A little less than three years ago, DC's Legends of Tomorrow aired "Here I Go Again," an episode that was risky and odd, but became an instant fan favorite. The episode, which paid homage to the beloved Harold Ramis comedy Groundhog Day, centered on the then-new character of Zari, a hacker from the near future whose family had been lost in government-sponsored attacks on metahumans. After having been recruited to the Legends, Zari had spent most of her first few episodes having a combative relationship with Waverider captain Sara Lance, and a somewhat standoffish relationship with the rest of the team.
Her philosophy seemed primarily to be that all of this time-travel stuff was just a means to an end -- that end being to "fix" her timeline, save her family, and get off the ship. It wasn't until "Here I Go Again" that Zari felt like she really became a part of the team...something that happened after she spent what seems likely to be thousands of hours in a time loop, reliving the same hour over and over, forcing her to work with the team, and to get to know them, in order to make her way out of the loop.
"When I started reading it, I was sort of shocked that they were giving me what seemed very clearly to me, a gift," Ashe recalled during a recent conversation with ComicBook. "It was both most exciting and daunting, to be completely honest. I think, as actors, we have these kinds of fantasies anyway. Even when you don't get a script like this, you're like, "Oh, maybe this will transform my character, or really move the development of his character along...but in this case, it actually was true. So I think maybe I had thought that, you know, even with that first Zari episode, people were going to really get to know her."
In the episode, Zari has crashed Gideon, the Waverider's on-board artificial intelligence, after trying to use her to re-engineer time in such a way that she could fix her future without breaking the timeline. The ship explodes, but shortly after that, Zari finds herself trapped in a continuous time loop, where she's the only one who knows there's a loop, and every hour, the ship explodes and everyone dies. Over the course of the episode, fans got to see Zari in a number of different scenarios, evolving fairly dramatically over the course of a single episode and setting up numerous plot threads that would play out over the course of the rest of the show's third season and beyond. It also gave Ashe a chance to stretch her acting muscles, playing both absurd comedy and some moments of visceral heartbreak.
"This was a real opportunity for, for me to stretch as an actor, and also for people from really get to know and empathize with Zari," Ashe said. "We had sort of only seen more or less one side of her, up to that point. And it was this fun, sarcastic girl, but you didn't really get to see her under distress and you really didn't see her needing the team until that episode. In that sense, I thought it was great in terms of like solidifying her place as a Legend."
And with overt, in-story references to Groundhog Day and the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Cause and Effect," the episode became an early example of the kind of meta-episodes that are routinely some of the audience's favorites. And Ashe, along with the rest of the cast and crew, made sure to pay homage to the "source material" along the way, whether it's general stuff -- the "fun montage," as Zari calls it -- or some more specific points.
"The donut eating, I was like, 'oh, we have to have that,'" Ashe said. "There were a couple of moments from that movie that I really wanted in the episode, and the writers and the director were gracious to take feedback and let it happen the way that I wanted. It was very surreal to do a version of this kind of storytelling, and when you do it right, I think it's, it's very satisfying."
Ashe said that someone had even told her that a copy of the episode had been sent to Groudnhog Day writer Danny Rubin, and that she heard he had enjoyed it -- which is a cool kind of validation you can't ever predict.
Another, sillier, bit of validation of one of her acting choices has come in the form of the internet, which has turned a moment of Zari wearing Hawkgirl's helmet and goofing off for the camera into a widely-shared image in the Arrowverse fan community.
"[Almost] that entire montage was improvised on the day," Ashe reveled. "They put me in a room, and there were a bunch of props in there. A couple of the things were actually scripted, like when I put on the Steel thing, the script just said, 'she puts it on,' but Ben Bray, to his credit and thanks to his trust in me, was like, 'just play with whatever you want.' I'm sure there's some outtakes somewhere in the world of me putting on ten other things. But I was like, 'oh yeah, let me just put on the Hawkgirl helmet, and hopefully not offend anyone.'"
The result of the episode was that Zari became an overnight fan-favorite character -- but you could argue that it was a gamble. Zari had joined the series just episodes before, and had a fairly confrontational relationship with the rest of the Legends at that point. Giving her an entire episode to shine, limiting the screen time and perceived importance of a number of fan-favorite characters from throughout the show's first two seasons and change, was far from a sure thing, and could easily have alienated the audience from Zari, or Ashe, if it hadn't been done right.
"I was really nervous about it coming into the world," Ashe admitted. "I felt like I had a really good time filming it. It was the kind of experience I like to have, which is, I'm overwhelmed and I'm challenged in a wonderful way. And I had a lot of support from the writers and from the director, Ben Bray, who I really collaborated well with. But after that, I don't remember exactly how many months it was we had to wait until it was in the world. It happens often as an actor, where when you're doing something it's very different than what you end up seeing. And I'm particularly hard on myself. Maybe they sent me a cut like a week before or something, but I hadn't really seen it until about the time that the public did, so I was nervous and it was an enormous relief [when the episode aired]."
The end result was that the fan perception of Zari changed overnight -- something that was particularly good for the character because the combination of a Shazam! movie in development and a terrorist group using the name ISIS had previously prevented her from taking on a more recognizable version of her comic book counterpart (Adrianna Tomaz, a reinvention of TV's Isis and love interest to Black Adam).
In the time since, Zari has become one of the characters who has changed the most. A literal new version of the character was born when, at the end of season four, she succeeded in saving her future, changing her personal past. Last season, fans even got to see the two versions interact briefly, and choose their favorite.1comments
"Thank you to the writers and to [executive producer Phil Klemmer] for giving that to me," Ashe said. "In hindsight makes sense, but to give a new character that much real estate is sort of risky. Luckily, it ended up working out. Our fans are so great, and they're very, very devoted to, to the characters that they love. So who am I to take time away from Caity and Brandon, you know? But both the cast and the wider circle of fans were, were really, really gracious and kind."
You can watch the episode, which is the eleventh episode of DC's Legends of Tomorrow's third season, on Netflix, or purchase it on DVD, Blu-ray, or streaming video on demand platforms.