There’s a new Firestorm on the block, played by British actor Franz Drameh. But don’t expect to hear the “Attack the Block” alum’s London accent when he takes flight as Firestorm. Just like his comic book counterpart, this superhero is all-American.
In “Legends of Tomorrow,” the 23-year-old actor plays Jefferson “Jax” Jackson, the new half of Firestorm’s two-person dual identity. The Nuclear Man previously made his live-action TV debut on “The Flash” as a composite of the scientist Martin Stein (Victor Garber) and S.T.A.R. Labs engineer Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell). After Ronnie’s death, former high school football standout Jefferson “Jax” Jackson (Drameh) was merged into the Firestorm matrix, joining with Stein.
A longtime comics, Drameh told CBR News that he actually saw through the secrecy during his blind audition and guessed the identity of the hero. Now Drameh, along with co-Firestorm actor Garber, are part of the ragtag “Legends” lineup of time-traveling heroes and villains recruited to avert an approaching apocalypse. In this interview with CBR News, Drameh reveals how thrilled he was to bring part of Firestorm’s persona back to its roots.
CBR News: What got you excited about playing this new version of the character?
Franz Drameh: I’ve been a comic book fan my whole life, so when I was auditioning, the character breakdown they gave me was “Mystery Hero Michael.” So I was like, okay. So I had a bit of a read of it, and I was like: “Stein — this is Firestorm! But there’s already a Firestorm! How is this going to work?” So I kind knew early on that’s who I was playing. I was just so excited. I was like, “Are they going to do this? Is he going to have transmutation powers? Are we going to see Fury?” I was like — I was so excited, and so, so happy to be a part of the whole DC Universe.
Central to your job is working out your relationship with Victor Garber’s Martin Stein. What was it like finding that dynamic and making it work on screen with him?
I think me and Victor, we got on so well. Like, we have great banter together. He’s always taking the Mick out of my accent, and I’m always teasing him about things and trying to get him to play silly games, which he hates. So I thought that kind of shows through from camera to on screen. It’s just fun. He’s just fun to work with. I mean, he’s a great actor and we just have fun bouncing off of each other and just feeding off each other’s energy. It’s just great.
With such a large cast, it’s apparent that the showrunners are going to mix and match the characters as the show progresses. Who have you had a spark with among the other cast members or the other characters?
I feel like Jax and Kendra [Saunders, Hawkgirl] have a natural affinity towards each other, as they’re both the youngest members of the team and both kind of thrown in the deep end into something they weren’t expecting or wanting necessarily. Kendra was a barista, just kind of living her day-to-day life, and Jax was just a mechanic doing the same. So they’ve been thrown into this crazy world. So I feel like they understand each other.
Tell me where you see him fitting in with the group dynamic. Do you have a notion of what he brings to the team?
With Jax, I feel like he’s almost kind of the voice of the audience at times. Like when the craziness is happening, he’s the one to be like, “This is insane. Let’s not do that.” And he’s also kind of a little bit of the heart as well. He kind of — he’s really about more team, like team aspects, once he kind of really gets into it and kind of matures, because he grows a lot during the show. He starts as this kid who doesn’t want his powers, who doesn’t want to be on this mission to save the world, [and goes] to kind of realizing his part in the grand scheme of things and where he fits into the team, and really embracing his role as Firestorm.
How this Firestorm is different from the previous Firestorm we’ve seen?
So this version of Firestorm is more like comic book Ronnie Raymond. He’s a jock, basically. He doesn’t come from a scientific background, which is another one of the reasons why him and Stein are kind of at loggerheads a lot of the time. Where Stein wants to take this smarter option and Jax is more like rough and ready and like, let’s just go all out and do it. So yeah, this version is very different from Robbie Amell’s portrayal of Ronnie. He’s a mechanic. He’s a jock. He doesn’t come from any form of scientific background whereas Ronnie did.
Did you get to dig into old Firestorm comics for research?
Yeah, just a little bit. I kind of focused on some stuff in The New 52.
When did your personal love of comics start? What did you get most passionate about at its peak?
My dad was a massive comic book fan, so growing up all us boys watching the animated things, “Batman: The Animated Series.” Amazing, with Mark Hamill voicing The Joker! Which, when I think of The Joker, that’s the voice that I think. As soon as that Joker — when I’m reading “Batman” comics, that’s the voice that I’m picturing. That really got me into “Batman,” and then I started reading all the comics: “The Killing Joke,” which is one of my favorites. “The Court of Owls,” I like that. “Hush.” Batman’s my favorite superhero, in a nutshell. I like how messed up he is. I feel like sometimes we forget, Batman, he’s not well. He went through this crazy trauma, and he never got over it and has just gone off the deep end.
Which is why I feel like The Joker is such a perfect villain for him because, in essence, this one psychopath against another, because Batman is crazy. He’s this…he’s a man. He’s just a man who was trained to the point of perfection and it’s almost like Bruce Wayne is gone. He’s left Bruce Wayne. He is always Batman. Bruce Wayne is now just his cover. That’s what I love about Batman.
“Legends of Tomorrow” airs on Thursdays on the CW.
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