You can say that Zari Adrianna Tomaz, the newest person to climb aboard the Waverider in tonight’s DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, is resourceful and bright. When we meet her, she’s living underground in a dystopian Seattle in 2042, keeping herself off ARGUS’s radar through her formidable hacking skills. You can say she’s fast-thinking, managing to deftly evade both the Legends and the water-wielding villain who seems to have targeted her. You can even call her magical—especially after she unlocks a new ability later in the episode.
Just don’t call her compliant. While she may be heroic, Zari is all too happy to break rules, lie, cheat and steal if it’s for the greater good. Which makes her perfect for this scrappy team of time-travelers.
“I’ve been making my way around having little interactions with different people and it is fun to find the dynamics between Zari and each of the characters,” shares Tala Ashe, who makes her debut as Zari in tonight’s fast-moving episode, “Zari.”
Adrianna Tomaz, of course, is the latest woman to channel the power of the goddess Isis within the DC comic book universe, but don’t look for much of that on Legends of Tomorrow. Zari’s power set is different from her comic book counterpart’s and there’s no ancient Egyptian goddess to be found anywhere. However, there are a few similarities beyond the name. Like Adrianna, she also finds a mystical amulet that bestows her with powers. And it may even bear a clever resemblance to one you’ve seen before.
“I had design input [on the amulet], shall we say,” reveals Executive Producer Marc Guggenheim. “It was very important to me that certain elements from the original Shazam!/Isis Hour Saturday morning show were reflected. But it’s still modernized and updated.”
That amulet turns out to be another nature-based totem, much like the one worn by Vixen, who has also recently found herself back aboard the Waverider. In last week’s episode, Amaya was having some trouble controlling her totem, but Tala and Marc promise that the two will share a close connection in the episodes ahead that also taps into the greater Vixen story as a whole. In “Zari,” it’s Mari McCabe’s sister Kuasa who is pursuing Zari in 2042.
“I know the totems are what are bringing them together and also link them both to Kuasa,” explains Ashe. “The connection between the totems does become a larger part of the season at a certain point. It is leading up to something.”
“Not that it’s required viewing,” adds Guggenheim, “but if you wanted a sense as to where we’re headed, Vixen Season 2 is what I would check out.”
The Legends have had it rough since they “broke time” during their battle against the Legion of Doom. Along with cleaning up the anachronisms they created, they’ve also had to contend with the newly formed Time Bureau and the absolutely driven Ava Sharpe, who seems to harbor a particular animosity for them. Plus, there are all these whispers of Mallus—whoever or whatever that is. Adding a new crew member is a wild card that may or may not work out, especially since Zari is new to the world of time travel and hasn’t had the same rules hammered out for her that the rest of the crew has.
“I think in a lot of ways she’s different philosophically from everyone else,” says Ashe. “She’s new to time travel, obviously, and I think her hacker brain sees a lot of potential in time traveling. Not just fixing these anachronisms, but possibly improving the future. Having come from this very dystopian, broken world of 2042, I think she has sort of a humanitarian tilt to her, which will clash with certain people on the Waverider.”
Which isn’t to say that Zari will strictly create conflict, though the producers promise that we can expect a few fireworks with Ray Palmer in the next episode, whose optimism doesn’t exactly synch up with the worldview of someone who’s been living in a dystopia.
“We wanted to give Zari the most challenging possible dynamic,” explains Executive Producer Phil Klemmer. “When Nate came onto the show, he was just so immediately engaged. I think the one thing we knew we wanted to do with Zari is have her not easily convinced that this was a good fit for her. We wanted to put her face-to-face with Ray Palmer. Her take on this guy is like, ‘Of course, you can be an optimist. Every good thing has happened to you.’”
Behind the scenes, there was a little uncertainty for Ashe as well. Though it was quickly smoothed out by a supportive cast that after two seasons is somewhat used to welcoming new Legends into the fold.
“The high schooler in me was very scared coming into this situation,” admits Ashe. “It was like coming into junior year of high school. It takes time for me as a character to find my dynamic, and also as a person. I relocated to Vancouver and have been adjusting to life there. It’s very different from New York. But we have a really amazing cast and crew, so it’s been a lot less painful than it might have been in different circumstances.”
She may be the newest member of the cast, but with a totem that seems to tie into this season’s mythology, Zari promises to be at the heart of it all, including an upcoming “bottle episode” in which the time travel hijinks take a backseat to a more thought provoking sci-fi story that the producers compare to classic Star Trek.
“We blow through our production money and then some every year with our crossover,” reveals Klemmer. “So then we end up doing a bottle show, which always turns out to be great, but it’s also driven by how we can do it all on our standing sets for as cheaply as possible. So yeah, Tala gets to do a bit of a Star Trek episode.”
“It’s like ‘Cause and Effect’ from Star Trek: The Next Generation,” adds Guggenheim “It’s our Groundhog Day episode, but Tala’s at the center of it.”
“I was warned by the writers room,” Ashe promises, with a grin. “They were like, ‘You’re going to be in every single scene!’”
"Zari" airs tonight on DC's Legends of Tomorrow at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. CST) on The CW.