DC's Legends of Tomorrow, TV's wackiest super-family, has 'nothing to lose'
When the DC's Legends of Tomorrow stars read their scripts, they can't quite believe what their time-traveling counterparts will be up to this time.
"[We can] go from a killer unicorn to a fairy godmother in one episode," marvels Matt Ryan, who plays the trench-coat wearing occult detective John Constantine on the galaxy-brained CW superhero show.
In September 2019, seven of the ensemble talked about their experiences together, their hopes for the Legends future, why Tickle-Me-Elmo-inspired toy Beebo has become the show's mascot — and how lucky they are to be able to work together and portray the crew of the Waverider. Read on below:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Do you remember the first time you met?
CAITY LOTZ: I remember Brandon asking me, "How is it over on Arrow? Do you like it over there?" I guess we've known each other for a while. The whole cast didn't really get together until Comic-Con, right?
BRANDON ROUTH: We had dinner. Arthur [Darvill] and Ciara [Renée] in Vancouver.
LOTZ: Your memory is better than mine. I just remember Dom being on the carpet at like the upfront doing interviews. And he was like, "Yeah, I'm on this new show, Legends of the Fall." And I'm like, "No, it's Legends of Tomorrow." [Laughs]
DOMINIC PURCELL: I do remember saying that. Yeah… It was very sudden. I did a guest star [appearance] with Wentworth [Miller] on The Flash. Obviously, the chemistry between I and Wentworth is really cool. Before I knew it, I was doing Legends of Tomorrow with Wentworth and the cast. [Laughs] "Legends of the Fall." That's very typical of me. That's the kind of stupid stuff I say all the time.
ROUTH: The first season was challenging because we were trying to find our legs and understand what kind of show we really were. We had a strong blueprint, but we'd never shot a pilot.
What was it like for those of you who joined after season 1 to step onto the show?
NICK ZANO: I came on season 2. Tala, you were three?
TALA ASHE: Mm-hm. Matt was four.
MATT RYAN: I did a couple episodes in three and then four, I became a regular.
ZANO: When I got there, they were coming off a season that [had] a vibe and a tone that they were trying to change. That was very difficult. Nobody knew what was happening, what the agenda was, and what we were going to become. Season 2 was a transition year of saying, "We are not the show, but grow with us because we're going somewhere."
ASHE: Totally. Matt, you've had a seamless entry. Maybe internally it didn't feel that way, but… for me it was really hard. I think it also taps into my own insecurities about social situations. It took most of season 3, really, for me to feel like I was part of a team, on screen and off. It wasn't until the Groundhog Day episode [where] what that episode asked of me was of vulnerability. I couldn't hide after, and during, that episode. After that, I felt… these people are my family and it's a strange, strange family, but this is it. I love them. Everybody was so supportive.
MAISIE RICHARDSON-SELLERS: On my first day on-set, I was in a basement in this abandoned mental asylum hospital, and it was just me and Brandon and we were chained to a chair and the chains are really hard to get on and off, so they just kind of left them on between [scenes]. It was dark, dank and I was like, "Well, this is my way to arrive." [Laughs] But then from that on, it was great. Thank goodness I had Nick. We arrived at the same time, so we had the opportunity to be the new kids on the block.
The Legends writers take daily post-lunch walks and like visit Disneyland together, because they really view themselves as a family and try to bring that feeling to the writing. Up there in Vancouver, do you all feel as though you have a similar bond?
LOTZ: We're definitely not as nerdy as our writers [Laughs]. But yeah, we do hangout. We'll do dinners together and try to organize trips because we're all out here in Vancouver and it can be pretty isolating. So having each other has been a great support group.
ZANO: Well this season, we have taken Matt's balcony as our bonding center. That's like the Legends SoHo House. It's only for like eight people, it's pretty exclusive, but it's ours.
LOTZ: We've been using his place as kind of the crash pad. He'll even like give us the key when he's gone.
RYAN: What happened was, last year, my first year on the show, I got a one bedroom flat and it was amazing. But my mum came over and then my dad came over, and then my brother came over, and they all came over at different times and I wasn't able to house them. So this year I was like, "Okay, I'm going to get a two bedroom place." As a result, I've got a nice little balcony, which we've done a couple cookouts on, and a little piano and stuff. It's actually been really, really lovely. I do feel like there is a real family sense on Legends.
LOTZ: It's cool 'cause Nick brings his family and his kids and stuff, and everybody comes through.
ZANO: Wait, I have to tell a Matt story! Matt had my son at his house and they're on the balcony together, and Matt had a rosemary bush. He was teaching my son to like rub his fingers on the rosemary plant and then smell his fingers so he could smell the rosemary. My son was like infatuated with it and fell in love with Matt. Cut to two days ago, I was at a flower shop with my son and he's squeezing the hell out of these roses. I'm like, "What are you doing?" He goes, "This is how you smell them," and he's smelling his fingers. I'm like, "Who taught you that?" And he's like, "Your worker friend Matt." I'm just like, "No, man."
What has been the most memorable experience on the show so far?
LOTZ: Fighting Julius Caesar on the beach was pretty fun. It was like summertime and it was just nice to be out on the beach too. And, yeah, directing this season has been just such a cool, cool experience.
RYAN: I would say that I think Nick's most memorable moment was when I was doing naked yoga.
ASHE: [Laughs] Also mine.
RYAN: Also yours.
ZANO: Here's a little behind-the-scenes fact: Matt actually rehearsed yoga for that scene [laughs]. Someone actually taught him poses. So he spent time in choreography doing naked yoga scenes.
RYAN: Yeah. I spent a lot of time learning naked Tai Chi and then the only thing that was in the shots was a back stretch.
ZANO: Well, for me, one day that really sticks out is the day we got to wear everybody else's hero costumes. When you're on the Legends set and Caity is Supergirl and I'm Green Arrow, and Adam [Tsekhman] is the Flash, we just felt like we were the tiny siblings who snuck into the big sibling's closet to play dress up. [Laughs]
Did wearing their costumes give you insight into what it feels like to be the Trinity?
ASHE: Yeah, they were in character.
ZANO: I went full Andy Kaufman that day.
- What have been some of the most challenging days on set?
- ASHE: Last year it was the finale episode at "Hey, World!" I had to hold Nick's body in my arms while the Legends formed a circle around me, and there were chupacabra and cocker spaniel things coming towards me and we had to sing a James Taylor song, and I was weeping. That was the hardest day for me.
- ZANO: As awkward and clunky as it was, I remember watching that last scene with my mom in my house and my mom and I welled up. Watching it made me very emotional. Damn, if they're not magicians putting our show together to make it great.
Are you surprised by how much the show has evolved?
PURCELL: Yeah, totally. All of us were completely surprised by that because the first season really wasn't something that was working, and now it is. Now, I love the show. The critics love it. The fans love it. I love it. The cast love it. You can tell how much fun we're having on the show, and I think that's why it has become so successful.
LOTZ: I think the whole show had to find its voice and what exactly it was. Now it just feels like what it always was and it's always been.
RYAN: You can literally throw any different characters into the mix and get a different dynamic and then find a new story from that. Even if it's a character that's been established in a different universe or in a different comic book, like Constantine, that's never been written before. We're just discovering stuff the whole while.
When you first got to Beebo on the script, what was it like to read that the thing that's going to save everyone at the end of your TV season is going to be a big, fluffy, cuddly toy?
ZANO: I thought that was it. I was like, "We were onto something and we just wrote a grenade into our own house." I was going to say, "No way that this works or is believable in any sense." And I was 1,000 percent wrong. So ever since then I always give it a grain of salt and trust the system.
ASHE: Yeah. I think what's happened is in this dysfunctional family of ours, we've developed trust between us and our crew and the writers and the directors where we're all sort of willing to go for the ride now, which is really lovely.
PURCELL: I remember exactly what I said. "Okay, this is a career ender." [Laughs]. "This is the end of my career for sure." I mean, seriously, that's what I thought. "Okay, I'm never coming back from this." But again, in time, that kind of stuff belongs on Legends, and we are allowed basically to do whatever we want. That's the beauty of this show.
Were you surprised by how much the fan base has fallen in love with Beebo?
ROUTH: A little bit. We were all a bit cautious or worried when he first entered in the Viking episode. I think the judicious use of Beebo in [proceeding] episodes has been good and it's certainly been a fun hallmark of the show now.
Let's talk about what you remember about last season's "Legends of To-Meow-Meow," where you were messing with the timeline.
ZANO: When I first read the script, I read the full episode and I texted [showrunner] Phil [Klemmer] and I was like, "Phil, this maybe the best episode we have ever done ever if we do within the script." We all went for it. We had puppets, we were in recording studios singing kid's theme songs. Like, Tala was a cat. It was a doggone free-for-all.
RYAN: The line that I say when I walk in and see the puppets and I say, "What the *bleep.*" I mean, that was real. I was like, what were we doing? I turned up on the show coming from doing Constantine as a drama. And then on one of my first or second days… it was when you guys were being attacked by the unicorn and you were on acid. So I'm walking along, like, "Oh my God, what is this show?" I've never done anything where I've been so excited to see a script because you just don't know what genre it's going to be.
ASHE: Once we did the Groundhog Day episode and it worked, I think that allowed the writer's room to do these sort of high concept or alternate concept episodes. Those are the ones that I've been really excited to read. Speaking for myself, and I think you guys would agree, I feel really lucky to be part of something that takes risks because we could very easily a procedural and there's a lot of procedurals that do very well on television. What I'm interested in, being an artist and an actor is challenge; doing things that stretch you and challenge you.
Maisie, you're now portraying a second, completely different character. What has it been like for you to play two separate characters on the show?
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: As an actress it's the most beautiful gift, because I love reinventing and transforming characters and exploring different worlds. I don't think the two could be more different. Amaya Jiwe was very straight laced, very professional, and had a lot at stake constantly. To be able to play the complete opposite in Charlie, who is someone who's got a happy-go-lucky, in it for the ride, adventurous, wild child [attitude] has been brilliant. And I think this season we finally get to see some of Charlie's backstory [and] why she's the way she is. It's actually quite a tragic and dark story. She's going to pal with people you wouldn't quite expect. Everyone has their darknesses and their light.
Caity, Brandon, back on Arrow, did you ever expect that you would go on to play your characters for almost 100 episodes?
LOTZ: I mean, it's pretty wild. Just on Arrow alone, Sara's journey was huge. Such a big arc. Coming over to Legends, it was hard when we first started because you get a sense of what your character would say and who they are, and then all of a sudden on Legends, Sara's cracking jokes. On Arrow, everything was so dark and then I was like, "What? I would never say that. Sara would never say that." Trying to find the balance of fitting into this new show but still making it feel like Sara Lance was a bit of a challenge.
ROUTH: It was no guarantee [Ray] was even gonna make it [through] the length of the season. They had a plan for him, but it just kind of depended on how everybody meshed together.
The news broke that your character is leaving the show, Brandon. How are you feeling about the end of the road approaching?
ROUTH: It's been challenging. I am doing my best to not take these last few episodes for granted, but really cherishing my awesome cast and crew that I've had the opportunity to work with for the last five years. I'll miss the back and forth with Ray and Nora, the bromance of Nate and Ray. I'll miss the representation that fans get, the different aspects that people love about Ray, whether it's his eternal optimism and showing people that it's okay to be happy and find light, [or how] to find the balance in their own lives. There's so many things that Ray brings to the ship. You know, my life models Ray quite a bit in my energy. I'm very similar to Ray in many ways. His journey is my journey, and vice versa.
What was it like to have Caity as a director this year?
RYAN: I love it. I came off that [set] last night, we were there, like, 14 hours. Over the time Caity was directing this episode, apart from all of the other amazing [things] that she's done, she gave me like two, maybe three or four, really performance-changing notes which literally took me in a direction, which was amazing. I said to her, I was just like, Oh my God.
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: Yeah, she killed it. We're always sort of rushing, but she really took the time to make sure that we rehearsed, to make sure every- body is comfortable with the arc of every scene. She took that time to really focus on the acting, which is a luxury in episodic TV, especially network TV. She's crushed it. She just wants to reinvent and leaned into the stylistic aspect of her episode. We're doing shots that personally I've never done on episodic TV before. It takes a lot of confidence to take those risks. I can't wait to see how it turns out.
Is there more pressure now because of how much fans love the show?
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: If anything, any pressure is to trust. Like just trust the show.
ZANO: I have found myself saying after takes… "God damn it, I love our show," out loud. Like, I love our show. We started early with this show — we had a no a–hole policy. No one was allowed to be an a–hole. And in our cast, there was no cockiness, we were one unit making this amazing show that we're all super proud to be a part of and continue to be part of its evolution.
LOTZ: I think at this point we've really earned the trust of the network and the studio. Our show's always been really risky, and it does weird things and takes chances and if you take that away, then you take what makes Legends Legends.
Is the willingness to take risks the secret ingredient that makes Legends work?
LOTZ: We've got nothing to lose. So let's do it.
DC's Legends of Tomorrow season 5 premieres Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 9 p.m. on The CW.
This post has been edited for length and clarity.
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