Diane Guerrero explains what Doom Patrol craziness can tell us about our lives
How nice would it be if you could turn into a flaming giant and hurl fireballs at people who upset you? Or would that actually be horrible? These are the kinds of questions Doom Patrol asks, particularly when it comes to the character of Crazy Jane, played by Diane Guerrero.
The weirdest superhero show on TV is full of misfits, but Jane stands out even among that menagerie for the way her mind is split into 64 different personalities, each of them possessing a different superpower. They aren't easy or friendly superpowers, either — they usually involve the aforementioned fireballs or mind control. As fun as the one-women cavalcade of characters can be, they come from a dark place: They were created as a defense mechanism to help a young woman deal with the effects of childhood abuse. In Doom Patrol, nothing is wacky for its own sake; all the big comic book ideas come back to real human struggles.
Thursday marks the premiere of Doom Patrol season 2 on HBO Max and DC Universe. Three new episodes are now available to stream on either service, along with all 15 installments of season 1. This is great news for fans who have been watching the show since last year, when it first premiered on DC Universe, but also for new HBO Max subscribers who never got around to it before. EW spoke with Guerrero at the end of last year about season 1, as she was preparing to work on season 2, and what this show can tell us about processing the insane things that seem to happen all the time now.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What are you proudest of from season 1 as a whole?
DIANE GUERRERO: That I survived it! It was a challenging role for me, equally exciting and also very scary. I think that going through the first season and seeing the finished product — although I was critical of myself, as every actor is — I was really proud that I had so much to share and yet still saw so many opportunities for other colors that I wanted to share in addition to that. It gave me hope that there was so much more story to tell, even though we did show so much. It made me feel very proud and confident in my work, it gave me more fuel to do more.
Do you consider Jane's personas to be different characters, or just different aspects of the same character?
They all have a main goal, they all have a common purpose. When you're thinking about people and what makes us different, it's sort of the same thing. For the most part, a lot of us have similar hopes and dreams and common goals, so it's not so much of a stretch. It does require more ease from me, letting go and accepting new behaviors, just surrendering to the story of "This young girl was abused, she suffered from trauma, and how do we keep her from getting hurt again?" That is all the personas' goal.
In episodes like "Jane Patrol" where we see the Underground inside her head where all the personas coexist, some of them are necessarily played by other actors. Did you ever feel proprietary about that? For sure. You're protective of your baby, this thing you've created. I've also learned that whatever's in your head may not manifest exactly the same when it's on the outside. Thinking about that made me let go a lot and just accept different versions of what I had created. That became easy, because thinking about myself and knowing I'm not the same in every situation, knowing that I do have different colors to me but those colors don't always show up in the same way, I found the beauty in all these personas played by different actors. I love showing that in your head you can be anyone you want.
Do you ever wish you could draw on some of Jane's personalities in your own life? Like "Oh, I wish I could just turn into the giant fireball guy right now"?
For sure! Just like leave the scene and blow something up? After the season wrapped, I find myself needing to get out of that space. I allowed myself to be so many different people and be very intense with my emotions to go there, so my family and cast members understood that I was just exercising that part of me because I needed all those feelings at hand. But then I realized that I could access different sides of me at any time. I surprised myself, because I could identify "This is sort of like Baby Doll" or "This is sort of like Hammerhead." It was really cool to see that you can, at any moment, access a part of yourself to help yourself in any situation. Like for self-therapy, if you want to be a Dr. Harrison to yourself, you could be, and if you want to be playful and baby-like (like when i give my dog a baby voice), I can access that little girl inside of me and that brings certain joys, pleasures, and calmness into any situation. I did play a lot with that in my post-Jane life.
Doom Patrol resonated very well with this year as a whole. Crazy things are happening all the time that make you think, is this reality? This show is a fantasy of impossible things, but would you say it's empowering compared to the way the seemingly impossible things in real life beat us down?
You see in the show what we're fighting: We're fighting tyranny, we're fighting people who are saying that things need to be a certain way in order for them to work. Just because an institution or a system says that something needs to work doesn't mean it's right. Sometimes when us humans hear that, especially from someone who has power, we tend to succumb to that and feel like maybe our dreams are impossible and maybe the way we want to live by just being ourselves is wrong. That is something we need to see: We need to see that the people saying stuff is impossible are the ones doing the most impossible, crazy s—. If we have dreams of love and compassion, it's not impossible for us to figure ourselves out.
Doom Patrol shows such a diversity of human experience. The spectrum of people who go to Danny the Street for comfort and community contrasts with the rigid, cruel Bureau of Normalcy.
Right! The Bureau of Normalcy is basically our government and all these institutions telling us we have to be "normal," or that we have to do things a certain way and we just need to accept the way things are, meaning: terrible gun laws, police brutality, kids in cages at the border, women relinquishing rights to their bodies. That's our government saying, "This is what's normal, and you have to accept it." We're saying, "No, that's not what we have to accept, there are other ways." They're saying, "No, that's crazy," but now it is possible to figure out ways that we could all be happy and be left alone and live in different ways like Danny the Street and Jane and Robotman and Rita.
Right, because if this stuff was as "normal" as people at the Bureau of Normalcy say, would it really need an all-powerful secret organization to uphold it? Seems like this "normalcy" takes a lot of work to maintain.
It does! It seems like it has taken a lot of work. The Bureau is this whole Make America Great Again idea, where things have to be one way. If it was normal or easy, you wouldn't be on trial for all these awful things. I hate to get political (nah, no I don't), but there are similarities, and what is the show if it's not educational or making us think about what's happening in our lives?
Did you have favorite personas to embody?
There were two. One was Hammerhead because she is so animalistic, very primal. And then the opposite of that was Karen, who is all light and fluffy and completely delusional, bright and girly. I love the contrast between the two. One of my favorite scenes is in episode 8, when Karen is talking to Rita in a crazy, far-gone way about how she loves Doug, and intends to keep it that way. Then Hammerhead rises up and telling Rita she can't let it happen. The contrast between them, and them hating each other so much, is awesome. Hammerhead wearing Karen's clothes was amazing too. I think we'll do more of that because it played so well.
Isn't there a fascinating Stepford Wives aesthetic going on with Karen?
Sure. And isn't that a little bit of that normalcy that we're fighting? This is sort of the way that people tell you you're supposed to be as a woman: You need to marry and fall in love and be this housewife. So Hammerhead is here fighting all of that.
You all put so much on the screen in season 1: Nazi puppets, an army of butts, a living transgender street block. What's left in the tank for season 2?
Season 1 was all about introducing as much as we could to make it a sensational season, just in case we wouldn't have another. I truly felt that. No one was lax about it; there was a lot riding on this and we wanted to give it our all. I think that what we're going to see next is a continuation of story, where we let the story breathe a little bit. The approach now is, we saw all the hard work and the intensity that it took to make season 1, and even after that we were really nervous about getting a season 2. Now we've established what we can do, we can just tell the story as organically as possible. I don't think we'll try to fit in too much with the fear that we won't get a third season. I feel like we did that in season 1, and I think the audience will appreciate if we let it breathe a little in season 2.
Doom Patrol (TV series)