With the second season of The CW’s time-travelling superhero ensemble DC’s Legends of Tomorrow now available on Blu-ray and DVD, we were lucky enough to catch up with Maisie Richardson-Sellers to discuss landing the animal-channelling Amaya Jiwe/Vixen gig, the family feel of The CW’s Arrow-verse, and how important it is for her to be a role model as such a strong female character.
STARBURST: You worked with The CW initially on The Originals, but how familiar were you with the whole Arrow-verse?
Maisie Richardson-Sellers: I’d watched some of the episodes but I’d never really been aware of the scope of the comics. So when I got the job, they sent me a bunch of comics and I was, like, “Wow, a whole new universe!” Since then, I’ve been watching all of them; I love it. It’s such an incredible, supportive group, and I think there’s some really inspirational role models being created for generations to come. I’m really enjoying it.
Were you familiar at all with the comics or were you essentially going in cold in that regard?
I had read the comics, I’d watched the shows, so as soon as I started reading it , I had a lot of room to play with character development, which was great, and I also got to research the comic books that exist for Vixen. So I got to use old tradition for this strong female hero but add my own flair to her, which was great.
Did having an existing relationship with The CW make the process of landing the role a little smoother for you?
It didn’t help as far as I’m aware, I don’t know if they talked about it backstage. I was in London actually. I flew in and it happened to be on the day of the test. My friend was, “Come, come, there’s this great role coming.” I was jet-lagged and was dragged in, and it was a complete secret; I had no idea what I was auditioning for. So I walked in and I did it, and we got on amazingly, it went really, really well. It was only afterwards that I found out the character I was auditioning for. Of course, I said yes straight away. I love The CW as a family, what they’re doing at the moment in terms of diversity and female representation, so I was very happy to get that.
Maisie's Amaya in action alongside Caity Lotz's Sara Lance
You mentioned the family feel there. We’ve interviewed several members of the Arrow-verse over the past few years, and it just feels as if there’s this great family vibe amongst everybody and that everyone is just so sincerely supportive of one another. How was it stepping into that environment?
I think it trickles down. Everyone is so wonderful at the top that everything comes down. Everyone’s just awesome. We’re stuck in Vancouver together doing a superhero show, so we spend a lot of time together hanging out. Even in Atlanta or you go to Comic-Con and all the shows come together. So it is really like a family, and a lot of people have grown up on these shows. It’s a very sort of safe environment, and there’s a lot of interaction between the shows on The CW.
You touched upon Comic-Con, and with any show such as DC’s Legends of Tomorrow there’s a huge fandom involved. Was it a bit of a shock to the system to see just how passionate people are about these shows?
On The Originals I played a character who had already been played by Claire Holt, and on this show I play a character who is the grandmother of another character, so I was a bit nervous. But I was really overwhelmed by the positive response; people really gave me this space to prove myself, then they were really supportive. I haven’t had any of the negative side, so as far as I’m confirmed it’s a wonderful experience. They’re very passionate, and I hope we can do the characters justice for their sake. It’s good because it shows we’re making people think, which is important, and it shows we’re challenging ideas.
Your character is the grandmother of the previously-seen Mari McCabe incarnation of Vixen. Given that Amaya has the same powers and genetics, was there anything in your portrayal you looked to pull from Megalyn Echikunwoke’s Mari from her appearances in Arrow and the animated Vixen?
I think definitely for me one of the things that stays true to both characters is their strength and they have this unwavering sense of justice and of right and wrong; a really strong moral compass. So I really tried to bring that through. Then they’re both lone soldiers; they’ve both been through a lot and decided to sacrifice their whole lives to pursue what they think is right. That’s the same with Amaya, but then also she’s got the past to add. She’s a woman lost in time, and I think that’s something that over the course of Season 2 we see her slowly come to terms with as she begins to relax a bit and discover that there is a grey area - that just as powerful as being a superhero is being human as well. In Season 3 we’ll see that going further. It was really a launching pad for us.
Obviously, a key component of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is the concept of time-travel. How much fun is it to have that as such a heavy element of the show?
I love it! For me, acting is about portraying as many characters as I can in as many environments as I can, exploring as many worlds. The fact we get to time-travel means that every week we’re going to a whole new universe, the characters get to head there, we get incredible costumes. Also, we get to kick ass and be a superhero at the same time, so it’s a dream really for me.
Vixen as part of the Justice Society of America
Looking back, what was your favourite part of Season 2 personally?
I think for me it’s the journey. For me, seeing these human superheroes who are very flawed and fantastical go on their journey as individuals but also as a team. It’s the bonding of the team, the individual relationships, and time-travel, and definitely just fighting. Doing the stunts was really fun.
When was the moment where it really hit you that you’re now playing a true bona fide superhero?
It was probably the first episode - well the second episode, technically - where the JSA come in. There’s this scene of the JSA versus the Legends. I think that was the moment. We were all standing there in our leather, a boiling day, and we’re all just running around. I was like, “Okay, we’re basically just adult children living out our dreams.” It was awesome. Then seeing it come to life on the screen it was, “Wow, this is the real deal.”
Finally, is there anything you can tell us about the third season, and how does it feel to now have the chance to serve as a role model for so many youngsters across the globe?
I’m definitely back, I’m back as a series regular for Season 3, so that’s great. And it’s such a honour, to be honest, to play a character that people can look up to. It’s so important to have strong female independent characters who are just as strong as male characters. For young girls and young boys to see that this is what society is moving towards rather than it being purely ‘princesses’ while the males get to kick ass. Also, to be a woman of colour on screen, I think it’s fantastic it’s such a strong role. I think it shows that we’re moving in the right direction, and I just hope this opens the door for other productions to do the same, for people to want to do this and to see the power of it.
Season 2 of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is out now on Blu-ray and DVD.
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