Legends of Tomorrow star Jes Macallan previews how Ava handles Sara's abduction
Can you believe it's been almost a year since we last journeyed through the timeline with the lovable screw-ups of DC's Legends of Tomorrow? To celebrate the CW superhero dramedy's long-awaited return, EW is launching Six Days of Legends. For the rest of the week leading up to the season 6 premiere on May 2, we're debuting new content tied to the show — from an exclusive new trailer, to interviews with the cast and creators, and more. Now you may be asking yourself, "Why now? Is there some major milestone coming up this season?" Well, to that we say, "Why not?"
Jes Macallan rose to the challenge in front of and behind the camera in the sixth season of DC's Legends of Tomorrow. When the season begins, her endearingly type-A character, Ava Sharpe, must deal with her girlfriend, Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), being abducted by aliens and having to lead the show's titular band of time-traveling goofballs as they hunt down extraterrestrials displaced throughout the timeline. Meanwhile on the other side of the camera, Macallan made her directorial debut with the season's 11th episode, a milestone that was likely even more difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Below, EW chats with Macallan about directing this wild show, how Ava is dealing Sara's disappearance, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You all just started shooting the season finale this week. How's that going?
JES MACALLAN: It's going great! It's so exciting! I think once the trailer dropped, we're just feeling like it's real, it's here. Everybody is really excited, I think the cast as a whole [and] the crew for sure. I directed this season as well. All of our EPs and writers, everyone is just working really, really hard on a season of television during a really crappy, difficult time. We're super-proud of it. Just every season when we think, "What are we going to do next season?" we don't think we can up our game, and I actually think we have this year.
How was your first directorial experience on the show?
It was everything and more. Obviously, I went through the Warner Bros. directing program the same year as Caity, and I've been chomping at the bit. I directed my little short film six years ago now and have been shadowing everywhere from Mistresses, which is the show I was on before this, to this show. I was just so eager and ready, and I'm so happy it was this show and this family, and these EPs. Everybody at Warner Bros. and CW was so supportive. Our writers, Phil Klemmer, who is so supportive, and everybody at Berlanti [Productions]. I just feel like our crew is such a wonderful family. I felt super supported. I got the craziest script, even for us, and I'm not just being like a martyr. It's one of the most bananas episodes, and actually my partner, Nic Bishop, is guest-starring, so it's cool that he's in my episode as well.
Was there footage of your episode in the extended trailer?
It wasn't, [because] it's just been picture locked. It actually isn't finished. I directed episode 11.
Jumping back to the beginning of the season: How is Ava handling Sara's abduction when the season begins?
Not well. Not well at all. I feel like it got to a place where Sara and Ava were really — after all the trials and tribulations that come with two strong women trying to create a personal relationship with work and the Time Bureau, and everything — came to this wonderful place of, "[Sighs] Great, we can just be together, and how wonderful is this?" And then damn it, she goes and gets abducted by aliens. I mean, c'mon, what else can happen? So the beginning of the season for Ava is pretty hard [as she tries] to get back to Sara.
Sara is such a crucial part of Ava's story on the show. How does Sara's absence reveal a new side of Ava and allow her to form new connections on the Waverider?
That's certainly what we're playing with in the first couple of episodes. The opener is her being abducted and Ava just trying to find her footing and really not giving up. She's completely in disbelief and trying, as Ava in her alpha personality, to figure out how to save her and not listening to any naysayers or that she's gone. She's super-determined, and that's what takes us into the season. And Ava is not the same as Sara. Sara is the captain of the Waverider, and for Ava to step into those shoes, they're huge shoes to fill. Ava and Sara are like peas and carrots, I always say, so she has such a different approach to everything, which is definitely going to shake the team up a bit, particularly some characters. I won't say who, but they might rhyme with Ick and Mory. [laughs]
Ava loves a binder, she loves a plan. Does she fall back on those habits to help her go from co-captain to captain?
Yes, 100 percent. That's her whole thing, right? She's just super-organized and everything has an answer with planning and rational thinking, and all of the things the Legends are not by trade, which is run-and-gun and we're going to do this our way. Of course, that's not going to go over well.
What was your favorite new dynamic you got to explore in Sara's absence?
I think it was really interesting to see Ava step up and shake the team up in their traditional ways, as she is so by-the-book. But she does this tremendous amount of covering, "We're gonna be okay. We're gonna be okay." And I think seeing Ava, and also playing Ava, really going through that covering to the point where she can't cover anymore was a really great journey for her to have and builds deep trust and [helps her] not feel like she has to tell everybody what to do all the time and micromanage. It took her guard down a little bit and made her closer with Nate [Nick Zano], with Zari [Tala Ashe], with everybody on the ship. Obviously, we have a new character we've introduced, the wonderful Spooner [Lisseth Chavez]. That'll be a fun ride for the viewers as well. Their relationship is a good one.
How would you describe Ava's relationship with Spooner?
Spooner sort of shows up in this interesting way, and in the desperation of trying to find Sara and keep it together, she has a reason for Ava to kind of want to go talk to her. You know, she's this wide-eyed, wiry gal who has obviously been through something, and they need each other for different reasons. When she goes down to approach her and learn a little bit about what's going on, she proves to be, without giving too much away, a necessary asset for what the team needs, and Ava knows this. Right away we start to learn more about Spooner and her backstory, which is kind of very secret and confusing and all over the place. So that's a really fun ride. Lisseth is such a wonderful, strong, but vulnerable actress, and I think the fans are really gonna lean into her. She brings such a wonderful flavor to the show.
While the trailer doesn't contain footage from your episode, there's still a lot in there. Which episode are you most looking forward to people seeing?
That's hard! Looking back on that trailer, it was amazing to see all of the work we've done in a pretty short amount of time. I really love the Big Bang Burger episode. Ava is on the mission to find Sara. Often you don't see Ava dress up and go on all of these missions with the Legends, she's not always a part of it. So with Sara gone, she has to be part of it, so I really got to have fun with my outfits and different places in time. The '50s is really, really fun, and there's an amazing guest actress who comes in and does some great work. So I love that episode. I think there's been a little animation secret dropped. Again, I'm biased because Caity got that episode to direct, and that's a pretty cool one. Just for me, any animation is so fun. The audience is going to go nuts. David Ramsey came in and directed, and it's a Western episode. Who doesn't want to see a Western? It's beautiful.
What was it like working with David?
David was awesome! He just brought such a wonderful energy. It was so great. I mean, Maisie [Richardson-Sellers] directed this year, David directed this year. He's not a first-time director — I know he directed on Arrow — but Maisie certainly was and I was, and then Caity [directed her] second episode. It was just really awesome to see different people come in and have their chance at bat, and he had a huge episode. It was gigantic in a lot of ways. They're all huge, but his was an undertaking, and he handled it with grace and style. I've already seen the locked-up [episode], and everybody is going to be blown away. And my partner is also in that episode as well. So I'm also biased.
Beyond the safety protocols, did you feel like the pandemic had a noticeable effect on the stories you were telling and the scope?
Yes and no. I think it's as big as it usually is because it's a big show VFX-wise and obviously they have aliens on top of it, and just the scope of what it's going to be. There certainly was a hammer down on background [actors] and filling any spaces with too many people. We certainly had that with David Ramsey's episode [where] we're in a Western and in a saloon. Or in my episode, I wanted background and it was like, "Is it worth it? Is it worth it to add those people in if you don't really need it for the story?" So those conversations are definitely being had for the safety of the crew and the safety of actors, and everybody. But you'll see that we told the story just the same. I don't think in looking back on any of this that it's lacking. The awesome part is that we got crazy aliens out of it.
DC's Legends of Tomorrow returns Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.