CW Seed’s new animated series Freedom Fighters: The Ray takes place a world away. On the heels of the Arrowverse’s massively popular four-show crossover “Crisis on Earth-X,” The Ray will take fans back to Earth-X, a parallel universe where the Nazis won World War II. There, the Ray and his team of Freedom Fighters “fight violence and oppression” — something abundant in a world ruled by the Reich.
Speaking to CBR, executive producer Marc Guggenheim set the record straight about when the series takes place in the Arrowverse’s timeline and offered a glimpse into the Ray’s new reality. After all, the Ray is originally from Earth-1, which Guggenheim says we will learn more about in the upcoming animated series. He also previewed the characters who will join the Ray in his fight, including Doll Man, Phantom Lady and Red Tornado, as well as those who wage war against him, like Overgirl, Dark Archer and Barry Allen’s Blitzkrieg.
CBR: This first question is a bit of a chicken and the egg deal. Did you head into Freedom Fighters: The Ray with the intention of bringing Ray into live-action, or was that a decision made after the animated series was already in development?
Guggenheim: It was a decision that was made after. Our experience with Vixen sort of told us that it was probably just a matter of time before we would ultimately introduce him in live-action, but the idea of doing it so soon — in fact, what turned out to be even before the animated series was released — that was super unexpected.
In the trailer released at SDCC, we see characters like Overgirl and Dark Archer, who died in the crossover. Can you talk a little about when Freedom Fighters is set?
Yeah. Technically, it’s set before the crossover. That said, there are some continuity mix-ups. There are some continuity inconsistencies that I hope to be able to address maybe with a comic book down the road, assuming I have the time, a good enough idea and DC’s blessing.
What drew you to Earth-X? Why set your new series there?
I was really taken by Grant Morrison’s concept, not so much for Earth-X but for the Freedom Fighters themselves. The idea of a superhero team that is made up of oppressed minorities is really cool. I just really, really liked the notion… Just for the animated series alone, it made sense because it helped distinguish the story. We haven’t done parallel earths in Vixen, with the animated series. We haven’t done a metahuman gay superhero in the Arrowverse before. There were a lot of elements that were like, “Okay, we haven’t seen this before. I haven’t done this before.” So that’s a big litmus test item for me. I don’t want to just crank out another series and check off another character. I want to only do it if we can do something that’s new and different.
As he mentioned in “Crisis on Earth-X,” Ray is originally from Earth-1. Will we learn more about that and how he came to Earth-X in Freedom Fighters?
You will, actually. This is the part where the continuity does line up. It really makes The Ray series a prequel to the crossover… It’s not that it was designed ever to be a prequel, but it was always designed to come out earlier. The truth of the matter is that it was supposed to come out earlier, and then — when we made the decision to do Ray in live-action for the crossover — that obviously entailed casting someone, because it’s very hard to do something in live-action if you don’t have an actor. We had the good fortune to get Russell Tovey, but then we were faced with a bit of a dilemma, which is we could either just continue to go forward as we already were with the animated series with a different voice and a slightly different look to the character of the Ray, or we could take the extra time to have Russell voice the character, do some design alterations, make the Ray’s appearance in the animated series line up more with the way Russell actually looks. There was just no way to turn those kind of changes around and release it before the crossover. It was just more important to have Russell’s voice in the series than it was to get it out early, so that’s why you’ve seen the crossover before you’ve seen the animated series, even though the animated series does take place before the crossover. Complicated enough?
I certainly ask all the comic book fans to indulge the various little continuity gaffs. This was something that Andrew Kreisberg and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on. Like I said, I look forward to hopefully addressing that in true comic book fashion, I would say; in the long tradition of comic books, having stories that fix continuity inconsistencies. I look forward to the opportunity to do that.
We know the Ray is all about fighting “violence and oppression wherever it exists,” but what’s the inciting incident that sends him into action during the series?
Basically, he gets powers. This is a very traditional superhero origin story where you’ve got a guy who is going about his business and he’s got his issues and he’s got his challenges and there’s various things in his life he’s struggling with and then, lo and behold, he ends up with superpowers. The superpowers make his life far more complicated. [laughs] All the things that he has already been wrestling with start to come into a different kind of focus when he also is balancing just the sheer weight of the responsibility that comes with shouldering this kind of sort of burden of being a superhero, but there’s also the opportunity of being a superhero as well.
As we saw in the trailer, the Freedom Fighters includes characters like Red Tornado, Black Condor and Phantom Lady. Can you talk a little about these characters and why they were chosen for your Freedom Fighters team?
We chose Red Tornado for a very specific reason, a plot reason. There was something very specific that we needed out of that character that kind of gets the whole storyline going. As far as Doll Man and Phantom Lady, we wanted to be true to the original lineup of the Freedom Fighters, and Doll Man and Phantom Lady are — in my opinion — two of the more recognizable characters in that lineup in addition to the Ray. So they just made sense from a honoring the comic book origins and comic book influence standpoint.
What can you tell us about this Dark Barry Allen we saw in the trailer?
His name is Blitzkrieg. Obviously, he’s different from Thawne, who is our evil speedster in the crossover. The great thing about the Arrowverse is there’s plenty of evil speedsters to choose from. We had written and conceived of the whole animated series long before the crossover and even longer before the idea of doing Earth-X, long before the idea of doing Earth-X in the crossover was a twinkle in our eye. If we had thought out that far in advance, maybe we would have done Thawne, but I kind of dig evil Barry Allen. He’s fun.
Can you tease one surprise character or moment that you’re excited for fans to see?
Oh, you know what? I’m really glad that we got Megalyn EK back to reprise her role as modern day Vixen. So the animated Vixen makes an appearance in The Ray, so we’re keeping that flame alive. I’m really tickled that we’re doing that.
Citizen Cold really stole the show in the crossover. What are the odds he’ll pop up in Freedom Fighters?
Unfortunately, like I said, we sort of conceived this before Leo was a twinkle in anyone’s eye. So unfortunately, we don’t have Snart in the Freedom Fighters. It would be great! It’s just one of those things where it’s animation, so the lead time is pretty significant and we don’t have every idea all at the same time. I guess we’ll have to hope for a Season 2 of The Ray before we get a chance to see the animated version of Leo.
When will we see The Ray in live-action again?
Great question! The answer is, truth be told, very similar to a lot of the characters who are not series regulars. It requires the confluence of Russell’s availability with a great story. As soon as we have both of those things, you’ll be seeing the Ray on your TV screens or your tablets or your computers once again.
Starring Russell Tovey as Raymond “Ray” Terrill, Freedom Fighters: The Ray will debut Friday, December 8 on CW Seed.