From executive producers Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg, and based on characters from DC Comics, the CW Seed animated series Vixen tells the story of Mari McCabe (voiced by Megalyn Echikunwoke), a young woman, originally from Africa, whose parents were killed as a result of local greed, corruption and violence. As Vixen, the orphaned Mari, who has inherited her family’s Tantu Totem, is able to access the powers of animals – including anything from the super strength of a gorilla to the speed of a cheetah – and fight to protect the world.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Megalyn Echikunwoke talked about the possibility of bringing this character into the live-action world of either Arrow or The Flash, who this version of Vixen is, seeing herself in her animated alter-ego, which animal power she might want to have herself, how special it is to her to be bringing this female superhero character to life, her desire to do some live-action fight sequences like her character gets to do in the animated series, and scoring some major cool points with her brother for being a part of this project.
MEGALYN ECHIKUNWOKE: I always knew that was a possibility, and I hope it does evolve into that, but just doing the voice part is so exciting. To me, it’s the same. I just don’t have the costume. Doing the voice for something requires an enormous amount of energy and you really have to use your whole body. It’s cool. I just got super duper lucky because I had always wanted to do something with The CW and I had always wanted to do animation. This just fell in my lap and was a perfect marriage of those two things.
Did you know anything about who Vixen is, as a character, when you were cast?
ECHIKUNWOKE: I vaguely knew about her, but I didn’t know much. And I’m still playing catch-up, in terms of the whole universe that Vixen lives in. There’s just so much to know, and the fans know a lot. I’m trying to stay up to speed and am educating myself.
For people who know nothing about the comic books, who is the Vixen that we’ll meet on this show?
ECHIKUNWOKE: This animated series starts with her evolution. This first six episodes is her discovering who she is, discovering her power and learning how to use it. She goes back to her roots and claims her identity as Vixen. By the end of this, that’s where she goes, “Okay, this is who I am. I know who I am now.”
What do you think of the look of your animated alter-ego? Can you see any of yourself in her?
ECHIKUNWOKE: I see myself in her a great deal. In the beginning, when they asked me to do this, they said, “We might make the character in your likeness.” I don’t think they ended up doing that because the show has a very specific look, but I think she’s bad-ass. Clearly, we have the same body type, and she’s really pretty. I hope I’m a little bit as pretty as her.
What do you most enjoy about bringing to life and exploring a character like this? With all of the cool things about her, are there any that you most identify with or find yourself most drawn to?
ECHIKUNWOKE: Her whole backstory is very interesting, and I also relate because it’s not that un-similar to mine. I wasn’t an orphan, thank god, but she’s an African girl who came here when she was very young and was struggling with her identity. Through the discovery of her powers, she connects that to her roots and understands who she is and finds this identity that she hungers for. She’s lost, at the beginning of this, but at the end, she’s empowered in her strength. Also, her power itself is really cool. She’s very much one with the world and the animals, and I think that sets her apart from the other people, like The Flash and Arrow. She can take on the spirit of these animals in this very cool way. I love that.
This power that she has is one of the cool things about her. Have you thought about how, if you could do that yourself, which animal and which power would be the most useful to you?
ECHIKUNWOKE: It’s funny, I haven’t thought about it that way. I don’t know what this says about me, but I’ve mostly thought about which animal would be the most fun, and not in terms of which would be the most useful or helpful, sadly. I’ve always thought it would be fun to be able to be a horse and to have their strength and steed. I just think horses are so beautiful. In the show, she uses the strength of a rhino and the strength of a lion. I think being a lion would be really cool. I feel like that could be very helpful to people because you could give people rides. And people would be very intimidated by you, so you could pretty much do what you wanted. It would also be cool to have the intelligence of an elephant. That would be really special.
This show exists in the world of Arrow and The Flash, and you have Stephen Amell, Grant Gustin, Emily Bett Richards and Carlos Valdes voicing their characters. Did you get to record your voice work with any of them, or have you not even met them yet?
ECHIKUNWOKE: I haven’t even met them, sadly, but they do voice their own characters. I have not met them or worked with them in the sound booth, at all, but I hope to do so, going forward.
If there is the chance to bring this character into the real world in live-action form on either show, have you thought about which show you’d like to see her appear on and who you’d like to see her interact with?
ECHIKUNWOKE: I can’t say! Either one would be great. No favoritism.
Don’t you think it would be fun to see how Cisco would react to her, since strong women seem to make him a little bit nervous?
ECHIKUNWOKE: Yeah, and I think there is a little bit of that in the show. She makes the guys nervous, in a good way.
It’s also really cool that this show has a lead character that’s a female superhero from a different race and culture. How meaningful and special is that to you, especially knowing that this is something that the female audience has really been asking for?
ECHIKUNWOKE: It’s honestly probably the best part of being a part of this. I know that the fans are so hungry for this. Also, I think the world deserves this black female superhero. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to play a superhero, but I didn’t know Vixen existed. She’s actually way cooler than the superhero that I envisioned. It’s very cool. And I love that young girls and female comic book fans are going to finally get a character that they can relate to and feel some sort of connection with.
There’s some really awesome fight sequences in this, especially because anything can be done in animation. Did you ever wish that you would be able to do even a fraction of that stuff, in live-action form?
ECHIKUNWOKE: Oh, my God, every day! My entire career, one of my dreams was to portray a superhero and to do all of the physical stuff that that requires. I am very physical. I love dance. I do every kind of dance. I do martial arts. That’s just something that’s always been really important to me and that I’ve been working towards. Hopefully, it will turn into that. If now, I will do it, in some way.
With as popular as comic book and superhero movies and TV shows are now, who, in your own life, is the most excited that you’re getting to bring this character to life?
ECHIKUNWOKE: Probably my brother. My one brother is very big into comics and sci-fi and anime, and he was so impressed by this. He was like, “So, you’re telling me that you’re going to be a superhero?!” So, I definitely got major points with my brother.
Vixen can be viewed at CW Seed (www.cwseed.com), starting on August 25th.