On Labor Day weekend at Dragon Con, we got to interview Neil McDonough, who has played the evil Damien Darhk on both Arrow and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
So how has Dragon Con been for you?
Neil McDonough: It’s not like any other con I have been to There is no real theme to it. Everyone can dress as they want. They can express themselves, and everyone goes, hey that’s cool! I love that! I wish life was more like that. There’s no judging here about what you are wearing; it’s all open, it’s all fun. It’s a really neat environment to be a part of.
Is this your first Dragon Con?
Neil: Yeah, it is, and it’s in Atlanta which is an awesome town. It’s also great because I am a devout baseball fan and the Braves came from my town, Boston. So I have always had an affinity to Atlanta. I would love to go to a Braves game, but it seems like every time I am in town the Braves are out of town. I might just have to come into town just to see the Braves play.
There’s so much filming in town that you probably will be back.
Neil: Yeah, it’s amazing that the two most popular places to film are Vancouver, where we shoot the CW shows, and I now live and Atlanta. We used to live in L.A., but now it’s a choice for actors that you either live in Vancouver, or you live in Atlanta. To live in Atlanta would be awesome; it’s such a great place. It’s got a great sports scene, incredible theater, a ton of concerts and great people. And both cities are very similar.
What do you like about playing Damien?
Neil: What don’t I like about playing Damien? I can do anything I want. They give me these fantastic outfits to wear, where I don’t have to put on a mask or have a flowing cape or even a gun, so I’m not strapped down with any props. I not confined by my wardrobe. And then the words they give me that I get to play with. Come on! It’s been the joy of my life to jump into this universe, thanks to Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim who writes me the greatest stuff. It’s been such an absolute blessing to be a part of this.
You must have loved it last season on Legends of Tomorrow when you got to wear the Don Johnson Miami Vice white suit?
Neil: Everyone mentions that saying that must have been so cool, and it was, but I wish we had shot that scene here instead of Vancouver because I was in the white suit with white flip flops and it was I think 42 degrees. So I was drinking hot coffee between takes so that my breath wouldn’t show up on camera. That’s when I wish we shot the show in Atlanta. I know I will be shooting more stuff here just because of the tax breaks and all the studios that are here. I am looking forward to spending more time here. Vancouver has been like that for the last twenty-five years, but Atlanta has caught up fast. What your government, especially your governor has done, ensuring that the film industry is coming to Georgia, which is terrific! I used to love filming in Louisiana, especially in New Orleans and Shreveport but everything has switched over to Georgia. I couldn’t be happier that it has happened and I look forward to spending lots of time here.
So, have you been the subject of a John Barrowman prank?
Neil: John is definitely scared of me. So he won’t play any tricks on me. But we sing Ebony and Ivory all the time on the set because we are the ‘Odd Couple.’ We work so well on screen because we are so different. We approach so many things differently, but it works when we are together on screen. There is a brothership there. I love John dearly; he is one of my greatest friends. Our respect for each other is really fantastic, but he won’t dare prank me because he is afraid of me.
The chemistry between the two of you on the screen on both Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow makes almost all the other cast appearing with you kind of disappear.
Neil: I think last year Legends was trying to figure out what it was. The first year there were a bunch of hiccups and the second year started off trying to figure out what the show was because Arrow was so definitive and The Flash was so definitive. The Flash is a family show. Arrow is part superhero show. Both were awesome in their execution. We were trying to figure out what was Legends. When they put John, I and Matt Letscher together, it worked. The Legion of Doom, instead of being overly dark, we made it light and funny with the most bizarre of situations. I think everyone went, oh, wait a minute; I think we just figured out Legends. Ever since then Legends has just been like Disneyland, the happiest place on earth for a bad guy. They let us run amok, and we have had such a wonderful time playing against each other since we are so different, but Matt and I have such a rapport that when we come to the set, it’s ‘Gameday.” Everyone is geared up and ready to go. I’m always prepared and to meet someone else who is just as prepared means that we are ready to rumble. Which means that you can improv. You know all your lines, you are ready, and then that means you can create. It’s just been magic on the screen between the two of us.
Are you shooting right now?
Neil: Yeah, it’s a bit of a slow burn until episode five, and then Damien shows up to assemble a new team. I think the show is going to be darker in tone than last year. John isn’t on the show yet, and I don’t know when he will be back. It’s great to be back on Legends, and right out of the chute, when they bring me back to life in episode five, you can see the absolute joy on my face, and from there it’s on! It’s going to be a blast of a season.
One of the things that is interesting about Damien is that you’re a villain, but you are convinced you are doing the right thing. That’s what a true villain is.
Neil: Exactly. There is always going to casualties to get to greatness, and that’s theme for all these sociopaths that want to rule the world. Whoever is the dark leader, they think that their quest is just and for Damien, he thinks he is saving the world by getting rid of the bad apples, and if he has only one apple left, that’s fine, because he can just start the whole thing all over again. That’s quite an insight to have, and for an actor, I can do anything that I want. The more I believe that and let it come into my being, the fruitful and truthful the performance is. That makes him so much scarier. On Arrow what made Damien so dark and scary was me playing against Stephen, who’s Oliver was pretty dark and scary himself. His character was very driven, and my character was the same way. When Damien sees Oliver unraveling, it gave Damien so much happiness to watch him unravel in front of me. Damien felt at that time that nothing could stop him because he was Damien Darhk.
It is fun being on a time travel show because your sets change every week?
Neil: Sword fighting with Brandon in a snowstorm in heavy armor was awesome. It was cinematic glory! It was so much fun doing it, and then the next episode was somewhere else. Like the gangster episode in Chicago was great. Al Capone was spot on perfect. It’s been a ton of fun playing Damien because they just let me loose.
Thanks, some much for talking with us today.
Neil: My pleasure!
You can see Neil McDonough as Damien Darhk on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Tuesday night at 9 pm following The Flash.
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