It's the year of Batman versus Superman, Iron Man versus Captain America and... Supergirl versus Supergirl? Laura Vandervoort played the Girl Of Steel in Smallville and is now trading hefty blows with the current Kara Zor-El, Melissa Benoist, in CBS's Supergirl. Admittedly, she's revisiting the DC universe as inorganic supervillain Indigo this time round, but it's still meta enough to have the Canadian actress in a spin.
"That was a great experience," she enthuses of her time as Supes' cousin. "There had been no TV version of Supergirl before that. Helen Slater was great in the film version (1984's Supergirl), but Smallville was a different kind of situation."
Smallville, of course, had the distinction of being the Superman television series that didn't feature the Man Of Steel. Instead, it focused on teenager Clark Kent (Tom Welling) who, as the series premiered in 2001, began to discover his extraordinary abilities. Over the course of the show's ten-year run, Clark would gradually move towards his ultimate destiny as Superman, encountering many elements of that character's mythology along the way, including his cousin, Kara.
"Kara was a great character. There's a comic-book mythology behind who she is and who she's supposed to be, but I think I made her my own. They had written her as this rebellious teenager who didn't care about people, but we slowly developed her into a likeable, almost human being who had faults of her own."
Sci-fi provides really amazing female leads, which are hard to find sometimes.
At the time there was talk of a Supergirl spin-off series that would have seen the actress reprising the role. "They had that in mind when I got the role," she says. "I was supposed to be a guest star for a few episodes and then it turned into the whole season and there was talk of a spin-off. Then the whole thing just fizzled out."
Vandervoort started acting at 13, not, like fellow Canuck Ryan Gosling, on The Mickey Mouse Club but with commercial work and guest appearances in shows like Mutant X, Doc, Sue Thomas F.B.Eye and The Dresden Files. At 19, she scored a role in a successful Canadian TV teen drama called Instant Star. But it wasn't until she landed the role of Supergirl in Smallville that her career started to take off. She followed that up with V, a short-lived remake of the phenomenally successful 1983 sci-fi miniseries, before landing her current leading role in Bitten, a werewolf drama based on Kelley Armstrong's Women Of The Underworld book series. It returned Vandervoort to a genre that's long been good to her, revealing her as the Michael Corleone of sci-fi: just when she thinks she's out, they pull her back in.
"But I'm happy to be pulled back in," she laughs. "Smallville was my first chance to really experience the genre, and then going to Comic-Con I think the fans just got me hooked, because they're so dedicated and knowledgeable. Then V gave me a chance to play a very different character and with Bitten I was completely hooked. It's all been great, because sci-fi usually provides really amazing female leads, which are hard to find."
Now in the middle of its third and final season, Bitten teems with werewolves, witches, necromancers, sorcerers and vampires. Vandervoort, a fan of Tim Burton and the darker side of cinema, plays Elena Michaels, the only female lycanthrope in existence. Having left her pack years earlier to pursue something resembling a normal life, she finds herself drawn back to help her former Alpha solve a series of murders. The wrinkle is that Alpha's son is also her former lover. As the show has progressed, the dynamics have evolved and the mythology has deepened.
"I read the book Bitten for the background of the character and the stories," she explains, "and learned a little bit about Kelley Armstrong and her idea of female empowerment. I was sort of hooked at that point and haven't been disappointed since, because Elena has constantly been growing."
As part of her own evolution, she's penned own children's book, Super Duper Deelia, a superhero series about a "quirky and weird" 10-year-old girl who discovers she's more empowered than your average tween. Now it's coming to TV as a live action series that Vandervoort herself is exec-producing. "I usually jump on when it's in production," she offers, "but this is definitely a learning curve for me to create something. Four months ago the thought of directing was terrifying, but I'm starting to think that maybe it's something I would like to try. As I'm getting older, I want to expand into different areas."
For now, though, she's happy to be back amid superheroes on Supergirl. She's scheduled to appear in a minimum of three episodes as the villainous Indigo, a "strong-willed super-computer". It's as far removed from Kara or Elena as you can get, though the latter still exerts an influence. "I find a bit of Elena trying to get out on Supergirl," she admits, "but the tougher, aggressive side is being suppressed a little bit."
For good or ill, Indigo is another character not to be trifled with. Vandervoort wouldn't have it any other way. "I love female empowerment," she grins.