The "Superhero Redemption" story is a popular one in comics. Whether it’s a literal death and rebirth, a fall from grace followed by a triumphant return, or - borrowing from wrestling – a heel turn that leads back to the eventual babyface move, comic book fans love a comeback.
Chris Evans found his feet as Captain America after being a hothead. Ben Affleck gets to don the cape and cowl as Batman after a heavily criticized turn as a blind hero that many wish they didn’t see. Brandon Routh, though, started as Superman, who most consider the first modern superhero, and the aspiration of all of them!
So how does he come back to the DCU after playing their biggest hero? As their smallest hero, of course! After joining the cast of Arrow for season 3, Routh will continue his turn as Ray Palmer and The Atom on the new spinoff series Legends of Tomorrow, due to debut mid-season in the 2015-2016 TV year. The actor revealed to us that he’s something of a team leader of this ragtag group that includes Firestorm, Hawkgirl, White Canary, Captain Cold, and Heatwave. During the red carpet reception for The CW Upfronts on Thursday in NYC, Routh told us what it’s like to come back to the world of DC Comics, how he puts himself into Ray, and teases a bit more about Legends of Tomorrow.
Brandon, you had an explosive finale there for your character on Arrow!
Brandon Routh: Indeed, indeed!
You’ve obviously been part of the DC Universe before on film, but what was it like being able to build a character over the course of an entire season of television like this?
BR: It’s been a lot of fun. You know, Ray did change a little bit from the first couple episodes, and definitely molded into both what the writers are giving me, but also what they are letting me do.
I think in the beginning, he was intended to be maybe a little bit more brash, and as it went on, that brashness became just exuberance about life and his geekiness with the tech. That was something I brought and really enjoyed bringing to him.
Yeah, what is it like always being excited about something as Ray?
BR: (laughs) It’s fun! That’s, you know, that’s how I like to live my life most of the time, and it became a part of Ray Palmer. It allows for more comedy and contrast between the darkness on Arrow, but without being too much. I mean, obviously, you could have too much energy, but I think that was the purpose of having Ray on season 3, to bring up the mood and lighten it a little bit at times.
You got to have that contrast on Arrow, but have you talked at all with the creators about Ray and the Atom’s position with the team on Legends?
BR: I think he’ll have a similar purpose, bringing the comedy as well as the superhero stuff. But I think Ray will tend to be a little more of a leader of the team, having been a businessman and running Palmertech, being a billionaire, he knows how to bring people together and have them work as a team.
And he’s been a superhero for a little bit more than some of them…
BR: A little bit more! (laughs) I mean, he may have more to learn from the rest of them as far as that’s concerned. But as far as bringing disparate people, very different people, together, Ray will be the one to really help gel them together as a team.
What keeps you coming back to DC Comics characters and the worlds of comic book based entertainment?
BR: I keep – you know, the two that I’ve done, I’m blessed with just great characters. I have said so often that I couldn’t find a role better than Superman. While that still holds true, this is a close second for me. That’s based on not only his superpowers, but just playing Ray Palmer himself. Being able to play Ray Palmer and The Atom is just icing on the cake.
Anyone in particular that you’re excited about interacting with on Legends?
BR: Everybody on the new show! I mean I haven’t really gotten to work with any of them yet, they’re all new! Even Grant, I didn’t work with him as Flash really, not as Atom and Flash together, so I’m looking forward to that, too.