Up next on Season 5 of The CW series Legends of Tomorrow, John Constantine’s (Matt Ryan) life is hanging in the balance, as Ray (Brandon Routh), Nora (Courtney Ford) and Gary (Adam Tsekhman) all try to find a way to help him. At the same time, Sara (Caity Lotz, who also directed Episode 505, “Mortal Khanbat”) is still away from the Waverider, so the Legends head out to defeat a new Encore, Genghis Khan, in 1990s Hong Kong.
At a recent L.A. press day for the series, Collider was invited (along with a handful of other media outlets) to chat with the cast and executive producers. During the interviews, co-stars Caity Lotz (“Sara Lance”), Jes Macallan (“Ava”), Maisie Richardson-Sellers (“Charlie”) and Olivia Swann (“Astra”), along with executive producers Phil Klemmer, Keto Shimizu and Grainne Godfree, talked about where things are headed with Sara and Ava, whether we’ll ever learn about what Sara’s business in Star City is, incorporating some of the Hellblazer mythology into John Constantine’s storyline on Legends, the significance of the Loom of Fate, saying goodbye to departing cast members Brandon Routh and Courtney Ford, how Arrow-verse executive producer Marc Guggenheim and actress Caity Lotz fared as first-time directors on the series, and how much fun it is to be on a TV series where seemingly anything goes.
*Be aware that major spoilers are discussed*
Question: This season, Sara and Ava are working together and living together. Where is their relationship headed? Do you see them making a bigger commitment?
CAITY LOTZ: It’s actually something that we talk about, all the time, in terms of how to make sure we do the relationship justice. With marriage, I always like the idea that not everybody has to get married. May that government institution does not necessarily fit for everyone. So, part of me wants them to be like life partners without having to be married, in the traditional sense. But at the same time, there hasn’t been a gay marriage on the Arrow-verse yet, so that would be nice to see. You’re serving the characters, but also the broader sense of what would be good. This season, this is a new life. They haven’t been together that long. And now, all of a sudden, Ava doesn’t have the Time Bureau anymore. She’s on the ship with Sara. I don’t think it’s about being like, “Ooh, merge!” This season, they’re still trying to figure out who they are and be able to maintain identities while being partners, rather than just merging and getting married.
Jes, Episode 504 was a big one for Ava, with her getting left in charge of the team. How is she finding her place on the Waverider, this season, and what sort of dynamics is she developing?
MACALLAN: Zava forever! #Zava. I love her relationship with Zari, and I especially love it in Episode 504. Zava is amazing. Zari and Ava are so lovely. Ava’s perfectionistic, control freak nature, trying to be the boss but not, definitely plays in. It’s funny, I had a chat with Brandon [Routh], as he was departing and we were doing a scene, and he said, “I feel like Ava’s doing a little Ray Palmer. I passed the gauntlet to you.” And I didn’t realize that I was playing the scene that way, but it just felt like, “Everything’s good, we’re gonna be good,” but in like a super-controlled way. That stuff comes out, in ways that you don’t know it’s gonna come out. Ava has evolved to be this fit in personality. As far as Legends goes, that’s her whole arc, in this episode. It’s just, “I’m in love with my lady. I wanna be with my lady.” We’re on the ship and the Time Bureau has shut down, and it’s a big thing to have none of that responsibility anymore. She doesn’t know how to cope with it. And then, she gets on board with the Legends, and where the hell do you fit? Sara is the captain, and she’s never gonna be replaced, but what is she doing there? And you’ll see what she’s doing, as this season progresses. It was hard to be on the ship without the Time Bureau.
GODFREE: We felt like Ava was a little lost, in the beginning of this season, and she found her footing through the new Zari. The new Zari was hard to write, by the way, because she didn’t have the same voice of the original Zari, that we knew and loved. And then, the actors also had to play it new. They didn’t have this two-year relationship.
MACALLAN: It was so complicated because we were like, “We don’t know her, at all? We don’t have any response to her?” But I just think [Tala Ashe] smashed it. I don’t know how everyone feels about new Zari, but you will grow to love her. She’s a piece of work, but you’ll grow to love her, hopefully.
GODFREE: The writers were also inspired by the fact that [Jes] and Tala have such a real friendship, so we wanted to write to that. Every time we go up to Vancouver to be on set, we just get so inspired by that dynamics that we see there.
It took a lot for Sara to really step into the leadership position, as captain of the Waverider, and now she hands that off, a little bit, to Ava, this season. What does she see as Ava’s strengths, as a leader, and how does she feel about Ava stepping into that?
LOTZ: Ava was running the Time Bureau, and now she’s living on the ship and doesn’t really necessarily have a job. She knows that how difficult that is for Ava, to go from that leadership position to then being on the ship, so she also wants to help ease that for her and make her still feel she still has stuff to do, she’s important and she matters. Ava’s good at being a leader and she’s good at being in charge. She likes doing all of that stuff. Sara has been a leader for awhile now. When you’re the boss, sometimes it’s good to be able to step back and go, “Oh, god, wear this for awhile. It’s heavy. Help me out.” Because I was directing, I wasn’t in the episode. That was for Episodes 4 and 5. But it’s an interesting dynamic to have them both be able to be bosses. Sara’s never been a leader that’s like, “I’m the boss. Everyone listen to me. It’s all about me.” She’s had a very democratic way of doing things. She knows everybody has their strengths. Even though she’s the captain, she sees it as a group. She doesn’t see herself as the lone hero.
Will we ever find out what Sara’s business in Star City is?
LOTZ: You’ll find out.
At the end of Episode 504, we saw John Constantine has been inflicted with lung cancer, as a nod to “Dangerous Habits.” How does it feel, being able to incorporate some of the Hellblazer mythology into Legends?
KLEMMER: It’s very, very, very important to Matt Ryan. He is the world’s leading expert on all things Constantine. In fact, he probably would hand you a book, if you’re having trouble remembering something. He has it in his bag, at all times. For us, it’s a balance because we want to honor it, at the same time that we want to break new ground, as well. Hopefully, we found the right balance with that. There’s no predicting where we’re headed, based on based on the books, but it was a great launching point.
GODFREE: Matt has an amazing storyline, which we pulled from the comics. I co-wrote that one, and Caity Lotz directed it. It was so fun to be on set. Caity smashed it. She did an amazing job. She was so prepared, and so creative with the camera. It was lovely to see. But for Matt Ryan’s character, Constantine, we wanted to give him one of the iconic storylines from the comics, where he gets lung cancer, and he’s going to try to do everything that he can, in the most John Constantine type of way, to get out of it. We also put Ray and Gary on that storyline with him because we thought John’s dark and brooding energy, coupled with Ray and Gary, who are goofballs, John wants to just be miserable and drink alone, and they’re not going to let him do that.
MACALLAN: It really works. I think that storyline is going to be something. I think Matt said that it was one of his favorite episodes, ‘cause he got to just be. It’s something different, and he’s just so good at it.
GODFREE: He’s really wrestling with mortality.
We’ve now learned about the existence of the Loom of Fate, which Charlie said she scattered across the multi-verse, but has since sensed that something has changed. Is that a consequence of “Crisis”?
KLEMMER: It is, yeah, which means that it’s not so well hidden any longer. It starts a bit of a race to reclaim the bits of our MacGuffin.
What is its significance?
KLEMMER: It means a lot of things to a lot of different people. In the beginning, it starts out as a very simple thing like, “If we find it, we can do a very discreet one thing.” But as everybody has these personal catastrophes in their lives, everybody starts coming up with little side agendas, and that really complicates things because it can’t be all things to all people, and we don’t ever want to see our Legends trying to kill each other. It’s very interesting to see them with different goals, in a very human sense. If the MacGuffin can only do one thing, of course, everybody’s like, “Well, my thing is the most important, and then we can worry about yours later.” Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
You’re saying goodbye to Brandon Routh and Courtney Ford, later this season. What was it like to put that together, and how hard was that?
KLEMMER: Frankly, it’s the most terrifying thing you can do, and it’s the thing that you always second guess the most. The thing that it does provide is that it’s really intense. There’s never been more tears shed in editing bays, then Episode 507. It’s funny how the things in the room that you pitch feel like a joke, and if you just heard the log line, it would seem ridiculous, but even the thing that felt like it was dopey and crazy and wacky, when you see it brought to life, it’ll totally bring you to tears. That’s remarkable. That’s how we really feel about each other, and it’s as real on the screen as it is, in real life. That’s our Shakespeare episode, and parting is sweet sorrow. We have to steal from the greats.
LOTZ: Me, Dom [Purcell] and Brandon were the only three originals left. Of course, it’s sad and we miss him, but then, at the same time, no one’s ever fully gone. That’s the magic of these shows. It’s ever-evolving and ever-changing. I hope we get them back, a bit. Maybe we do, even this season. We’ll see.
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: Obviously, it’s heartbreaking because you become so close. We’re all in Vancouver together, so you create your own family dynamic and you really love each other. You have a certain dynamic that’s balanced out, across the show, with different characters. But we’ve said goodbye to so many wonderful people. That evolution of bringing in new people and letting go of old people is part of the dynamic of the show, and you see how that shifts the group.
SHIMIZU: For us, it is Legends of Tomorrow. It’s not a singular character name. The whole idea behind this show is that people come and people go. They leave when it’s their time to leave, when it feels right, and when it seems like that story has come to a satisfying close. We don’t tend to, or really like to, ever just kill people and have that jarring rip-away of the characters ‘cause those aren’t the type of stories we like to tell. We like to tell more realistic stories, which is that people come together for a time, when they need each other, and then, when they don’t need each other anymore, they grow apart. That is definitely the story we’re trying to tell, with Ray and Nora. The way that we build up to their departure, it’s very loving. It comes from our love of these characters, and it comes from us wanting that story to come to the most satisfying close that we can, for us, as writers, for the actors, and we hope, for the audience. We don’t want people to be on the ship, just to be on the ship. That’s not what the show is. It’s about people coming together and going on their merry way, when it’s their time. That’s very much what we tried to do, with those two.
How will their departures affect the team?
LOTZ: There’s a Shakespearian episode, where we deal with some of Ray’s departure. The bromance between Nate and Ray is really such a great love story, in that episode. It’s hard for them. He had that blind optimism of, “Everything’s gonna be okay.” In the darkness, he was like the good one. Everybody’s got some darkness and some stuff, and having Ray around, he was the light. There was something really pure and innocent about him, that was good for the group, so to not have that anymore is a little difficult.
KLEMMER: We’ve always said that time on the Waverider was finite. It was always meant to be a halfway home, and not a permanent home. Once you’ve repaired whatever damage you had when you boarded this ship, then you probably should make room for another damaged soul. It’s like real life. You have your single friends, but when you get into relationships, you think that life is never gonna change, but it does. There’s no way of going through a threshold in life and carrying everything that you had before. You have to forfeit something. That’s the pain and beauty of life.
SWANN: That’s what this show does so well. It’s that mix of zany and crazy, in this unbelievably mad world, but at the root of it, they are connections and relationships and emotions that every human has and has to deal with. They come out in such beautiful, honest ways, amidst all of the mad, zany, crazy stuff, which makes it even slightly more of an emotional hit.
KLEMMER: And it allows us to say things that I think we would be too embarrassed to say because we can retreat behind the silliness and the sarcasm. Between the lines, it’s very earnest.
If Ray is the good one who brings the positivity to the ship, with his departure, will other characters fill that void?
SHIMIZU: I feel like we always try to keep a balance of personalities on the ship. When we have a group scene, we know who’s gonna have the snarky comment, who’s gonna be the driver, who’s gonna try to get people on task, who’s gonna say the joke, and who’s gonna supply the positives. We always have that. We have a lot of people on the ship, and you’ll come to see in this season, that we have people who fill that space and need, for sure.
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: It makes the characters have to step up. Every time someone leaves, we have to step up and find a way forward. Everyone has to fill these holes, as the problems that we face get bigger and bigger, and I think everyone does a really good job of that, in a funny, playful way.
What can you say about bringing Arrow-verse executive producer Marc Guggenheim into this world, as a first-time director?
SHIMIZU: Marc crushed it, first of all, and not for any lack of challenge. We did basically present him with the hardest one. He was a first-time director, even though he’s been in this world for a very long time and has directed directors, essentially, as a showrunner, for many, many years. It’s an episode that’s a feel good comedy, a more serious period piece, a futuristic adventure piece, and a Legends episode, all rolled up into one. It was a lot.
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: And it’s two episodes before the finale, so it’s the culmination of the season and everything is coming together. You’ve got the fun, the playful and the light, but there’s this undercurrent of urgency, as we need to try and save the world ASAP.
KLEMMER: He worked so hard. On some level, we blame him for the cross-over and you could call this our revenge. [The episode] was basically four episodes in one, maybe five. It’s just a mash-up and hodgepodge of genres. Not to borrow an Arrow analogy, but it was the smallest bullseye. It could have been the most epic disaster ever, especially giving it to a first-time director, but he did the work.
SWANN: He smashed it. He was so fun to work with. If there was something going wrong, I wouldn’t know ‘cause he was just smiles, all the time. And he was involved with the actors, as well, which is a wonderful thing to have. He would come in and be like, “Hey, let’s talk about the scene,” and give really clear notes. He knew exactly what he wanted, and how to get it from everyone. It was a joy. It was one of my favorite episodes, for sure.
KLEMMER: We were jealous because it seemed like everybody and their cousin was doing a backdoor pilot, and nobody was asking for us to do one, so we did four. If anybody wants to pick them up, they’re available.
SWANN: And I’d happily be involved with any of them.
Having worked with so many different directors on this show, what did Caity Lotz bring, as a director?
KLEMMER: When it’s your moment to shine, you bring this intensity and focus. If it’s your 50th episode, whether it’s good or bad, it’s probably just gonna blend it. The other thing was that the crew and the cast were there with their arms lock, to support her. And the nice thing that we’re able to do as writers is we know Caity, we know her strengths, and we know her appetites and aesthetics, so we can tailor make an episode. Caity is obviously pretty good at action, so we can give her a John Woo, ‘90s, Hong Kong, Hard Boiled episode, and that glove fit her perfectly.
SWANN: The first time I met Caity was when she directed my scenes in the episode. I was terrified. I hadn’t worked with her as an actor yet, and the first time I was meeting her was as a director, but she was so chill and so calm. She knew exactly what she was doing, and it was a breeze. Because she’s an actor, she could work so well with Matt and I, and knew exactly what to say, to help us get to what she wanted. It was just so easy. It was great.
Caity, what was it like to get to direct your first episode of the series?
LOTZ: It was such a cool experience. I really, really loved it. I loved everything about it. Especially because it was my first one, I was so nervous. Everybody was so nice and helpful, and going above and beyond. I didn’t wanna disappoint anyone or not show up, so I prepped, like crazy. I literally did not sleep, for all of prep and while we were filming. It was so intense, but so much fun. The cast and crew rallied so hardcore, behind me. It was so sweet. Everyone really wanted me to be able to do the best that I could, and everyone was going above and beyond. It was so cool. It’s so fun to be able to like make the decision about things. So much of acting is like, “Okay, wear this, say this, stand here, do this.” And then, with directing, I get to be like, “Do this, say this, stand here, do that.” And also, how it’s fun, being able to manage the vibe of the set was cool. It was really cool.
Did they throw anything particularly fun or challenging at you, storyline wise?
LOTZ: Yeah, I had a John Woo-style episode, with massive action and something with electric scooters. There was a lot. The episode was humongous. It has two very different storylines happening that are both pretty intense. It was really cool.
As the director, how was it balancing that action with the more intense storyline of John Constantine dying of cancer?
LOTZ: You switch from one movie. Matt Ryan is so easy to direct. He just has no ego. You can give him the slightest little note, and he just flies with it. He and Olivia [Swann] have some really great scenes together. Their stuff, in the episode, is so cool, and that’s not even like the action madness part. And Ray and Gary have a nice storyline with Constantine. I can’t wait for you guys to see it. It’s so fun. And then, the action-heavy part was a huge. There was some cool motorcycle stuff, which they had to cut, and I hope they just release some of that footage, anyway. There was a lot of practical stuff. The Constantine storyline had a lot of visual effects, and then the other storyline had a lot of practical special effects, like a lot of squibs, air guns and blowing stuff up, which was really cool. You just track out each story, so specifically. I would break down the scripts. I had my own separate script, just for John’s storyline. I literally cut it out and put it as their own little movie. And then, the other story, which is a totally different vibe, was its own. I kept them separate.
How do you think Sara Lance feels about John Constantine, especially with their history together?
LOTZ: They slept together, and since then, it’s been like, “Well, that never happened.” That’s been there their take on it. I love Matt so much, as me, Caity, as an actor and a person, that I feel like it has to color how Sara feels about John Constantine. I think she’s happy to have him on the ship, especially with the stuff that they’ve been dealing with. It’s been good to have him around. And I think she understands him because she’s a lone wolf, too. She’s always been a lone wolf, so she gets what that’s like and what he’s like.
How freeing is it to be a part of a show where you can’t go too over-the-top or too crazy?
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: What I love about it is that it forces us just to trust and let go. Sometimes you can read something and you’re like, “Whoa, this is the one time we’ve gone too far,” and then, you see it and it’s the best episode. Really, just learning to trust and let go is such a beautiful lesson, as an actor, and just trusting your creatives. What more do you want?
SHIMIZU: And for us, in the room, the fact that anything is possible can sometimes be crippling ‘cause you’re just like, “Ah, what do we do?” But as long as we continually bring it back to the characters and their relationships to one another, it’s about the emotional journey, or the emo-jo. If we have that and that is solid, and we know who’s having a story with whom and what they’re going through, as a family, then where it’s set, who comes in, what crazy action set piece we have, and what weird genre we’re playing with is the fun that comes out of that core. Often, one will lead to the other. We’ll have this fun, emotional story, and then, we’ll be like, “What if we had this crazy thing thrown in there,” which would help the emotions of it. That often leads to a crazy discussion, which ends up in a wacky, insane episode of fun.
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: You guys have so refined the art of putting serious heart-wrenching drama alongside hilarious comedy, and making sure that neither one suffers, in 45 minutes. That’s a crazy talent, and one that you do, again and again. That’s the heart of this show, and why it works so well.
SHIMIZU: It’s a lot of fun to write, but it really is the actors and the crew who make it actually possible.
Do you have any plans for having guests from the other Arrow-verse shows to cross-over on Legends?
SHIMIZU: We’re interested, in that having character’s from people’s pasts come in can shake up the dynamic and challenge them, but we also don’t wanna rely on it. Our characters have become who they are because of what happened in the other world, or at least for the characters who were in “Crisis,” like Sara Lance. For instance, to bring her dad into the story, in a way, would be a step back for her because she had to deal with the loss of her father and grew because of that. We don’t wanna muddy the story too much. I love Paul Blackthorne. I worked with him a lot, when I was on Arrow. I adore the guy. If there was the right time and the right story to tell with him, sure, we would love to have him on the show. But our characters are so about moving forward, and taking all of the terrible things that have happened in their life, making it a strength, and then facing the challenge that’s ahead, that looking backwards doesn’t do them a lot of service.
What other episode are you most excited about, this season?
SWANN: Maybe Episode 12.
KLEMMER: Yeah, that’s a good one. It’s an old school shape, or a Neighbors 2 shape. It’s a Greek system, college raunch comedy with beer pong. It’s high stakes.
SWANN: There’s a lot going on. It’s good fun.
Is there a genre that you can’t play in, on Legends?
KLEMMER: Not sure yet. We should take bets. In a weird way, the noir we did, in Episode 502, is as straight as the show gets.
Legends of Tomorrow airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.