Only two hours into the new CW series Legends of Tomorrow and this rag-tag team is already questioning what they’re doing together. Whether it’s going up against Vandal Savage (Casper Crump), dealing with younger versions of themselves, or learning to work together, this group led by Time Master Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) will clearly be tested, every step of the way.
While at the TCA Press Tour, showrunner Phil Klemmer spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about that shocking loss, how these characters will evolve, unexpected dynamics, whether we might see new additions to this team, and what it’s like to tell a story about characters who don’t naturally take to being the hero. Be aware that there are some major spoilers discussed.
Collider: What’s it like to go from The Tomorrow People, which was a show about people who wanted to be heroes, to Legends of Tomorrow, which is a show about people who very begrudgingly want to be heroes?
PHIL KLEMMER: I can’t believe I was able to make a show about genetics. The Tomorrow People was a show about evolution. It was about young people coming of age and feeling like their own species, which was a very youth-oriented theme. I’m only two years older, but with Legends, time travel lends itself to looking into your past and future, which is very much a middle-aged, mid-life crisis. I have no idea if that has something to do with turning 40. To me, the idea of looking back on your past and wondering what you would have done differently, and what your future looks like, is much more the headspace I’m at right now.
I like Legends because we have some really, really fucked up characters. Stephen in The Tomorrow People was dealing with mental illness, shrinks and pills in the pilot, but quickly you realized that there was a reason for all of his psychological trauma. For Mick Rory and Leonard Snart, their scars go really deep. They are literally victims of child abuse and horrible loss. Their path towards heroism or even goodness, and not being a total wretch of a human being, is a much more difficult one. That’s such a great challenge, as a writer.
How are you going to save Mick Rory, an arsonist who burned his family in their house, and make him somebody who breaks your heart? To me, that’s really super exciting. It’s a long, slow road, and that’s what you can do on TV. We have actors, like Dominic Purcell, who play the knucklehead, but then you realize that they have these hidden depths and that there’s a total justification for their villainy that comes from a place of being hurt and trying not to be hurt again. I just love that.
You’re taking characters who were secondary characters on other shows and making them lead characters on this show. What can you say about what we’ll learn about them, that we haven’t previously been aware of before?
KLEMMER: The people who were villains on The Flash and Arrow, there was never time to get into their psycho-pathology. I think you will be surprised by that. Following her resurrection on Arrow, Caity Lotz’s character Sarah Lance has come back not feeling like herself and feeling like she’s lost that human part of herself. In the pilot, she was half-way around the world in Tibet, either trying to find herself or hide from herself. Rip has picked people not because they’re destined to be legends, but because they’re the obscuros who have no affect on the future. The idea that he’s found them at these spiritual crossroads, where the challenge is to give their life meaning, some people embrace that. The fun is just taking the insane optimists and breaking them down and pushing them to that point of disbelieving, as it is taking a nihilist and pushing them towards the point of believing in this team and their purpose. The people who come in high, like Ray Palmer, are going down, and the people who come in totally nihilistic, like Leonard Snart, are growing.
Will we see Hawkman again? And now that Hawkman is gone, will we discover who Hawkgirl is without him?
KLEMMER: I’m not positive, and I’m not just talking my way out of this. I know we would like to see flashbacks of their former lives together. In Episode 4, you’ll see how he was a mentor to her. He literally took her under his wing. The idea of her being the world’s youngest widow, even though she’s been widowed for the 208th time, and being stripped of a man you were destined to love but hadn’t actually come around to loving, for Kendra, it really is about free will. This curse with Vandal Savage has bound her and Carter in this cycle of love and death and rebirth. Their powers are entangled with Savage. So, what I’m interested about is, does killing savage mean the end of their immortality and rebirth? Does it mean that they’re free to love another? We are doing a show in the 21st century, so she should have an issue with the idea of a guy saying, “You’re destined to only love me.”
I do want to see her struggle with that, and she will have romantic options on the show. It’s interesting to wonder, “Am I just killing time until Carter is reborn again?” The truth is that Carter will only be reborn when she dies. She’s in this horrible predicament where she’s like, “Do I only get to love again, if Vandal kills me?” I would also like to find another version of Hawkman out there. Once our Kendra has found love within Legends, I would like her to be confronted with another Carter from a previous life, just to test the theory, does free will trump destiny? I’m not going to give away who her love interest is, but for that guy, it’s a super interesting story of knowing that you love this woman and knowing that she loves you back, but realizing that there might be a limit to that love. So, what will it mean when she meets Carter all over again? What does it mean, if Kendra says her heart belongs to you, but then the rubber meets the road and you have a 4,000-year-old romantic rival, right there? That’s a good love triangle.
Will who makes up this team be a bit fluid? Will we see different people help them out?
KLEMMER: We don’t have any new permanent members of the team yet. We will travel into the future, and Star City and Central City offer future versions of Arrow and The Flash, so we will be able to deputize those people to become ad hoc members of our team. But as far as permanent members of the team, all of our villains and allies are auditioning for Season 2 roles. In Episode 4, we have a character, Valentina Vostok, who’s played by Stephanie Corneliussen, who plays the icy Swedish Machiavellian wife to the computer business guy on Mr. Robot. She plays a Soviet scientist femme fatale. When we have villains who pop like that, it’s hard not to imagine how we could bring her back. When somebody pops on the show, that’s the challenge for us as writers. Who knows how many people the Wave Rider sleeps, but there’s always room. There are so many permutations. We wrote scenes in Episode 10 where we were like, “These three people haven’t had a storyline together yet, but here they are.” It’s amazing because this show never gets stale to write, and hopefully, it won’t get stale to watch.
Will this team surprise themselves at how much they might actually like and/or respect each other?
KLEMMER: For people like Mick and Leonard, they’ve only had one other person in their life. They’re kind of like an old, married couple. Even though Snart hates Ray, you can tell there’s a begrudging respect and a recognition that they’re not that different. Episode 3 focuses on those two. We break stories by going, “Who are the least likely people you could ever imagine breathing the same air?” That’s an interesting scene. And there’s definitely romance, or at least bromance, in the trenches.
Legends of Tomorrow airs on Thursday nights on The CW.