Nick Zano Schools Us on How 'Legends of Tomorrow' Goes to College

Legends - Nick Zano
Q&A
Jack Rowand/The CW

Seeing how DC's Legends of Tomorrow is basically the frat house of the Arrowverse, it's fitting that the class clowns are heading to college tonight.

In the episode, entitled "Freaks and Greeks," the crew matriculates to Hudson University to retrieve the ancient chalice of Dionysus, the notoriously rowdy Greek god (played by Riverdale's Fangs, Drew Ray Tanner) who has found his purpose as an ageless party boy.

Along the way, Ava (Jes Macallan) and the ladies form their own sorority, Gary (Adam Tsekhman) almost learns the truth about Santa and there is a beer pong battle royale. Oh, and we find out that Nate (Nick Zano) was quite the campus king back in the day after Dion, as he's now called, doses him with an enchanted brew. That move reignites the hunky historian's old beer-guzzling, bro-tastic persona of "Shotgun Nate."

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It's a far cry from his superheroic "Steel" alter ego and a great, goofy shade for Zano to play after a run of storylines that have seen his character take one emotional hit after another. Here, the actor — who is quarantined with his wife and children in Los Angeles — shares a refreshingly upbeat take on the downturns in Nate's luck and spills the truth about why everyone on the show seems to be right on the verge of laughing most of the time.

Hey Nick, how's it going?

Nick Zano:  Oh, you know, just hanging out. [Laughs]

You have a full a house, so you you have a lot of things going on.

Yea, we bought a house two years ago and I've got two kids, a three-year-old and a one-year-old. And you know, we spend seven months a year shooting in Vancouver and all we do is talk about how we want to get home, right? So we get home, the world changes and now we just never leave home. It's so crazy. [Laughs]

Jack Rowand/The CW

Well listen, let's talk about Legends, because this is a fun episode and a nice escape from all of that. Now Shotgun Nate...you didn't actually get to go to college, right?

Nope. I'm debt free. [Laughs]

You are debt free but you were robbed of the chance to be an absolute bro.

I here's the thing: My shell looks like a bro, but my internal mechanism is the complete opposite. I'm not built for it. I have six or seven friends and those six of seven friendships are now going on 20 years. I feel better in a smaller community.

Nate, however, as we find out in this episode, was a good-time guy. The hour really taps into the fact that he's come a long way.

It does. And let me tell you, there's so much freedom behaving like that. And in your workplace? That makes it all the better that I get to walk around work screaming. Literally I combined Barstool Sports and The Ringer made a guy, that is Nate during this episode. [Laughs]

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And it allows all of you on the show to tap into your party selves. Even the ladies get into it.

I love our show. There's this thing, like every time you watch it, the underlying energy of "What is it about this show?" is that we are actually enjoying one another's company while we're working. Also, when it's other people's coverage, we do try to make one another laugh. So that energy that is there is because, like after the third or fourth take, Matt Ryan's Constantine—when it's on my coverage—will sound an awful lot like Al Pacino. He'll do a full Pacino on my coverage. [Laughs]

So a lot of times, you can see that a person on screen has a lot of things happening internally, and that's because it's right before they laugh. We all do that to each other. I do it, too. I'm guilty of it. Jes [Macallan, Ava] is guilty of it. Dom [Purcell, Mick] is even good at it. I can turned to Jes and she will cross her eyes as I talk to her and I'm just like, "Man, what are you doing?!

Legends - Beer pong

Dean Buscher/The CW

And how many times would you say have you played a college student on screen?

A lot!

You even starred in a movie called "College."

[Laughs] Oh yeah!  Yeah, I haven't done it in a while. But on Legends, anything goes. Yeah, this one's a lot easier...I didn't have  to smoke from a bong or be naked, which is nice. We still got to do the college experience, just the right amount.

This episode also feels like the busiest in terms of size...there are so many characters and extras in a lot of the scenes.

Yeah, I agree. And by the way, this episode is directed by our first Assistant Director for the past four years, Nico Sachse. It's his first directing job and it is a very complicated episode, like you said, with a ton of people and Nico killed it. He just killed it. He was a natural and we all got behind them because we all wanted him to succeed.

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Oh and there's a scene with Astra (Olivia Swann) and Charlie (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) beside the fraternity house, where they're having a very heavy conversation that's rooted in like, darkness and anger and rage. And in the script, Shotgun Nate shows up at the end of this epic fight carrying a keg. [Laughs] And I felt like such an insider on it, so I was like, "You know what? I'm gonna leave it and I'm gonna blast Maisie with Shotgun Nate during the scene." So if you watch that scene, the last cut I saw, they couldn't even cut out Maisie laughing. There is a [bit] of her just losing it.

Jack Rowand/The CW

Now how are you surviving without Brandon Routh?

I mean we had such a big goodbye. That goodbye was so powerful for our characters and also for each other because it's very hard to create something that means something in television world. And Brandon and I, not through any design, we had a "thing" that was very easy to do for one another. Like, to play off each other. And when we're shooting at that Romeo & Juliet episode, we were going to rehearse the last day and couldn't even look at each other. We couldn't even say the words because we all knew he was leaving...for months, it was like "Okay, this is happening." But for he and I, this was our last scene together and we're actually saying goodbye to one another. And then that brings up a flood of emotions of like, "Man, we did a lot of great stuff together [and] damn, this is the end." So during rehearsals, like we didn't say the words or look each other in the eye. And then, the first take was like, holy hell, it was hard to shut it off. And I think we're both very proud of the end product. But it was as sad for us as it was sad for people watching.

It sucked...we loved those two! Now, with new Zari into Constantine, where does this leave Nate now?

Another "Loss" in the Nate column [Laughs] It's just another L. It's his grandfather, his dad, Amaya, Zari and Ray. It's funny because Tala [Ashe] and I, last season, the writers were like "So we're gonna do something here" and we got very involved with looking at how to do this in an organic, protective manner. And that is a testament to the show and the writers and everybody involved for creating a collaborative effort. We all work very hard on making that something. And then when she came back as the new Zari, that was that was impressive. Zari 1.0 was a very unique character that we don't really see on TV. She was complicated and very fun to watch.

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To repeat that was asking a lot of Tala, but Tala being an extremely talented actor somehow pulled two-for-two and nailed it.

But what's gonna happen with Nate?!

To be honest with you, man? It was my first season not having a love story and it freed me up. I got to be engaged kind of everywhere. I get to act with Jes, I got to act with Caity, Matty...I get to be everywhere because I wasn't [linked] to a love story. It was kind of fun.

I know you guys are like one of the very few shows that actually got to wrap your entire season. 
Yeah, but it was close, like a few weeks before we wrapped. And the other thing is that we can't make 22 episodes of our show. No way. Our costume department would have to be 50 people.

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And how is your costume?

My superhero costume? It's so funny because my superhero costume is getting older. And when they made it, the tech was the highest version of it. However, since then, it has grown substantial amount. So whenever I walk in my Steel costume, it squeaks. I move my shoulder, it squeaks. So I have made a point to pose a lot with my hands on my hips, because my suit can literally ruin the take with its sounds.

If I go to full-on Steel, that's straight up super-expensive. Everybody asks, "How come you don't turn the Steel more?" and I'm like, "Oh, we only have X amount of money for our episode and we have explosions and we are on a spaceship and we're dangling!" When we do go to Steel, it's always fun because I know fans like it.

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