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Legends of Tomorrow boss on reinvention in season 2

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Diyah Pera/The CW

The Legends of Tomorrow have some big shoes to fill.

After destroying the Time Council, the Legends have tasked themselves with protecting history, ultimately ignoring a warning from Justice Society of America member Hourman (Patrick J. Adams) and getting scattered throughout history when DC’s Legends of Tomorrow returns.

Lost in time, the Legends will need rescuing from Dr. Nate Heywood (Nick Zano), a historian whose grandfather was Justice Society of America member Commander Steel (Matthew MacCaull). “Nate comes in as a regular Joe, and we get to have the fun of watching him develop superpowers,” executive producer Marc Guggenheim tells EW, explaining that the character is part of the show’s attempt to reinvent itself in season 2.

Ultimately, the Legends will cross paths with the JSA, adding one of JSA’s own, Vixen (Maisie Richardson-Sellers), to their team. They’ll need the extra help when Arrow baddies Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) and Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) partner with The Flash‘s Reverse-Flash (Matt Letscher) and Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) to form the Legion of Doom — all villains who are high on Sara’s (Caity Lotz) kill list! Below, Guggenheim teases what’s in store for season 2:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Talk about where season 2 is picking up.

MARC GUGGENHEIM: One of the things that we really wanted to do was reinvent the show and come up with a new concept for the show and a new raison d’etre for the team that would allow us to tell the kind of stories that we couldn’t always tell last year with Vandal Savage. Basically, we’re picking up six months after the events of episode 116, our season finale, and in that season finale, Rip had said that with the Time Masters out of commission as a result of the events of episode 115, that someone else needs to protect the timeline, and he appointed himself and the Legends signed on to participate with him.

So we pick up six months later, and the Legends are acting like time cops. They’re going around history, fixing aberrations, dealing with time pirates, all sorts of fun things. One of the things we found last year that we want to do more of is go to fun time periods like 1958, like the Old West, and have our team both get into trouble, because that’s what they do, but also fix some things in history, and that’s what they’ve been doing for six months. Something happens in the premiere that changes the game for them, and we’re going to end up with a shift in leadership away from Rip into the hands of someone new. It’ll be very organic, you will understand why it’s happening, but I don’t want to spoil it too much. I will say it’s fun to see the team wrestling with the new dynamic. It’s part and parcel of our goal this year of how much fun can we make the show?

What are aberrations in the world of Legends?

The question is: What did the Time Masters do? What are the Legends replacing? The answer is when a time pirate or some temporal anomaly happens, it causes a ripple effect in time and we call those aberrations. Basically, an aberration is the thing that’s wrong with history that needs to be fixed. That’s what the team has tasked themselves with doing is fixing these aberrations.

How do they end up lost in time?

I don’t want to say too much except Nazis.

Nate Heywood will be tasked with finding the Legends. What can you tease about him? 

Fundamentally, we wanted to reinvent the show, and almost treat season 2 like a new season 1. When we were talking about it, we were like, “You know what we need? We need a character who is the audience.” We didn’t have that last year. We didn’t have a character who was our way in. We started off, as we always do, with just the character and then we figured out which superhero he was going to become. We started off with the idea that it’s a guy, just a normal guy, he doesn’t have superpowers. That differentiates him already from the other Legends, who arrived to the show with their powers and their tech. We really wanted to tell a story about a guy who comes into his own. Chris Fedak, one of our executive producers, came up with the idea: What if the Legends are lost in time and Nate has to get them all back? That gave us our whole season premiere. He’s a historian, so when we meet him, his superpower is knowing history and knowing all the different ways that history has been changed by the Legends over the last six months, because they’ve been going around fixing aberrations, but they’re the Legends, they’re f—-ups, so they don’t fix history without damaging it up a little bit. Nate pieces this all together. He’s like a time detective. In the process, he starts to figure out what’s become of the Legends.

He’s eventually going to become Citizen Steel and we’ll eventually get to see him meet Commander Steel, right?

Yeah. One of the great things about DC Comics, particularly the JSA, is this notion of what they call legacy characters, the idea that a mantle can be passed down from generation to generation. That’s certainly the case with the Citizen and Commander Steel characters, and it’s definitely the case with Nate and his grandfather. With Nate, our goal was we wanted to create a character who could usher the audience into the new season. We wanted someone who was not connected to the Time Masters, was not connected to our team. In many ways, the season premiere feels like a new pilot, and you come into it really through Nate’s perspective.

The other thing we wanted to do was tell essentially a secret origin story. We started off with a team fully formed. Nate is very different. Nate comes in as a regular Joe, and we get to have the fun of watching him develop superpowers, learn how to deal with them, and get his costume for the first time. It’s a little bit like the way, quite frankly, season 1 of The Flash was, with watching this new guy learn the ropes. He’s doing it in the context of this crazy team of people, as well as going all throughout history, and all these fun different time periods. We’re really excited.

Katie Yu/The CW

The team will eventually be meeting the Justice Society. How will the Legends react to them?

The JSA exists in the 1940s, and we really wanted to play up this notion of they’re the greatest generation, that these guys are real superheroes. We’ve always said our Legends are screw-ups. So, our Legends, they’re messy. They get the job done, but it’s really by the skin of their teeth, and in contrast, the JSA, they do everything right. As one of the law partners I used to work for used to say, “They turn sharp corners.” Everything is done by the book, with precision. They’re the anti-Legends, and there’s a lot of comedy to be found in that as our team reacts to that, particularly Ray, who’s like, “This is the team I should be a part of. These guys are awesome. It’s a whole team of Boy Scouts, and how fantastic is that?” It’s a fun dynamic to play between the two teams, and of course, because they are two teams of superheroes, the very first thing they have to do is fight with each other. That’s required.

And there’s another team: What can you tease about the Legion of Doom, why they’ve come together and whether four uber-villains can work together well?

I’ll answer the last question first. The answer to can four uber-villains get along is probably not. I don’t think I’m really spoiling anything to say that. That said, that’s down the road. You’re going to see a slow building up of the Legion of Doom. It’s a very cool thing that we’re attempting here, which is we did the first sort of superhero team on television, and now we’re doing a team of super villains  They all have different agendas. They’re brought together by Eobard Thawne, he’s the one that brings them together, and we’ll discover why Thawne, Speedster, the Reverse-Flash, a very impressive big bad in his own right, needs the help. That will come down the pike.

Does that have to do with Flashpoint?

I guess, I think technically not. Let’s put it that that way. Technically not.

What version of Captain Cold is this that’s part of the Legion of Doom? Is this before he became the hero we know, and how will that affect the team?

I don’t know if I want to say that just yet.

Let’s run through the characters: What’s in store for Sara this year?

As you can tell from our trailer, we are going to deal front and center with the fact that she is now coming into contact with the man who killed her sister, and it’s something that she is going to struggle with over the course of the season, because one of the things that she’s going to come to discover is that killing this guy is not as simple as she thought, and not even from the standpoint of he’s Damien Darhk. He’s a formidable guy — Damien Darhk has lived for 122 years and loomed very large within history. What will happen if she kills him? What will happen to history that she’s supposed to be, as a member of the Legends, charged with protecting?

We know that Laurel is going to be on Legends at some point. How will Sara react to seeing her again?

Don’t want to say, because we haven’t fully — we have a very cool idea as to how to bring Laurel onto Legends, but it’s still in that early, talking-about stage. It’s always hard to talk about stuff that is happening so much further out than where we currently are.

How about for Mick?

The fun thing about Rory is that he’s a blunt instrument. He’s pure id, and we’re really leaning into that this year. Dominic [Purcell] has just really embraced it, and we’re just having a great deal of fun with Rory this year. Part of the fun of Rory is seeing him deal with the fact that he’s no longer with Snart. He’s no longer the sidekick. He’s calling his own shots now, and part of that is wondering what he’s doing on the ship in the first place. He’s not a superhero. His partner’s dead. Why is he still sticking around? That’s something that we’re going to play around with over the course of the season. But we’re going to do it in a very sort of Mick Rory-appropriate way. In other words, you’re not going to have long scenes with Mick Rory contemplating his his position on the team. He’s going to handle it the way he handles anything, which is pure id.

Robert Falconer/The CW

How about for Ray?

Ray’s got a really fun arc this year. Ray starts off the season questioning his role on the team. He’s enjoying being a time cop. At the same time, he recognizes that he’s only a guy in a super-suit, and you take the super-suit away, what does he have? Does he even have a place on the team? He’s going to have a very surprising connection to Nate Haywood, and a lot of their stories in the beginning of season 2 really revolve around each other.

What about for Stein? 

Something really big is going to happen to Stein that he probably will not discover until the crossover. But it’s going to be the result of things that he does in the first six episodes of season 2.

And for Jax?

Obviously he’s one half the Firestorm, and that’s all well and good, and we love Franz and Victor in scenes together, and we have no complaints about that. But one of our big to-do list items was to start crafting stories for Jax that didn’t always involve Stein or didn’t revolve around Stein. We wanted to give him an identity independent of his partnership with Stein, and part of that is he’s become the Scotty to the Waverider. He’s the engineer, he’s found a place for himself on the team by fixing and improving the ship, and I would say that episode 4 is probably the biggest Jax episode that we’ve done in the course of the series so far. Jay is coming into his own. He’s developing his own opinions on things, and those opinions are not always in line with what Stein wants to do. This season is very much about Jax coming into his own.

What’s going on with Rip?

We’ve got a very cool plan with Rip that I can’t talk about without spoiling the season premiere. Suffice it to say, the season premiere is a big deal. I will say overall with Rip, one of the things we really wanted to do this year is play into Arthur’s natural comedic chops, and that was hard to do last year, because Rip was carrying the weight of a dead wife and a dead son, and his mission was a dark mission of vengeance. The goal this year is to give Rip the opportunity to have more fun, and be the swaggering, cocksure, former Time Master that we know he can be without the burden of either vengeance or grief.

How different is this version of Vixen?

Very different. Look, we love Megalyn [E.K.], and we love the iteration of the character that she’s created both on CW Seed and on Arrow last year. We didn’t want to just replace her. Our goal with Vixen this year, once we knew Megalyn didn’t want to participate in Legends, was how do we do the character differently? The answer is that she’s a member of the JSA when we first meet her, so this iteration of Vixen is from the 1940s, and she has that 1940s sensibility. Unlike the rest of the JSA — spoiler alert — she’s going to end up joining our team. She brings a 1940s perspective to everything, and she’s a little bit like, “This isn’t how we used to do it at the JSA.” A lot of things she doesn’t approve of, especially Mick Rory — the idea that a thief, a murderer, and an arsonist could be recruited for this team is just anathema to her. It just doesn’t compute. There’s a lot of comedy to be found in that, and there’s also a lot of growth for her to go through as she realizes that maybe her place on the Legends is more natural than what she thought, that maybe she makes a better Legend than a member of the JSA.

Katie Yu/The CW

Any other familiar faces returning this season?

You’re going to see Jonah Hex again. That was very high on our list of things that we wanted to do. No one else I’m prepared to talk about just yet.

What time periods might we be seeing this year?

Let’s see, we’re going to see the Old West again. We’re going to see the 1980s, the 1940s, the 1800s. We’re going to be going to France, Japan, Paris, and New York. We’re really jumping around all over the place. In the season premiere, we go the furthest back in time we’ve ever gone.

What can you say how Flashpoint will affect Legends?

With Legends, it’s a bit of a trickier thing, because at least in the early going, it’s very confusing — or at least to me — to have the Legends operating with changing history on their side, and then dealing with someone else changing history on a different show. So, in the early going, you won’t see much of a connect-up with Flashpoint. That’s not to say that there won’t be some consequences to Flashpoint down the road.

Legends of Tomorrow returns Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on The CW. And Caity Lotz will be appearing at EW PopFest along with her CW superhero cohorts in a few weeks. Click the banner above for tickets and further details.

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