If you want someone to geek out with, look no further than Brandon Routh. He's well-versed in epic fantasy literature (especially the works of Robert Jordan), various games (he's usually a holy, avenging paladin in World of Warcraft), and all things DC Comics — as you might expect for someone who has played multiple roles in that universe, from Superman to Everywhere Man to The Atom (who likes to hop around from Arrow to The Flash and is one of the core team members of the DC's Legends of Tomorrow crew.)
When we reached out to Routh for Superman's 80th anniversary, he was generous enough to also gab about the recent Legends finale (Beebo!), how the show threw out its rules for time travel, and what he'd like to see happen in Season 4.
We have to talk about the Season 3 finale, because it was INSANE…
[Laughs uproariously] I know! That's the same thing I felt.
Yes, it's a wild and wacky show, but do you ever have moments where you're like, "This is totally crazy. I don't know how we're going to pull this off!"?
I thought that in "Phone Home," with Ray and his younger self, just how were they going to pull off the baby Dominator? And I certainly felt that with the first Beebo, and wondering if that was going to work or not, if people were going to buy it, because we started to jump the shark a little bit week by week, but this was a bigger jump! [Laughs] A jump into the ocean, or a bigger shark, or however that metaphor goes. But the response was kind of like, "Oh, yes. Beebo, yes." And so other people started to warm more and more to Beebo. So when they put it in the finale, I was just like, "I don't know what it's going to look like. It sounds funny. I'm just going to roll with it."
Because that's how our show is — you've got to roll with it. And when I watched it with the cast and crew at a finale party at Marc Guggenheim's house, and that was a great place to watch it, because everyone was cheering. I was just laughing the whole time – just at how absurd it is, and how well it works in its absurdity. The fact that we can ride that line, and have it be entertaining but not too much, is pretty amazing. That's why we're getting the attention, rightly so, that the show deserves at this point for doing that.
It's like Beebo killed Mallus with a hug.
Yes! I know! I know! And then he bursts into a heart – a heart cloud.
Does that mean love trumps hate?
I think it does. It does. And I think it's symbolic in the end of the story for Ray and Nora as well. Not the love, but goodness and light trumps dark. Or at least, there's balance. I think Ray, for this season and for the series thus far, his belief in the glass-half-full vision of life has been tested with his journey with Nora. Can he really help change somebody? Is change possible, even for somebody so far gone? And that's why he gambles a lot, in a way, but he feels pretty strongly about giving her the Time Stone. He thinks he's changed her for the better.
Since it looks like the series is continuing in a more supernatural direction next season, how do you think Ray will fit into those types of stories moving forward?
Well, I love magic and fantasy, so I'm excited about that, personally! I put that into Ray during the Camelot episode, and while Ray is big into medieval stuff, he hasn't really talked about being into magic, necessarily. I think the inclination would be to maybe make him go opposite, because he's such a science guy and magic can't be proven. But I think the opposite of that, and I told the writers that I think Ray should embrace the magic aspect of it, because he wants to understand it and figure it out through science. See if there is a way, not push it away. He'd be incredibly intrigued by it. That's how I want Ray to be with it – maybe confused, but also intrigued and wanting to explore the magic side.
Rules for time travel just never seem to work. Why is that?
No one really knows for sure. [Laughs] There are no real answers for that – yet! Sometimes the timeline stuff has to be fudged in order to make the stories work, and I applaud that. People are always asking, "Hey, what are the rules?" In the first season, when we'd talk to the writers about it, it'd be like, "Well, you just have to roll with it. Get on the fun train." We wanted some kind of structure so we'd know emotionally how to jump between those things. So the first season was a kind of journey to find where we're going to hold fast to rules, and where we're not, and the show wasn't as much of a fun train the first season.
They had created this idea that Vandal Savage was going to be the season-long bad guy, and they had kind of written themselves into a problem because they couldn't kill him until the end, and then the world couldn't be as open. It was more finite. And the writers were frustrated because they couldn't write stories that they wanted and they were stuck with the decision that they had made at the beginning, and the actors were frustrated because things didn't make sense to them about the story.
The story is a living, breathing thing. They easily could have just stuck to the same idea about what it was, and gotten stubborn about it, but we all trusted each other enough to let it grow. So by the second season, we decided, there really are no rules. That was the biggest shift, not tying ourselves into having that finite end. And that's when the show really blossomed, and we as actors let go as well. And that process continued to and opened up the third season, where I don't question much about what they give me to do anymore, unless it's character-wise.
But as far as story and timeline and history – does this make sense here, with what happened in the past? – I just let that roll. Shows like The Flash, or Altered Carbon, they have strict rules about things, and you can go and follow the rules. Without the rules, it kind of falls apart. But with ours, I hope the audience is going, "Whatever happens, this is entertaining. I want to laugh, and have my emotional load for the day lightened." I think we've all embraced that, which allowed the show to become something greater than it was envisioned at the beginning.
So you're not worried about the Time Bureau arresting your showrunners for disrupting the timeline?
Right! [Laughs] Exactly.
Why is it that no one in a time travel story ever has any free time?
You know what I'd like? And I think Caity [Lotz] suggested this – that we sit in time for a little bit. Let's have two or three episodes be in the same place. In the same medieval castle area, or whatever, instead of shifting all the time. Let the small story blossom, and then go on to another place, rather than every episode being in a different time. Or we live off the presence of the ship. I think with the presence of the Time Stones, and the little watches or whatever the heck they are that allow you to warp in. It always looks like the gateways that the Aes Sedai create in The Wheel of Time to me! Ah, but to come back from nerding out, we can live off-campus. We can live off of the Waverider. At this point, we don't even need the Waverider, except as a hideout.
Okay, so in lieu of a Waverider, any other devices or vehicles you'd like to borrow from pop culture?
It'd be fun if Ray modified a telephone booth, not only for the Doctor Who aspect, but also the Superman aspect, as a time travel device. And then it'd be a reference to The Matrix as well, right? There are so many things you could do with Easter eggs and fun little things like that! And not just time travel devices, but what about other mythical creatures? Let's bring on a Trolloc! We already do a lot of Lord of the Rings, obviously, but there's more of that which can be mined.
What else would you like to have happen in Season 4?
I want Nora to come back. She made Ray a more three-dimensional character and brought out some of the more interesting story aspects for Ray. Although I'm hesitant to have Ray jump into anything with Nora. I think that was the idea at the beginning because Courtney [Ford] and I are a couple in real life, but I think it's so much more interesting, as characters, to have them be at odds!
To have the Moonlighting relationship that they have, versus any lovey-dovey stuff too soon. I like them sussing each other out. Are they just going to be friends? Do they have any kind of romantic connection? Or are they just connecting on a humanity level – "I see you, you see me, we're learning from each other"? And is that enough? That can be more powerful sometimes than a romantic relationship, because you can see people more clearly that way, on all kinds of levels. But I do really love the relationship between Sara Lance and Ava Sharpe — I'm an Avalance shipper! [Laughs]