The show may be called DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, but tonight’s episode introduces one from the past—the badly scarred bounty hunter known as Jonah Hex. Played to two-fisted perfection by actor Johnathan Schaech, Hex helps the crew of the Waverider deal with a sticky situation, while also imparting some surprisingly important information. (No, it’s not to remember to keep their powder dry.)
We recently had a chance to talk with Schaech about the episode, and were pleased to learn that not only is he a big comic book fan, but he grew up reading Hex’s classic adventures. Did this help him bring Hex to life onscreen? Which of the Legends would Schaech want backing him up in a barroom brawl? And might we be seeing Hex again in the future? Let’s rustle up some answers!
So how does Jonah Hex find himself getting mixed up with the crew of the Waverider?
They come to him. There’s something that is unresolved between Jonah and Rip. I think Rip actually goes there to resolve that, whether he means to or not. During the process, the whole group of heroes learn something that they didn’t know before—something that only Jonah Hex could teach them.
So it sounds like this version of Jonah Hex knows a little bit about time travel…
Yes, he knows a thing or two about time travel. If you know the comic books, you know he’s actually time traveled a bit himself.
It sounds like you were pretty familiar with Jonah Hex before you were cast in the role.
I grew up reading Jonah Hex comic books. It was one of the comic books my father gave me as I was growing up. Weird Western Tales, Weird War Tales with Sgt Rock—my father loved all that stuff. He gave me the comic books and I still have them. I knew that Jonah Hex, and he never really ventured into the world of Superman or Batman. But then when I started to study this character, I could see that he’s just this unique, very identifiable, conflicted anti-hero that put into any situation, deals with things very much the same way. He has this code of morality that was constructed by his journey and his painful past. He fits in anywhere because he’s that anti-hero. You look at him and you think he’s a bad guy, but he really turns out to be a good guy.
But not a traditional “good guy.” How would you describe him? You’re calling him an anti-hero rather than a hero. Is that how you see him?
Yeah, I think he’s an anti-hero. Dexter is a typical anti-hero. He’s a serial killer, but he does the right thing by killing all of these other serial killers. Jonah Hex is very similar. He does bad things, but he does them in keeping with his own moral credence to always protect the innocent and people who can’t protect themselves. I think that stuck all the way through. Even when he was seemingly the bad guy opposite some of our best super heroes, he’s really just being him.
This episode seems to have some fun paying tribute to classic Western movies, starting with the title: “The Magnificent Eight.” Is there one tribute that you particularly enjoyed? Or maybe something the fans should be keeping an eye out for?
There are so many different layers to that. The first time you see Jonah it’s in this big brawl like they’d have in the Old West. It’s something that I don’t think the Legends are accustomed to doing. From there, the stakes get raised and raised and raised. In the Western world, you lived or you died by the guns on your side.
Jonah Hex is typically something of a lone wolf, but are there any members of the Waverider crew that he seems to connect with?
He has a certain respect and understanding for all of them because they’re all so different and unique. He’s intrigued by all of them, but he really has a relationship with Ray. That one’s probably the most interesting because Ray comes off like a goody-two-shoes who can do no wrong, and Hex just knows everything is going to fall apart at any moment. He has a lot of fun just watching this guy get himself more and more in the hole.
They’re such different characters! I can’t imagine one who’s more of an opposite to Jonah Hex than Ray Palmer.
I can’t wait to see how they come across. The way they were written is exactly what you just described. They shouldn’t even be in the same room! What are they doing together? We had to deal with one another in that fashion.
With the others, he has a certain respect for them and he’s just kind of guiding them along through this world that he’s in. But it’s also defining how to rise up and be a hero—to be a Legend.
Did you have to practice your quick drawing for the episode? How fast on the draw are you?
The very first character I ever played was Nevada Cooper on Brisco County, Jr with Bruce Campbell. That was the first role I ever played—a cowboy. I’ve played cowboys throughout my career. I was in Texas Rising. So the quick draw was something that I did back then. Over the years, I’ve definitely lost some skill.
You’ll see, though. I pull it off.
If you were ever in an old fashioned, Western saloon fight, which of the Legends heroes would you most want to have on your side?
That would settle things pretty definitively!
Yeah, he kicks ass!
Finally, do you think we’ll be seeing Jonah Hex again someday?
I think you’re going to see Jonah Hex. We need to get into some more of the story, but I think he fits into the world really well.
Having a past and such a history really help the Legends become Legends. I think Jonah makes the team more formidable. I think they need that guy.
“The Magnificent Eight,” featuring the debut of Johnathan Schaech as Jonah Hex, airs tonight on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on The CW.
Want to win a Jonah Hex comic signed by Schaech and Jimmy Palmiotti? Visit Schaech’s Facebook page before the episode airs to learn how!