At age 24, Renee is already an accomplished Broadway player, having appeared in the lavish productions of "Big Fish" and "Pippin." Now, she's strapping into the Nth metal, winged harness of Hawkgirl, a.k.a. Kendra Saunders, for the spinoff of The CW's superhero hits "The Flash" and "Arrow."
Making her first appearance at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Renee sat down with the press to express her excitement at bringing more diversity to television's burgeoning superhero ranks, as well as her relief that Kendra's signature wings will very likely be computer generated.
We're in this moment where now there's this huge appetite for female superheroes. You get to be one of the first to market, so to speak That's got to be pretty exciting.
Ciara Renee: Oh my gosh, absolutely. I was so glad that we're finally getting to see some girl power. We need it. We so need it. And now, the demand is big enough that we're getting it. I think it's great.
As a character, what hooked you about Kendra?
I mean, she's a superhero, so that was pretty cool! I was already sold there.
But I think going into this whole reincarnation idea, like having all of these past lives and these past people kind of inside her, as part of who she is and who she's going to be is a really cool acting challenge to keep in mind. If we go back in time and we see Kendra at a different point in her life, like as a different human, that's going to be really cool. I get to play all these characters. I'll never get bored.
But we don't really have any strong Latina heroes. You're the first.
Okay, yeah. That's awesome. I'm into that. That's really, really cool.
Is it something you thought about as you were going into this?
I mean, yeah. I try not to put too much pressure on myself. [Laughs] I think it's really great. I'm glad that we're getting more representation, across the board. It's what we've been needing for so long. We've been set in our ways for quite some time.
When it was first announced that I was playing Hawkgirl, there was so much positive response. And then there were obviously, like, a lot of people who were like, "Um, she's not a redhead. She's not white. She doesn't have green eyes. This is ridiculous." And it's like, "Okay, guys. I get it. You're diehard fans. That's really cool, and that's the way that it was. But you have to keep in mind that she was written in 1940. At that time, there were no other ethnicities in comic books. Like, that wasn't happening."
So now it's like, here we get the chance to revamp and expand. And we have great writers to do it, so why not? I think having something set since 1940 was long enough. We need to see something there, and I think we're getting it. And I think it's awesome.
What do you think she brings to the group dynamic?
It's hard to tell. It's hard to say, just because I don't even really know. I know the little tidbits that I can share about reincarnation or whatever, but I don't even really know, necessarily, what parts of her storylines in the comic books we're going to be taking. I think we're picking and choosing, like cherry-picking what's going to work and what fits within our thing.
I don't really know, necessarily, her importance within the group, but I know that we're all very, very significant. And it's not just going to be like a wash of, let's just fight all the time. They're really being conscious and trying to create real characters, real relationships and real storylines. So you're not going to get bored. You're not going to be like, oh, we're just fighting all the time. That's okay. [Laughs]
Do you think it's going to tackle darker aspects, like the comic book character's attempt at suicide?
I don't know. Heck, she's been reincarnated a lot of times. I'm sure a lot of things could happen.
She's specifically named "Hawkgirl" in this version, rather than "Hawkwoman." What do you want to own about the girl-ness of it?
That's true. I feel like it works for who she is in this. She's young. We're playing her younger, and she doesn't really know who she is. And I think who she is as a human is kind of sweet and awkward. And you see her -- she has this rageful side of her that she doesn't understand, that's very polar opposite which, again, is like an acting challenge. It's really awesome. I don't know -- I guess it kind of works for her though, because she's a nicer human. She's, like, sweet.
Are you well-versed with the DC Universe?
Relatively so. I watched "Justice League Unlimited" all the time, "Batman" all the time when I was younger. I definitely watched more than I read. I wasn't really a comic person when I was younger. But now that I'm reading them, I think they're awesome. And they're so gorgeously illustrated. It's, like, the best way to read a book, because you get a bunch of pictures.
I love it. I Every kid dreams of being a superhero. I grew up with an older brother who's four years older than me, and he was so into video games and he read comics and all this stuff, so I was always wanting to do what he wanted to do. I'm a tomboy, and so I've been into this for a long time.
Have you gotten a sense of what the final costume is like, and what kind of shape you've got to be in?
Yes! [Laughs] I do know that there's no midriff, and I thank the Lord for that. But it is a smoking costume, and I can't wait for people to see it. I know everyone's kind of like, what is it? What does it look like? What does it entail? But I can't really...
Have they put it on you?
I haven't. No, I don't even know that it really exists. Like, they're making it, but the whole thing I don't think exists yet. I just saw the preliminary sketches.
Are the wings going to be a CGI effect?
I think we're generally going to do that. Hearing stories of Hawkman on "Smallville," with a 50-pound attachment to his body, it's like, no. I have scoliosis. I don't need to add to that.
Do you know if you're going to be appearing on either "Flash" or "Arrow" prior to the "Legends" premiere?
Yes. I think that's kind of the plan. There's definitely going to be some introductions to some of the characters that you don't know that well, so that by the time we get to January, you're not just like swarmed with all this information about this team. So I think definitely -- I'll be on "The Flash," for sure.
Have you read any of the scripts yet?
We haven't gotten anything, no. They're keeping us on the edge of our seats.
You touched on the curmudgeonly fans. When's been the more positive side of the fan reaction, from your perspective?
You know, a lot of it, the stuff that gives me goose bumps, is hearing especially from women who have been wanting Hawkgirl, loving Hawkgirl for so long, they're so glad that they're seeing her. Or, people will say, "My daughter's eight and she's Latino or whatever, and she's so excited to see representation of this kind." So that is awesome. Being able to be a role model for kids is so important to me, and to know that I'm being a good one, hopefully. I think that's really the best thing.
One that just throws a few punches now and then.
Hey, she's strong!
With your musical theater background, when are we going to see her break into song?
Can I just tell you? I've been talking to the writers all day about it. When are we going to do a musical? Come on, we've had Grant [Gustin]. We've had Carlos [Valdes]. Everybody's done some music theater -- Victor Garber! I'm like, "Come on -- I'll play the guitar, guys!" It's so cool. Fingers crossed!
Have you seen any Hawkgirl cosplay going on already at Comic-Con?
I haven't. We're shuttled in and out of these fricking rooms and hotels and whatever. We don't -- we just finally got to sign, and that's what I want to do is, like, be kind of in the thick of it and see people and meet people. I've seen really cool stuff, but no, I haven't seen any Hawkgirls.
By this time next year, that'll probably have changed.
I look forward to it!