Marking Arrow-verse executive producer Marc Guggenheim’s directorial debut, the episode of The CW series Legends of Tomorrow that’s entitled “The One Where We’re Trapped on TV” is a wild one, with Charlie (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) having trapped the Legends in different television shows. While Charlie thinks she’s protecting the Legends from her sisters, there’s not a chance that things will turn out as planned, as the Legends always find a way to screw things up, in the best way possible.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, Marc Guggenheim talked about how blown away he was by this script, written by Grainne Godfree and James Eagan), the challenges of pulling off something like this, creating five different environments for one episode, balancing a fun story with moving the plot forward toward the season finale, what he learned about directing from jumping in and doing it, and his hope to try his hand at it again soon.
Collider: Even with the history of the bizarre and unusual on Legends of Tomorrow, this episode is the most bizarre and most unusual.
MARC GUGGENHEIM: That’s great to hear. That really makes me happy. Grainne Godfree and James Eagan wrote such an amazing episode that I was just blown away by how awesome the script was.
When you read the script and knew you’d be directing it, did you immediately regret signing up to direct to this episode?
GUGGENHEIM: Oh, yes. The funny thing is that I think the writers delighted in how tricky it was. It was like, “Okay, this is gonna be hard. This is gonna be a lot more difficult than I thought.” But at the same time, it really was an incredibly rewarding experience. When I read the script, I was immediately filled with terror, but the thing I’ve learned, from these shows is that you just take it one step at a time. You don’t think about the entire episode, or the entire season, or the entire crossover. You just think about one page at a time, and one moment at a time. If you do that, you can usually get through it.
How would you describe this episode, entitled “The One Where We’re Trapped on TV,” to preview it?
GUGGENHEIM: The Legends find themselves scattered across various television shows, and have to find their way back to the “real world.”
Aside from the fact that you had to create this weird new world that the sisters have brought about, you also had to create four different TV shows for the Legends to inhabit. What was all of that like to do? How long did that take to prep and have ready?
GUGGENHEIM: The thing is, the prep time for every episode is always the same. It’s always eight business days. You don’t get an additional day. So, the art department had to design the looks of all of these different shows and different worlds, and it’s four shows, but it’s really five environments because of Loom world, as well, and any one of them would have been plenty of work for any art department, on a single episode. How they did five, I will never know. Honestly, everybody gave me their A-game, and they just killed it. They absolutely killed it. You start by talking each thing, one step at a time. That was also the approach that we took in prep. People worked hard, and they worked long hours. I wish they had additional time because they absolutely could have used it, but they managed to pull all of this off in eight days.
Were the four TV shows that the Legends are trapped in always the shows, or did any of them have to change, at all?
GUGGENHEIM: They were always scripted. I think in the writers’ room, there were other shows considered, but the script, itself, did not change that much, from the very first draft. There were really no significant changes. There were moments, here and there, to dial in or to connect the logic or emotion on, but it was always these four shows. We just had to dive in and go full speed ahead.
What were the challenges in giving each one of the shows enough time to have some fun with it, but still have it connect to this larger story that you’re telling with the Loom of Fate?
GUGGENHEIM: Honestly, I feel like that was the genius of Grainne and James’ script. They managed to craft something that was not only clever, but that also gave you a sense of whimsy and fun while also moving the actual plot forward. I give all of the credit to them, for constructing such a dense and complex episode.
What did you learn about directing and your strengths as a director, from taking on this episode? And has it made you think about not only doing it again, but taking on a film, at some point?
GUGGENHEIM: Thanks for the question. Absolutely! The moment I finished, and actually even before I finished, when I got about half-way through, I was like, “When do I get to do this again? I need to do this again.” I had such a good time. It exercised very familiar muscles. I think there’s a lot of overlap between being a showrunner and being a director. There are certain skills that both jobs require. At the same time, I got to stretch completely new muscles and utilize completely different skills, and I’m desperate to try it again. I would love to direct a movie, if it was the right movie under the right circumstances. I’ve always hired directors, based upon what I felt their level of not just experience, but talent was, and fitting them with the right project. I wouldn’t want to direct a movie, just to direct a movie. I would wanna direct the right kind of movie. At some point, I would love to also direct something that I’ve actually written ‘cause I imagine that would also be a slightly different experience. I hope I get a chance to do so, sooner rather than later. It’s hard to know what’s gonna happen with the pandemic.
Legends of Tomorrow airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.