Shayan Sobhian tees up Legends of Tomorrow's long-awaited exploration of Behrad's "origin story."
Video courtesy of the CW
Guest Starring John Noble

Pop culture is important to DC's Legends of Tomorrow. The daffy superhero dramedy shape-shifts on a weekly basis as each episode inhabits different genres (from pirates to a zombie apocalypse) and parodies and homages various movies and TV shows. That passion also seeps into the show's characters, several of whom wouldn't have found a place on the Waverider were it not for the media they consumed. For example, in season 2, we learned that George Lucas' Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies were integral to Nate (Nick Zano) and Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) becoming superheroes. This Sunday, the CW series returns to that well with "This Is Gus," an episode that finally digs into Behrad's (Shayan Sobhian) backstory and explores how an under-appreciated stoner sitcom helped him become the chill, stoner hero he is today.

In the episode, the Legends travel to 2024 in pursuit of an alien pod. There, they wind up on the set of Behrad's favorite TV show, Bud-Stuy, a short-lived comedy about two Middle Eastern stoners that changed the youngest Tarazi's life for the better. Unfortunately, the timeline starts changing when a cuddly pink alien named Gus (who was inspired by Baby Yoda, according to co-showrunner Phil Klemmer) becomes the show's star, which in turn affects present-day Behrad's personality. Thus, the mission becomes about not only catching Gus but also saving Behrad's life.

Below, EW chats with Shayan Sobhian about this revelatory episode, playing a different version of Behrad (Behrad 2.0), and more.

Legends of Tomorrow
Shayan Sobhian as Behrad Tarazi on 'Legends of Tomorrow.'
| Credit: The CW

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did the writers pitch this episode to you?

SHAYAN SOBHIAN: Well, I think it was pitched as like, "This is Behrad's origin story. This is where we're finally going to do a deep dive on him." Because of course he was introduced in the way that he was, where he was already a member of the team [at the end of season 4]. So there was no logical reason to do any kind of deep dive.

What was the most fascinating aspect of Behrad's origin story?

Well, that his life was literally changed by a sitcom. I mean, I think that's like when Legends gets wonderfully meta. It's like we're watching this TV show and watching this character be so enamored by his favorite sitcom and actually get to go see it, I think that was super strong. It's an easy thing for me to play because I have so many shows that I love and so many movies.

What was your formative TV show or movie, or your Bud-Study?

Literally School of Rock. Seeing Jack Black in that movie changed my life. It completely set me on a path; It turned me into the biggest Led Zeppelin fan I know. It ignited the flame of artistic expression. I don't think I'd be here today [without it]. That's the thing to really think about with the timeline stuff, it's like, "Okay, if this sitcom didn't happen [for Behrad], or I had never seen School of Rock, where would I be today? What would have happened?" I didn't grow up wanting to be an actor. By high school age I was coming around to it. But when I was a kid, I would say like, "I want to be a lawyer…"

That's also growing up Persian too. It's like, you can be a doctor, you can be a lawyer, you can open up a bank. My parents didn't really pressure me in that way, but I just didn't even think about it. There's no way I could be an actor. I think that's like getting into a conversation around representation. That's like why it's so important and why it matters so much because in Behrad's situation seeing a Middle Eastern actor play a character just like him gave him permission to be himself.

[Behrad] has that line where he [tells Bud-Stuy's star], "Seeing you on TV was the first time I saw me. You know like my parents, they saw me as just like I was going to be another business school grad and the world saw a weird Muslim kid. But I saw me when I saw you." The fact that when he's giving this heartfelt emotional speech he's also literally fighting for his life was such a glorious thing to play. That scene where we're looking at each other in the mirror we staged it that way [for a reason]. This is where all the creatives on Legends, all of their genius comes together, because Dion Farrell, our brilliant head of hair, was like, "I want Behrad 1.5 to look the actor that he was infatuated with. So we're in this mirror and you literally look like each other." That remains one of my favorite scenes to date that I've done.

Legends of Tomorrow
Shayan Sobhian as Behrad on 'DC's Legends of Tomorrow.'
| Credit: The CW

Behrad's personality starts changing after the alien joins for the show. How did it feel to play a different version of Behrad?

Super fun. The way that I did it, I was like, "Okay, so I've got Behrad at one point, I know him, got that. Now I have to somehow get to Behrad 2.0," and there's this delightful stop on the way that is none other than Behrad 1.5. So I wanted to get the extremes first. Like one of the first images that came to [mind was] just that slicked back hair, that perfect suit, like carrying about the business cards, all that kind of thing. Then the middle one, 1.5 is like, he's in and out of that. There's flashes of it. I think [episode writer Tyrone B. Carter] did such a brilliant job with this. It's like he has a moment of it, then he has a moment of self-awareness and he's like, "Who says stuff like that?"

I think that journey was actually — and that's the thing about good writing — so easy to play because it's like, "Oh yeah, this just makes sense." That's how I felt with this journey. But it was really fun too, to be different physically as well. Behrad 1.0 has a little slouch, he's got a little laid back swagger. But then 2.0, he's in a Ted Baker suit. Nick asked me one time before we were shooting scenes, "Do you have a neck injury?" I was like, "No, I'm over-correcting my posture, so that when we shoot, I'm going to stand up straighter because that's how I envisioned this bro." One of my favorite things to do as an actor is transform physically. So getting to do that within a role is a special treat.

Legends of Tomorrow
Nick Zano as Nate Heywood/Steel on 'DC's Legends of Tomorrow.'
| Credit: Bettina Strauss/The CW

Co-showrunner Phil Klemmer previously told that Gus was inspired by Baby Yoda. What was it like working with a puppet like Gus?

It felt like I was on the set of Star Wars. It was the closest I feel like I've ever come to real movie magic. I mean, it was amazing. There were four operators, four puppeteers. A couple actually manual and then a couple remote control. It really came to life during the take, which is such a gift, versus having to act to a green-whatever. So, yeah, it was really cool. I think we were all obsessed with him immediately. I mean, it's meta, like he became the star for us. Then in the sitcom he also becomes a star. So I think they nailed it.

The show has been hinting that there's something going on between Behrad and Astra [Olivia Swann] going as far back as last season. What can you say about that?

Oh man, I ship Bestra. I think there's great chemistry there and there's great possibility. We've had some fun with some very, I would say, just sub-textural moments. There hasn't been anything overt yet, but it's still up in the air.

DC's Legends of Tomorrow airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

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