On the next episode of The CW series Arrow, called “Taken,” Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) realizes that he needs help battling Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), so he calls in his old friend, Vixen (Megalyn Echikunwoke). Using her magical ability to summon animal powers, Vixen gets a lock on Darhk’s location and the team goes to war.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Megalyn Echikunwoke talked about how lucky she feels to get to take Vixen from animated series to live-action, why she wants to help Team Arrow, how Vixen fits in among the show’s other strong women, finding the character’s physicality, getting to have a cool costume, translating her powers to live-action, and that she would gladly continue to play this character, in any form.
Collider: What’s it like to get to take this character one step further from just voicing her and actually get to embody her in live-action form?
MEGALYN ECHIKUNWOKE: I feel really lucky, honestly. In a lot of ways, it’s a dream come true because I’ve always wanted to do this type of thing. Growing up, I always wanted to be a Lara Croft character or one of those martial artists in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. So, now playing Vixen in live-action is like a dream come true times two because I get to play this really cool character with a really rich history and a really dedicated fan base and I also get to be the first black superhero in the DC comics universe to appear in live-action. That’s really cool. I feel really lucky. It’s an honor. I just hope that I do her justice for the sake of the fans.
How and when did you find out that you’d be playing this character on Arrow, in this episode?
ECHIKUNWOKE: There was talk of it, for sure, and then they gave me a little bit of material. I sat down and read with the execs, and they were like, “Hey, I think you’re the woman for the job,” and I was like, “Yeah! I can’t believe it!”
This is a show that already has some great strong female characters. How does Vixen fit in among the other women that we’ve gotten to know on the show?
ECHIKUNWOKE: They all have a lot of respect for each other. When they call on Vixen for help, they do it because they really do need her and they really do respect her abilities. They need that extra edge to fight Damien Darhk, in this case. All the women are really cool, in their own right. I’m excited to see everyone in action together.
Team Arrow goes to Vixen for help because they need her, but what gets her to actually agree to help them? Is she aware of Damien Darhk and what he’s doing?
ECHIKUNWOKE: At this point, a little bit of time has past. In the animated series, she’s a little bit gruff with Green Arrow and The Flash. She’s a little sassy with them because they’re not necessarily friends. But at this point, some time has passed and she’s matured into her role as Vixen and her powers, and she has more of a solidarity with them. So, when they ask for help, it’s like her brothers need help. They’re her brothers-in-arms.
Bringing Vixen to life is different than just voicing her. How did you decide on the physicality you wanted for her? Was there a specific way that you wanted to carry yourself?
ECHIKUNWOKE: Yes, absolutely! She’s pretty tough. She’s a bad-ass. I definitely wanted to bring that energy of someone who, at this point, has honed her abilities and begun to master them. So, I definitely wanted to bring that to her physicality. You can tell when someone is really good at what they do, physically. Whether it’s martial arts or dance, you can tell by watching them walk. I definitely wanted to bring that in, and I definitely wanted to make sure that I maintained the vocal quality that people responded to in the animated series. Hopefully, I brought all of those things together in a way that people will like. And the costume really helped. With any actor in any costume, that’s the last piece for the character, but even more so with a superhero. That’s a big piece. The people at Arrow created a really incredible costume for me. It’s leather and it’s really tough, and I look really strong in it. That helped a lot.
What was it like to put on the suit, for the first time, and actually be in the costume and get into character?
ECHIKUNWOKE: I was geeking out, so hard! They were like, “Calm down!” I was dancing around, and doing kicks and punches in it, just ‘cause I was so excited. They were like, “Oh, my god, she’s a dork!”
Was it fun to also get to see her duality and get to wear normal clothes, along with having a cool costume?
ECHIKUNWOKE: Yeah! A big part of Vixen is that she has that element of duality to her, all the time. That’s something that I really love about the character and that I really relate to. I think it’s important to see her in both ways. To me, in a lot of ways, she’s still a superhero, even when she’s not in costume. Even when she’s not invoking her powers, she’s still very powerful.
How do Vixen’s powers translate to live-action?
ECHIKUNWOKE: It will be very similar [to the animated series], actually. The show does an incredible job with the visual effects and the fight scenes are so cool. She definitely kicks some major ass. I haven’t seen the visual effects yet, but I’m assuming, if they’re anything like the rest of the show and like the other DC comics shows on the CW, they’ll be really special.
Is there anyone with Team Arrow that Vixen works best with or that she clashes with, or do they all work together pretty equally?
ECHIKUNWOKE: In this episode, we all work together for one purpose and it’s pretty serious. There’s really no time for catfights, or anything like that.
There’s already been an announcement for a second season of the animated series, there’s been talk of a possible spin-off, and it’s been suggested that she could be included on Legends of Tomorrow. Are you game to explore this character, however that plays out?
ECHIKUNWOKE: Oh, yeah, absolutely! Absolutely! In a lot of ways, playing this character has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done, as an actor. It’s a dream come true because I had childhood dreams of being an action star. Symbolically, what she means to the fans is really cool. Also, she’s just a fucking bad-ass! Her powers are really cool, and she’s sexy. So, I have no problem with being a full-time or a part-time superhero. Anytime I can be a superhero is a good time.
Arrow airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.