When this year’s Arrowverse crossover “Elseworlds” begins this weekend, LaMonica Garrett will become the first person to play DC Comics’ the Monitor in live action — and the Designated Survivor understands what that means for comic book fans.
“I knew the significance and his place in DC mythology, and I know what his name does when fans hear it,” Garrett, a comics fan himself, tells EW. “When you say, ‘the Monitor is in this crossover,’ people’s ears perk up because they automatically think of the Anti-Monitor [and] Psycho-Pirate.”
He’s, of course, referring to other characters in Crisis on Infinite Earth, the groundbreaking ’80s comic book crossover event. Marv Wolfman and George Pérez created The Monitor, an extraterrestrial being of immense power that watches over the Multiverse, for the aforementioned Earth-destroying story, and the character has forever been linked to some of DC’s most important events.
While the CW’s annual crossover — which includes The Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl — doesn’t plan on adapting Crisis (that’s still many years off if The Flash‘s future newspaper is to be believed), that doesn’t mean the Monitor’s role in the three-night event is any less important to the story, which sees Barry Allen/the Flash (Grant Gustin) and Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) swap lives after an insane Arkham Asylum doctor rewrites reality.
“He’s vital,” says Garrett. “He’s not going to be in every other scene. You’re not going to get overloaded with him, but he comes in early, he comes in hard, and his presence is felt throughout the whole three episodes. He’s driving the crossover.” (A fact that was hinted at in the epic post-credit tag that aired at the end of this week’s episodes of Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl, which showed the Monitor standing amidst a destroyed Earth-90 as ’90s Flash [John Wesley Shipp] runs for his life.)
Below, EW chats with Garrett about what inspired his interpretation of the character, whether the Monitor is good or evil, and the surreal experience of working with the Arrowverse’s heroes.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Can you walk me through the process of landing the role?
LAMONICA GARRETT: Yeah, I found out I wasn’t coming back on Designated Survivor when it moved over to Netflix, and I was kind of bummed out for a couple days. You know, one door opens, one closes, that whole thing. About a week later, I got a call from my manager; he was talking to David Rapport casting. I’d been in that casting office over the past eight years auditioning, and I’ve gotten close to a hand full of them but nothing ever really panned out on all the shows. When this one came around, it was like, “I think he’d be good for it.”
So, I came in and read, and it was dummy sides and dummy names. You didn’t know who you were auditioning for. You just knew it was a powerful DC entity. In my mind, I was like, ‘Damn, are they bringing Darkseid? Is this Darkseid?’ I’m in there with the writers trying to pick their brains and get them to drop something, and nothing. By the third audition, it was with [Arrow consulting producer] Marc Guggenheim and [The Flash executive producer] Eric Wallace, and we went over it, and they were like, “Yeah, we love you.” I got the part, but even after that, a few days later, I still didn’t know it was the Monitor. I hit my reps up and I was like, “Who am I playing anyway?” Then, when they told us it was the Monitor, I was like, “Well, which version is it? Nix Uotan?” They said Crisis Monitor, and I kind of stopped. I know the significance of that Monitor, and I was like, “Yeah, that’s kind of a big deal.” Still, I didn’t have material for the crossover yet, so I’m like, “Are they doing Crisis on Infinite Earths? They can’t be.” Then, we got the scripts and I was like, “Wow.” The scripts blew my mind. A few days later, I’m in Vancouver getting fitted for wardrobe and the Monitor’s look, and it just took off from there.
How did you come up with your portrayal of the character? Did you re-read some stuff with the Monitor after landing the role?
I went back and re-read Crisis. I read it like years ago, re-read and refreshed it, but there isn’t a lot of material on the Monitor, as well. He kicked around Teen Titans, and he was a weapons dealer for villains. He was spotted here and there, but nothing really significant, like he didn’t have a whole series dedicated to him. So, what I did is find out what he’s about, what his fears are, what drives him, what needs, and like with any character, the rest kind of falls into place.
But you’re [dealing with] a cosmic entity, so there are certain things you have to throw in there as well. I looked at some of my favorite heroes and favorite villains growing up, and kind of pieced together my version of what I think this guy would be. It’s better for me because there has never been a live-action Monitor. Like, whoever does Joker now is being measured up to Heath Ledger and before that, it was Jack Nicholson. I don’t have anything of that, so whatever I come up with, that’s just what it is, whether it’s good or bad.
Who were some of the other heroes and villains that informed your interpretation of the character?
I looked at Darkseid’s presence. I looked at Brainiac. I look at the Guardians [of the Universe] from Green Lantern. I tried to keep it DC. I think I did more research on the Guardians than any other characters because they’re billions of years old, they’ve been around forever, and there are more stories on them [than on the Monitor]. I did read some Anti-Monitor stuff [since] they are brothers, but they’re nothing alike.
When I spoke to Grant Gustin on set, he said you were intimidating without really doing much with your performance. Was that a conscious decision?
He’s this all-powerful being. My acting coach used to tell me, “When you have a gun in a scene — a really big gun — you don’t have yell and throw stuff around. This gun is doing all the yelling for you.” The Monitor is the gun, like he has this power and he doesn’t have to do much, he doesn’t have to say much. He doesn’t even have to fight when you think about it. It was a conscious effort to do less, and as an actor, less is more, you know, that whole [saying]. If you think back to The Godfather, you can barely hear [Marlon Brando] talking, but you knew if you crossed him that that was it. He didn’t have to say much. That’s another person I looked at. I just looked at powerful figures throughout film and just studied everything. Them noticing what I was doing, it was kind of cool, but it really wasn’t doing a whole lot and that was the hard part.
In the promos we see him working with John Deegan (Jeremy Davies). Is he an antagonist in the Arrowverse’s interpretation of the character?
Like I said, he did bad things for a good cause in the comic books. Now in this Arrowverse version of the Monitor, you might not like him [or] you might love him, but I think by the end of the third episode you’ll get an idea of where he’s coming from. To me, the best villains — and I’m not saying he’s a villain or a hero; you can’t really classify him as good or evil — are the ones that are doing things and you get their logic and you know why they’re doing it, but you’re [like], “You still can’t do that. I know where you’re coming from, but that’s the wrong way of going about it.” To me, that was Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. I get what he’s doing, it makes all the sense in the world, but you just can’t do that. So, I think some people may think he’s an antagonist and others may get a different take on him, but I think that’s the fun of watching it as well.
What was it like putting on the costume for the first time? It’s very comic book accurate.
I kind of got choked up a little bit. It took a few weeks to make it. Wardrobe did a fantastic job, but we had to do it in increments. I would fly back up out there, we’d see how this fit or tuck a little bit here, go home, fly back to Vancouver. By the third time I went back, I was able to look in the mirror and see the full thing with the hair, with the beard cut, and I kind of got choked up a little bit. When I looked in the mirror, I had that “wow” moment. The suit is not comfortable at all: It gets in your business; the cape is like 15 pounds by itself (maybe even heavier); the book that we are using is like 25 or 30 pounds. I don’t have to go to the gym on the days where I’m the Monitor, let’s put it that way, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What was it like to step into a scene with the other heroes in the Arrowverse, and what was your first scene with them like?
It was intimidating. You’ve been watching their shows for the past however many years, and the actors are all doing really great work. That in and of itself, I was like, “Damn, I don’t want to go in there a screw it up. I want to hold my own.” But then you get into the scene and it’s not just the actors, it’s what’s on their chest: the Superman logo, the Flash logo, and then you see the hood with Green Arrow, and then you got ‘90s Flash [John Wesley Shipp]. Like are you kidding me? I was watching this guy when I was in high school! It was surreal, but it was intimidating.
There was a lot going on. It’s like doing theater when the curtain is about to open and you’re on stage in front of hundreds of people, this is it. To me, that’s living. Some people get their thrills jumping out of a plane, or getting to the top of Mount Everest and snowboarding down — I don’t know. But that moment in time when you’re opposite these actors, and then you’re opposite these characters that you grew up idolizing, and you’re the one they’re all trying to defeat, it was intimidating, but in the best possible way.
“Elseworlds” begins Sunday, Dec. 9, with The Flash at 8 p.m.; continues Monday, Dec. 10, at 8 p.m. with Arrow; and concludes the following night at 8 p.m. with Supergirl.