On The CW series Legends of Tomorrow, the Legends must return to the Old West, where they find their old friend Jonah Hex (Johnathon Schaech) in trouble with his arch-nemesis, Quentin Turnbull (Jeff Fahey). With Sara (Caity Lotz) in charge, much to Hex’s surprise, the team sets out to stop Turnbull and his gang from conquering the West.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Johnathon Schaech talked about having read Jonah Hex comics growing up, stepping into the shoes of the character, why he enjoys this version of him, the current predicament he finds himself in, how Jonah Hex feels about the change in leadership for the Legends, and his hope that the character will return.
Collider: When you initially auditioned to be a part of Legends of Tomorrow, what was it about your take on Jonah Hex that lined up with what the producers were looking for?
JOHNATHON SCHAECH: There are so many things that go into casting that you just never know. I knew that I had a great take on the character, but I’m not the best reader. I come from a different generation of readers, and this was a younger show, so I wasn’t so certain how they would view my approach. I knew what I was doing and I loved the character. It’s such a great opportunity. But, a big part of me just lets everything go. I got to talk to the creators about Sgt. Rock and various DC players that I grew up with, and Jonah Hex being one of them, which was fun. I read Jonah Hex growing up and knew exactly who they were talking about.
Having already been familiar with Jonah Hex from the comics, does that make take on a role like this more intimidating or more exciting?
SCHAECH: Oh, more exciting! Well, you don’t take on anything unless there’s fear. If you’re afraid of something, you definitely have to try to tackle it. But, that’s not Hex ‘cause Hex ain’t scared of nuthin’!
What is it about Jonah Hex that appeals to you, and what do you most enjoy about this version of him?
SCHAECH: This version of him has got a sense of humor to him, and he stands up for anybody who can’t stand up for themselves. He knows that there’s good and bad. He’s not necessarily good, but he will take you out, if you’re bad. He has no problem doing that.
When it comes to this character, do you find him by reading the comics or looking at what’s in the script, or is it more about getting in the wardrobe, putting on the make-up and getting on the set?
SCHAECH: It’s complicated with me. I come from a film background. I worked with Tom Hanks, who is the best actor I’ve ever worked with and definitely one of the best, I think, ever. He studies up on whatever he’s playing, as much as he can. And then, he takes the material in front of him and applies that knowledge to it, and lets everything go in the moment. That’s exactly what I do with Hex. I read as much as I possibly could and I had the material memorized, and then I was just in the moment with all of the great little tools that he has. He has a great sense of humor to him. Anything that has to do with physics, algebra or chemistry, he has no clue about it, which is sort of like me with the internet.
It seems as though the Legends return to the Old West just in time to help Jonah Hex out of a jam that he’s found himself in. What can you say about what he’s been up to since we last saw him, and why he finds himself on the verge of being hung?
SCHAECH: He’s there for Turnbull, who’s his nemesis. Turnbull has been his nemesis, every since the Civil War. He was a Confederate soldier, alongside Hex. Hex basically realized that he was fighting for something that he didn’t believe in. He was against slavery because he grew up being a slave. He was sold into slavery, so he couldn’t fight for the Confederates anymore and said, “I can’t do this.” Turnbull didn’t like that, and Hex got into a battle with his son and wound up killing his son, so they hate one another. Turnball is a very greedy man who goes after things for himself, and that’s not Jonah Hex. He hates greed. He’s a bounty hunter. He goes after people that are evil and he takes care of them, and he gets a bounty for it, so that he can go drink and forget his problems.
What does Jeff Fahey bring to the role of Quentin Turnbull, and how does working with an actor like him change the dynamic?
SCHAECH: Me and Jeff Fahey did a movie called Texas Rising, about the revolution of Texas, so I spent about six months with him in Mexico and we know each other really well. Jeff is a dedicated craftsman. He’s done his time. So, it was a pleasure to see him playing Turnbull. I was so excited that I’d get to hang out with him again. It was fun to play with him. Hopefully, they’ll bring both of us back. Turnbull could very well be part of that evil group (Legion of Doom) that’s coming together.
Is Jonah Hex grateful to see the Legends again, or would he prefer to deal with his problems himself?
SCHAECH: I think he looks at the Legends as a bunch of little kids who are interfering with his life again and need his help. When they come, he knows he’s going to get to do something different and fun and experience something new, but he’s a grumpy old man.
We know that he has history with Rip Hunter, but Rip is gone now and Sara Lance is leading the team. How does he feel about Sara, as a leader?
SCHAECH: When he finds out that Rip is gone, it’s not that he doesn’t care, but he knows that Rip is Rip. He doesn’t know what’s happened to him and he doesn’t ask any questions, but in the back of his mind, he thinks he’ll be fine and come back around since he’s a time traveler. The team needs to go after Turnbull, and that’s Hex’s bounty, so they become one team because they won’t let Hex just go after him, himself. Sara is in charge of the team, so he has to face the fact that a woman is in charge of him and deal with his own vulnerabilities in dealing with a woman. That’s really interesting to watch happen. He’s not like a chauvinistic pig of today, that we hear so much about. He comes from the West, where a man is a man and a woman is a woman. He respects women, and he longs for a woman in his life. So, when Sara commands him to do certain things and threatens to kick his ass, that’s a whole different story. He wasn’t expecting that from a female. That’s fun to watch.
Hopefully, we’ll get to see Jonah Hex return again, at some point. If he were to return and go on a mission with the Legends, is there any time period you’d like to see him get dropped into?
SCHAECH: I watch the show and I loved when they went back to the Nazis. I would love to see Jonah Hex kick some Nazi ass. That would be great. And I could see Jonah taking out a zombie. There’s just so much that Jonah could do. He’s the quickest gun there’s ever been. He’s taken on Batman and Superman. There’s pretty much nothing that Jonah Hex couldn’t do. As long as the person was really evil, he’d have no problem taking them out. He’s a bounty hunter. Arrow is a hooded vigilante, but I don’t think Jonah and Arrow would get along very well because he’s pompous. Jonah is not like that, and Jonah wouldn’t like him very much. He didn’t like Batman very much, at first, until they beat each other up. He dug him, after that. I know there’s a #TeamHex out there, and they’re trying to get him back for more episodes. I had such a great time with Caity [Lotz]. I’d love to partner up with her. I loved working with Brandon [Routh]. We’ve had this straight man, innocent routine going on that was pretty funny. And Nick [Zano] is wonderful. Jonah Hex could fit in with that group.
Legends of Tomorrow airs on Thursday nights on The CW.