In Episode 504, entitled “A Head of Her Time,” The CW series Legends of Tomorrow, Sara (Caity Lotz) is called away to Star City on business and leaves Ava (Jes Macallan) in charge of the Waverider and the Legends. At the same time, the team must take on their latest Encore, Marie Antoinette (Courtney Ford), while John Constantine (Matt Ryan) must confront someone from his past, in order to move forward.
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, who talked about Zari 2.0, what life is like in hell, what’s in store for the Constantine-Charlie-Astra trio, Charlie (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) being the punk rock hedonism to Astra’s (Olivia Swann) sadism, going from playing Amaya to playing Charlie, and how easy it can be to bring your character to life, when it’s all right there on the page.
Question: What can you say to tease Episode 504?
PHIL KLEMMER: It’s really a Zari 2.0 episode because, in the previous episode, she’s effectively a stowaway and only on the team under semi-captivity conditions. We just really wanted to find an episode in which the skill set of a 21st century media influencer would be useful. For us, Marie Antoinette felt larger than life. Love her or hate her, she was the original influencer. The idea of Encores coming back to life and wanting to do dastardly things gets boring, and there’s something sad about Marie Antoinette. She was a bit of an innocent. The idea is that Zari was a child star who got swept up into fame and fortune, once you’re in that world, a la the Kardashians, you’re a prisoner of that life. And so, we just thought it was a cool parallel, meeting Marie Antoinette. And Ava is the least concerned with her image and influencing people. She influences, just by her sheer authority and bureaucratic will. The fact that she would have to lean on new Zari in Sara’s absence, it was sweet.
OLIVIA SWANN: Meanwhile in hell, we get a glimpse into Astra’s life down there, who she interacts with, what she’s been doing, and how she gets on with life, in literal hell. That was something that was a question for me. How does she survive down there? What does she do? Obviously, she knows people. So, we get a glimpse into that little bit of a backstory, which will play out in whatever way it wants to go. It was interesting, having an interaction that didn’t involve something Machiavellian, which was quite nice. There were still tinges of the hell vibe, for sure.
How would you tease the team dynamic with Zari, as she becomes more a part of the Waverider?
KETO SHIMIZU: First of all, we are so excited about Zari 2.0, as we call her. With the conception of her, in the room, as this Kardashian socialite, we were like, can we do this? Is this gonna work? And then, we got into a dialogue with Tala [Ashe], and she was really excited about it and brought a bunch of really fun ideas to the table. It’s been a really great collaboration with her, on how to make this character very distinct and fun, but also grounded and to have some real surprising depth because that’s not something you usually see in these types of characters.
MAISIE RICHARDSON-SELLERS: We are a product of our environments, so once she’s taken out of this Z-Nation world and is put within the Legends, how does that change her? She starts to actually see some bits of old Zari coming out, and some bits are really not there. Her journey is really fascinating, this season, because she’s forced to confront herself.
SHIMIZU: In terms of her relationships on the ship, we’ll get to see how hurt she and her brother relate to one another. This is a fraught sibling relationship, and to see how that evolves, over the season, and to see her form friendships, like the one in Episode 4 that she forms with Ava, that becomes part of the show. That’s her first real friend, with someone who actually likes her for being her, and not because she’s famous. For her to be taken out of her environment where everyone is like, “Yes, Zari, you’re amazing, you’re beautiful, you’re a genius,” and to have to deal with like some real-life stuff – real life being time travel and bringing people back from the dead – and for her to then have to form these bonds, it’s been a really exciting journey.
What can you say about what’s in store for Charlie?
GRAINNE GODFREE: The beginning of this season is all about these Encores and these villains from hell, but as the season goes on, it becomes much more about Charlie’s backstory and uncovering what she’s been running from, this whole time. Maisie [Richardson-Sellers] does a terrific job. Her character and Olivia’s character, Astra, have an interesting intersection that we piece out and explore. Hopefully, we did a good job with it. It’s a crazy storyline. You won’t see it coming. I can guarantee you that you will not guess. In the writers’ room, we try to surprise each other and make each other laugh. We’re constantly just trying to top each other’s pitches and get to the craziest, zaniest and wackiest thing possible, while including character and making it emotional . . . We do go to the well, using our own characters and giving them backstory. We’re creating connections with the villains, but that’s just to make it all more personal. It’s hard to have a villain that has no connection to any of your characters, and make that feel deep.
What’s going on with Charlie and Constantine?
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: We see a new side to Charlie ‘cause she’s forced to confront some old demons, even if she doesn’t want to. We also see Constantine and her create this interesting relationship, whereby they both find out really crucial parts of their history and challenge each other to come to terms with that, and to bring it out and share that with the rest of the group, and there are some very serious consequences of that.
SHIMIZU: This is a character who, up until now, has really just lived in the present, to just be in whatever moment she’s in and take advantage of it, and to have as much fun and revelry as possible. Now, things are starting to finally catch up to her. In this episode, in particular, she’s having to deal with that. With someone like John, who is constantly weighed down by his past and is very open about it, to have those two characters come together, in this way, is like recognizing like. Both of them call each other on their BS.
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: We see a whole different side to Charlie, which is really exciting. We saw her more fun, sparky, playful side, last season. Now, finally, we get to see her more serious, vulnerable side, and that really challenges her, as not even a person, but as a magical being or entity. It also challenges the relationships that she’s built with each of the Legends. It’s fun to see a different side of each of these bonds and dynamics.
Maisie, did you have to go through your own process, yourself, saying goodbye to your own character, starting over as another character, finding a new personality and re-establishing relationships? Did it feel like saying goodbye to someone?
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: Definitely. I still miss Amaya. It’s really interesting to recreate the bonds that she has with each individual character. Amaya had very specific relationships, so to have to let go of all of that and start a fresh was sad, but also refreshing. It was really fun to go in the polar opposite direction. It would have been harder, if the two characters were closer and more similar, but because they were so different, I wanted to wipe the slate and start again. As an actor, that’s my dream. I love playing diverse, wonderful, fantastic, contrasting people, or magical entities. It was a really cool challenge, and I loved it.
SHIMIZU: It was really wonderful, seeing how incredibly well [Maisie] brought this new version of herself to life, last year. For us, we loved her so much that we didn’t want to say goodbye. When Amaya’s story had come to it’s rightful conclusion, we were like, “Okay, but there’s gotta be a way. We’re dealing with magical creatures this year, so there’s gotta be a way that can help us.” So, we used the conceit of the magical creatures to come up with the shapeshifter character, and had her come back as this totally different person. It took a lot of sort of figuring out, of how exactly we were gonna tell that story, but we were so happy we did because she killed it. It’s been so fun. Once we saw her come to life and saw how her chemistry had changed with the different characters that she was interacting with, it really helped us figure out even more who she was and how to write her.
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: You guys have such a clear voice for each of us, which was really helpful. The characters are on the page. All we have to do is just bring that to life. And we know we always have a open door, so we’re always bringing ideas back to each other and we can ask any questions that we want, which really helps us feel safe and secure within this crazy world.
SHIMIZU: It also helps us. It helps us flush out characters and figure out things. We love having that dialogue with you guys because it really keeps us honest. If there’s something that, just in the haste of trying to put the story together, we didn’t really think about, an actor realizes that and [lets us know], which brings out a much better scene because of it.
What can you say about the Charlie-Astra dynamic?
RICHARDSON-SELLERS: It’s a very unlikely cross-over between worlds, with Constantine is the linking factor between that. It’s fun, when they finally do meet, to see that dynamic and how that actually plays out. That was a really fun challenge. It’s such great writing, to play these two strong, powerful women, who have both been so traumatized by history, and they’re forced to work together for the greater good, basically. That’s a really fun season-long journey that we explore.
SWANN: They meet, at some point, and it’s not particularly easy. It’s interesting seeing Astra not in her comfort zone. Ironically, hell is her comfort there. It’s interesting to see her in her own version of hell . . . The thing that’s important about her is that she’s still essentially this little girl, who got chucked into this situation, which is terrifying. How do you truly get away from that, when that’s your life?
PHIL KLEMMER: Charlie is punk rock hedonism, and Astra is sadism and Machiavellian.
SWANN: It’s a clash.
How would you describe Astra’s relationship with John Constantine? How does she see him, at this point?
SWANN: At this point, she sees him as a complete waste of space and absolutely the person who ruined her life, which is always a fun way to start a relationship. She sees him as this guy who has this air about him, where he wants to save everyone, but not about that for her. He was the one who put her in this situation, so therefore, he doesn’t get to save her. She sees him as this anomaly in her life, which made it such a hardship, so she needs to eradicate that. Her throughline is to not have him around ‘cause it would make her life easier, if he wasn’t here. It’s a very rocky relationship, I’d say, and that’s putting it quite lightly. That’s the fun in it. It’s like, how can we find different levels to this, as he tries to reach out to her and she backs away, or she comes at him with a very different approach or attack, which is always good fun to play around with. Being the villain is great.
KLEMMER: And she’s got his number. He’s so vulnerable and such a soft mark for her. It’s just so weird to see Constantine, who’s normally the most cynical and who’s seen all of the angles, and you understand that Astra is his Kryptonite. She has eating out of her hands, so quickly. His way of moving through life is trying to fix this thing, but he’s so focused on that, that he doesn’t see the carnage that he’s creating everywhere else.
SWANN: There’s a power that she knows she has, and she chooses when to utilize it, and when to just let things be a mess, and you see how he figures it out. That’s always fun.
Legends of Tomorrow airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.