Legends of Tomorrow has the biggest cast of any DC comics show yet. Comprised of characters from The Flash and Arrow, this team of mismatched superheroes and supervillains travels through time trying to catch the evil Vandal Savage. It’s also one of the most diverse casts. Victor Garber and Franz Drameh even play the same character!
Ciara Renee plays Kendra Saunders, the reincarnation of Hawkgirl who has fought Savage through the centuries. In one, she was an ancient Egyptian, and Renee can pull it off with her mixed background. After a Legends panel for the Television Critics Association, Renee suck around to speak with journalists about representing women of color. Legends of Tomorrow airs Thursday nights on The CW.
How important is it for you to represent people of color in the comic book world?
I think it’s incredibly important. I get goosebumps talking about it. I’ve been getting tweets and messages from fans saying, “Hey, thank you so much for being on this show and being a woman of color playing a superhero, because my daughter who’s even or eight, she’s brown too. To see another brown person is really astounding.” I remember growing up loving Power Rangers and things like that. There was no brown girl on Power Rangers. Even when I played with my friends, they were like, “Well, you can’t be the pink ranger. She’s the white girl.” Media is so important. We are telling fantastical stories but it’s grounded in reality. We’re still human beings and having representation of everybody is really helpful. I really hope that a little girl thinks someday that she can be a strong, powerful empowered woman.
What specifically is your mix?
I always tell people, I’m black, white, Indian and Indian, because I’m Native American and Indian. People have asked me that a lot so I’ve answered the question different ways. Sometimes I’ll just say, “Well, I’m white” which is true. And sometimes I’ll say, “Well, I’m African-American.” Or sometimes I’ll say I’m Indian. These are all parts of me. It’s an un-talked about dialogue at this point. People aren’t really talking about mixed. We say, “Oh, she’s black” because that’s what they are saying now. Yeah, I am black but I’m also all these other things. I think it’s great to now have this platform to really start talking about multi-racial and multi-ethnic people.
How did you prepare for this role and what workout do you do?
Oh, honey, I don’t even have time to work out anymore, sadly. I’m actually a big proponent of just doing as many different things as possible. Back in New York I did a thing called ClassPass so I was able to do boxing and rock climbing and anything I wanted to try, rowing and any kind of sport. For me, I don’t want to get bored doing the same thing. I have a personal trainer and she’s really helpful to get the lines that I want in my body, but generally just being healthy and just being active is what I want to do and I don’t want to get bored. I just do as many things as I can and I love boxing. That’s my favorite.
How did you feel the first time you put on the costume and saw yourself as Hawkgirl in the mirror?
Oh, it was a bit of a process for mine. I think these suits are really intricate. There’s a lot going on, a lot of different pieces and a lot that we have to be able to do in them. So it’s even now still a process of okay, wait, I can’t quite kick as high as I need to so how do we finagle this belt over to the side? It was kind of built piece by piece and then put onto my body. When you get to the end you’re kind of like, “Okay, I feel very super in this.”
Is Kendra still struggling with her memory of past lives as Hawkgirl?
I think for a little while, she even tries to keep it a secret. She really is worried that if she starts to remember, that we’re going to fall right back into the cycle that he’s described to her of being killed every time. As soon as they find each other, they’re killed again. So I think she’s fighting that kind of desperately as any person would. You don’t want to die.
Will we see more incarnations of Hawgirl and Hawkman in time?
I think there’s definitely the possibility of that, absolutely. The time traveling aspect makes it really interesting because not only are we having flashbacks from my point of view, but then we’re also going and we may potentially meet other me’s and other hims.
Do you try to differentiate each incarnation of her?
Even the original Hawkgirl back in Egypt, she was to me a bit more powerful and grounded in herself. She was a high priestess. She was an important person in the kingdom so it’s definitely very different from Kendra who’s like, “I don’t even know what I do for a living. Maybe I’m a barista, I don’t know.” I think each character and each version, isn’t that kind of everyone’s dream to have another lifetime and do everything differently? It’s like, well, I’m going to be braver the next time. I’m going to be this in the next one. We literally get that opportunity.
Did she really think she’s just a barista? She’s clearly something more.
I think Kendra’s always known that there was something else and I think that’s why she’s waffled a little bit in who she was before, not really knowing what to do or where to go. Being a barista is just kind of a fill-in until she figures out what the big thing is.