Melissa Benoist on why “The Girls on the Bus” was the right show after “Supergirl”

"'Supergirl' was the hardest job I've ever done," Benoist tells EW.

Not all journalists wear capes... but for six years as Kara Danvers, a.k.a. Supergirl, Melissa Benoist did. Kara was a reporter by day — always with her glasses on, of course — and the ultimate superhero by night — always with her cape on. So when Supergirl ended in 2021, Benoist wasn't sure what might come next. At least not until she took a walk in the park.

"I was kind of taking a break after I had finished Supergirl and just getting my ducks in a row," Benoist tells EW. "I was walking my son to the park, and I got a random phone call from [executive producer] Sarah Schechter and [co-creator] Julie Plec, and they told me about the scope of the show and the character and what they wanted to do."

The show was The Girls on the Bus, based on co-creator Amy Chozick's novel Chasing Hillary. The project had already been in the works for years, and Greg Berlanti, an executive producer who had worked with Benoist on Supergirl, was the first to think of her for the role. "Greg has always been such a champion of mine and I guess he had said, 'No one else can do this but Melissa.'"

<p> Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty </p> Melissa Benoist on 'Supergirl'

Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty

Melissa Benoist on 'Supergirl'

But Benoist knew she wanted to be picky about what she did next. "I was very cognizant that whatever I did next had to feel really true to me and had to feel like something that I really loved," she says. "I'll be honest, Supergirl was the hardest job I've ever done to this point in my career. It was so challenging and wonderful in that regard. It took me places I didn't realize I could go to, but I just felt like [my next role] has to be authentic to me, whatever it is next, so I was going to take my time to find whatever that was."

And yet, ultimately, it only took her 48 hours to realize The Girls on the Bus was the right move: "I read Amy's book in two days and knew immediately that it was something I wanted to be a part of."

Not only did Benoist decide to star in the series, but for the first time, she's an executive producer. "Ownership is helpful in so many different regards. It's really valuable to walk on a set and know that you're a part of shepherding it into existence," she says. "I felt very grateful that I was able to be a part of assembling the team and making sure it was the best possible energy on set to make the best possible version of what we had in front of us."

<p>Nicole Rivelli/Max</p> Melissa Benoist on 'Girls on the Bus'

Nicole Rivelli/Max

Melissa Benoist on 'Girls on the Bus'

What was in front of them was a story about journalism, corruption, politics, friendship, romance, and more. In The Girls on the Bus, Benoist plays Sadie, a go-getter reporter who spends her days and nights on the presidential campaign trail, responsible for covering every aspect of her assigned candidate — the good, the bad, the illegal.

"I did not realize how much I would love learning about the lifestyle of a campaign reporter," Benoist says. "I devoured everything that I could, every book. Amy gave me a massive list of reading material and I read all of it and I'm still collecting books. I think maybe because there are a lot of similarities to the world of acting and how passionate you have to be to do it for a living or else it wouldn't be worth it because you have to sacrifice a lot."

Sacrificing right alongside Sadie are Grace (Carla Gugino), the veteran reporter who always seems to get the scoop, Kimberlyn (Christina Elmore), the determined on-air correspondent, and Lola (Natasha Behnam), the influencer who's still trying to figure this whole journalism thing out. As a group, they quickly learn the importance of putting friendship ahead of politics.

"The core of the show is those friendships, that four different women from all walks of life, from all different upbringings, from all different strokes of the political spectrum can find each other and find love and hope and joy together in a really strange environment, a really intense environment," Benoist says.

<p>Francisco Roman/Max</p> Carla Gugino and Melissa Benoist on 'The Girls on the Bus'

Francisco Roman/Max

Carla Gugino and Melissa Benoist on 'The Girls on the Bus'

With those friendships now hitting people's screens — The Girls on the Bus hits Max on Thursday — Benoist is a long way from the phone call that started this journey and an even longer way from flying through the skies of National City. "Because of some of the more challenging experiences in work that I've had in my past, I didn't realize how guarded I could be on set or at work, and this job just broke me open," Benoist says of her experience. "I really became friends with everyone that I was working with. It was a healthy atmosphere and I was surprised by how much confidence I gained in just opening myself up to a community like that. Whereas before, I think when I was challenged, I would put my head down and work and get through it. [With] this, I really leaned into loving the people around me."

The Girls on the Bus is on Max now.

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