Melissa Marie Benoist (; in French: [bənwa]; born October 4, 1988) is an American actress, singer and dancer. She has performed on stage and in television and film. She is known for her portrayal of the titular character in the CBS/CW DC Comics–based superhero drama series Supergirl (2015–present).
Benoist rose to prominence for her portrayal of Marley Rose on the Fox musical comedy-drama television series Glee (2012–2014). She appeared in films such as Whiplash (2014), Danny Collins (2015), The Longest Ride (2015), Patriots Day (2016), Lowriders (2016), and Sun Dogs (2017) and portrayed David Koresh's wife Rachel Jones in the miniseries Waco (2018). She made her Broadway debut in 2018 as Carole King in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.
Benoist was born in Houston, Texas, the daughter of Julie and Jim Benoist, a physician. They divorced when she was young. Her paternal great-grandfather was of French descent. She has two biological sisters: Jessica, a novelist, and Kristina, an ecological scientist, and five half-siblings from her father's remarriage. She was raised mostly by her mother in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, after her parents' separation.
She started dance classes at the age of three, focusing on jazz, ballet and tap. When she was four years old, her aunt put her in a church play she was directing; after that, she began doing children's theatre.
As a teenager, Benoist performed anonymously at Disneyland various medleys of musical songs for three summers with the Academy of Theatre Arts, a musical theatre school located in Littleton, Colorado run by Paul Dwyer and Alann Worley. She performed locally in a number of theatrical productions, including Cinderella, A Chorus Line and Bye Bye Birdie at Town Hall Arts Center—a professional theatre located in the Denver metro area—and instead of attending high school graduation parties, she performed the play Evita with other cast members at the shut-down Country Dinner Playhouse.
In 2006, The Denver Post named Benoist one of Colorado's five "Can't Miss Kids". She graduated from Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado, in 2007, and then she moved to New York City to pursue a career in musical theatre. She initially attended Marymount Manhattan College for the BFA musical theater program but in her sophomore year, she switched majors to straight theatre, due to her admiration for 19th-century Russian plays. She graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre arts in 2011. While attending college, she played Millie Dilmount in an off-off-Broadway production of Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Rosalind in As You Like It at the Theresa Lang Theatre.
Benoist's first film was in Tennessee in 2008 along with singer Mariah Carey.
In May 2012, she auditioned for Glee in New York at the Roundabout Theatre Company, singing a different song for each of her five auditions including: "Fidelity" by Regina Spektor, "King of Anything" by Sara Bareilles, a Colbie Caillat song, and several musical theater pieces. In July, she had two screen tests in California for series creator/writer, Ryan Murphy, the casting directors, and executive producers. She and Glee co-star Darren Criss appeared with Josh Duhamel in the opening of the 2013 Kids' Choice Awards. That same year, she was selected as an ambassador for Coca-Cola's new product, P10 300 ml Coke Mismo. In June 2013, they were flown to Manila, Philippines, to endorse the product by visiting various malls and meeting with fans.
In the summer of 2013, Benoist and Blake Jenner held a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the production of their movie Billy Boy. The project has reached its $100,000 goal.
Benoist played Nicole, the love interest of Miles Teller's Andrew Neiman, in the 2014 film Whiplash, which won top prizes (Grand Jury and Audience awards) at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. In June 2014, she joined Nicholas Sparks' film adaption The Longest Ride as Marcia.
She had a role in the 2015 film Danny Collins, starring Al Pacino. She played the part of Jamie, a desk clerk at a hotel frequented by one of Jamie's all-time favorite rock stars., and played Becky Thatcher in the Nee Brothers's modern-day retelling of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Band of Robbers (2015). In May 2015, it was announced that Benoist would be playing Lorelai in the film Lowriders, replacing Lily Collins and Nicola Peltz, who were in talks for the role previously. In August of that year, she landed the leading role in the Screen Gems drama feature film Oxford, with Sam Heughan as her leading man.
In October 2015, the superhero adventure series Supergirl, with Benoist in the lead role of Kara Zor-El, premiered on CBS. She became the first woman to play a superhero on prime time TV since Wonder Woman went off the air in 1979. The premiere was watched by 12.96 million viewers and received a full season order by CBS on November 30, 2015. Benoist generally received positive reviews for her portrayal of Kara Zor-El. The second season of the series later moved to The CW. She reprised her role in crossover episodes of The CW's Arrowverse collection of series.
In May 2016, Benoist was cast as Katherine Russell, the widow of deceased Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in Peter Berg's Patriots Day. In June, it was announced that she was set to start alongside Michael Angarano in the comedy-drama film Sun Dogs. Also in that month, the Human Rights Campaign released a video in tribute to the victims of the 2016 Orlando gay nightclub shooting; in the video, Benoist and others told the stories of the people killed there.
In April 2017, Benoist was cast as Rachel Koresh, the legal wife of Branch Davidian leader David Koresh in Paramount Network's miniseries Waco. Benoist was featured in "The Super Duper Minecraft Musical!" which was made for Minecraft's Super Duper Graphics Pack in November.
On May 7, 2018, it was announced that Benoist will be playing the titular character in the Broadway show Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, which marked her Broadway debut for a limited run from June 7 through August 4, 2018.
During her first semester in college, when she was learning to ride a bike, a cab backed into her and left a visible scar above her eyebrows.
In 2015, it was announced that she and her Glee co-star Blake Jenner were married. Benoist commented that they had been married "longer than anybody knows," with some sources claiming that the couple actually wed the same year of their engagement in 2013. In late December 2016, she filed for divorce citing "irreconcilable differences". The divorce was finalized in December 2017. Also that year, Benoist suffered an injury that tore her iris when she hit her eye on a potted plant after falling down stairs. The incident caused one pupil to be permanently enlarged.
In October 2017, Benoist helped with her Supergirl co-star Chris Wood's launch of his website "I Don't Mind" that works to put a stop to the stigma around mental illnesses, admitting that she has struggled with depression and anxiety attacks since she was 13 years old. She said that Wood's words enabled her to admit to others her own issues with depression.