During this year’s “Crisis on Earth-X” Arrowverse crossover event, viewers were introduced to The Ray, the metahuman superhero alter ego of Ray Terrill.
Now it’s time for The Ray to truly shine, as the center of his own, animated streaming series on CW Seed.
Premiering Friday, Dec. 8 with its first six episodes, Freedom Fighters: The Ray starts off on Earth-X, where the titular band of heroes regularly clash with the Nazi New Reichsman, who are led by Overgirl. Soon enough, harrowing events find Earth-X’s Ray (voiced by Quantico‘s Russell Tovey) passing the baton to our own Ray Terrill — a mild-mannered public interest lawyer whose biggest fight in life is finding the words to come out as gay to his parents.
Arrowverse executive producer Marc Guggenheim spoke with TVLine about adding this new hero to the world of Oliver Queen & Co., how the animated adventure does (or doesn’t) fit into crossover continuity, and the unexpected touch of “evil” that Supergirl’s Melissa Benoist brought to her debut as Overgirl.
TVLINE | In The Ray‘s depiction of Earth-X we see the persecution of gays, minorities and women, while on Earth-One, Ray Terrill is working in public interest law — defending the interests of those considered “less than” by some. Is it coincidence we’re getting this series at this time in our political climate? What was the impetus for doing this series now?
There are two different questions there, and two different answers. When The CW first came to me with the idea of doing The Ray, it’s not as simple as saying yes or no. You’ve got to ask, and I did, “Well, which Ray are we talking about?” Because there are a lot of different iterations. The one I gravitated towards was the one from Grant Morrison’s “Mutliversity” comic, because he had come up with this really cool, compelling idea that on Earth-X, the Nazis were opposed by a group of superheroes who happen to be made up of members of various oppressed groups. That was interesting to me from a storytelling perspective, and it also made doing The Ray as a part of the Arrowverse, in animated form, worthwhile.
The truth of the matter is it’s a lot of work to do these animated series, and I don’t find it interesting to do them just to do them; I like to chart new territory for the Arroweverse in the process. What was great about Grant’s take on The Ray is it afforded us the opportunity to not just get into Earth-X but do something we’ve never done before, which is a metahuman, gay superhero. We’ve got a non-powered one in [Arrow‘s] Mr. Terrific, and we’ve got a metahuman bad guy [Pied Piper] on The Flash, but we’ve never done a metahuman, gay superhero before.
In terms of the time in which we live…. We wrote this long before Charlottesville, but after Trump [was elected President of the United States]. That being said, the issues that Ray deals with as a public interest lawyer on Earth-One… I wish I could say they’re a recent phenomenon, but they’re unfortunately not. I was managing editor of the public interest law journal at my law school back in the early ’90s, and I can tell you that a lot of these issues that we were writing about then are still very present today. There are some things we’ve made enormous progress on, but there are others that we really, really havent. The issues that The Ray, the series, and The Ray, the character are dealing with are both timeless and timely.
TVLINE | For those who consumed the “Crisis on Earth-X” crossover, what do you want to say about how this fits into that continuity, if at all? Overgirl, for one, is alive….
It’s a little messy, I’m not going to lie to you. [Former Arrowverse EP] Andrew Kreisberg and I were of differing minds about how tightly the animated series, which was written before the crossover, should tie in.
TVLINE | If anything, this is a prequel. Of sorts.
It definitely is a prequel, of sorts; it explains The Ray’s presence on Earth-X. I would say it’s a prequel that requires an additional story hopefully be told down the road, to clean up the continuity. I’ve been kicking around the idea of a comic book story that would fix the continuity inconsistencies. Who knows! Maybe that will happen.
TVLINE | Coming out of Episode 3: Once Earth-One’s Ray gets comfortable with his new destiny, what sort of threats will he face?
He faces some pretty street-level kind of threats and antagonists at the beginning. But in true superhero origin story fashion, he begin to “level up,” to the point where — and I don’t want to spoil too much — he will eventually be clashing with Overgirl, which is fun. But we have to start him off easy. We don’t throw him into the deep end of the pool from go!
TVLINE | On top of it all, he has coming out to parents to grapple with.
And that was a tricky, tricky scene to write. One of the writers I work with is gay, and he was very, very instrumental in crafting that scene. It’s a tricky scene to write in general, because you want to avoid all of the clichés, But it’s particularly tricky in animation, where you don’t have the benefit of a lot of nuances in performance that you have with actors in live-action. Again, since we had such a challenge for ourselves in avoiding clichés and not telling that kind of story in a way that’s been seen before, we set the bar pretty high for ourselves. I’ll leave it to the audience to tell us if we cleared it. It was tricky, but I’m proud of the finished product.
TVLINE | Is there a Leo Snart in this world?
There isn’t, because we conceived of this before Leo was a twinkle in our eye. Maybe, if there’s a Season 2…? And Wentworth [Miller] is up for it? That would be great.
TVLINE | Aside from Russell Tovey reprising his role as Ray from the crossover, what familiar voices should people keep their ears open for?
Absolutely Melissa Benoist. Absolutely Melissa Benoist. We had produced this long before the crossover, so I had the benefit of being treated to Melissa’s amazing performance as Overgirl in voice-acting form first. She’s just terrific, and she was so game.
TVLINE | In that crossover scene where Overgirl was talking to our Kara about proudly serving “the Fatherland,” Melissa had this way of squaring her shoulders and putting something extra into her diction….
A little bit, yeah. She gets it. Look, no Nazi thinks, “I am a Nazi, therefore I am evil!” They believe in their cause; that’s what makes them so dangerous. And Melissa — despite being a lovely, good person — is able to find within herself this incredible evil.