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Melissa Benoist hits the campaign trail in ‘The Girls on the Bus’

Melissa Benoist co-stars as Sadie McCarthy in 'The Girls on the Bus,' streaming now on Max. Courtesy: Warner Bros. Discovery

When a teenage Melissa Benoist found herself facing graduation at Arapahoe High School in Littleton, the longtime performer had a hard time shaking the naysayers.

 “There was a moment where I maybe wasn’t considering majoring in art or musical theater in college,” she says. “Just because so many people had told me nobody actually makes it as an actor, and there’s not a way to make a living doing it.”

Over the last decade, Benoist has silenced those doubters. Her feature film roles have included the Oscar-winning Whiplash, Patriots Day and Danny Collins, along with a major role as Marley Rose in the smash musical-dramedy series Glee. But to superhero fans, she’ll always be known as Kara Danvers, aka Supergirl, the iconic comic character she played for six years across a number of shows in the DC Extended Universe. 

Benoist’s new show, The Girls On The Bus, marks a change of pace for the 35-year-old artist, but there are still some similarities to Supergirl. Like Kara Danvers, Sadie McCarthy is a journalist. She doesn’t spend her downtime saving lives, though. Instead, she is consumed by her profession as she follows a number of flawed presidential candidates jockeying for the White House. 

Inspired by Amy Chozik’s memoir Chasing Hillary, the adapted Max series also stars Carla Gugino, Christina Elmore and Natasha Behnam as fellow journalists reporting on the presidential hopefuls as they travel across the country to secure votes — with each member of the foursome finding friendship, love and scandal along the way. 

Origin story

When Benoist was first approached about The Girls On The Bus, her initial instinct was to turn it down. “I wasn’t really looking for work,” she says. “I had just finished Supergirl. I was exhausted, wanted to take a break and just focus on being a mom.” 

But once she learned more about the idea from producers Julie Plec and Sarah Schechter, Benoist changed her tune. “I just had this gut feeling that this was something I had to do. I’ve always been drawn to people who are passionate, committed and work hard, and Sadie is certainly someone who is unapologetic about what she wants to do with her life and career.”

Thanks to a healthy diet of Gene Kelly movies supplied to her by her grandparents, the Houston-born Benoist began doing ballet, tap and jazz at age 3. She caught the acting bug soon after and spent the remainder of her formative years learning the craft on the Front Range, including three summers with the Academy of Theatre Arts in Littleton.

“It’s such a rich community,” she says of the local performing arts network where she cut her teeth. “I’ve never seen another regional theater scene like it anywhere else in America. That’s where I fell in love with acting and wanted to do it as a profession.” 

Her mom lives in Grand Junction now, so Benoist doesn’t make it back to the Denver metro nearly as much as she’d like. But regardless of which side of the range she finds herself on these days, she says  growing up in the Centennial State — “how beautiful it is, how genuine and kind the people are” — had a huge influence on how she navigates her Hollywood career. 

“I really developed my work ethic in Colorado,” she says. “I worked with people that were so hard-working, who were passionate, showed up every day and committed. I’ve carried that with me.”

Work it out

That Colorado-forged work ethic is on full display in The Girls On The Bus, which marks Benoist’s debut as a producer. She made the decision to get more involved behind the camera after realizing the power of having “ownership of her work.” 

She felt something similar on Supergirl, where she was on set with the crew day-in, day-out, but it felt different on The Girls On The Bus. “I feel an immense sense of pride with the finished product,” she says. “Much more than I have in the past when I have not had that [producer] title.”

With the actual U.S. election taking place in November, The Girls On The Bus arrives at a time when the political environment is particularly divisive. Rather than providing answers, Benoist wants the show to explore our role in the media landscape without getting too heavy. 

“We are able to comment on the changing tides of journalism in the political arena with a lightness,” she says. “There’s a silver lining to our show that I think we all need to be reminded of. I hope audiences think twice about the truth and how they digest the news, while also remembering that, in every election, their voice deserves and needs to be heard.” 

ON SCREEN: The Girls on the Bus is streaming now on Max.


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