On the “Here I Go Again” episode of The CW series Legends of Tomorrow, Zari (Tala Ashe) finds herself trapped in a Groundhog Day-style time loop that results in the Waverider blowing up, over and over again. Learning that the answer to stop what’s happening lies in her fellow shipmates’ secrets, she starts investigating them, which gives her a new understanding of her place on the team and a new respect for the Legends.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Tala Ashe talked about the collaborative process of developing Zari, the challenges of shooting a character-centric episode and being in every scene, why she was good with not having to wear the disco wardrobe, getting to interact with Gideon (Amy Louise Pemberton), in the flesh, having Kid Flash (Keiynan Lonsdale) join the Legends, and learning about the totem mythology. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.
Collider: I love your character, but I feel like we still haven’t gotten to see enough of her yet. However, it sounds like, with this next episode, will we get to see a lot more of her!
TALA ASHE: You’re gonna be so sick of her, after this next episode!
When you signed on to play Zari, just how much did you know about who she is and who she’d become, and how much has learning about her surprised you?
ASHE: I didn’t know a ton, coming in. I knew the basics, that she’s from the future and that she’s Muslim American. The way that Phil [Klemmer] and Marc [Guggenheim] talked about it, I felt like I was in good hands and that we could have a dialogue about it. They were really open, from the beginning, to finding the character together, and that has been a journey for all of us. I’m still, I feel like, learning new things about Zari, all the time, and exploring new dimensions and sides of her. She surprises me. It’s been really fun to develop the character, with the help of Marc and Phil and the zany adventures we go on every week, that she has to wrap her head around.
What have you been most excited about, as far as what she’s been able to become and do, over the course of the season?
ASHE: It’s been fun for me to see her take ownership of her powers. She feels like she doesn’t deserve her powers, or that her powers belong to her brother. You’ll see, by the end of the season, her being a full, embodied totem barer. That’s been exciting for me to see. Also, both on screen and off, integrating more into the team, as Tala and Zari, has been really interesting and fun. This episode is where Zari embraces being a part of the team and calling these people her family, by the end of it. It’s really interesting and, hopefully, a good pay-off, as far as how we get there.
How did you first learn that there would be a Zari-centric episode, and what was your reaction to learning about it?
ASHE: The first time I heard was when there was a writer on set who was like, “Oh, get ready! There’s an episode where you’re gonna be in every scene!” Even episodes which are centered around someone, there’s usually a B-story. So, I was like, “Wait, what does that mean?!” And then, I started hearing the words “Groundhog Day.” And then, I got the script that our writers, Ray [Utarnachitt] and Morgan [Faust] wrote, and I was blown away because it was so different than anything that’s been done on Legends before. It was really, really fun and really challenging, and so important to character development for Zari. It justifies why she’s stayed on the team, up to this point, and what she’s been planning on plotting on her own, and what her own agenda has been. It justifies her being a Legend.
You were told that you were going to be in every scene, but what does the reality of that actually feel like? What are the challenges involved with actually being in every scene?
ASHE: It was a bottle episode, so we were in the stage the whole time, but I joked that I would Airbnb one of the ships’ rooms for 10 days because I was there a lot. It was pretty much 14 to 16 hours, every day. I care so much about Zari and I care so much about who she is, that when you get the opportunity to develop a character like this, do this kind of work, and have the kind of arc that she has, from the beginning of the episode to the end, which is so big, I was just excited and ready to work and happy to be there. Our director, Ben Bray was just such a great partner in figuring it out and making me feel supported and talking me through it. I think it’s the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had, actually, being on television.
It looks like there was an interesting disco vibe going on, for this episode, which you didn’t necessarily get to participate in. Were you disappointed not to get to rock some of that white spandex?
ASHE: I’m not upset about that. The thing about time travel is that it’s so fun on the first day. But then, by the fifth day that you’re wearing it, you’re like, “This is uncomfortable and takes so long to do!” I had so much on my plate with this episode that I begged for that Buffalo-checked shirt that you’ll see me wearing, which I also got sick of. I was so glad to be in my Chucks and my flannel shirt. They looked great, though.
In this episode, Zari gets to interact with Gideon, in the flesh. What sort of dynamic do they have?
ASHE: It’s interesting. There’s definitely an antagonism between Zari and Gideon. Zari has messed with her operating system before, as a hacker, so there’s a little bit of wariness where Gideon is like, “You’re not my friend and I don’t trust you.” And Zari is like, “Well, I don’t really trust you, either. Just do what I say.” That’s where we are. I think there’s a mutual respect gained, by the end of the episode, from both of them. It was really, really fun to have Amy [Louise Pemberton] there, in the flesh.
You also have Kid Flash joining the Legends. What sort of vibe will he bring with him and how will he change the team dynamic, and what’s it been like to have Keiynan Lonsdale join the show?
ASHE: As a person, I love Keiynan so, so much. I can’t overstate how wonderful he is and how grateful I am for his energy. Whenever someone new joins the show, it’s an exciting new energy. You’ll actually see Zari and Wally clash. By the end of Episode 311, Zari is like, “Okay, these team members are my family,” and then this new guy comes in and it’s like, “Who is this guy?!” He’s very over-eager, and he’s shiny and happy, which is not Zari’s vibe. There’s actually a really fun episode, coming up, where you’re gonna see Wally and Zari solve crimes together, and their differences will be highlighted. But I think, ultimately, there is an echoing of her own brother in Wally and I hope that actually gets explored more, as we go.
In the last episode, we learned that Zari is “one of the six.” How will that play into the story that’s being told?
ASHE: What I can say is that much of the rest of the season is gonna be about the totem mythology, and a lot of it centers around Amaya, but also these other totems. That’s what you’re gonna see play out, and with that, you’re gonna see more and more Mallus, and more and more of an embodiment of Mallus, which is fun and scary.
At this point, who would you say Zari is the closest to and has the most respect for, out of the team?
ASHE: Oh, that’s hard! I think, in a way, she really, really respects Sara, as her Captain. There’s also something about Amaya being the totem barer and guiding Zari through her journey as a totem barer, which directly coordinates with why Zari feels that she can embody her powers. There’s a very sweet friendship between Zari and Amaya, and a deep respect there, even though they’ve lived a hundred years apart.
Legends of Tomorrow airs on Monday nights on The CW.