Megalyn Echikunwoke will make a big splash with comic fans this week at CW Seed releases the first episode of Vixen, her new animated series set in the world of Arrow and The Flash.
Following the adventures of Mari McCabe, codenamed Vixen by Cisco Ramon because, basically, he thinks she's hot, the story takes the heroes to Detroit to find out where a metahuman could have come from if McCabe was nowhere near the particle accelerator explosion in Central City.
But it's not an easy conversation...
Echikunwoke joined ComicBook.com to discuss the series, which launches on CW Seed this week.
The first episode opens in the middle of the action, and it kind of feels like that's what it has to be for you, too, right? Does it kind of feel like you're jumping on a moving train when you join the CW/DC Universe?
Yes, to a degree it really does feel like that, mainly because I did the voiceover months ago and I wasn't super-duper familiar with the universe. I mean, I knew the characters.
Vixen is a superhero that I have always wanted to exist, but I didn't know she actually existed, so getting to play this and coming on is kind of like jumping on a bullet train. The fans are so excited and they're so rabid for the stories and everyone knows so much more about it than I do, so I am just playing catch-up.
What makes her a character you'd always wanted to exist, and never did? Just a superhero of color whose cultural background is more important than just being backstory?
Yeah. That, and that there was just a great, black, female superhero for all the brown kids who need superheroes, too.
I think it's really exciting. It's really kind of a dream come true in that way because I've always wanted to portray a superhero like this and I didn't know that it existed. I always wanted to be the person to portray that character, and I thought it was going to be a new character that I would portray, but Vixen is way better than the superhero that I imagined playing because of her cool power.
I think it's really cool that the world gets this superhero because she's black, she's young, she has an interesting story but she's still very all-American, which isn't unlike my own story, so I can relate to her, and she also inspires me.
I know Geoff Johns is a big fan of the Justice League Detroit. Has DC been really a valuable resource, in terms of giving you a big-picture view of how they perceive Vixen and what they want to do with her in the bigger picture?
I don't know, to be honest. Like I said, I've kind of been thrown into this. I'm hoping that they have a really strong point-of-view about what they want to do but at the end of the day, what I'm learning is that it's all about what the fans want.
And do you hope to make the jump to live-action down the line? They could have easily picked a veteran voice actor who's 50 and doesn't look the part, but they didn't; they chose somebody who can be Mari if it goes that way.
Right. Yeah, I think that was kind of the impetus behind hiring me, just to have that option. Of course, we don't know and I think it's all based on how well this animated series does and how rabid the fans are for more Vixen. I'd love to play Vixen in live action; I'm into it.
If you had to explain what is the most important part of the character to you, what would that be?
I think what's really cool about her is, to a degree she's kind of a self-made superhero. Her backstory is that she was orphaned, she was born in Africa, she was orphaned and then gets to the United States. Like a lot of Americans, like a lot of children of immigrants or anybody, really, she's trying to find her identity as a young woman. Through this, the discovery of her power and her ability, finds a way to interact with the world that helps her thrive and be the best version of herself.
Also, I just think that the fact that she's kind of one with the world and that she can communicate with animals, that's a really cool power because it makes her very grounded.
I think one of my favorite parts of the show is your relationship with your father. Was that fun to play? Certainly there are a lot of daddy issues in The CW/DC Universe.
Yeah. I like that, and I like that it's kind of a weird dynamic with her that she has this person she loves and that raised her but she's also kind of like a lone wolf and feels very lonely and has a lot of anger in her. She uses her power to get that out, to process all of that, and what's going on with her.
Are there familiar DC Comics villains that people will recognize in the series, or are the characters primarily created for Vixen?
I think they might be original. I think they're trying to do new things with this series, and they're trying out new things that will come as the series and the characters go forward.
One of the things I think is really interesting about launching something like this is that it's a new medium; you have the touchstone of Flash and Arrow but that's about it. Do you think having the new medium and having your own show, do you think you have a lot more freedom than you would to flex some creative muscles if, say, you appeared for the first time on The Flash or something?
Yeah, I think so. I think if it does end up being live action in any way, it's really cool that I have this warm-up into the character and I really can create my own version of Vixen.
Doing the voice of a character like this is very physical and very involved. Half of what we're doing as actors is just using our bodies and using our voices to get the stories across. I think it's a blessing that I get to start here and then hopefully be ready to really bring something special to the live action piece of this should it go there.
The CW Seed is short format, though. Are there challenges presented by the duration of each episode not giving you a lot of space to improvise?
No, I didn't find it limiting at all. The director and producers of this are very collaborative and they very much wanted me to add whatever I think is good. Whatever I think I can bring to the table, they're very much interested to hear it and put it into the show if it makes sense.
It's fast-paced, but it's definitely...there's time to tell the story.