John Diggle has been a beloved fixture in the Arrowverse since his inception. Played by David Ramsey, he’s often a favorite character for many fans of DCTV. Even though Arrow has ended, Diggle endures as he embarks on a new journey in the Arrowverse, appearing on the various shows that Ramsey himself directs. We were fortunate enough to speak with David Ramsey in anticipation of his directed episode of Legends of Tomorrow debuting this Sunday, finding out what exactly is going on with Diggle going forward, his previous appearance on Batwoman, and the experience of directing.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Thank you so much for speaking with The Nerds of Color! I know so many people for whom John Diggle is one of their favorite characters, and I just want to ask what it’s been like for you to have all this love and admiration for your character endure for so much in the fandom, even after Arrow ended.
RAMSEY: I remember back in 2012 when I was picked as John Diggle and they said to me “You know David, you don’t have a lot to deal with in the pilot, but you ultimately become our hero’s right-hand guy, and there’s a great destiny after that. If things go well, we have plans.”
This is an original character, he’s not in the comic books. And it couldn’t have been longer than a little bit maybe after the first season, maybe even before that, that there was such adoration that the public kind of had for this three tour, Army Ranger soldier whose dedication to friends and family is off the charts, such that he became a fixture within the DC Universe. He became a character that originated on television, who did not previously exist and became a permanent fixture. This was completely and totally due to the fans. The fans have always loved the character. I have been blessed to play him because I think he’s, he’s better than I am. The outpouring of affection that, to your point, that fans have had for John Diggle, has been really overwhelming. And, you know, you’re going to give this guy a glowing green box, and then you dare to talk about it again, and the fans still embrace it. And it’s, it’s just, it’s just really overwhelming. It’s bewildering, I don’t know if that’s the right word, but it’s just amazing, really, just the outpouring of support that fans have had over the years, and I’m very grateful for it.
And we’re grateful for you and for John Diggle! So getting into this upcoming episode of Legends of Tomorrow that you directed, I’m wondering what it was like for you, getting to direct an episode of TV on a show as wacky and as fun as Legends, and with the subject matter at hand of it being a Western/Cowboy scene. Were you a fan of Westerns growing up, and did you get to live some of that experience through your directing and a little bit of the actions you get to do in this episode?
Great questions. First of all, doing Legends is fantastic. It’s whatever you want to. Legends is that show where it’s, “Hey, we don’t normally do this but we’re going to do it because I think you want to do that, David” is great. “We don’t normally put the camera there, but we’re going to do it.” As opposed to other shows you walk into, but they have a very specific way of doing it. Legends just isn’t that way. It’s always fun to kind of pull out these things, like “Let’s see the bad guys do the bullet hole through the head,” all that kind of crazy stuff, Legends is like “Go for it!” It’s so fun as a director, especially as an episodic director because episodic directors are kind of, you know, we’re kind of one and done, and kind of come into where we disappeared. So then the second part of your question, I was, I am a fan of Westerns but really what stood out to me in terms of how westerns are handled, was the Coen Brothers. And this episode, specifically, it felt to me, very Coen-ish. And, that’s what kind of stepped off the page when I read it. It was, “How do I kind of incorporate some of the feelings of the Coen-ish thing, and still tell the story of these relationships” because that’s, that’s always what makes these stories tick, right? I mean, the Arrowverse shows work because of the relationships. I mean, the facts are what they are, but you know they don’t have HBO budgets so you can only do what you can with visual effects. So it’s really about the characters. And so to me it was having this Western kind of Coen Brothers, at least in my view, that’s the story I kind of wanted to tell. I can tell the showrunners “I kind of want this to be Fincher-like,” and the showrunners on Legends buy right into it.” They’re like, “Yeah, let’s do that!” Legends is very unique in that respect.
So we know you can’t choose favorites, but was there a particular character dynamic that you directed and was especially compelling for you to work with?
I think the Zari-Behrad brother-sister relationship is great. I’m really close to my sister, and that was kind of personally relatable, so I just kind of dialed into that. I just think of that last scene where they’re kind of talking after bickering. And by the way, everyone’s been arguing and fighting, and we get to the end of the episode where Constantine’s kind of made up with Adam’s character, Nick is going to get to see his girl who’s in a totem now, and Sara and Ava have kind of found a place as Sara has walked into her new revelation of who she is. So we all kind of get there, but to for me, between Zari and Behrad, there’s a kind of very special thing. There’s also Lissette’s character and Astra’s character whose personalities and powers come to complement each other. But amongst all those for me what kind of steps out, it’s been Zari and Behrad.
Yeah, I love that. I loved watching my favorite Persian siblings on TV! More broadly, do you see yourself directing more going forward whether in the Arrowvererse or elsewhere?
I think have been bitten by the bug a bit. I’m an actor, but I have realized that my greatest strength as a director is as an actor, and kind of, in all storytelling, particularly in this medium, you know, kind of zeroing in on the relationships between the actors as always, no matter what spectacle you’re telling, it always boils down to the characters. Being able to kind of use a spectacle, and use these other elements that you cannot use as an actor obviously because you have no control over, to enhance these relationships, has been very intoxicating. So, I think I have been bitten by it, only because it turns me on as an actor. Right? It turns me on to see how I can create these worlds to help strengthen the connections between the actors. And so it all goes back to kind of storytelling in front of the camera. But I think for me. I’ve been kind of drunk on that, kind of, how do I help enhance the story behind the camera? And so I want to be at it for a while.
That’s amazing. I can’t wait to see what else you come out with. So, back to Diggle, I recently watched Diggle on Batwoman, and I’m wondering if you can talk about what that experience was like filming on that show and working with Camrus Johnson.
Camrus is awesome. I think of all the Diggle appearances on all the shows we began covering the story of what it means to reject the invitation that was within that green box. And ultimately John Diggle’s destiny. So we’re on that road, and part of these crossovers is about telling that story. He was on that when he talked about his headaches and that’s a part of it. So, first of all, Camrus is brilliant. He’s fantastic, a wonderful young actor. Of all those places John Diggle has appeared, I would love to reappear there. And I think that mentorship within this superhero universe, between two Black men, hasn’t been seen. There’s a story of fatherhood, of lost fathers, that I think they relate to uniquely. These are also characters that have helped other heroes in their journey, and now it’s for Diggle to walk into his own heroship. And now for Luke Fox, he’s beginning to walk into his own. That story of mentorship on that level within the superhero world, to kind of find where that can be grounded, I think is challenging and unique. So, that story, I will buy into 100%. Now obviously you get the superhero aspect, how cool it would be to see whoever John Diggle becomes fighting alongside Batwing, or vice versa. That’s all fun. But just in terms of the storytelling, the mentorship of it all, I think it’s fun, especially within the Arrowverse where we haven’t seen that, at least between two characters like this.
At the end of Arrow, you found a glowing green box, and the mystery of what that is has continued with your appearances on the other shows. The fandom just has a lot of questions and theories on what’s in that green box exactly, and again, I know you can’t confirm or deny what it is, but what’s that experience been like having to keep this mystery close to the chest?
Well, some things, we’re still playing out. Some of this mystery, some of it we know, and some of it we don’t even know. Here’s what I would say: that we are at the very beginning of John Diggle’s, kind of, “galactic destiny.” And whatever was in that box, there’s a consequence to denying it. This is part of that story. But ultimately, the story goes beyond that to where he ultimately goes, which we have not discovered yet. And you won’t discover that yet, but you will ultimately, and when you talk about beyond this run where Diggle is is going to be beyond that. This part of the story is the consequence of denial. What does it mean, for whatever was there that he has refused? What does it mean to John Diggle? Ultimately his story goes further than that, but we have yet to tell that, but we will.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, “Stressed Western” airs this Sunday, June 27 on The CW.