‘DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’ Interview: Brandon Routh On Being The Atom, Superman and a ‘Legend’

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Brandon Routh is DC Comics royalty. Not only has he portrayed Superman on the big screen in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, but he’s won the hearts of fans as the lovable, size-changing superhero The Atom, aka Ray Palmer, on Warner Bros TV’s Arrow and The Flash.

The character is poised to break out even further as leader of the rag-tag group of heroes and villains tasked to save the world in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, the latest CW show set in the DC Comics universe. We caught up with Routh at Comic-Con 2015, where he discussed bringing Ray Palmer into the much-anticipated spinoff. You can check out the highlights below:


Do you think Ray takes on more of an action/leadership role amongst the team of “Legends?”

Brandon Routh: Well, I don’t know about action. If you think about action, White Canary probably has the most action experience as far as fighting. But overall leadership… yeah, I think Ray may want to take on some of that responsibility, being that he was a CEO of a company, successfully. He’s done all that, he knows the best qualities of a team. So I don’t know how long that’s going to work for him though, with Heat Wave and Captain Cold, and Canary who might be a little derange. That might frustrate him, but I think at first he might try to take on that role. Be the brains next to, obviously, Dr. Stein.

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Do you think that since Ray has dealt with the stubborn toughness of Oliver Queen, that prepares him to deal with the likes of Captain Cold and Heat Wave?

Brandon Routh: I think he knows a little bit more of what it’s like to be a hero in his few adventures since the first encounter with Oliver. He’s learned that it takes more than brains and a suit, you have to have a little bit of strategy and physical prowess in knowing how to fight in case that’s the last line of defense.

The journey that he’s been on leading up to Legends will be interesting, which I’m not certain what it is. After Queen Consolidated exploded he’s been on his own journey as a very small person. [laughs] I don’t know yet what that back story is going to be, although I think that will come to light, that his experience while he was shrunk down will play into who he is when he comes back to full height. [Editor’s Note: as seen on Arrow Season 4]

 What is the fascination of heroes that can shrink down to microscopic size?

Brandon Routh: I don’t know. It’s something we haven’t really seen before. With obviously Ant-man – and I don’t know if bringing Atom on to the CW was in response to that in any way, or just a happy coincidence – in a way to have two of these characters kind of coming to light at the same time, it’s unique and something we really haven’t seen before.

We are going to do all kinds of fun things with the shape-changing and how a fight goes, and how Ray can change the course of battle, as the season and the years progress. Something different and more unique. I’m sure there’s like a metaphorical aspect to it as well: you don’t have to be big to take the guy down, David vs. Goliath, etc.

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How does the filming of the shrinking sequences work for you? Is it in a green screen room?

Brandon Routh: Well, we’ve only done it once. And essentially, they just kept moving the camera back and changing the lenses, and moving it higher and higher, and I looked up, changed my face a little bit, and then I looked smaller and smaller. For me that was all it was: step out, change the lenses, shoot this way, step back out, do that. I did a body scan and head scan, so I imagine, from now on, a lot of it should be CG. So I’ll be in my trailer, reading a book.

Were you a comic fan as a kid? Did you have a gateway character, like Batman or Superman?

Brandon Routh: I wasn’t actually a comic book fan. I wasn’t around them, I wasn’t exposed to comics, and I didn’t have friends who read comics. Although I did collect a couple of Archie comics that then sprung into the Archie version of the Ninja Turtles. So like, the tame version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I collected probably about 20 of those, and had fun. That was my comic book collecting phase.

I collected football cards as kid, but my geekdom went to fantasy: fantasy novels and fantasy video games, and things like that. Robert Jordan, and Terry Goodkind, and Terry Brooks, these authors are where my fascination was held.

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When doing Superman Returns did you develop a kind of appreciation for the DC universe? 

Brandon Routh: Yeah, in a way. I definitely was a big Superman fan from Chris’s [Reeves] movies, and my love for Superman grew out of Superman: The Movie and the second film mostly. I think the nature of DC comics seems to be a little bit more inherently… not good, but a bit brighter and shinier, more optimistic view about life.

I mean, Batman is a little bit different, but that’s always what appealed to me. That’s essential, that’s the core of Superman to me and that’s the core character for DC. So I feel like he drives what DC is and that’s what I want from my heroes. That’s what I want from Superman. I don’t know if I’m just projecting that. They all have their own positives and negatives.


DC’s Legends of Tomorrow premieres Thursday, January 21st, exclusively on The CW.

Comic-Con Photos Credit: Paige Wilson

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