Brandon Routh Gets Candid About Ray & Nora's 'Legends of Tomorrow' Exit (VIDEO)

Brandon Routh Legends of Tomorrow exit
Q&A
Dean Buscher/The CW

If you're bummed that tonight's Legends of Tomorrow is Brandon Routh's final episode, you're not alone. The actor, who created the role of Ray Palmer in Arrow's third season, admits that the end of his run on Legends — along with that of his off-screen wife Courtney Ford, who plays Ray's new bride, Nora Darhk — came as a bit of a shock to the couple.

Still, the pair have made the best of a bad situation by leaning into the accelerated love story of the Atom and the evil-seed-turned-Fairy Godmother. It all culminated last week with their impromptu wedding and a warning from Nora's dad, villain Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), that Ray needed to get her out of the time-jumping business so she could do her job better at home.

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What brings Sara, Constantine, and Charlie to British Columbia in the March 24 episode?

That little twist and the fact that pops killed himself shortly after are sure to be behind Ray and Nora's choice to take their leave, but what of the behind-the-scenes decisions that led to this development? We spoke with Routh, widely known as one of the nicest guys in the business, about leaving Legends, loving his fans and the most Super thing he's taking away from the whole experience.

OK, we are so not happy that you're leaving. What made you guys decide it was time to go?

Brandon Routh: Neither of us decided to go. It was [showrunner] Phil Klemmer who decided that it was time for us to go. Yeah. Before the season started, got a phone call that that was the situation. So yeah, we proceeded accordingly.

Legends of Tomorrow - Brandon Routh - The Atom

Dean Buscher/The CW

Then you've been aware that this was coming for a bit, because Legends started filming the season back in September, right?

Yes.

How has it been for you?

It's been one of the hardest things we've done in our lives. We both love these characters, this show and our fan base. And we've seen how impactful in a positive way the Legends and Ray and Nora have been in people's lives, from hearing on social media to hearing in person at conventions. And that means something to us. We care about that and we love that... we love the characters for ourselves, but also for the fans. I think everybody knows that eventually their time on a show is going to be done. Not everybody gets 15 seasons like Supernatural. And given the opportunity, I don't know that I'd want to be 15 years on a show. [Laughs]

My relationship with the show, it changed because the show changed. And then Courtney came on and that was amazing for our family. And we were very happy, having a great time working up there. So it was a shock to us, because I always had open conversations with the producers about the whole experience. This was sprung upon me without communication. So that was a challenging thing. And then the season became very challenging because it was just very confusing about why it was all happening.

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The actress opens up about the end of Nora's run on the Waverider and that surprise death!

You mention how much you love Ray. As one of the three remaining original cast members, you've been playing him now for, what, seven years total?

Since 2014, over 100 episodes of television — so the most I played any character. And I think the show was always about "What do we do? What are we doing? What are we doing here?" And you could fault that, but I think that's kind of the magic of it. The confusing thing about Legends is that sometimes it doesn't know what it is and then does know it is, and sometimes it doesn't know what it has when it has it. It's such a fluid experience and that's what I've enjoyed about it so much. The show was originally conceived one way and what I was told the show was going to be, it was different when I got there and filmed it. So then I had to fall into line with what it was.

I was told I was going to be George Clooney in Ocean's 11, and that wasn't what happened. Ray Palmer  wasn't the leader. So I had to go, "OK, so now refocus, who am I now? What am I on the ship?" With Rip Hunter being the leader, the little jokes that they put in for Ray and the relationship with the Polar Opposites — Captain Cold and Heat Wave — I said, "OK, well I'm going to do comedy, because that's what I was doing on Arrow." So I went with that. "I'm going to push the envelope on all this stuff they're giving, because this is where the fun is and this show's a little bit out-there." So I kept pushing it and lo and behold, that's what the show becomes with everyone else continuing to do more comedy. And that's where we found our sweet spot.

Legends of Tomorrow - Original cast

The original lineup of DC's Legends of Tomorrow: Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter, Ciara Renee as Kendra/Hawkgirl, Victor Garber as Professor Martin Stein, Caity Lotz as White Canary, Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer/Atom, Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart/Captain Cold, and Dominic Purcell as Mick Rory/Heat Wave (Jordan Nuttall/The CW)

It had to be a pretty fun ride...

Absolutely. I think Seasons 3 and 4 have been the best seasons of the show, really, with the cast jelling and ripping on each other but not fighting all the time. And not in superhero attire all the time, just sometimes ... The show is about relationships, right? Any good show is about the relationships between the characters. And that's what [makes] the difference between the Marvel movie universe and the DC TV universe: The relationships exist stronger in the DC TV world than they do in the film world, for the most part. That's what sets the successful projects apart from the unsuccessful ones in my mind. And Legends can do all kinds of crazy things because of the relationships that exist between the characters.

Exactly. That's the fun of it, watching these characters with weird connections getting into missions together. Last week, Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) basically says to you, "Do right by her. Get her off this ship so she can focus on being a Fairy Godmother." I'm guessing that the impetus behind you guys leaving.

Yeah, yeah. They're basically saying that Nora can't do her job on the ship. Which I don't really see. But anyway, yeah, that's the premise. And then they have a conversation that if they go back and change a kid's past by making it happy, then it's going to alter history, and that would screw up history... even though that's what they do all the time. But that was the reason, that's why. That's about it.

Legends - Brandon Routh - Nick Zano

(Dean Buscher/The CW)

And there's a Shakespearean adventure...

Everybody gets into it, at least those that are cast towards the end. And they do actually have to do some play acting, which is pretty fun. Ray is not involved in that part, because he's back in the ship, preparing to leave. The whole idea is that Ray has a secret, that he's leaving, and everybody knows but Nate (Nick Zano)... because Ray just doesn't know what to say to Nate. And so then everybody's egging him on and trying to get him to tell Nate and he can't. And finally Nate finds out, and of course, there's a whole big blow up and they have a fight. Thankfully, they make up.

Well Ray is his guy.

Yeah.

Yeah. And that's been one of the nicest things to watch, this male friendship.

It just happened! That whole SteelAtom bromance has been one of the most fun aspects of the character the last few years with Nick on the show.

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Ray and Nora make a big life decision in the March 17 'Romeo V. Juliet: Dawn of Justness.'

When I spoke with Courtney last week, she mentioned how you've worked so often together on projects, but with this one, you weren't immediately put together as a couple.

Correct. And that was a lot of fun.  We had no interaction at all, originally, because she was just here to bring Damien Darhk back from the dead. And then her character was supposed to be gone. But she's such a fantastic actor, they had to keep her. And so this was the first time in all of our work together that we had gotten to establish two characters and their relationship. It was fun to have those meet-cute moments, as they call them in Hollywood. And they weren't even like meet-cute because they were antagonizing one another, or really, she was antagonizing him the whole time. [Laughs] And he was trying to help make her a better person or to save her from some demons.

And now, maybe the last half season, you guys haven't gotten to play like the Hallmark movie version of these two characters getting together.

A little bit. Yeah. As we tend to do in these shows, not much happens and then a lot happens fast. So one episode left and it's where they finally were romantic together. We didn't see a ton of them, because Ray gets turned into Neron, then comes back in Season 5 and she's off being a fairy godmother. It was really only the last two episodes that we see Ray and Nora together. But it's nice to see them have some happy times together.

And how was it filming your second wedding with each other?

Well, it was great for the fans, so I'm really happy that it gives them a nice send-off. And I think it ultimately is good for the characters. I believe that they would have gotten there at some point. On a personal note, it was very challenging, because it felt forced, like we're trying to make everything OK and make everything happy just by getting us married. Personally, we were not happy about it.

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I can tell. How do these two ultimately leave the Waverider? And how do they leave things with the team?

So they get to say all their goodbyes, thankfully, even though there's still some good drama and good moments. But there's a very strong finality to their exits, saying goodbye to everyone. It's not, "Goodbye. See you soon. Come visit." It's "Goodbye forever."

Wow. And now what is next for you?

We've just been re-integrating back into Los Angeles, having been up in Vancouver for the last several years, having our son in school up there. We had moved our family and had a remodel down here, so moving back into our house,  it's lovely and happy [actually], all the fun things about moving home and reconnecting with friends and our life back here. We're both gently looking for the next project.

Crisis on Infinite Earths - Brandon Routh - Superman

(Katie Yu/The CW)

Before I let you go, did you ever think that you were ever going to get back into a Superman costume for the Crisis crossover? That was kind of like big deal.

No! And if all of this was just for that, then I'm so happy for it. The question has been asked, and truly it has been, people ask me, "Was it healing?" or something like that. And it really was. There used to be, anytime I would think about Superman, there'd be that ache deep down. And it's really been healed. And I'm very grateful for everyone involved in making that happen.

It was so great to see it. And also I still stand by Superman Returns. I think that movie is lovely.

Thank you. It's a great film. It's a different kind of Superman film, different kind of superhero film. And it's not for everybody. I think the important thing to remember about that film is was a great transitionary piece of film work, because you're coming from the most beloved version of Superman in Christopher Reeve. And you're hoping that this young upstart can come and replace him. You have a task and you kind of have to allow for that to be whatever it's going to be, in order to move forward.

Watch an exclusive sneak peek at tonight's episode below:

Well, I loved it. And I'm such a fan of yours. One of my favorite moments ever was being able to give you the LEGO minifigure of The Atom at TV Guide Magazine's Fan Favorites panel back in 2016.

Yes!

Courtney said your son still plays with it.

Yes, when we can find it. If it's not lost somewhere in the pile of toys. [Laughs]

Well, we're certainly going to miss Ray...

I will too. But whenever a door closes, another opens. And it's always this challenge for anybody in any industry...sometimes we need that downtime of "What is next?" to figure out what's important. So thank you for your support for the show and everything. And we will talk soon.

DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Tuesdays, 9/8c, The CW