Legends of Tomorrow bosses on introducing Muslim superhero
When DC’s Legends of Tomorrow returns, there will be a new face on the Waverider.
After the Legends broke time in the finale, they’ll come across Zari Adrianna Tomaz (Tala Ashe), a Muslim-American woman from the year 2042. In her future, technological advances have brought about significant change to civilization, but humanity’s fear, prejudice, and mistreatment of the planet have prompted her to become a “gray hat hacktivist.” It’s no accident that Zari is being introduced to the show as race and religion have become polarizing topics in the current political era.
“It’s something we’ve been looking to address,” executive producer Marc Guggenheim said at the Television Critics Association’s press tour on Wednesday. “You might have heard there was this election. Not to get political, but something we all gravitate toward in the writers’ room was the character being Muslim. That was very important to us not to make a political statement or make it a thing… [because] someone’s race, religion, or sexual orientation is not the only aspect of their character.”
Zari is inspired by the DC Comics character Isis; Guggenheim pointed out the very clear reason why they didn’t use that moniker. “It’s pretty simple: You might’ve heard there’s this terrorist organization called ISIS,” he said. “They’re kind of ruining things out there in the world. We just didn’t want the baggage quite frankly, especially given the fact that we are doing a Muslim superhero, it was just like opening up a can of worms. It’s just not worth it.”
Zari’s introduction also speaks to the show’s initial aim to expand with fresh faces each season. “Whenever we bring someone new on the ship, there’s no duplications,” EP Phil Klemmer says. “We want somebody to bring a new point of view. Everybody has to have a distinct voice or you lose yourself in the scene. For us, we want to change the dynamic on the ship because it’s a family story. It makes it really interesting to invite somebody in who has a totally different perspective. The fact that [the] character is from the future as well is also what makes [her] really interesting because our Legends have gotten a little, not smug, but they feel good about what they’re doing. But to have Zari come in and say, ‘All the history you’re fixing didn’t amount to anything for me,’ [it] forces the Legends to push themselves a little more.”
Suffice it to say, Zari will bump heads with the Legends as she believes their mission of just fixing the anachronisms isn’t ultimately helpful. “The Legends meet Zari in 2042, and 2042 is a pretty bleak dystopian police state,” Ashe said. “Zari is speaking truth to power in the ways that she can; one of those ways is that she’s a hacktivist. She encounters the Legends and there’s a philosophical challenge there, because she sees they’re going to fix these anachronisms in history, but she’s living in a time that’s so bleak and terrible, so she challenges the Legends… to improve history and not just fix history. So there will be some tension there. She’s also very guarded because of what she has to do in her world, so she’s reticent to go into the fold of the Legends at first.”
But the Legends will need all the help they can get as they’re no longer the only game in town. “Rip has created this gigantic time bureau who have effectively replaced us or made us obsolete,” Klemmer. “It’s these guys trying to find their purpose. It’s much more personal story about them realizing that they need each other. There’s a real love and to me, the heartbreaking bittersweet heart of the story, for most of you guys, there’s nowhere else you fit in this world. You’re the only family you have.”
In other news, the Legends bosses revealed that The Flash villain Gorilla Grodd will appear in season 3 as one of the many villains targeting the Legends, which also include Vixen’s granddaughter Kuasa (Tracy Ifeachor) and a new iteration of Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), who will be the leader of this new group — this version of Darhk is somehow resurrected following his season 4 Arrow death. “We’re going to have a group of villains that’s going to have little bit more of a rotating membership,” Guggenheim said.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow returns Oct. 10 at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.