NOC Interview: Olivia Swann of ‘DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’

In the few seasons Astra Logue has been on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, she’s gone from being a hellish antagonist for our heroes, to being a key ally, to now trying to lead a semi-normal life on Earth. But how will she adjust after all she’s been through, and where does her journey go from here? In the upcoming Legends episode “The Satanist’s Apprentice,” Astra gets more than she bargained for as she attempts to get some of the power and ease of her life in Hell back on Earth, and typical Legends shennigans ensue. We at The Nerds of Color were fortunately enough to speak with Astra’s wonderful actress, Olivia Swann, to talk about everything that her character has gone through and where she’s going as the season goes on.

Mild plot and setup spoilers for the end of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 5 finale and Season 6, Episode 5 follow.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Thank you so much for speaking with The Nerds of Color! First off, I love Astra and what you’ve brought to the character. What’s it like playing a character who’s backstory is incredibly steeped in tragedy and heartbreak, but who still makes the best of what she has with such determination and even some wry humor?

Swann: Incredible question! I think it’s phenomenal. Honestly, I feel so lucky and so wonderfully privileged to bring her to life. She’s so detailed and she has so much depth to her, and so much that I’m excited to discover. With, like you said, her backstory and the depth that she has, I think comes a sense of wanting to honor every kind of crack, every part of her that is so nuanced and so flawed, in a way. And kind of find different levels within that and just the nuances, which I think is one of those wonderful things as an actor, that you get to kind of play with and delve into and develop. It’s incredible to play someone like that and really get into the mind and personality of them. And its a personality that is quite different to mine so it’s always really fun to find those elements.

That’s amazing and that must be so great as an actor. Speaking of which, what’s it like being on a show as dynamic and random as Legends of Tomorrow?

It’s the best, honestly. I truly couldn’t imagine this show working in any other capacity, honestly. The actors that we have, the crew that we have, the writers that we have, the creators, everything just goes so well together. Even when it kind of shouldn’t! Even when you’re reading a script and you’re like “This happens?!?” and “How does this work?!?” and it truly all this just gels so wonderfully together, and I feel so incredibly lucky to be working with such an array of talent and array of minds that can create such a bannanas story and bizarre scenarios that have so much craziness but also so much heart in them. And it’s really humbling actually to run around, and play and have fun with this.

In this upcoming episode, Astra has to face some of the harsher realities of being on Earth. In Hell she was a literal queen, and now she’s a normal human being. What’s going through her head in this episode, and how are you able to relate what she’s going through?

I love that she starts the episode exactly as she would any other day in Hell. Her minions would do her bidding, she’d get everything she wants to, and it would be a great day. But what I love is that does not transfer to her, and I always find it so fascinating and so hilarious when you have a character that’s so used to being in control of and ruling everything, to then very quickly realize that things don’t work like that all the time. So that was super fun to play, that kind of frustration, not getting in any way what she wants and what she’s used to. She doesn’t get any help from John [Constantine] (Matt Ryan), and it becomes this whole desperation to get her Hell power back, which I love. I think we can all relate to that in some sense. You know, if you’re on the phone with a power company or some other frustrating conversation. You just feel like your life isn’t going the way you want it to and you’re stuck in some kind of rut and there’s no way out of it. I feel like we’ve all been there at some point. That’s very easy to relate to. But I liked kind of playing the frustration with John because she’s so used to him just being there for her, so used to him just showing up and saving her, not that she’d ever admit that but the sense that “It’s John! He should fix this and that.” Him not doing that is where the frustration for her comes in and it’s so deep set, almost. So that was super fun to play as well.

It’s such a fascinating dynamic between these two characters. John has gone from being a hated nemesis for Astra to now being more like a mentor figure over the course of her wild journey. How has it been to have Matt Ryan as such a dynamic scene partner throughout all this, and how does that mentor-mentee relationship develop more that season? 

Having Matt Ryan in any scene is a Godsend. I think he’s so talented and is so fun to work with, and I think you can tell that on screen. We have so much fun, and I feel very, very at ease to play and at ease to discover new things working with him. It’s just so fantastic. And I do love that by the end of the episode we end up in this mentor-mentee relationship. But I love at the beginning it’s like a petulant teenager and absent father, almost, which is quite fun to play. And I really enjoy having moments of seeing this kind of youthful girl who’s so frustrated at her parent who isn’t listening to her or isn’t there for her. That was a really fun dynamic to play. As the season goes on, we’re kind of moving away from the “I hate John I want to kill him, I want to ruin his life.” It becomes less of that, which shifts into more of what you were saying, the “mentor-mentee,” which feels like a really nice settled place for them both to be. And there’s a sense of respect (I guess as Astra doesn’t tend to respect anyone!) It’s very much a mentor-mentee working together, as opposed to attempting to sabatoge him.

We see Astra dabble in magic this episode. Will she become more of a magical practitioner this season in the same vein as Constantine?

We will be seeing more magic, yes. This is the basis of where we see she has the capacity to be able to do magic. Obviously she initially learns it in a very wrong way by trusting the wrong person, but we can see that there is something there with her that she has an affinity to that, and can do that. It just will require the right guidance to have it be something that she could use and use well.

Without giving too much away for the audience, this is episode where you become, essentially a Disney Princess! What was that experience like in the recording booth, and who are some of your favorite Disney Princesses or animated heroines, and who you took inspiration from?

Oh love this! From reading the script, I was incredibly excited. My jaw dropped and I was floored. But then we shifted into the actual part where I’ve got to sing and I’ve got to do all of this myself and just be good at it. So the stress came in. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a singer. Not my forte. So there was a lot of pressure going on. But we got there. I had a lot of help from everyone. It was a really fun experience for sure, though there was a bit of stress. But in the recording booth, I got to do the dialogue scene with Matt which was wonderful. We took it in steps. I think we got there in the end. I was having fun but I was also anxious as hell, so it was that amalgamation. There were so many kind of individual bits that have to be done before you see the final project, so that in and of itself is a really interesting way of working. Kind of just doing things in isolation and hoping that they come together, which they do obviously because everyone’s so talented at their jobs. So that felt like going in blind and just trusting the process. I myself am a huge animation fan. I have been since I was a kid. The heroines that I loved were Disney ones like Ariel and Esmerelda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I loved these strong, independent women, but then you have the non-Disney ones like Anastasia. She’s feisty as hell and I love her! This kind of strong woman you used to not see in cartoons. So I think they’re very, very similar to Astra. Voice-wise, initially it said on the script that she had a “Snow White cadence” that she spoke with, so I watched Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, tried to recreate that, but we also decided to keep the element of Astra within that Disney aspect. So it was playing with those two, a dynamic of a Hell Queen and a literal Princess mashed together. It was really good fun

Who are some of your favorite animated villains that you took inspiration from?

One of my favorite villains of all time, not Disney, is Poison Ivy from Batman The Animated Series. I love her so much. I think she’s phenomenal. She would definitely be one of the inspirations. But then you have Ursula, Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog, these incredible, almost luscious and so relaxed about their villainy. Such an ease to them being so cool and horrid. So yeah, definitely those two for sure.

What would you say the theme of Astra’s journey is this season?

There’s a level of learning. There’s a level of accepting where she is now, and kind of trusting in that. These are all things that Astra doesn’t do naturally. I think she’s very much set in “This is what I do, this is how I do it, this is what I think of you all.” We see that kind of shifting slightly. I think it’s a stretched out journey for sure. But it’s really fun to see moments where that kind of chips away. You kind of see her trusting, learning, and accepting these people that she’s now with. And that was always really kind of fascinating. Why is she there? Why is she with these people? Because I think the initial reaction is her is “Everyone’s an idiot until she decides otherwise.” So I was always really intrigued to kind of figure out “At one point does she think so-and-so is slightly less of an idiot and why?” Where are the moments where she’s more accepting of being with these people and working with them. So it’s definitely that kind of journey of seeing her settle more into her surroundings. I think there is an element of not wanting to herself shift completely, but we do see the shift, slowly but surely. Which is really good fun.

I think on a show like Legends that has always been this ensemble, that has always been about having these deep character explorations through these various dynamics, it’s so great to have the ability to do that.

Oh absolutely! As Olivia I was like “I wanted to be on board [the Waverider]. Let’s get involved and get back in!” But that’s not who Astra is, so it is one of those things that might take a bit of a longer time because she is someone who is more of a lone wolf who’s had to fend for herself and doesn’t do teamwork. So we have to take the time to allow her to find those moments. Whether she does or not is another thing, but there are pockets of that, and they are the most fun to explore for me because they’re so opposite to what we know of her already.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, “The Satanist’s Apprentice” airs this Sunday, June 6, airing and streaming on The CW.