Spoilers ahead for tonight’s episode of Superman & Lois “Of Sound Mind.”
On tonight’s episode of Superman & Lois, Daya Vaidya’s character, Peia, a cancer patient getting chemotherapy treatments at Bruno Mannheim’s Hob’s Bay facility, shakes up the season with a big reveal.
In the episode, a long speculated theory amongst fans was proven true when Peia revealed herself as Onomatopoeia, a supervillain in DC Comics as an enforcer for Intergang. Onomatopoeia earned his name by imitating the noises of those around him. We spoke with Vaidya about this reveal, the empowering part of getting to play a character with similarities to her own story, gender swapping a popular villain, and more.
With the Superman lore being so rich, did you get a chance to go through and read up on it after being cast?
Daya Vaidya: I didn’t know that it was Onomatopoeia when I first got cast, so that was surprise. So it wasn’t until I spoke to the writers and when they told me that, then I went into full blown research mode. And just kind of looked up the DC comics that it was Kevin Smith who created this character and that it was originally a man. They decided to make it a woman of color and a storyline, which I thought was so great. And that gave me a lot of freedom to kind of make it my own, but I also wanted to just go into the Arrowverse world and figure out who Onomatopoeia was in this world. And when I saw that her powers could be as great as Superman … that really inspired me to come up with a lot of ideas about how I can embody this character.
You mentioned the gender swap, In the comics, Onomatopoeia is male but the series obviously did a gender swap. In the casting process, was the character’s gender specified?
Daya: Yeah, I didn’t know at all. I do know that the character I did read for which is Peia. So Peia, actually, in the breakdown, it was Ana. So, this is how they’re playing with the words. Yeah, it was Ana and then I am Pia who is the character that Lois doesn’t know, and then Onomatopoeia. So this is the play on words that they’re doing. So I didn’t know it was a woman, but you can see how they were teasing that almost through the audition process, but kept it really close to the vest. So, no, I did not know that it was a gender swap. Jai Jamison, one of the writers, he actually pitched the idea of Onomatopoeia the first season. He’s a big comic book head and he’s the one who had this idea in the first place. He’s a black writer on our show; incredibly talented. He also directed episode 11 as well. So yeah, he came and I think he pitched it and it wasn’t until season 3 that they were able to actually do it.
I’ve loved to see the progression throughout the series and how much care that the whole writing team the crew takes in protecting the Superman everyone knows and loves but introducing these stories to new audiences. Obviously, a lot of them are big fans of the comics, so that’s actually awesome.
Daya: Yeah, they are. He [Jameson] oh my God. He can speak on it all day! They were very helpful in that way. You could go to the writers, they all have a wealth of knowledge just about the world because there’s so much mythology. Also the writers and the showrunners, when I met with them, gave me a full backstory as well. They gave me a lot of the information as well. They kind of laid out their view of the world with Bruno Mannheim in it as well, because they sometimes go off of the comic books. And, you know, elaborate on their own as well.
I had gotten to talk to Chad L. Coleman about his experience working on this season as Bruno Mannheim but what was it like getting to work with him?
Daya: I feel like he was my TV soulmate. I really do. We both feel that way because it was such an incredible chemistry from day one working with him. I say all the cast members, but especially Chad and I had a great rapport. And he’s a fantastic actor. Oh my gosh. He’s just really talented. We both come from theater, we both come from kind of the same world. So we spoke the same language when it came to work. We just had a lot of fun in that world. I think, being a part of Intergang, I think you’re going to be excited about how that plays out too. There’s some really cool things that are going to happen in the rest of the season.
I mean my character, his, Intergang, and also the Suicide Slums and just how that relates to Superman and what the history of that area is with Superman. It speaks on some kind of relevant social issues too, in our world, which they brought into the storyline, which I thought was great.
You’ve been very vocal about your cancer diagnosis’, were you able to be hands on with the way that Peia was portrayed in the writers room and ultimately, on screen?
Daya: Yes. Also, so that part of it, I just posted a big thing actually on it on Instagram. It’s the full clip of exactly how I felt about it. I just posted it because I thought it was important to talk about how the whole idea of the “pull,” which was something that I have always used, that word. And when I spoke to the writers about it, It was amazing that they put it in the dialogue, the idea of the pull and what that means with mortality and fighting a life-threatening disease of any kind. And so for them to use that in my characters, in the voice, I was so moved by it. I haven’t told anyone this yet but when I read the script, when I first read the script and saw what I was saying, I did burst into tears, like immediately, it was crazy how much it moved me. I didn’t even anticipate that. I just read it and it affected me pretty deeply. I just couldn’t believe that what I felt and what I experienced was right there on the page in front of me. And then I was able to speak it into art and as a character. It was surreal and incredible and full circle. I don’t even know if I have the words for how deep it was to me — it was really special.
On that note, Lois is also dealing with her cancer diagnosis this season. I know you talked about being an “advisor” Did she come to you for any help kind of developing her scope on the seriousness of the topic?
Daya: Yeah. You know that’s a great question too, because yes. She did, but I will say she had done so much homework. I mean, she was really prepared and she had done a ton of research. Most of the things I was kind of speaking on, she already knew because she had spoken to so many survivors. So when I got on and we got to have our scene together, we had a great conversation about it, but a lot of the stuff she did ask me, she’d go, “Oh, yeah. That’s what so-and-so said to her when I read this or when I read that she really go in and I was very impressed with how seriously she took it. We had a lot of talks about hair. There was a lot of conversation about what stage you lose your hair. If you notice she still has hair because they do have a lot of technology now that allows you to keep hair. And how much did I lose my hair so all these kind of technical components, I was able to even help the nurses and the doctors say where you put things. Where the injections go in, kind of just little details. But I felt like she knew a lot. She was more than prepared; she’s pretty amazing.
What was the most empowering thing about getting to play Peia?
Daya: It’s the art imitating life and me being able to have a catharsis through a character I was playing to be able to process things that I’ve been through in real life and pain that I felt and joy and just all the different emotions to be able to process through a character. Doing something that I love; every single day was a pinch me moment on that set. Every single day, every moment I was in Vancouver, walking through the streets. Was a pinch me moment. And every moment I was with Superman was a pinch me moment. I just couldn’t believe I was able to play a character like this that had been through. Without sounding too corny, I think it changed me as a person deeply. I’m not the same person because it affected me that much. That’s how much I’ve been affected by playing that, playing her.
How is the vision in the mask?
Daya: It was very tough sometimes to breathe at first, but then they made it work, but you just had to get used to it. So I just physically had to get used to it. My stunt double also kind of helped me out as she transitioned out of it and I got into it. She gave me pointers. You had to use your body a lot. And then there was two of them. There was one that they did the special effects on and the other one is just the way it looks. So you know how they have it moving in those first couple of episodes? They do that with special effects. So I was just blown away by all of the different ways in which they made it work. It was very functional, but it also had to be functional physically and had to be functional for special effects.
Did Tyler [Hoechlin] give you any advice about getting into the suit?
Daya: He has such a strict regimen when preparing to get into the suit. Working out, careful about what he’s eating. We had conversations about it and I remember asking him what he does and he just goes, “I don’t eat.” [Laughs]. Obviously he does, but he’s way stricter about it.
Having to go to the bathroom in the suit … how is that situation?
Daya: [Laughs] So hilarious, I love it because only a woman would ask that and I love that you asked that because we get it. That’s absolutely an issue. No, You’re right. It’s hard because you have to take the whole thing off. And yeah, I made sure I didn’t drink too much water, honestly, the days I had to be in the suit. You have handlers so I have a team, actually, there’s a supersuit team on set, who actually just handles the supersuits for me, Tyler, and Wolé [Parks]. All of us. And then you have a specific person who helps you. It’s really amazing and they are your handler, like they’re incredible and they really help you. So they have it set up. They help you, whatever you need. They zip you up, they unzip you. I will tell you my boots … wait till you see the boots. The boots were a thing. They were serious. So the boots coming on and off, and then the suit, it was super skin tight. It was very comfortable. The costume designers did a great job. But yeah, I had to make sure I wasn’t eating too much the night before. And Tyler gave me those notes. Yep. Tyler gave me those, uh, those pointers. I think it’s like being an athlete. That’s what I liked. And I thought of it as though you’re an athlete and you’re getting suited up to compete. That’s what I thought.
As a nerdy website, we of course have to throw in a few fun questions to round out the interview.
Daya: Let’s do it!
If you had a song that was the soundtrack to your life what would it be?
Daya: “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. Always!
Flying or super speed?
Favorite type of Girl Scout cookie?
Daya: Easy. Frozen Thin Mints.
If you were to ever write a book, what would you want it to be about?
Daya: I would say it would be something about talking about this process and what it means to survive. And the ups and downs of survival and going through fighting cancer as a mom and as an actress and realizing that your path changes and that you can survive anything. That you can absolutely come from the lowest point of your life and survive and then achieve things that you never thought were possible.
Superman & Lois airs Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. ET on The CW. Be sure to check out Daya’s big reveal in the episode and stay tuned for the rest of the season!