Legends of Tomorrow star Tala Ashe previews Zari's 'struggle' in Masked Singer spoof
Tala Ashe discusses Zari 1.0's recent cameo, feeling like "Sad Beyoncé" in Sunday's episode, and more.
Tala Ashe's Zari 2.0 is stepping into the spotlight once again.
In this Sunday's DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Zari enters a ridiculous singing competition series called Da Throne — a riff on The Masked Singer and similar shows — in the year 2045 to defeat a murderous alien warrior named Lord Knoxacrillion, who believes winning is the key to conquering Earth. (It's a premise that only makes sense in the context of Legends, albeit barely.) Unfortunately, competing on Da Throne forces Zari back into the superficial celebrity life she left behind when she boarded the Waverider in season 5, tests her tenuous fling with Constantine (Matt Ryan), and leads to Ashe performing two very different songs in the hour.
Below, EW chats with Ashe about Zari 1.0's recent cameo, her latest musical experience, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Zari 1.0! How did you react when you found out you'd get to briefly play her again in last week's episode?
TALA ASHE: I'm always excited to see her kind of pop up in the scripts, and it was a really nice surprise for me. It's sort of like going back to an old friend that you really like, so I'm always quite happy to spend some time with her, even if it's a short little bit. [Co-showrunner Phil Klemmer] reached out to me and asked, "What book do you think Zari would be reading?" I picked the Shahnameh, which is the Persian Book of Kings; it's kind of our Odyssey. So, it was a really, really brief moment where I was reading a book that had meaning for me and, I think, would have meaning for her. And I love that gal! It was also a fun experience to be like, ugh, she's listening to this other version of her and her brother being so annoying about the totem, and she could just snap her fingers and stop this particular fight. Yeah, it was nice to reunite with her for a moment.
One of my friends pointed how it's kind of dark that Zari just has to sit in the totem and listen to all her friends live their lives without her.
I know, I know. [Laughs] If it were up to me, we would maybe explore a little bit in season 7: What are the rules of the totem? Is she able to like put on headphones so that she's not tortured by what she's missing out on? But yeah, when you actually try to think about what the nuts and bolts of what her life is, it's a lot of sacrifice to be listening to what she's missing out on. But in that sort of Legends way, I'm like, "Uh, don't think too deeply about it! It will unravel."
This week's episode is a really fun riff on The Masked Singer and other singing competition shows. How did the writers pitch it to you? Because it's funny that this is the third season in a row that they've found an excuse to have to sing.
I have to say when I first read it or heard about it, again in a very typical Legends way, I couldn't kind of conceive of how it was going to work. And it was the beginning of the season also, so I really didn't understand how the alien piece of it would fit in. But I'm so grateful to the writers and EPs for always giving me a challenge, and I knew this was going to be a challenge for me because it wasn't just the singing, it was the dancing. I kept calling myself "Sad Beyoncé" [Laughs]. My first thought was actually, I just need to try not to embarrass myself, and I need rehearsals with the dancers. They were really great about connecting me with Kelly Konno, who is our amazing choreographer. She also did the Bollywood episode that I worked on a couple years ago. She's just out of this world. So, that was my primary concern because I do think it's a really tricky episode.
The two songs you sing are stylistically very different, both in terms of the episode and what you've sung on the show so far. One is a very modern pop song and the other is a bit sweeter. Beyond dance rehearsal, did you do anything to prepare for the singing?
They were very different stylistically than what I've done before on the show, so I just did what I always do, which is a lot of research on people who do this kind of singing. I watched a lot of VMA performances. You know, Britney Spears, Beyoncé, and Doja Cat. And I asked the writers, "What were you guys thinking of in terms of the songs?" I also asked Kelly, "What were you thinking of when you were choreographing it?" So I just sort of did my best in terms of the research and landed where I landed, Sad Beyoncé. [Laugh]
This episode also explores Zari and Constantine's romance. What do you find particularly interesting about this pairing?
I think they totally don't make sense on paper, and there's an acknowledgment between them of that fact. Yet, there is an attraction there, and oddly enough, and we do see this play out, I think they're sort of able to be themselves with each other as time goes on, in spite of their defenses. There's something… It also happens when Matt and I are acting with each other where we as actors intellectually are like, "Isn't it crazy that these two kids are having a quasi-fling?" But when we're inside of the work, there is a real [sense that], in a weird way, they bring out really good things in each other and actually open each other up a bit. Constantine has his own stuff, and Zari, I think, is closed off in a similar way, actually, to Zari 1.0. There's something about Constantine that's exciting to her, and ultimately, even though she has her guard up, she's willing to take a leap with this guy.
When we first met Zari 2.0, she was a celebrity and running a business, but she left it all behind when she boarded the Waverider. How does she handle stepping back into the spotlight and her old life?
I don't know how much of this translated into the episode, but what I was thinking about at the beginning of the episode when there's a moment where they're like, "We have to go back to your home and deal with this alien in your time," there's a sort of dread that she has because I think in the time that she's been on the Waverider, she has evolved and left behind that part of her and there's a relief in not having to put on that façade. So when she realizes that she's going back, there's a kind of dread. Once she steps into that world, she knows that mask very intimately and realizes she has to put it on to kind of get the job done. She knows the role she's expected to play in that world, but it's increasingly getting more and more uncomfortable for her. I think that's what I was exploring for myself in this episode.
Her heart is starting to open up and be intrigued by this energy of Constantine and the team, and then she's juxtaposed with going back to this old life of hers that was so superficial. More than anything, that's what I was thinking about in the episode: How do I show the struggle? It's kind of like maybe hanging out with your high school friends again, being like, "Oh, that's who I was to these people and that's who they expect me to be, but I'm actually not that. I'm outgrowing that." I think Constantine ends up being a catalyst [because] he's so disgusted and turned off by the Dragon Girl persona.
Finally, is something up with Gideon? Because it feels like she's become kinda dark this season: She was very eager to dissect Spooner's brain in the premiere; she added blood-splatter to news reports about the burger massacre in episode 2; and in this week's episode, she says she loves an evisceration. Does this personality change become a bigger plot point this season, or is it just supposed to be a funny new quirk?
I don't know. I may be reading between the lines of where the writers were mentally while writing at the beginning of the season. [Laughs] But I don't have a good answer for you actually. I think we have seen Gideon evolve, and I think it's interesting to make her more human in a certain way in terms of acknowledging the reality of the insanity of the Legends' lives. And also that she's susceptible, [which] is something we kind of find as the season goes on — that she is not this infallible God creature [and] she's vulnerable in certain ways. We do see that as the season goes on. But I really like the idea of the Gideon back story, like what's really going on for her in her void?
DC's Legends of Tomorrow airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on The CW.