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Inde Navarrette On The Superman & Lois Cast, Honoring Culture, And Sarah’s Mental Health – Exclusive Interview

Inde Navarrette On The Superman & Lois Cast, Honoring Culture, And Sarah’s Mental Health – Exclusive Interview

“Superman & Lois” entered The CW scene in 2021 to bring a new life to the Arrowverse that we haven’t seen much in the series — a family-centered drama with a superhero twist. We’ve seen countless iterations of Superman and Lois’ iconic relationship both in comics and on screen, but “Superman & Lois” puts a spin on the usual design. The series gives fans a glimpse at a grown-up Superman and Lois and shines some of Supes’ spotlight on his kids — and the rest of Smallville’s teens.

The series brings everything fans loved about “Smallville” while giving space for fans to fall in love with the next generation. Along with classic comic characters like Morgan Edge and Mitch Anderson, we also have Lana Lang and her family. To sweeten the pot, Inde Navarrette (“13 Reasons Why”) plays Lana’s teenage daughter Sarah and Jordan Kent’s love interest. We need some adolescent drama in Smallville, after all.

During an exclusive interview with Looper, Inde Navarrette discussed working with the “Superman & Lois” cast, being a fan of Tyler Hoechlin, and what the cast gets up to behind the scenes. She also got candid about the importance of honoring your name and her character’s mental health arc.

From a Tyler Hoechlin fan to his costar

You play such a badass young woman on the show. What has it been like getting to play Sarah? What’s the most exciting thing about working alongside seasoned actors like Bitsie Tulloch and Tyler Hoechlin Were you a fan of any of their projects before signing on?

Sarah is extremely young, but it feels cathartic to play out a young teenager who feels like she’s got a lot on her plate and to play out the way that either most teenagers are currently going through or could possibly be going through, so they can see their thought process and their livelihood on screen. It’s very cathartic. 

It’s amazing to work with seasoned actors because I always ask them questions, and Emmanuelle [Chriqui] and I are always working together. [There are] moments where I’m slowly getting comfortable with asking her how we go about things, running lines beforehand, seeing her ideas, my ideas, [and] see if they match. Same with Erik Valdez, who’s my [onscreen] dad. I don’t have too many scenes with anybody else who’s not my dad or Jordan, but I definitely watch them and can see whenever they’re working and will sneak behind and see how they work because it’s so beautiful to see someone who’s put that 10,000 hours [of] work [in].

Were you a fan of any of their projects before signing on?

I definitely don’t tell anybody. I was a huge fan of “Teen Wolf” growing up, and I think my big fat crush on Dylan O’Brien saved me from losing my mind whenever I saw Tyler [Hoechlin] because I was like, “Okay, I have to work —I have to be a person.” I also was 14 once, so forgive me. He’s a phenomenal actor. Seeing how everybody can change and also that people aren’t their characters, that’s also very beautiful to see.

Positive mental health representation

There’s a moment this season where Sarah embraces her mental health struggles and refuses to let anyone make her feel anything but strong and proud of herself for getting help when she needed it. How did it feel getting to share such a powerful message with young viewers who may be going through the same thing?

Ooh, beautiful question. I was extremely proud of Sarah in that moment. It was amazing to have it come out of my mouth because I feel like at the moment, sometimes people, especially me, can bottle up. To play that through a character has brought strength in myself to say, no, I’m extremely proud of what I’ve come from and to know where Sarah’s come from and to know where she is now and also to know that the audience hasn’t necessarily seen all of her mental struggles.

[There are] definitely other things going on inside of her head that [aren’t] pictured a lot. For the audience who does know what that feels like and to see the clues that she leaves, that is due to her mental health. I think that message was very strong and directed to the people who, if you know, you know. That was a very important moment for me.

Reclaiming a name

Were you a fan of “Smallville” back in its prime or later? And what do you love most about your onscreen mom, Lana Lang?

I wasn’t familiar with “Smallville” until I booked the show, and then I feel like I can’t get enough of Kristin Kruek, who played the role of my [onscreen] mom’s [character Lana, played by] Emmanuelle [on “Superman & Lois”]. I have to say that both women are doing it phenomenally in their own way, and it’s neat to see the way that everybody will play such an iconic character in their own minds and to see the creativity flourish and bloom … oh, my God, it gives me chills. Emmanuelle’s grace and the finesse that woman has naturally and the flag that she carries in her day-to-day life is extremely inspiring to see, especially as somebody who’s just starting out in the industry.

This [past] episode tackles a really important subject that doesn’t get addressed very often, which is [that] so many families with cultural first and last names are encouraged or even forced to Americanize their names to assimilate. Sarah takes back her culture in this episode. Why do you think this is such an important topic to tackle, and what advice would you give to viewers who struggle to love their name and their identity and their culture and where they came from?

Mm. That’s a beautiful question. There’s so much in a name. And it’s identity. It’s also a way to question identity. It’s a way to hide to make sure that there’s comfortability, and I feel like now in the times that we’re in, there’s a huge teaching culturally to be very proud of yourself. As someone who is Mexican, you are subliminally taught from a very young age that the way that you say your name will also depend on the way that other people will react to you. 

Whenever people are reading out your name on roll call, and they either stutter or you have to water it down in order for it to be easily swallowed, I think there’s a huge movement going on right now, which I am jumping on, too, because it’s such a beautiful thing to have someone try and say your name. They don’t say it correctly — you correct them, and they try their hardest because it shows that they’re willing to meet you. For Sarah, it’s really important for her as a young woman and as a young Mexican woman to really have that identity for herself and for her future kids and for her future as a woman.

A rite of passage

Did you ever have a quinceañera yourself, and did this episode bring up any fond memories if you did?

I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to have a quinceañera, but to be able to have one through Sarah was so beautiful. I think it’s very important for young women to have a quinceañera but for some who aren’t able to have one, it’s such a special moment. I definitely was incredibly honored that Sarah was able to have one.

What was your favorite moment from that experience?

The father-daughter dance on both ends and also wearing the dress. I think it was 10, 15 pounds. Putting it on and off, we had a team of women who wore our costumes, and they would come in, and I would have my two pairs of leggings on, my eight kidney wraps. The hair would be done. The makeup would be done. The last thing to do would be to put on the dress, which is a real corset. It’s real ribbing. It’s tightened beyond belief, and I don’t understand how anybody in “Pirates of the Caribbean” breathed, first of all. It’s incredibly oxygen-depriving. It’s not fun, but it was so much fun. My ribs were definitely bruised.

Do you have a favorite moment with [Emmanuelle] from set, or a favorite scene between the two of you?

Oh, set days, I can’t pick enough of one. [There are] moments where we’ll be in the tent and me [and] Josie, who plays Sophie, will be playing games back and forth, and then we’ll be calling … The parents will chime in, and then we’ll be playing it together, and we sound like idiots. Then we’ll [have to go back] on set, and we have to break what we had done in the tent, which is practically crawling around on the floor trying to guess the animals that we’re trying to think of and be dorks, and then go back on set. It’s kind of very funny, and it’s beautiful. It’s wonderful.

Ditching the labels

Your character recently came out as bisexual, which is so lovely for young viewers to see themselves represented on screen. How does it feel to be a part of that progress that we’re finally seeing on TV? Do you hope that Sarah dives into this part of herself more as the series continues?

Good point. I do have to specify that I find it very beautiful that we haven’t labeled her as bisexual yet, because I definitely believe at the age that she is, she doesn’t really know what’s going on, which is why all of this is extremely confusing and why she also doesn’t understand why Jordan doesn’t understand. There’s this confusing … Because, in her heart, she knows what the situation is, what it was. We don’t even know what that is yet, which is also confusing, but it falls underneath the exploring of who you like romantically and broadening that spectrum to a “Who do you like?” situation. 

For Sarah, it’s really important for her. It’s beautiful in the show that, especially whenever you have that moment, which is so terrifying of telling your parents who you could like, and Smallville is a really small town. Unfortunately, for people who have romantic partners who could be deemed unacceptable, it’s very terrifying to tell your parents, and it’s very gut-wrenching. You don’t know where it’s going to turn, and for her to be able to have that moment with Lana in the garage of saying, “It’s a girl,” and Lana’s response being, “Okay,” and moving on with the conversation, but not dwelling on the fact of who she kissed but the fact that she did kiss someone.

I think it’s really beautiful and pushing the narrative that you don’t really have to explain yourself. You don’t also have to come out in order to be who you are. That’s a very important lesson for Sarah to learn, for the viewers to understand, that you don’t have to do anything you’re uncomfortable with.

The Stiles Stilinski of Superman & Lois

Where would you like to see Sarah go in the future? Can you tease anything about the upcoming episodes?

I would like to see Sarah in the future living life a little bit more. I feel like she has her spine extremely straight at all times and needs to relax and let loose and let her shoulders fall forward and to breathe. I think that you’ll see in the future that the people that she chooses to lean on will ultimately allow her to be that … to be a kid. You’ll see a lot of budding relationships in the future.

Is there a character or actor from the Arrowverse that you’re dying for Sarah to interact with?

Oh, wow. I think childhood-me would love anybody from “Arrow,” specifically Canary. I don’t know if Sarah’s ever going to be in the Superman-verse. I don’t know if she’s ever going to know. She may be that one character that is completely clueless by Season 13, which will be so much fun to play. As Inde, I really want her to be able to branch out and maybe go to school with other people’s kids. It’d be kind of fun to see how that would work.

Would you like Sarah to develop powers down the line, or do you like that she’s sort of the clueless human?

You know what? I definitely believe that … Was I talking about “Teen Wolf” with you?

Yeah.

I was just going to say, I like the fact that Stiles doesn’t [have powers]. He is that person, but also, at the same time, I’m going to be extremely jealous of the people who get to be hooked up to wires. If Sarah were to have a superpower, it would be her physical strength and determination and courage to … If she decides to fight, and she physically learns how to.

Family drama rears its head

Sarah has a pretty fraught relationship with her dad, and they face a lot of ups and downs in their relationship. What interests you most about that dynamic, and why do you think that’s so relatable?

Father-daughter relationships are going back since the beginning of time, whether they’re good or bad or in the middle or healing. A father and a daughter is such a specific relationship that really shapes both parties. For the father, being able to understand what it’s like and to see the world through their daughter’s eyes and also to have the daughter use the father’s strength and courage and back to lean on at times if they need to is a very important imperative. 

When that gets muddled or trampled over, it’s really difficult for the father and the daughter to heal and to also heal that part of themselves where they used to connect with the other person because now it’s tainted with that emotion. I definitely think that this season you’ll see them either healing through themselves and their community or healing themselves through each other. I think we just have to really wait and see which way the tables turn.

Is there a DC Comics villain or hero that you’d love to see on the show, especially if they’ve never appeared in the Arrowverse?

Oh my God. The joker [and] Harley Quinn. If that is a possibility … If I could turn into a Joker, that would be so awesome. That would be beautiful and amazing, and I will call Todd Helbing after this conversation.

I really love that “Superman & Lois” is tackling the insidiousness of cults and how they prey on vulnerable people. Why do you think that this is such an important subject to tackle, and how do you think that the show is putting their own unique spin while tying in some classic “Superman” lore?

First of all, it’s very important for people who have been in cults, have been around that narcissistic, altruistic person to know that it’s not their fault. Just because they do have baggage or trauma that was preyed upon, it doesn’t make them a horrible human being or more of a victim or not deserving of help in the first place. They, unfortunately, were preyed on by the wrong person. Right here, whenever they see people who are not getting the benefit of what they said that they were going to get, it’s important for those characters to know that it’s not their fault and that Superman coming in and not giving up is really pushing that narrative that everybody deserves a second chance — that everybody deserves to be saved. People who believe that they’re altruistic can shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.

Learning from the greats

You mentioned that you asked some of the older castmates a lot of questions. Have you gotten any advice from any of them about either acting or life or anything?

Yes, and in different ways. Emmanuelle, in particular, shows through action. I’ve seen the beauty of the human that she is and how vulnerable but strong that she is very similar to her character. She has shown me with little words but with [an] immense amount of passion. [She] and I have been able to have wonderful conversations where she … She’s older than me, so she’s able to look down and guide me in different ways. It can be across the board that we have conversations about love, growing up, womanhood, politics … Everything’s open, and she’s just as willing to teach, and I’m willing to learn.

Whenever it comes to someone like Dylan Walsh, where him and I can shoot the s***, for lack of better words, and he is able to teach me the fact that somebody can have a work list such as his and be a human, someone who plays characters that are very intense and gritty such as Tyler can be such a humble human being that’s ready to go hiking and boating at any time of the day. I think it’s all across the board that Wolé [Parks] is an amazing, talented actor. To see this relationship, it’s like, “Damn. Wow. Okay.” Sometimes, there doesn’t have to be this big, long conversation to learn something from someone if you sit back, relax and, enjoy the flight and observe.

The adventures of Chrissy Beppo and Sarah Cushing (maybe)

What has been the most rewarding or exciting thing about taking on this experience?

Getting to learn how to fall into your own cadence whenever it comes to acting. If you can learn technique, you can learn whatever people are willing to teach, but unless you learn how to feel the emotion within yourself and how to trust yourself to exist in those worlds and in those moments, you have to stir your own pot and figure out how you like it. Learning how to fail and learning how to go about it and learning how to have relationships with people — we also went through a pandemic together. Learning how to be people again and giving each other grace and learning how to be out in Canada, where you can’t really be as much of a community as you want, but whenever we’re able to be a community, it’s a really special thing.

Is there someone from the show that you haven’t gotten a whole lot of scenes with that you’d really like to have some with down the road?

Chrissy Beppo and Sarah Cushing will walk somewhere in the future waiting for either Superman or in jail or somewhere would be … this is [incorrect] English, but [it] would be like the comic explosion of the series because Sarah’s sarcasm and Chrissy’s quick-witted mind, I believe would [blow up] The CW, which is why they haven’t done it yet. I’m pushing for that.

Do you have a favorite scene or one that was particularly challenging to film?

I do have a favorite scene, but it’s not necessarily what people would think. I see a budding relationship shift between me and Tayler Buck’s character, which is Natalie Irons, with the whole car scene. A few scenes where we were able to get together, like you see something there, which is so beautiful, whenever you have somebody that you immediately click with outside but also inside of your work, like physically inside of the TV show like Natalie and Sarah, because it’s a wonderful feeling. I love that

The fair lady

Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about regarding the show?

The show is very grounded and is very, although it is “Superman & Lois,” rooted in realism with the way that everybody’s going through things. For the people that are watching the show and watching it through the lens of grace and understanding, and also empathy for themselves, if they’ve also gone through it, and they’re not really agreeing with anything that a character does, it’s ultimately about those characters, but also that we’re all going through it the same way, and kids are kids.

They’ll learn somehow, but sticking your hand in the fire isn’t the best thing — you will get burned. Some people need to learn.

Do you have a favorite movie or TV show of all time?

Oh, my God. If I reference “Teen Wolf” one more time … I am really showing my colors, and I can’t because I work with these people, [laughs] and I’m supposed to be cool. No, I think my favorite movie of all time as of right now is actually a show. I’m watching “Euphoria,” as everybody is. It’s also tackling a lot of issues with mental health and showing the realism and romanticism of mental health, where it can be ruined by [thoughts] at the same time. It’s nitty-gritty, and it’s very back-and-forth.

Is there an actor or director from any time period that you’d love to work with or would have loved to work with?

My grandmother was a very big Audrey Hepburn fan. I grew up watching a lot of her films, and her grace and style and effortlessness, but also at the same time, finicky and ping ponging back and forth, was married so well. If there’s anybody that I’d want to be a fly on the wall to see who she was like, it would be Audrey.

New episodes of “Superman & Lois” air Tuesday nights on The CW, with episodes streaming on the website the next day.

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