DC Universe Online is now available on Xbox One consoles for the first time, and actor Brandon Routh sat down with Jens Andersen, executive creative director of Daybreak Game Company (formerly Sony Online Entertainment), for a day of gaming. A part of the DC Universe himself, having played Superman in Superman Returns and now Ray Palmer, aka The Atom, in The CW series Legends of Tomorrow, Routh entered the open world of the game and created a customized character, before walking the streets and exploring legendary locations in the game.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, Brandon Routh talked about how long he’s been a gamer, what makes the DC Universe so special, in all of its mediums, why he enjoys immersive games, and why he’s hardwired to play the superhero and not the villain, in the gaming world. He also talked about what attracted him to the role of Ray Palmer, the fun of getting to put on The Atom suit, how being a part of the DC Universe has exceeded his expectations, and what makes Legends of Tomorrow so unique.
Collider: For those of us who know nothing about the gaming world, what can you say about what DC Universe Online is, what made you want to get involved, and what interested you in the whole concept of it?
BRANDON ROUTH: Well, I’ve been a gamer since the invention of the Nintendo, and I’ve played massive multi-player online role-playing games, like Warcraft. I’m a big fan of the immersive quality of these games. You can create your own character and take them through leveling them up and having those experiences. You can have a little bit of escapism, but also live in a world that doesn’t truly exist right now. So, I’m a fan of that style of game play. Now that I’ve been two superheroes in the DC Universe, it’s even more fun to be a part of this, in a different way, and play through the game, and play alongside other heroes and fight the villains that exist in the DC Universe. One of the cool things for me, that I enjoy, is just the character creation process, where you’re either a hero or a more villainous character, and giving them abilities, deciding what their suit is going to look like, what their powers are going to be, and what their name is going to be. It really brings you into the whole gaming process. And with DCUO, it’s incredibly detailed, from what you’re wearing to hair color and eye color to how big of a character you want to be, physically to your abilities and how you get your powers. It’s a really cool thing to live through. You can create your own superhero, which pretty much all of us have dream about for all of our lives.
Since you were a part of the gaming world before you became a part of the DC Universe, how much cooler is it for you now?
ROUTH: Movies and television shows are made from games, all the time, and games are being made from comic book properties or TV shows. It’s all intertwined in the DC Universe. I had an opportunity to be a part of a Superman game, back when Superman Returns came out. I voiced the character, and that was a really cool way of getting into the character and understanding what Superman is and has been throughout the years, and what he means to people. And this is another way of seeing how myself and other fans can live out their superhero dreams and just get away from the craziness that exists in life sometimes. What’s so cool about DC and the universe that’s been created, over all these years, is that there are different ways to live out your ideas about superheroes. This is a raw, physical way, ‘cause you can get really button jammy with the controller and get out some of your frustrations, and it can be cathartic to beat up other characters in the game.
Is it fun to really get to delve into such iconic locations and explore them in the gaming world, in a way that you wouldn’t necessarily get to on a set or for something you’re not a part of yourself?
ROUTH: Exactly! The world that they’ve created is incredibly in-depth. Just like we do the best to do with our show, the environments are so big, huge and colorful that you really get sucked into the game and the storyline. People will learn a lot of things about the DC Universe and the villains and heroes while they’re in this world. This is just another medium for storytelling. You can be a part of the fantastical world of superheroes, and it’s a great addition to the DC Universe and Legends of Tomorrow, as there’s also downloadable content that is inspired by the show where you can play alongside some of us.
People know that you’ve played superheroes, whether it’s Clark Kent/Superman or Ray Palmer/The Atom, so when you get a chance to delve into a gaming world like this, do you ever want to play the villain to see what that’s like?
ROUTH: I’m hardwired not to be a villain. In the game, it’s never that appetizing to me. I always want to be the hero, of some sort, whether I’m the lead hero or support, like the hero type or the protective type for my team. I do enjoy it when I am acting and playing a character, but in a game, it’s harder for me to get away from not being the good guy and saving the day.
People really loved your work as Superman, and we all know that didn’t get to go on as long as people expected and only lasted for one movie. Did you ever feel like you might not want to jump into a superhero role, if the opportunity came up, or were you always open to the possibility, before you knew about Ray Palmer?
ROUTH: I think I was always open, I just never thought the opportunity would present itself. having played the pinnacle of all superheroes, I just didn’t think that would be an option. So, when the producers came to me with the opportunity to play Ray Palmer, I had to stop and think about it. The biggest thing for me was that they wanted Ray to be comedic and to be the light in Season 3 of Arrow. That’s what truly inspired me to take on the role. I wanted to be able to work on my comedy chops. It’s something that I love to do, and that was the best part about the opportunity, for me.
When you signed on to play Ray Palmer, you must have done so without knowing when The Atom might come about. What did you think the journey might be, when you started out? Did you just sign on for Arrow, or did you know that you’d also have the opportunity to be on The Flash and that there could be another show, in the future?
ROUTH: No, it was only about Arrow. But I knew that because of the success and the way that The Flash happened, that it was a possibility that, if people responded to Ray Palmer and I did a decent job, it might be something that could happen, beyond Arrow and beyond a couple episodes of The Flash. The Atom aspect of Ray was teased, but that was part and parcel of the audience responding to Ray. Thankfully, they did, so that he could exist and The Atom could be a bigger part of the DC Universe, and also influence things like this game and inspire other people to come in and make their Atom inspired character to play with in the game.
In what ways would you say that playing this character and being a part of the DC Universe has most exceeded your expectations?
ROUTH: I felt this going in, but being a part of it made it even more clear, that these are not just characters. These are ways for us to learn about ourselves and ways for us to tell scary stories, in a way that is more palatable. Our brains will open up to and listen to stories of oppression, abuse and the evil that exists in the world, and we can learn from it. It shows the potential of all human beings to be like these superheroes. For me, Superman is an allegory for us to see that we can be Superman-like. Even if we don’t have physical powers, we have the mental and emotional intelligence to work towards being in a more Superman-like state. Superheroes are forms of expression, whether it’s going to a movie and watching it and learning something, whether it’s watching a show like Legends of Tomorrow on television, or creating your own character and working your own issues out in a game. It’s about having fun with friends and having a social experience.
Have you had more fun getting to put on The Atom suit, or is it equally as cool to get to dress up for all of the different eras you get to explore on Legends of Tomorrow?
ROUTH: They’re both equally fun. The Atom suit, I’ve certainly been in a lot now, so I often find that dressing for the new eras that we’re in are a little bit more fun and usually more comfortable. I really enjoyed the Wild West era. I like how the clothes can help you express a different side of the character. That’s true in life, and that’s true in gaming. Another cool thing about these kinds of games, is that if you want to change what you look like, you can, to a degree. You can continue to express and re-imagine how your hero or villain looks, and you can change your game play and attitude. The show definitely does that, to a large degree, and it allows me to express different sides of who Ray Palmer is, in any given moment.
Because the DC Universe has been around for so many years, and there have been so many incarnations of these characters and stories, how much do you feel like you know Ray Palmer and The Atom? Do you feel like you’re an expert on the character, or do you feel like you still have so much to learn about him?
ROUTH: I feel like I’m an expert on my Ray Palmer. I’m not the definitive version of Ray Palmer. That’s in the eye of the beholder. What I present in the performance that I give in front of the camera is interpreted differently by the viewers. Not everybody sees the same scene, the same way. I just work to do my best and to put the emotion into it. But, I definitely feel like there’s tons more to learn. I’ve lived 36 years as Brandon Routh and I’m still learning, every day. I’ve been playing Ray Palmer for a year and a half, so there’s a lot more to learn.
It was very cool to learn about Ray Palmer’s brother, Sydney, who also looks a whole lot like Ray. Are you hoping that is something that will come up again, at some point?
ROUTH: Yeah, that’s actually one thing where, in the midst of filming, I didn’t even really think too much of the possibility of meeting up with Sydney. It will be interesting to see even more, as our show progresses, how much we influence the world of this game, as well. There’s already Legends of Tomorrow inspired content available, so it will be interesting to see what other things might come of that. We appreciate what the audience wants, and it will be interesting to see if it pops up in different mediums.
When you read the season finale script for Legends and learned about where the story would end up this season, what was your reaction?
ROUTH: Without giving anything away, the world is ever-expanding. Once you think you know what our show is, it changes, which is exciting for me. It’s a little bit unsettling, as well. That’s what is unique and cool about our show. Running into the unexpected is what makes life interesting, and the same thing can be said for the show. You want to be continually challenged, in different ways, or have some impossible big bad to fight, that you must defeat, in order to continue. That’s what drives us forward.
DC Universe Online is available on Xbox One consoles. The Season 1 finale of Legends of Tomorrow airs on The CW on Thursday, May 18th. Check out the video below and watch Routh and Anderson explore the new DC Universe.