How Tala Ashe learned to love Zari 2.0 on Legends of Tomorrow
Zari is getting more quality time with Constantine than she bargained for on DC's Legends of Tomorrow.
In the wake of Behrad's death, Zari (Tala Ashe) told Constantine (Matt Ryan) she wasn't going to leave him side until they recovered all of the Loom of Fate and used it to resurrect her brother. Well, in this Tuesday's episode, the constantly bickering influencer and warlock get trapped in a 1910 boarding house with a bunch of time-displaced Encores and need to find the third and final Loom of Fate ring before the Encores murder them, or they kill each other.
Ahead of the episode, titled "The Great British Fake Off," EW spoke to Tala Ashe about playing this new version of Zari and if there's more going on between Zari and Constantine.
TALA ASHE: There was a kind of mourning period because I had spent some time developing Zari 1.0 and really felt she had come a long way and had opened her heart at the end of the previous season, and then to lose her I think was hard for the fans. I know it was hard me, too. Even though I was excited, as an actor, by the challenge of playing such a different take on the character, I do feel like I resisted it for a little while. Looking at my performance even [in] those first few episodes — I’m obviously my toughest critic — I feel like it took me a minute to find and accept and bond and submit to this new reality, and to the new Zari. And then it got fun. I don’t know what the writers’ plan was, but I think they were like, “Oh, this a fun character and not like anyone else that we have on the ship, so let’s see where it goes.”
Do you remember the moment when you clicked into Zari 2.0?
I think it was actually in the episode “A Head of Her Time.” So often in the evolution of both Zaris, she has grown through relationship with others. You know, Jes [Macallan] and I are great friends in real life, and I think what we were able to find in [Zari and Ava's] dynamic [in that episode] really helped me find Zari 2.0, actually. The opulence of that episode also lends itself to going there. It sort of asked me to step up to it. I think the relationship with Ava helped finally give birth to the direction that I wanted to go to with Zari 2.0.
I’ll admit, I was worried when the showrunners first told me Zari was going to be an influencer because that can easily become just a punchline, but that hasn’t been the case at all. On your end, how did you figure out who this person was beneath her superficial exterior?
My north star through all of this has been that Zari 1.0 and 2.0 have ultimately the same soul, but have experienced very different lives and very different environments. That, as an actor, has been interesting to me to just explore what environment and circumstance does to you. Fundamentally, I believe her heart is her heart, and we see that come out.
Actually, I think with both versions of the character there’s a kind of façade. We saw it with 1.0 and that slowly came down over two seasons, but she still has her defenses in a way that all of us do. Zari 2.0 has them also, but they’re just so in your face and so recognizable to our current society, in terms of the influencer, you know, Kardashian thing. It’s such a recognizable trope to us now and I think to me even, it’s sort of triggering. Like my job was to also suspend my judgement about that because I watched so many hours of these YouTube videos and reality shows and Instagram makeup [videos]. There’s so much of it out there, and it was kind of my task to watch it and not judge it. Then, I got past that. At a certain point, I was like, “Oh, these are people,” and examining what happens once the cameras are turned off was also helpful to me to, as you say, take her away from just being a punchline. I think that is always going to be her defense mechanism that she falls back on, especially when she’s feeling cornered. But again, I think her heart is in the same place as Zari 1.0 and she ultimately wants to help people.
So you get into this groove as Zari 2.0, and then last week’s episode arrives and you have to play Zari 1.0 and Zari 2.0 in the same scene. How did that feel?
Really odd. Shooting those scenes is a lot more technical than maybe people realize, than maybe I realized actually. As much as I wanted to live in 1.0’s body, I actually had to switch back and forth two times that day. I was joking, “Oh my god, I don’t know who Zari 1.0 is anymore.” But then actually when I really dropped into it, I was like, “Oh, I miss her. I really miss her.” The sort of groundedness, sarcastic, dry, droll thing that Zari 1.0 is, I find delightful. Honestly, it’s fun. I would play both of them if I could. I know it’s a technical nightmare for everybody — it adds a lot of hours to our day — but I really enjoyed it.
How does meeting Zari 1.0 has affected Zari 2.0 going forward as she tries to bring her brother back?
She realizes that in her is the ability to have this strength and vigor that maybe she hasn’t embraced previously, or hasn’t had to. I think the writers did such a good job of creating a situation where Zari 2.0 has had happened to her what happened to 1.0, which is to lose her brother. In fact, so much of that was part of galvanizing Zari 1.0, so I think that sentiment will really drive 2.0 as the season moves forward, but of course in her own way because she has her own set of skills that are different from 1.0. Having that encounter in the back of her mind, there’s a kind of inner strength that she gets from that that helps her move forward through the rest of the season.
In “Romeo v. Juliet: Dawn of Justness,” Zari and Constantine shared a moment of connection while performing Romeo & Juliet, and in this week’s episode, they get trapped in this Encores-filled house together. How does that moment on stage play into their dynamic in this episode?
They’re total polar opposites on the paper, as it were, but I think for both Constantine and Zari, and for Tala and Matt, like we were surprised to find that there is in fact an interesting connection there. Not to speak for Constantine, but I think there’s a very strong façade there as well, and for a moment they were able to step in these characters of Romeo and Juliet and for both of them, the façade dropped away and there’s a moment of authentic connection there. What that is we don’t quite know.
Then in next week’s episode, I think Zari has a lot of anger and frustration and he’s sort of the logical person to direct it towards, and he really underestimates her. There’s an interesting dynamic in terms of how they drive each other crazy, but of course the flip side of that is that they drive each other crazy [Laughs]. I think when Matt and I read the episode, we were like, “I don’t think is gonna work. These characters have nothing to do with each other,” and then in the playing of it, Matt and I would be like repeatedly, “Huh, that was interesting.” I found myself as Zari 2.0 really wanting to needle Constantine and break through his cool guy thing that everybody else lets him move through the world with, and Zari 2.0 is like, “No, I deserve to be here, I’m capable, and I’m going to show you.” So, that was actually very fun, and Matt and I both have kind of like a theatre background, so there was a kind of theatricality and vigor [in the scenes]. It felt like we were on stage or something. I think the “Romeo v Juliet” episode laid the groundwork for that.
DC's Legends of Tomorrow airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on The CW.