The time is now for DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
The CW’s timey-wimey Arrow/Flash offshoot debuts this Thursday at 8/7c, as Rip Hunter recruits Sara Lance/White Canary, Ray Palmer/The Atom, Captain Cold and Heat Wave, Firestorm’s Professor Stein and Jax Jackson, and Hawkgirl and Hawkman to find and stop the immortal Vandal Savage from conquering Earth.
The series is an undertaking as sizable as its cast, endeavoring to bring Avengers-style team-ups to the small screen. To buckle you up best for the wild ride, TVLine invited executive producer Marc Guggenheim to take us inside the “insane” series’ development. Plus, in the slideshow below, is a character-by-character guide to the Waverider’s assembly of unlikely allies.
TVLINE | What surprised you most as you started bringing Legends to life?
I think what surprised us the most is how well the zaniness played. You’ve got this combination of characters — a time traveler, two men who inhabit one body, a deceased assassin, reincarnated hawkpeople, two criminals, a guy who shrinks down and flies — so this show is by definition insane, and one of the decisions we made very early on is, “OK, we’re either going to double down on that or play it safe,” and we decided, “We’re going to double down.” And what pleasantly surprised us is how well that gamble paid off. The other thing that’s surprising — we’re in production now on Episode 10 of 16 — is I cannot tell you that there is a typical episode. Like, every episode is different, every episode has its own unique perspective. It’s very different from Arrow or Flash in that respect. There’s no Villain of the Week, there’s no prototypical episode.
TVLINE | I was going to say, from the first two hours it would seem you have the Chase After the Latest Vandal Savage Clue episode, and there’s the Fix Something in the Timeline We Screwed Up! episode.
And I would say we actually haven’t done many more episodes like that. Certainly we’ve screwed things up [in the timeline], because that’s fun, and pursuing Vandal Savage is the raison d’être of the team, but there’s no paradigmatic episode. They’re all unique little beasts, and that is part of the fun of the show and the thing people will really want to embrace.
TVLINE | In what specific ways have these characters, who previously were supporting on other shows, acquired texture as co-leads?
Part of it is a tonal change — like, Sara’s a little lighter. And part of it is an opportunity to get to know these characters better, and as we do they take on better dimensions. On Flash, Snart’s dad was a bastard and so he became a criminal, but when you spend more time with him you start to realize that that origin story has nuances to it. It’s the same story but a deepened version. We’re not retconning anything. Anything you know is still true, but now your perspective changes as the result of additional information. Similarly with Ray Palmer, there’s more that he can do. He’s not a character who’s just in a relationship with Felicity, a guy you check in with at Palmer Tech. He’s driving his own story now and you learn more about who he is as a person.
TVLINE | The group fight scenes are crazy-elaborate. Even if a character is barely in the frame, you can see they’re doing something very specific at any given instant. Would you say they’ll be more the exception than the rule?
No, actually. Every director since Glen Winter, who directed the first two hours, has had their own approach, but one thing we’ve been doing is trying to steer the directors more towards those Avengers-style tableaus. As Glen and I discussed at length in the pilot, it took as much time to shoot those big tableau shots as it would to cover it traditionally, so we made the decision, “You know what? Let’s take the time to do it.” There’s a lot of choreography in terms of fight choreography and camera moves and the explosions that go off, all of that has to be very tightly coordinated. It’s like doing a oner [single-take shot]. But I think it gives you the cinematic scope we’re going for, it gives you the team interaction we’re going for.
TVLINE | Is there an era you’re almost intimidated to take on? One you might put in your pocket for Season 2?
There really should be — if we had any common sense! Honestly, it was the ’70s that intimidated me the most. The ’70s are tricky because if they’re not pulled off well it comes off really, really campy. In many ways, the era I was afraid of the most we got out of the way from jump. I’m not saying it’s always going to be smooth sailing, but a big part of all of these shows is we tend to do the stuff that scares us. I don’t know what in our psychology compels us to do that, but it’s working. We have an amazing, amazing art team and props team and wardrobe team….
TVLINE | Sometimes its just a filter on the camera to make the ’70s look a little less saturated, a little hazy….
And sometimes you just get lucky too. Joe Dante (Gremlins) is directing an episode that takes place in the late 1950s. We didn’t write the episode to take place in the late 1950s because Joe Dante was directing it, but damn if he is not the perfect director to realize that era, especially since we’re doing an Amblin-style version of the late 50s.
TVLINE | Are you going to carefully mete out the Back to the Future-type episodes, where someone meets their past self? Or are you going to get them all out of the way?
No, we’re going to measure those out because you’ve got to be careful about those. There is one coming up in the third episode that’s very different from when Stein meets his younger self [in Episode 2]. There’s a glimpse of it in the trailer, when Snart meets his younger self, and honestly it’s the most emotional moment in the series so far. It’s fantastic and it’s so different, and the reason we did it in the third episode is we felt we could get away with it because it is so different from our version in Episode 2.
Enter the slideshow below for our character-by-character guide to the Legends: