Greg Berlanti on ‘DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’: ‘It’s a Dysfunctional Family’

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The CW

Years before he had multiple shows all over the television landscape, writer/producer Greg Berlanti was the man behind the cult WB family drama “Everwood.” At the Television Critics Association press tour Sunday, he said that “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” reminds him of that kind of family show.

“Legends,” which premieres Jan. 21 on the CW, features an array of characters from “Arrow” and “The Flash” traveling through time to save people and fix certain aspects of history. What surprised him as the show evolved, Berlanti said, was how much it evolved beyond the first discussions that he and his fellow executive producers had.

“We had talked for some time about if we could figure out a way to do a team-up — we’d talked internally about that. And then one day I got a call from [CW president] Mark Pedowitz and he said, ‘I’ve been thinking, we’ve got this wealth of additional characters. Have you thought about an angle [for a spin-off]?” Berlanti said.

“He mentioned an angle of heroes versus villains, and we thought about doing it that way,” he noted. “We knew that everyone [at the network] was as excited as we were. When we sat down with [DC chief creative officer and executive producer] Geoff [Johns] and started pitching on what the show could be, we got really excited by the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Ocean’s 11’ kind of style, a real mashup or team-up of these characters on a singular quest.”

But now that he and fellow executive producers Andrew Kreisberg, Sarah Schechter, Marc Guggenheim and Phil Klemmer are making episodes, the show has presented some new elements he hadn’t expected to find.

“With each of these [shows], as you build it out, it becomes more of what it’s meant to be. People ask about tone and I feel a little disingenuous sometimes answering these questions. As I watch episodes, I feel the show starts to tell you what it is,” Berlanti said.

“The big discovery for me in this show is how much of a family show it is,”  he added. “It reminds me a lot of some of the family shows I’ve done. Whenever these characters are on a bridge talking about their adventures prior to or after [‘Legends’], there’s this dysfunctional family. I’m not sure I had that thought or any of us had that thought when we started out. But it was a dual desire to access all this wonderful talent we were fortunate enough to be working with, and also we looked at the landscape and felt like there wasn’t a classic team-up show.”

Arthur Darvill’s character, time traveler Rip Hunter, has to act as the ringleader of the dysfunctional crew, which, as Klemmer joked, is like “herding cats.”

“He spent all these years correcting the time line,” and now he’s on a “personal crusade” that requires the help of an array of heroes and villains, Klemmer said. “Having to share his time-traveling space ship with these knuckleheads” is one of the biggest problems affecting his quest. 

Changing events in time for people like Hunter is “the most sacred and noble charge in the universe and they have to be surgical changes,” but some of his fellow travelers, when set down at various points in history, tend to act like “a bull in a china shop,” Klemmer said. 

“The fun comes from these people not just pulling together to save the world, but to existing together on a space ship. Some of the most fun is them bickering,” Klemmer said.

As for the tone, it is lighter than that of “Arrow,” according to Caity Lotz, who plays Sara Lance/the White Canary.

“‘Arrow’ can be pretty dark, and Sara had a lot of weight and heaviness with her,” Lotz said. “There’s a levity that Sara never got to live in before. She’s died and come back to life, she’s kind of seen it all. There’s a new attitude that she gets to have — whatever goes. It’s been a nice exploration of that, finding that with Sara — the levity and lighter moments.”