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Doom Patrol's April Bowlby Stretches the Definition of Hero

Doom Patrol's April Bowlby Stretches the Definition of...

By Sydney Bucksbaum Friday, March 8th, 2019

Some heroes are born. Others are made. And then there are the ones, like Doom Patrol’s Rita Farr, that are dragged kicking and screaming for much of the way.

Rita Farr isn’t a hero. Heck, if there's one thing you should know about Doom Patrol by now, it's that none of the characters are heroes right out of the gate. And while the first season of DC Universe's new show will find the members of the Doom Patrol coming together to finally make a team, Rita has a lot longer to go than the others.

A shape-shifting former Hollywood starlet, Rita Farr, aka Elasti-Woman, is selfish, narcissistic and about as far from a hero as you can get at the start of the season. Played impeccably by April Bowlby, she's not a very good person when we’re introduced to her in the show’s pilot.

"In the first few episodes, Rita is definitely cutthroat, narcissistic, vain, selfish," Bowlby shares. "I love how Rita hates everybody. I love that she's narcissistic! She's broken and it's really fun to play someone who is broken."

Bowlby laughs at how truly despicable and hateful Rita is at the beginning of the series. As anyone who’s seen the show’s first couple of episodes can attest, it’s to the point where she'd rather let an entire town get destroyed than lift a finger to help anyone.

"Everything that people try to get her to do, she refuses to do it," she adds. "She's always constantly the naysayer of the group. She doesn't want to be left alone either, though, so it puts her in this bind that's hilarious to see. She's always the one dragging in the back. I love that she's so resistant to change."

It's a trait that Bowlby found herself relating to as she began to play Rita. "I have a tattoo that says 'change' because I am also resistant to change," she says. "So that's life imitating art right there. Rita needs that reminder too!"

In what we’ve seen of Rita’s origin, she became Elasti-Woman when she alienated everyone working on one of her movie sets. After an on-set accident sends her plunging underwater, she becomes exposed to a mysterious chemical that causes her body to melt into an unformed mass. It actually sounds more like a villain’s origin story than a hero’s, but Bowlby promises that there is an actual human underneath all those monstrous qualities.

"You will have a little compassion for her throughout the series as she's put in this position where everyone has to find [the Chief],” Bowlby explains. “She is lost without him, so she's being forced out of her comfort zone of a very controlled environment. She feels threatened when she leaves, but she has to. There is something bigger than her pushing her out."

It’s all further complicated by the arrival of Cyborg (Joivan Wade), who unlike the Doom Patrol, really does see himself as a hero.

"Cyborg comes in and all these new kinds of support systems help her grow against her will, and she faces what she is, finally," Bowlby says. "There is an evolution where she is able to look back at herself and have a certain forgiveness for her actions. She's so tight and won't let go because she won't look at her history. Because all this stuff happens with the Chief, she has to look back and correct her mistakes."

Bowlby does promise that Rita "becomes a warmer mother figure," as unlikely as that may seem based on what we’ve seen so far. But that's why the actress loves Doom Patrol. As she puts it, all the characters are so "wacky and out there and broken," but eventually they do find their own strength and become the heroes they're meant to be.

"They're all terrible people, but you see how they ended up there and it shows a real vulnerability," she says. "There's so much heartbreak and you have compassion for them. And that's just the first episode! It builds from there. You really do come to love these wounded, dark monsters as they learn and grow and figure their issues out."

A self-described newcomer to the comic book world, it’s this journey and growth that Bowlby connected to the most when it came to playing a such a fantastically stricken character.

"We're dealing with human behavior wrapped up in this dark, funny world of superheroes," she says. "It's all about finding the thing that's inside of you that scares you the most, that you try to hide from people, and that is our show. Throughout the season, the characters reveal that and have to face their fears."

Bowlby continues, "That's not something that any other show is doing—dealing with body image, depression, multiple personalities wrapped up in this comic book world. You learn how these characters become the monsters they are. We have incredible CGI, fight sequences, but the base and heart of our show is the dysfunction of this family and how they work through their issues."
 

She's ready for her close-up! To celebrate today's new episode of Doom Patrol, April Bowlby has taken over DC's Instagram for the day. Check out her posts and don't miss the latest episode of Doom Patrol today on DC Universe. 

Sydney Bucksbaum covers movies, TV and comics for DCComics.com, and writes about Superman every month in her column, "Super Here For..." Follow her on Twitter at @SydneyBucksbaum.