The heroes of Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl may fight for justice in character on the small screen, but the women of The CW's Arrowverse are fighting for equality and inclusion offscreen as well with their diverse representation. Now, some of them are opening up about why that diverse representation matters.
In an interview with Bustle, Legends of Tomorrow stars Tala Ashe, Caity Lotz, and Maisie Richardson-Sellers revealed some of the experiences they've had that drove home for them how important it is for there to be diverse characters represented in media. For most of them, fans have told them directly the difference they make.
"I never saw myself represented on any television, until I was an actor myself and encountering the reason why or the limitations that existed in the media. When the closest thing you can identify with is Aladdin, that's a problem," Ashe, who plays Zari Tomaz, said. "That's been one of the most powerful things about playing this character. I've heard from so many young women reaching out to me saying, 'Thank you for representing a Muslim-American character or Middle Eastern character, one that isn't a terrorist,' because five, 10 years ago, that's all we were seeing."
On Legends, Zari is Muslim-American from a dystopian future where religion, among other things, is outlawed. However, when she becomes part of the Legends team, her heritage is not treated like a point of difference or a negative. Zari is simply part of the team which means that parts of her life and heritage, such as a small mention of the Islamic holiday Ramadan, are just part of accepting who she is. Ashe said that it was something fans really responded to in a positive way.
"Small, little things like having an episode where we just mentioned Ramadan is something where so many people reached out to me and were like, 'I've never seen this on television,' which blew my mind," she said.
LGBT representation is another aspect of diversity that The CW has incorporated into the Arrowverse. All of the Arrowverse shows feature characters who openly identify as LGBT and feature actors with those identities as well, something that will expand when Ruby Rose's Batwoman joins the Arrowverse in the crossover event in December and when transgender actress Natalie Maines debuts as Dreamer, the first transgender superhero on television, in Supergirl this fall. The Flash is also adding an LGBT character this season. For Lotz and Richardson-Sellers, though, the impact of their show's LGBT representation is already making a difference.
On Legends, Sara Lance openly identifies as bisexual and Lotz said that fans have told her how important that has been to see on television.
"Yeah, the fanbase is super supportive," Lotz said. "I saw it for the first time going to Comic-Cons and meeting girls that were from the LGBT community, and how important it was for them to have a character that was bisexual on television because they had never seen it before. They have a lot of family that they watch the show with, and they hadn't told their parents about their sexuality. To be able to have Sara [Lance] be on TV and them getting to meet an LGBTQ character that they like, and they feel like, 'OK, this is an OK person,' and that helps them come out to their parents, is really, really impactful for me to hear."
Richardson-Sellers, who identifies as queer and recounted an experience where a fan realized she didn't have to be ashamed of who she was as a person because of the show, explained that it's important that LGBT characters are portrayed as human beings first.
"You don't just want characters who are queer and all they talk about is being queer, you want characters who are queer and that's only one facet of their identity," Richardson-Sellers said. "They're also powerful, happy, and human. I think that's the next step, moving beyond just tolerating and moving towards acceptance and love."
The season four premiere of Legends of Tomorrow, which is titled "The Virgin Gary", will debut on Monday, October 22nd, at 9/8c on The CW.