Chris Evans, Ryan Reynolds and Justin Hartley have all portrayed more than one superhero in their illustrious careers. Now, Brandon Routh adds his name to that elite list as “Arrow” enters its third season. The former “Superman Returns” star is currently enjoying a meaty role on “Arrow” as Ray Palmer.
Introduced in “Showcase” #34 in 1961, Ray Palmer was a physicist and university professor who discovered how to shrink down to subatomic size. He later adopted the secret identity of the Atom and became a valued member of the Justice League of America. Naturally, “Arrow” has put its own spin on Ray and his miraculous alter ego.
A week after “Arrow’s” season-three premiere, Routh spoke to CBR News about finding Ray’s voice, banter with Felicity and the Atom’s costume.
CBR News: After “Superman Returns,” did you ever imagine you’d be returning to the DC Universe?
Brandon Routh: No. After all that was said and done, the only way I thought that was ever going to happen was if, maybe, I was going to be a villain, which can always happen. This was definitely a surprise.
How did you become involved with “Arrow?”
It was crazy. I was on a movie working with Caity Lotz and Tom Cavanagh called “400 Days” this summer. Then I got a call that I might have a meeting about “Arrow.” It’s like, “How crazy?” Caity is on “Arrow” and Tom is on their other show, “Flash.” I had a really good meeting with Marc [Guggenheim] and Andrew [Kreisberg] and things went from there. They told me the outline for the character. I started looking up the Atom because I didn’t know much about him and started to get excited. I did a little read with Emily [Bett Rickards] to make sure our tech banter would work well together. It was a win and then I started working a couple of weeks later.
From your discussions with Marc and Andrew, what was your sense of “Arrow’s” version of Ray Palmer?
That they wanted to have somebody to go back and forth with Felicity was important to them. They talked about it a couple of times about how in this season, they really wanted to shift things around a little bit. I was like, “Yes. Thank you.” When I was brought onto “Chuck,” I loved that show and was a big fan. I was happy for the opportunity, but Daniel Shaw didn’t get to be as funny. I was more of the straight man.
This was a true opportunity to do comedy and it was exactly what they wanted me to do. This was a match made in heaven. Forget about the awesome, cool part of being a superhero. I get to do what I’ve been working towards in my career. That’s what they basically wanted. They wanted that rat-a-tat-tat and to have that energy.
Ray is not a bad guy, but it seems he will be shaking things up. What makes him a good foil for Oliver?
What makes him a good foil is he’s the exact opposite. We’ll see he’s a do-gooder at heart, but we just see this exterior that’s completely different. Whether that’s real or a faÃ§ade, we don’t know. Oliver has a faÃ§ade he used for a while. Everybody has their public face and private personality. As Ray finds where he is going to land as far as what he represents as Ray Palmer and potentially the Atom, that may shift. He definitely gets to be the wisecracker.
In the beginning, he’s a little bit more of a wheeler-dealer kind of jerk to Oliver, but it’s all in good fun. He’s excited and passionate about what he’s doing. He has no ill will against Oliver.
Ray charmed Felicity in their first encounter. How would you describe their present relationship?
Ray has found that’s when he gets things done, when he is charming people, and he’s honed that as a skill. What he finds in future episodes is Felicity is able to deflect that. She’s not necessarily unaffected, but she’s able to get through his defenses, which is a little bit confusing and also alluring. Whereas most people would fold under his charm, she sidesteps it a little bit. Also, the tech lingo that they have allows them to converse with a different level rather than everyone else. That fuels their relationship.
What brings Ray to Starling City in the first place?
I can’t tell you all of that. I can say he’s been a resident of Starling City for some time. He’s just been doing Palmer Industries, his own thing, and has been outside the world of “Arrow” to this point.
Having immersed yourself in the comic books, what Atom touchstones are you looking forward to the series incorporating?
It’s hard to answer that question because things change from what the lore of a comic book character’s history is to the way it’s seen on screen. I don’t know what I can expect fully at this point. The main thing everybody knows from him is the ability to shrink to an atomic level. That is something that sounds crazy, but would be cool to see. When that happens, I don’t know as Marc and Andrew have both been cagey and mysterious. That is something I look forward to — and all the cool things he can do with an ability like that.
And then what I get to do on a daily basis is use his wit as a scientist and inventor and just have a lot of energy and fun. He has a big engine going, and has creativity and ingenuity, and that seeps through everything in his life. The one thing I can’t wait to see is how that passion and exuberance transfers to being a superhero. Superman was very stoic and after he saved somebody, he would tell a joke and fly away. But, he was always very restrained. “I’m here to save the day.” Whereas Ray could be wisecracking or joking or telling you about the latest computer while he saves you.
You’ve seen the sketches for the Atom costume. Any thoughts on it?
That it’s cool and I won’t be embarrassed. It’s pretty cool — looking from the early sketches I saw. Things change all the time, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s put into use. I think the audience will be excited to see it as well.
The Atom’s color scheme is almost the same as Superman’s, but will you miss having a cape?
[Laughs] My back and neck won’t, that’s for sure. It was pretty heavy.
“Arrow” airs Wednesdays on The CW
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