By Curt Wagner
Tribune News Service
Arthur Darvill isn’t a stranger to TV time travel, but he’s never been at the helm of a vehicle zipping back to 1980s Russia or forward to an apocalyptic future.
For three seasons of “Doctor Who,” Darvill starred as Rory Williams, who was the 11th Doctor’s reluctant companion in the British sci-fi hit. Rory and his wife, Amy Pond, sped through space and time with the Doctor aboard his phone booth-shaped TARDIS.
Now the English actor is playing Rip Hunter, a Time Master who pilots a time ship he calls the Waverider in the comic-book inspired “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” airing Thursdays on The CW.
The similarities of the two time travelers are not lost on Darvill.
“Obviously there is the time travel element and I’m an Englishman in a long coat. So there are parallels,” Darvill said. “When I got offered the job my concern was that it would be too similar. Then I got the scripts and it was not. It is very different.”
Darvill, sitting for an interview at the January meeting of the TV Critics Association in Pasadena, Calif., said Rip is not an alien like the Doctor. Unlike the Doctor, he uses a weapon — a ray gun — and isn’t afraid to throw a punch.
“I have had to learn to punch people in the face, which I’ve really enjoyed,” Darvill said, laughing.
Rip is a man of questionable morals, yet he can’t help but care about the people around him, Darvill said, even if he doesn’t act like it. “Rip is very much a human man who’s been damaged and he’s looking for revenge. I don’t think the Doctor’s ever looking for revenge.”
Rip wants to avenge the murders of his wife and son — who in the show’s premiere were killed by the immortal baddie Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) as he conquered the world in 2166. In order to defeat Savage and prevent the murders, Rip travels 150 years into his past — the current present — to assemble a team of eight not-quite-heroes to help him.
The super team includes the Atom (Brandon Routh); the White Canary (Caity Lotz); Firestorm (Victor Garber and Franz Drameh); Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and his partner in crime Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell); and Hawkgirl (Ciara Renee) and Hawkman (Falk Hentschel).
Working with such a large cast has been a great experience, Darvill said, because each actor brings something different to the project. Another plus? “You never run out of conversation,” he said, laughing. “If something dries up with one person there’s always someone else to talk to.”
All the actors except Darvill appeared as their characters in The CW’s other comics-inspired shows, “Arrow” and “The Flash.” Greg Berlanti, an executive producer for all three series, said in Pasadena that “Legends” came about because he and his fellow producers wanted to give the actors and writers a chance to dig deeper into these characters’ lives.
When the producers decided to add the Rip Hunter character, whose first comic book appearance was in 1959 — four years before “Doctor Who” debuted on British TV in 1963 — they found a way to bring all the characters together.
“We got really excited by the sort of ‘Dirty Dozen’/‘Ocean’s Eleven’ style of mash-up or team-up of these characters on a singular quest,” Berlanti said of the characters, who had never been brought together in the DC Comics books in this way.
With nine main characters, the writers can group them in multiple ways for new missions throughout the season. Character dynamics change with each adventure, Darvill said, as does the tone of the show.
Darvill is especially excited about “Blood Ties,” airing Feb. 4, which he says has the feel of a classic Hammer Film Productions horror film. In the Feb. 11 episode, “White Knights,” the team travels to Soviet Russia in the 1980s.
“With eight, nine, 10 in the group, it’s a big changeable beast,” Darvill said of “Legends.”“There’s a real darkness but humor in all of it. Yeah, no two days are the same.”
DOCTOR WHO V. RIP HUNTER
Arthur Darvill is back in time-travel mode as Rip Hunter in “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” after starring as a sidekick in the British hit “Doctor Who.” Take a look at the similarities and differences in the two time travelers.
Doctor Who: 1963 on BBC One in “Doctor Who”
Rip Hunter: 1959 in DC Comics’ “Showcase #20.”
Doctor Who: He’s a renegade from an ancient extraterrestrial people called the Time Lords.
Rip Hunter: He’s a human Time Master who has defied the Time Masters Council.
Doctor Who: His TARDIS flies through time and space, and is bigger on the inside.
Rip Hunter: His Waverider only flies through time. It’s not bigger on the inside, but it does have an artificial intelligence called Gideon.
Doctor Who: Several of the Doctors have worn long coats.
Rip Hunter: He wears a long coat and looks fabulous in it.
Doctor Who: He has a Sonic Screwdriver, but refuses to use a weapon.
Rip Hunter: He shoots a ray gun — and loves it.
Doctor Who: He has many nemeses, including the Master, Daleks, Cybermen and the Weeping Angels.
Rip Hunter: So far, he’s only got one villain in his sights: Vandal Savage.