In the “I Am Legends” episode of The CW series Legends of Tomorrow, the 24-hour immortality that the Legends received after drinking from the Chalice doesn’t quite go as planned. And while they’re stuck at Constantine’s (Matt Ryan) house in London as a zombie apocalypse is unleashed, Astra (Olivia Swann) must answer for a promised favor that could throw a wrench into even her plans.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Olivia Swann talked about the fun of never being prepared for what the Legends get into, finding her place among this team, what to expect from this episode, the dynamic between Astra and the sisters, how Astra feels about Constantine, and how there will be a lot of unexpected moments, before the season is done.
Collider: When you started on this show, were you prepared for just how weird and wild it can get sometimes, especially when you end up doing things with this team?
OLIVIA SWANN: I was a hundred percent not prepared, in the best way. If you go in expecting something, that’s never fun. Going in and doing two episodes at the end of Season 4, and then jumping into this season, it’s been such a whirlwind. Astra ending up in a college sorority situation is something that I would never have predicted. It’s been glorious, the whole different way that the show goes. Jumping through time and genres, and everything, has just been so much fun. I’m glad I had no idea because it’s been a roller coaster of fun.
The joy of watching this show is that, no matter how many seasons I’ve watched, I’m still not prepared for how weird and wild it can get.
SWANN: Absolutely, one hundred percent.
When you started on the show, your storyline was very separate from the team, but now Astra is figuring out how she can fit in with them. What’s that been like for you to figure out, as you get to work closer with this cast and get to know how they all work with each other? How has it been to find your place among the team, as a co-star and as a character?
SWANN: As a co-star, it was really super easy and it’s so wonderful. The cast are incredible. They’re so nice. Honestly, I think it’s the nicest group of people you could put together. So, for me, on a personal level, fitting in was glorious and a breeze. But for Astra, it was completely the opposite. Even just doing one episode, going from full-on hell mode to slightly shifting in 512, “Freaks and Geek,” you can see a little bit of her frostiness chipped away. I was like, “How is she being nice? Is she nice? Is that something she can be?” I was trying to figure all of that out. I was like, “How would she smile, in a nice way that’s not menacing?” It was really interesting, trying to figure all of that out. It was more of a challenge, integrating Astra into this team than it was for me, working with everyone else, which that makes sense.
Astra is a bit of a wild card. Every time we think we might have a handle on who she is, she does something that makes you question that. Is there a fun in that?
SWANN: I enjoy it. I know what she’s been through. I know the life she’s had. I know it’s been hard and how much she’s had to work to get up the ladder to get the amount of power that she had in hell. That side of it is really fun. She’s grown up in hell, so what she wants, she wants, she goes for. That might include working with people, and it might include working by herself. The audience never knows, but no one else does either. She goes with what’s right for her to do, at that point in time, which could be construed as selfish, but I see it as opportunistic. That’s lots of fun.
Even though she has a bit of an attitude towards pretty much everyone, do you think that she’s more fond of the team than she lets on?
SWANN: I would say yes, but it’s more of a begrudging, “Okay, fine.” It’s not enthusiastic, at all. It has an element of, “Well, I’m here, so I might as well maybe go with it.” That’s super fun to play, rather than being on board with everything.
We’ve seen Gary get an emotional support animal, which might also do Astra some goods. If she were to get a pet to help try to calm her down, what sort of pet do you think would be good for her? What do you think should be able to keep alive?
SWANN: Gosh. I think she’d want something huge and something big, like a black panther or a leopard, or just something that could kill someone, if they got annoying. It would probably have to care for itself because she’d be off somewhere. It should be something along those lines.
What can you say to tease this next episode and her role in the events that occur in it?
SWANN: It’s a direct pick-up from Episode 512. Everyone, apart from Zari, is immortal for 24 hours, which is glorious, except the Legends are stranded in England, in the middle of nowhere and Lachesis has caught up and wants her favor, so they’re all separated and the sisters are on the ship. It’s a pretty intense, epic episode with two pretty varied storylines going on. It’s a cinematic, immersive episode. The stakes are very high, for all of the characters, which is wonderful to see You get some really lovely moments between characters, which make you really invested in it. It’s an episode that goes on a journey with a lot of roller coaster moments, which is very exciting to watch. And there are zombies.
Were you bummed, at all, that you didn’t get to be a part of the zombies apocalypse and be a bad-ass zombie killer?
SWANN: Initially, when we were filming, I was like, “You know what? I’m indoors, out of the rain, so I’m okay. I don’t mind.” But watching it, I was like, “This looks like the most fun, running around, running away from zombies and fighting zombies.” So, it was half and half.
What did you enjoy about getting to explore the dynamic between Astra and these sisters, and getting to really see what that relationship is like?
SWANN: Yes, they’re wonderful. Sarah [Strange] and Joanna [Vanderham], who play Lachesis and Atropos, are two incredible women, both so polar opposite. Their characters are very opposite, as well. What I love about scenes with Lachesis is that we see where Astra gets her manipulative character from. It’s interesting, seeing that there’s someone who is more manipulative than she is, which makes Astra kind of worried. There’s a person who has more control over Astra than Astra does, which is unheard of, so it was really interesting, playing with that. And Sarah is someone who lives in everything with such ease. She didn’t have to even play her status over Astra because she has that status. That’s wonderful to play around with. Joanna, as Atropos, has this incredible, almost robotic way of moving. It was very cool to watch. That dynamic of the two, just being so opposite, was really fun to be around.
At the beginning of this season, we were led to believe that Astra was going to be the big bad villain, and while she may have been Constantine’s villain for a bit, we’ve since learned that she’s been manipulated. Did you know that was the case, from the beginning? Did you know that things with Astra weren’t quite what they appeared?
SWANN: I didn’t, and I’m actually quite glad. Things pop up, when you’re reading the script, which really surprise you, and that keeps everything really fresh and really exciting. Also, it takes the pressure off, a little bit. You can be like, “Oh, I don’t have to be as evil as I thought, the whole time. Someone else can be evil for a bit.” It adds more to Astra’s story and her backstory, having other pieces involved, which I find really fascinating. I adore discovering more about Astra, as we go on. I’m all for it.
At this point, how does Astra feel about John Constantine?
SWANN: At this point, she doesn’t have her mom back, and John he’d get her mom back. I don’t think things have changed, at the moment. Until he does what he says he’s gonna do, if he does and if he can, then she’s gonna hate the guy. He owes her a lot.
Both Astra and Charlie are left in very interesting places, at the end of this episode. Without spoilers, would you say there’s more going on there than we realize? Should we not just take things as they appear?
SWANN: With Legends, anything and everything is possible, so take from that what you will. Anything more would be a spoiler.
Clearly, things aren’t going to be so easy, when it comes to the Loom of Fate. Will that continue to be the case?
SWANN: Yeah. The struggle isn’t over just yet, I’d say. It’s much more than just being immortal for 24 hours. It’s not that. It’s definitely a lot more of a struggle than that, for sure. Zombies were one thing. That’s probably the easiest side of everything that’s coming.
By the time we get to the end of this season, how surprised do you think we’ll be by what happens, as a result of the Loom of Fate?
SWANN: The wonderful thing about Legends is that something so many unexpected directions. If you think one thing is gonna happen, something else will happen. There’s gonna be a lot of unexpected moments, for sure. Maybe there will be some moments that wrap up nicely. It’s gonna be a healthy mix of everything.
What have you loved about Astra, since day one of getting to play her, and what have you grown to appreciate about her, the longer you’ve played her?
SWANN: I’ve learned to appreciate that she’s actually just human. She’s a human being who grew up in a bizarre, crazy, terrifying situation, and that made her appear less human and more demonic, and like someone who’s terrifying and powerful. But at the heart of that, she’s still human, like everybody else, and wants human things, like a family and connection. She just hides that very well. So, it’s been nice to be able to view her more as a human and as someone who we can relate to. That’s helped me, in playing her. Being able to get into that myself has been really lovely.
Legends of Tomorrow airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.