At the recent Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL, there was an opportunity to sit down with Brandon Routh to reflect on his time as the Man of Steel in Superman Returns, as well as his current gig as Ray Palmer (AKA The Atom) on the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow, the latter of which is the focus of this installment of our conversation.
In its third season, Legends became a much more fun show to watch. Has the making of it evolved in a positive way?
It’s definitely been more fun to make as well. The first season, we were locked into the structure that they set up with Vandal Savage as the bad guy. We knew we couldn’t kill him until the end of the season, so we were stuck in that model of finding ourselves, finding the love of humor and how much we were going to stick to the script and stick to the storyline and stick to the rules. And we’ve realized, through a lot of back and forth and challenges in the first two seasons, that we didn’t really want to stick to any rules; we just wanted to make them up every time. And that’s been for the benefit of the show, the audience’s enjoyment, and also our enjoyment as actors. Because last year was just, anything goes.
That’s what it felt like.
And the writers, our producers, give us great scripts and I know that I can take what they have on the page and sometimes it fits perfectly with what happens on the day in the scene, and sometimes it shifts and it grows and builds beyond what they’ve envisioned. They’re cool with that, and it becomes this really cool living organism that is unique every time. It’s much more enjoyable to be able to do that, especially when you have big, eight-people scenes that just are monotonous and not the most exciting to shoot. When we get to have those little pops of humor and color that are from our different characters, that makes it worthwhile on shooting day.
What’s going to be interesting to see is the contrast between lightening the show up and the addition of John Constantine. Won’t his presence automatically darken the show again?
Part of his storyline has that darkness, but it depends on the character that he’s with. If you get Sarah and Constantine together — and they do spend most of the time together — it’s going to be a darker scene. But then the scene of he and I, even though he’s giving me some warning advice about Sarah, there’s humor in it. So it depends on the relationship. I think most of our stuff together will be humorous and have a good repartee between the two of us. Any time you get opposing forces, it makes for good comedy writing. We’ve found, and everyone recognizes, how good and how successful the craziness of season three has been, so we’re not going to shy away from that at all.
When you were on stage earlier, you mentioned that Legends and Ray Palmer has allowed you to tap into the Clark Kent thing you wanted to explore that you didn’t get the chance to continue, because those films didn’t continue.
Well, there’s no more shifting, because he’s in that place. He’s not a Tony Stark cut out. He’s Ray. And what now exists for Ray are his different shades. There’s goofy Ray, you have more leader Ray, and you have Ray learning to know how much he can shift and change someone with the introduction of Nora Darhk, which has really complimented his character in a new way and grounded him. The challenge is, can he change this person? How much change can he affect on one person? The good that he wants to put into the world is a microcosm for the good that he can do as a superhero. How can he change the world? If he can’t change one person, how can he hope to change the world?
That’s Ray’s journey, and that’s why he got stuck on this thing with Nora, like, “I’ve got to help her.” There may be underlying things going on, but on the surface, for Ray, that’s what it is. That’s why he gives her the Time Stone. It’s his way of saying, “I can trust you and I have to prove this out. If this works — that I’ve gone on this trek with you — I believe that you can change fundamentally.” He’s put his chips all out on the table with that move, to see if what he believes about the world and humanity can be true.
Later this week, Brandon reflects on his days as Superman and its continuing impact on his life.