What's Difficult About Playing Martian Manhunter, According To David Harewood

supergirl martian manhunter

One of the biggest twists of Supergirl Season 1 came with the reveal that D.E.O. Director Hank Henshaw was not what he seemed. We soon learned that the man we thought was Hank is actually a Green Martian named J'onn J'onzz, also known as Martian Manhunter. Actor David Harewood plays both the human version and the Martian version of the character, and it evidently isn't always easy. Harewood had this to say about playing Martian Manhunter:

It's difficult because I'm playing somebody who I'm not through the use of CG. It's can be a little bit of a frustrating character to play because it's never quite who you are, if you know what I mean. But I love putting on the costume. That never really gets old. I would like to see him in his Martian form a lot more. It's brilliant - what they're doing is amazing - but it's still difficult to get emotion into that character because of the CG performance. What they tend to do is when you want there to be real emotions, it has to be the actor.

Martian Manhunter has one of the most tragic backstories of any Supergirl character to date, and we've seen his heartbreak firsthand through the use of flashbacks to his days on Mars. Supergirl has done a truly remarkable job in showing that heartbreak via CG, but a lot of Martian Manhunter's most emotional scenes have happened when he's in the guise of Hank Henshaw. David Harewood's reveal that the Supergirl team deliberately leaves out the CG when it comes especially emotional scenes explains why Martian Manhunter is usually in human form in big moments. It may be difficult for Harewood to play a CG character, but I'd say that he pulls off both versions of the character quite well.

Personally, I love David Harewood's comment to IGN that he enjoys wearing the costume. The suit - often complete with a long, flowing cape - gives him a classic superhero look that fits with the tone of Supergirl. Martian Manhunter and Supergirl make an odd duo while zooming through the skies together, but it really works.

Interestingly, David Harewood has actually had to play three different characters during his time on Supergirl, and not all have involved his fabulous Martian Manhunter costume. Harewood played the original and entirely human Hank Henshaw in flashbacks to J'onn's first encounters on Earth, and he played an altered version of Hank who had taken on the identity of the villainous Cyborg Superman. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about Cyborg Superman, so we can probably expect to see Harewood back as a bad guy in addition to his work as Martian Manhunter.

The next episode of Supergirl promises to be a big one for David Harewood as J'onn J'onzz. The sneak peek indicates that we'll be seeing him in both his human and Martian forms, and he'll have to pull out all the stops to battle the White Martian invader who has arrived on Earth to retrieve M'gann M'orzz. Tune in to The CW at 8 p.m. ET tonight to see what's next for J'onn on Supergirl, and don't forget to take a look at our midseason TV premiere schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.