Legends of Tomorrow's Phil Klemmer On The Possibility of Other Planets, The Multiverse, And Rip Hunter's Chalkboard


During our recent visit to the set of DC's Legends of Tomorrow, ComicBook.com joined a small group of reporters who spoke with showrunner Phil Klemmer about the series, which debuts on The CW Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Klemmer couldn't say much -- and sometimes we asked about things that hadn't even come up yet, like Rip Hunter's chalkboard from the comics -- but we did manage to get a few straight answers out of him.

Legends of Tomorrow will travel through time. Will they also travel through worlds now that multiverse have been introduced on The Flash?

No, that's their purview. If we travel between planets, they will be actual planetary bodies and not metaphysical versions of Earth.

I think time travel alone is enough to tax our puny, humanist brains, so multiple Earths is more than we can handle.

So we do have the possibility of other planets in our solar system?

Yeah. I imagine that the space that we travel through is the space that's really out there...because I do believe that there are things out there. [Laughs]

There's a number of planets in the DC universe that are populated. Might we see Thanagar?

Our season, the Earth is in such dire jeopardy that for us to sort of take it upon ourselves to start being the galactic police is probably more than we can handle. Yeah. It's not just about time travel.

It's really sort of focusing on the, you know, historical events of the 20th century. We're not going to be going back and seeing dinosaurs and Roman gladiators and that stuff – we're really focusing on 20th century – I mean, you know, not yet.

When you don't have ownership over characters like Oliver... What kind of conversations are you trying to negotiate with Andrew and Marc?

The interesting thing about the show is that they leave 2016...the idea is to travel through time, vanquish Vandal Savage and return to the moment you left. So if you do that successfully, nobody knows you're gone, the world continues. The only variable that's been changed is Vandal's gone. But the problem is in doing so, you change millions of other variables.

Part of the fun of the show is you have the uber mission, stopping Vandal, but then you have the missions that you sort of accidentally, unwittingly caused, the idea that if I accidentally in Cold War Russian left the Soviets know that they lose, if I drop a piece of tech in battlefield at World War II, you can create your own sort of disturbances in time and then you also have to go back and correct that. Until you return to 2016, it's like, you know...

Part of the fun is screwing things up, to see the consequences of our team's actions. But as long as you have a time machine, you have the ability to counteract whatever you've done wrong. That's a long way of saying we get a huge amount of latitude because we f**k up the world of Arrow and The Flash as long as we're not f**king up the world of their show in 2016, the episodes that are taking place right now. Because presumably, we can also right the ship.

Will we get to see these fractured timelines, what the world could have been like?

Yeah. One of the tech elements of the show is we have a version of Gideon, the computer from The Flash, where it's 2166 version of Gideon that can extrapolate our effect on the timeline and sort of ship like... What are the seeing stones in Lord of the Rings? Whatever. It's a version of the Polaroid in Back to the Future. We're able to use this computer to tell us what we've done and gives us sort of a glimpse into the future to know the consequences of our actions.

How has it been bringing Caity Lotz back?

It's crazy. At New York Comic-Con, that shot of her coming out of the Lazarus Pit with her awesome deltoids, people lose their minds! We're kind of a little inside, so you don't know really how the rest of the world feels about things. But when you see things like that, it's amazing.

I really like this version of her in our show because she is just so lost and haunted, like the sort of assassin or like a samurai without a master. When we find her on our show, she is gone to the ends of the Earth, just trying to find herself or disappear. She's just such a tragic character. And even though she's badass, her stories for me are all about her trying to find human connection and to get back what she lost when she was resurrected.

I really like the idea that being brought back in the Lazarus Pit, that blood has to be repaid with blood, that there's something missing from her, but to give her that sort of possibility of redemption and have that be in the form of love, romantic or finally finding a surrogate family within our team as motley a crew as they are. There's something really sweet about – it’s kind of like a family story, just because, I mean, Snart is an abused kid, Rory burns his house down, Stein and Clarissa never had kids, Ray lost his fiancée. Everybody comes in with just, like, a little hole in their person. A lot of baggage, but beneath all of the power and bluster and humor, everybody’s really in need. I almost feel like The Waverider’s kind of like a time-traveling halfway home, where you have these people who kick ass and they want to save the world, but they’re also there to get their lives back together.

What is the main difference that fans should come to expect for White Canary vs. Black Canary?

I always get nervous. I feel when Sara has a send-off from her sister in our pilot -- each of our characters sort of goes to the person; their one sort of touchstone -- they go to the person who’s their emotional sounding board, and her moment is obviously with her sister. When everybody leaves on the Waverider and they travel in time, I think the presumption is that they might not be returning or may not be successful in this. It’s heavy. It’s like going off to war.

So, when her sister says goodbye, I think she wants Sara to live in the light, and to find a purpose. I think she’s moved beyond the League of Assassins, and she’s trying to find a way of living in the world that doesn’t involve cutting people’s throats.

How do you maintain stakes on a show where half your cast has come back from the dead and the other half have time travel sitting right there if they die?

You can’t do that on our show, though. I was explaining to those guys, that we do – we introduce a rule that you’re able to go forward or backward in time, but one thing that you can’t do is to hit the rewind button on events that you participate in.

It’s not like Groundhog Day, where you could endlessly do something again and again and again and again, until you get it right. If you screw it up, and if it ends with somebody dying, a member of our team -- which, people will die on this show -- you’re not able to just be, like, “Well, that sucked. Let’s try it again!” I agree that that would take a lot of the intensity out of the story, if you had that ability, and that’s why we took it away. We want people to be dead for good when they buy the farm.

Do any of the team members want to use time travel to alter their own paths?

Definitely. Totally. Yeah. I mean, that’s really the fun of this show, because – yeah. I mean, you do have the Uber-mission, but there’s a lot of downtime, and if you’re exploring your own past, and you know who wins the Super Bowl, or you know that your mom’s gonna get in a car wreck…you could be at the book depository in Dallas in November 1963. It’s hard to resist the urge to do what you think is right for either the world, or do what’s right for yourself or your loved ones.

Rip Hunter is a Time Master, spent his whole career trying to preserve the timeline. He understands that it’s never as simple as it seems, and for every one variable you change, there’s a trillion unforeseen consequences down the road, and some of them – killing Hitler could result in something even worse happening, conceivably, so he tries to tell our team to resist the urge, as crazy as it sounds. Of course they’re not gonna do that.

How do you deal with an immortal character, as writers?

We wanted to get under the mechanics of his immortality, because before you can stop his power, you have to understand from where it arrived. The fun of that is – I guess I lied to you guys, I said that we didn’t really travel too far back in time, but we will go back to the origin story of ancient Egypt, to understand how Vandal was originally affected, and yeah. There’s always a loophole, with anybody’s powers. There’s always an Achilles heel, and he’s no different. But, yeah. We’ll obviously require a bit of a miracle.

Can you can talk about the dynamic of the team and how they will function as a unit?

I think it sort of speaks to how formidable of an opponent Vandal Savage is, that you need this number and variety of heroes to go toe-to-toe with him. I like to think of our show as, like, The Dirty Dozen or Inglorious Basterds or The Great Escape. You always need a Charles Bronson on your team. You need somebody who will do just the dirtiest of dirty work, because if it were just a bunch of Ray Palmers, probably nobody would do the unspeakable acts. 

But when you have Snart, he does them just for fun. I like characters like that, because you get to get under the pathology, and just try to understand, like “Why does Mick Rory do that? Why does Leonard Snart?“ It’s not like villains are born. Of course they’re done wrong by the world, or the people who love them. They’re broken, pathetic little creatures underneath their bluster and violence. I find them totally fascinating. As fascinating as any other hero.

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  1. Only traveling within the 20th century? Darn, I was hoping we'd get to see us some Legion of Super-Heroes. Also some of DC's western heroes like Jonah Hex or Tomahawk or Nighthawk & Cinnamon. Well maybe we will have the chance of seeing Sergeant Rock and Easy Company in WWII, fingers crossed. I am truly hoping we'll encounter other established heroes and villains in the group's travel through time.

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