heard and understood and given them some confidence to speak out for themselves. So I feel really humbled and lucky that I get to be a small part of that.
How does Kelly’s partnership with William Dey progress?
I think that it’s very specific for their mission, right? They both kind of have access to Andrea and Kelly is at Obsidian. I think it’s very circumstantial. So I think, when this wraps up, even though Kelly has grown very fond of William, I don’t know if they’ll be partnering up as much as they did. But I think that they make a good team.
Could we see Kelly become more involved with the Super Friends, perhaps in a Cisco- or Felicity-type role?
Oh, I can’t say. [laughs] I can say that Kelly will continue to work with the Super Friends, but I can’t say how.
Can you tease your favorite moment or scene from an upcoming episode?
I have a scene — the finale is in two days, I hope this is okay to say — but I’ve kind of said it before when we shot it, because Chyler and I thought it was so cool, but Chyler and I have a scene in the finale that is pretty epic. The stunt double in the scene was a Cirque du Soleil performer. I think it’ll be a fan favorite scene. That’s all I think I can say. But it is incredible. Kelly will get to see vigilante Alex for the first time in the finale, which is really exciting.
Oh man, that sounds really cool!
It’s cool! So cool. Chyler and I stood on set during rehearsal and our mouths were on the floor and we were like, “We have the coolest job in the whole world!” It’s crazy.
Would you ever be interested in suiting up yourself?
Yeah! I would. I think that would be awesome. So we’ll see. We’ll see. [laughs]
What is your dream storyline for Kelly?
Oh man! In the Arrowverse world… I would love for Kelly and [The Flash‘s] Iris [West-Allen] to have some scenes together, just because I love Candice [Patton] so much. I think that would be cool. Kelly being a new black, female character and Iris and Candice being the OG original, I think it would be cool to have them together in a scene.
I had a scene with Jon Cryer, with Lex, but we didn’t actually have any dialogue. I would love to work with him, because I just think he is a legend and such a kind person. I don’t know what Kelly and Lex’s scenes would look like, but I’m hoping that that happens in the future at some point. Yeah, I think those would be my kind of two dream people: Iris and Lex.
Do you have any game/book/TV/film recommendations for everyone stuck at home? What have you been doing to keep busy?
I’ve been cooking a lot, which I never have time to do normally with work and just because I’m lazy and I’d rather order in, but cooking has finally kind of become relaxing to me, which is a new experience, and I’ve been sharing that on Instagram and on social media. People have been trying the recipes and posting and it’s been nice, because it’s felt like a sense of community.
I have been FaceTiming friends a lot. I had like a two-hour FaceTime with Nicole Maines the other day that was really funny and fun. I just read this book called Three Women [by Lisa Taddeo] that Katie McGrath gave me before we wrapped and it is my favorite book right now. I think every woman should read it — and man!
What else? You know, I had never used Zoom before, funny enough, and Bitsy [Tulloch] — who plays Lois Lane on our show and now has her own show — organized a kind of group Zoom with a bunch of our girlfriends, a happy hour, which was amazing. It felt like I was having a drink with friends. I hadn’t done that. So just kind of virtually socializing, and I think I’m socializing more now than I ever have before, weirdly, in the comfort of my own home!
But that, and then I also have been trying to respond to fans more and engage with them, especially at night, to respond on socials and get back to them, because it’s a tricky time. I think a lot of our fans are at the age where they’re graduating high school and college and have reached out that they’re missing their graduations, so I’m trying to up my correspondence there and hope that that provides a little solace and light.
So yeah, that’s pretty much it — and sleeping and eating baked cookies and watching random YouTube videos for hours and hours on end.
I think we could all use a Kelly right now!
Man, I could use a Kelly! And therapy. I do therapy on Skype still. I’m a big fan of therapy, speaking of Kelly. So that too! I’m still doing that every week.
Airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW, Supergirl stars Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers, David Harewood as Martian Manhunter and Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers. The Season 5 finale will air May 17.
Supergirl star Azie Tesfai teased a new role for Kelly with the Super Friends, her favorite scene and a resolution to the Obsidian North storyline.