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DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow is currently rolling straight through its sixth season, which sees the Legends—the least likely, and most consistently fun, of The CW and Greg Berlanti’s various superhero teams—facing off against a horde of aliens who’ve been seeded throughout Earth’s timestream. The team (absent leader Caity Lotz, after her character Sara Lance was abducted in the show’s season 5 finale) has already faced off against evil hamburger sauce and a singing competition with the fate of the Earth hanging in the balance, and tonight’s episode plunges them into an even dicier situation: The Cuban Missile Crisis. Which they’ll attempt to weather with the show’s typically idiosyncratic approach to problem solving, which is far more likely to lean on weed gummies, sports metaphors, and slapstick improvisation than more traditional superhero action.
To address that long-term shift in tone, we talked this week with series star Nick Zano, who joined the Waverider crew at the start of the show’s second season—i.e., the point where it started to get out from under the super-serious shadow of its various parent series. When asked about that shift, Zano pegs (as do we) the Legends’ third and fourth seasons as the pivot point, and cites the season 4 finale, “Hey, World!” as the moment when it fully committed to embracing its comedic side. “I think that was the moment,” Zano said, citing a climax that saw the characters defeat an all-powerful demon while surrounded by minotaurs and Bigfoots, through the power of theme park showmanship, “We all looked around and said, ‘Oh, we’re a comedy. With, like, a ton of heart squeezed in there.’”
As historian Nate Heywood, Zano was originally introduced to the show as an everyman, who didn’t pick up his own superpower—the ability to turn his flesh into steel—for a few episodes. But, as it happens, there are certain perils to being a TV superhero: “Unfortunately, I have been assigned a superpower that’s very expensive to do,” Zano noted, which helps explain why the series frequently seems to avoid having him bust out his powers. “I’ve floated around giving Nate a different superpower on top of his steel, because steel is very, very costly. I don’t know that they factored that in early on, because I don’t think they would have made me steel. They would have made me something else, if they knew long-term cost and usage.” (We asked; Zano understandably says he’s keeping his ideas about potential new powers to himself until he can run them by the show’s producers.)
None of which stops Nate from kicking butt in tonight’s episode, where he gets to hit a history nerd’s dream by hanging out in JFK’s Oval Office. (A custom set designed by the show’s crew, who Zano called “unbelievable” in their ability to function amidst COVID-19 restrictions. Among other things, they had to rig the Office up with safety harnesses, because Legends is the sort of show where you can get full-scale football tackled in the Kennedy White House.) The episode also paired Zano up with Tala Ashe, who’s currently playing a character typically referred to as Zari 2.0, an alternate universe version of Nate’s love interest Zari 1.0, who now lives in a magical bracelet worn by her alt-universe self, because that is how Legends Of Tomorrow rolls. Zano touched on what it’s like to be one of the longest serving members of a crew that has an incredibly high turnover rate for network TV (including the departure of his regular comedy partner Brandon Routh, who left the show in season 5):
Come next season, I think it’s just Caity [as an original crew member]. [Dominic Purcell has announced that he’ll be departing Legends as a regular at the end of this season.] That’s wild, because I still see people using promotional photos of the first season, and I don’t even think it’s our show! It’s very unique for television to have high turnover like this. Usually, you kind of get anchored in. It has its pros and it has its cons, but this particular dynamic, it works for us. There’s a few times you’re like, man, “So-and-so would be really good in this episode,” or “So-and-so would do this in this scene.” Of course you miss the people you work with, because it’s very specific. But I do think it helps.
With Brandon, that [relationship] was a serendipitous moment between two performers, and it just worked out that way. We didn’t plan it, we didn’t go over it, it was just organic. That was something we nurtured. And I think, the crescendo of it, the goodbye, was intense for us, because we knew how nice it worked, and how special it was. And that goodbye was a sincere goodbye.
Legends Of Tomorrow airs its latest episode, “Bay Of Squids,” tonight, at 7 p.m. Central on The CW.
[This interview has been edited for clarity and length.]