Get the scoop on the new Muslim superhero

By Natalie Abrams
October 23, 2017 at 10:30 AM EDT
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The Legends of Tomorrow will soon be expanding.

During Tuesday’s episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Tala Ashe makes her debut as Zari Adrianna Tomaz, a Muslim-American hacker from the future who is being hunting by our new baddie, Kuasa (Tracy Ifeachor).

The DC Comics character will end up joining the team, much to her own consternation. Hailing from a dystopian future, Zari is not at all impressed with the Legends fixing anachronisms and instead wants them to actually fix time for the better, even if she has to hack it herself. Why is Kuasa hunting her? Could it have to do with the totem Zari has been spotted wearing? EW sat down with Ashe on set to get the scoop.

Credit: Bettina Strauss/The CW

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell us about Zari and who she is as a person.
TALA ASHE: So Zari’s from the future. She’s from 2042 and she has had a very challenging life at the point when we meet her. She’s living in a sort of dystopian world and basically has her family, and feels like she needs to protect her family, and is really defensive of her family, so she’s not an obvious choice to join the Legends in a way, and to be part of a team. In the early episodes of Zari, you’re going to see that she’s for fighting the narrative of being a superhero, but also being part of a team and trusting people, because I think that’s something that has burned her in the past. Because of her upbringing, it’s not something that she easily adheres to. She is brilliant in that sense, and says what’s on her mind, and I think it’s quite funny. It’s a different tone to bring to the group of Legends. She shakes them up and I think challenges their mission.

The producers have mentioned before that she doesn’t just want the Legends to fix anachronisms, but fix time for the better.
Well, yeah, to improve time. We’re going to see instances of that where she’s a hacker, so I think she’s going to see if she can almost hack time. That’s going to create friction, and also challenge the Legends in an interesting way.

You’re playing a Muslim superhero in a very interesting era in America’s history right now.
I think it’s a worldwide narrative.

What kind of responsibility or pressure do you feel to really honor this role?
I mean, it’s an immense pressure that I gladly take on. Any time I’m playing any character, really, but especially if it’s a marginalized character, or a character that’s often portrayed in a stereotypical way, I feel that way even more so. Because of my own background, I very much want to portray this character sensitively and accurately, and with an eye on what the narrative is worldwide, certainly in America, but also worldwide right now around Muslims and Islam. It’s really important, and really wonderful, that Legends has taken on the task of showing this woman; I also think what’s really cool about Zari is that she’s not like any other Muslim American that you’ve seen on TV, or that I’ve seen on TV, and I think she’s going to subvert expectations in a cool way. Marc [Guggenheim] and Phil [Klemmer] spoke to this more eloquently than I will, but they said that not only is it sort of a function of the show to bring new characters and shake things up, but also because of the climate, and because of our recent election, I think it was a great opportunity to bring this character into the world right now.

What’s been the best part about suiting up as a superhero? Because you’re just getting into your costume, right?
Yeah, I am, and we’re still sort of actually figuring it out, where Zari’s look and Zari’s identity as a superhero is something that we’re navigating. Again, she fights the superhero narrative. She’s fighting all of it a little bit, and also fascinated because time travel is new to her. Yeah, it’s also very cool to her.

What is the catalyst for bringing her onto the team?
Well, it’s related to an anachronism. What actually brings the Legends to 2042 is one of our baddies, who you’ll see more of this season, and the baddie is after me, so that’s how our paths kind of intersect, all of us. I think that’s all I can say.

What can you tease of your dynamic with the members of the team? Is there anybody she gravitates more toward?
Well, I think that she and Ray sort of have a similar tech background, so there’s a little bit of overlay there, but very different perspectives on the world, so there’s going to be some friction there. She’s also going to bond with Amaya. There’s a larger thing that’s bringing us together, the two of us, on some journey that I don’t even quite know where we’re headed.

Is there anything you can tease of why Kuasa is hunting Zari?
Actually, what I can tease is that it’s a mystery. It’s something that I think is going to shake out through also Amaya’s relationship with Kuasa, so it’s something that I don’t actually quite know. There’s actually a lot of, “Why are these people after me?” in the first few episodes for Zari, but then something happens in the first episode that Zari appears where it gives her the impetus to join the Legends, and she has her own sort of mission in mind, but there is enough of an incentive to leave 2042 at that point.

We know Zari’s a hacker, but what can you tease of her powers?
She does have powers. What I will say, actually, is that she’s learning her powers, so she has this power that she’s a little bit ambivalent about, and I think the journey of this for Zari is also going to be about her owning the power, and owning being a superhero, and also figuring out how to harness that power.

Zari has been spotted wearing a totem. What can you tease of what’s going on there?
It has lots of powers in it. The totem is something that she associates with the great power it has and also with her family. It is a kind of — I don’t know if heirloom is quite the right word, but it’s something that is in her family, so taking it on also entails carrying that torch for her family, which is tricky and I think she feels sort of not worthy in certain ways and maybe not even capable of carrying that amulet forward for her family.

Is it connected at all to Amaya? We know Kuasa has a totem and she’s related to Amaya, so are they all family?
No, no, no. We don’t actually know how we’re connected, but it seems like just the fact that there are two totems, we are the totem bearers, so there’s some link between us. Amaya catches onto it before I do, and has to convince saying like, “There’s a connection between us, there’s a destiny that is bringing us together, even though we don’t quite know what it is.” Our totems are getting stronger because of it, by our proximity.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.

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DC's Legends of Tomorrow

Led by White Canary, a band of superhero misfits defend the time stream with an assortment of wacky threats in the fourth Arrowverse series.

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