With the future of the DC Universe in peril, Rip Hunter brings together a group of heroes and villains to be Legends -- those who would alter the present to save the future.
Among them is Hawkman, played by Falk Hentschel, who debuted during the The Flash/Arrow crossover in December 2015. He and Hawkgirl are key to defeating Vandal Savage, the central antagonist of the series...but he's already killed them 206 times, with them being reincarnated after death each time.
Recently, Hentschel joined ComicBook.com to talk about the challenges and pleasures of playing a character with as much rich history and complicated backstory as Hawkman.
Has your off-screen work in martial arts and choreography helped to prepare you for such a physical role?
Yeah. It definitely does. It definitely does. The martial arts, in general, of course, but, to be honest, even more so the dancing, and the choreography aspect of it, because all action, whether it's fighting, or anything moving is very choreographed on film. It really helps to pick up beats.
Especially on a TV show like this, you sometimes come on set, there's no time, and you learn the choreography in the blocking. The stunt people will pull you aside for 10 minutes, and show you a 10 beat fight. You got to pick it up, so it's been really, really helpful.
Is it tough coming in to a scenario where so many of these people have been together for a long time, and have, kind of, a shorthand, and you're not only the new guy but your character is a trained warrior who has to look like you're not the new guy?
No. I started on Legends, and, yes, some of them had worked together before, but, there was also a lot of newcomers to the project. We all bonded there, and also, it was really open, friendly, lovely people, so that was really, we created sort of like a family bond very quickly.
Then, I did the crossovers, where I came into shows that had been in existence for at least a year. I think four or three for Arrow, and one for The Flash. To be honest, also there, they're really open-armed, and sort of took me into the family. It was really quite a nice experience.
It almost seems guaranteed when you guys travel back in time, you're going to stumble into your reincarnated selves at some point...
Right. Right. Right.
You have way, way more back story, than the average character, pretty much in any production you would ever play. Is it kind of heady playing this character who's almost like a Greek god in a sense, that he's got this never ending history?
No. To be honest with you, I love his back story. I think it's just fascinating. I'm a thoroughly spiritual person in general, so, to play with that in every scene, and I'm hoping we're going to do more of this facet of the character, is having gone through so many different life experiences, and having experienced so many different things that human beings experience, only that he can do it 206 times. I just like to look at everything he does, and go, "Well, how does he take this?"
He's a bit relaxed and nonchalant about certain things, because, hey, what's going to happen? I've died times. I've been through it all, and at the same time, there needs to be some frustration. With Kendra's character, it's not only his lover, but his only consistent friend that he sees again, and again.
Everybody else dies. His kids have died. His family has died. His friends have died. I think he's a really fascinating character, and I'm really hoping that they delve into that area of Hawkman a bit more, actually.
Being such a key part of the story, because obviously, now that we know how Vandal works, and that you guys are intertwined with his origin, do you think your late casting was partially about finding somebody who had perfect chemistry with Ciara?
Yeah, absolutely. I think, to be honest, we all got really lucky, because there was no chemistry. I wasn't even in the country when I booked the part; it was off of tape.
Then, once Ciara and I connected, I got to give the credit to the creators, they must have just had a feeling of knowing us both separately, that they thought, "Oh, they might gel out." This is up to the audience. I don't want to say we have great chemistry, or not, but, I feel like we get along really well, and, onscreen, it's translated, but, I think it just sort of came together, because you're right, it was last minute, and it wasn't built upon us. We came in a little later.
You have a lot of things that people might recognize you from, especially in geek culture, where you have Transcendence, and Knight and Day, but the very last thing you did before moving to Legends of Tomorrow, was a guest spot on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Yeah. A villain. Yeah.
You're one of those handful of people who's been able to transition between those two universes. Is it weird to look at the dominance of comic book adaptations and superheroes, in general, right now?
Yeah. Yeah it is. I think it's ... I'm still trying to figure that out. There is something in the culture that ... There's phases. There's a phase where people gravitate towards war and, there's a phase where people gravitate towards Epic.
In the 90's, there was a lot of Gladiator, Braveheart, those kind of movies -- which I love by the way. I hope that series comes back. Now it's just superheroes. I haven't put my finger on it, but it's not fizzling out, and it's staying strong. I think they're reinventing it. We went from the darker take, which I really enjoyed, that Nolan did with Batman, to then, more humor.
I think, quite honestly with you, that for superhero comic stories, the best medium is really TV. I'm a big film fan, but, the comics came our fairly regular, and almost, not procedural, but there was a lot of story to be told, and I think TV does that really well. TV has that opportunity to really delve in, and have more than a one-off. I wonder if that transition will be made, even more-so in the future?
Of the Gladiator type of films...how did you guys enjoy going back to ancient Egypt, and getting into that wardrobe, and getting into that mode of story telling? Obviously, I don't think anybody, necessarily, would have thought The Flash would end up in Ancient Egypt.
Right. Right. Right. It was really fun. It was also, quite honestly, because TV moves at such a clip, obviously, with something like Egypt, it would have been awesome to prepare more, and think of how they speak. All these things. I think it turned out great, but ... It was a combination of that like daunting to me, like, "Oh, shit. We're going into Egypt. How do we lift our voices a little bit? How do we make that really sell?"
Also, like you said, and the thing I keep in mind, is this is a superhero TV show. I got to focus on the fun of it all. I think it was a nice mix of those things. Obviously, I would've loved to go out, and play more in Egypt, and go, in a sense, in Egypt, and all that, but we didn't have time for that.
Is part of your preparation for this role doing a lot of research? Especially with Hawkman, where there's a lot of confusing, and often contradictory stories, how much of the comics have you read/have you been encouraged to avoid studiously?
I went through the Hawkman Omnibus, by Geoff Johns, and sort of made myself really familiar with it, but to be honest, because we were mixing the mythology, the background of the characters, the one thing that I just hold onto, that I think, to me, is the most interesting, is the fact that a man, who has been, aside from all the super powers, who has had the ability to see society, humanity, grow up, or fail, or rise.
He's really seen the repetitiveness of humanity's mistakes, and victories. I think, what that does to him, and what it would do to him to see his love die 206 times, and all these different scenarios. He's saying he might've met her, already married with kids. Is he going to leave her alone, and just sort of help her not emerge? She has a happy life. What is happiness mean to him. All that.
This is the part where I'm really hoping the writers will dive into a little more. I know there's a lot of plot in the show, and they have to stay entertaining, and action-driven, but, I hope we have the luxury to have some scenes, where you really are like, "What is that like? What is that like to maybe have been friends with some of the great minds, and some of the evil minds, and have gotten into their mind, and understand them, and understand why humanity does what it does." Does that make sense?
In the comics, Hawkman and Green Arrow in particular have this conflict, because Green Arrow is this bleeding heart liberal, and Hawkman is extremely conservative. In hindsight, now that they've made him reincarnated for thousands upon thousands of years, conservatism really makes sense, in a way, don't you think?
Yeah. Absolutely. It's interesting that you said it the way you said it, that Hawkman's more conservative, and Green Arrow's more liberal, because my take on him is actually, he's very liberal. I think he had to be. This was always my pitch to the writers: When you've been around for 4,000 years, and 206 lifetimes, you have to have a sense of understanding, and non-judgment of things. We hinted at it a little bit with the character of Carlos. He sees Cisco's character, played by Carlos Valdes, had this thing with his wife, his love. At the end of the show of Arrow, he wants a moment with her, and, it's such a small thing. We didn't have time but I wanted to make sure that, he's like, "Of course you'll get a moment with her. She used to have a thing with you, and I can't just storm in."
Of course, he had a conflict with that, but there's something where, I think, if you've been around that long, you need to have developed a bit of open mind, or you're an incredible douchebag. You know what I mean?
I would think that there's some fertile ground there: It's virtually impossible for you to be the jealous boyfriend, because at the end of the day, while your character seems much more invested than Ciara's character so far, Khufu does not have any kind of fear that she won't eventually come around. There's no insecurity.
No. Exactly. I think it's a fun dynamic to play with too. He's like, "Yeah, it always happens that way", but, then, maybe it's like, "What? That didn't happen that way once." Also, to be honest with you, that probably has happened. I'm sure he's gone at least one lifetime where, like I said, he just lets her be, because she's in love with somebody else, and he loves her, so he wants nothing less for her. He doesn't want her to feel any emotional pain, and all that. I think he'd have to be the bigger man at some point in those 206 lifetimes, but, who knows?
Over 206 lifetimes, you've always lost to Vandal Savage. When you show up in The Flash, and these guys are just like, "Well, no. We're going to stop this dude." What do you think gives him that confidence?
Yeah. To be honest with you, that was a struggle for me. It's still a struggle that I want to explore more, because, my response when I first approached that scene, was, no, he's got a point. If I had my druthers, I want Carter to be like, "Yeah, well, he's got a point." I think the way I see it, is, like I said, "If I die again, we'll try again." That thing. But, at the same time, bringing that, you said, that hope, and I think I proposed to the writers, in this argument, he's had help before. He's probably teamed up with Alexander the Great, and all kinds of other great warriors to maybe, do this, in my mind, at least.
I think, here the hope comes in, and the hope part comes in, because, look. You see in that scene. There's eight badass superheroes, of which two of them, were able to beat me, and I don't think he's been beaten before, to be honest with you, aside from by Vandal Savage. The fact that these two were able to beat me, I think he's humbled, and he's thinking, "There's eight of us." I don't know how many, actually. Nine or ten, even, of us. "Hey, maybe we can end this once and for all." I think this is the first time he actually has that much hope.