Join or Sign In

Sign in to customize your TV listings

Continue with Facebook Continue with email

By joining TV Guide, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

How Marc Guggenheim Tackled Directing Friends and Downton Abbey Parodies on Legends of Tomorrow

The first-time director opens up about the jam-packed episode

Keisha Hatchett

In fighting for their freedom, DC's Legends of Tomorrow's misfit heroes now find themselves bracing for a battle against a group of gods. Tuesday's episode, titled "The One Where We're Trapped on TV," saw Charlie (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) attempt to appease her powerful sisters and protect the Legends in one fell swoop by stashing them away in various TV shows. These colorful fictional universes, such as a mock Friends series and a '60s sci-fi wonderland akin to Star Trek, served as a mind-soothing distraction from the Fates' disturbingly bleak world in which history is being scrubbed of all instances of insubordination and blue mush is considered fine dining. But even in this dystopian reality where happiness is virtually nonexistent, there's still hope. 

Mona (Ramona Young), Gary (Adam Tsekhman), and a fully aware Zari (Tala Ashe) staged a mini insurrection and helped the Legends break free of their TV prison. It's ironic that Mona and Gary, who entered the series as stalwart rule followers, were now part of this rebellion. For Arrow and Legends co-creator Marc Guggenheim, who directed the episode, pushing back against draconian measures is a message we can all get behind.

"Mona's arc of going from someone who always towed the line and always followed the rules to realizing, 'Oh my God, you know what the world needs? It needs misfits. It needs people who are going to question the status quo,' I think that's a great message," Guggenheim told TV Guide. "One of the brilliant things that the Legends writers do almost every week is they hide these little messages about nonconformity in each episode so that amidst the laughter you're getting this little lesson that what the world needs is people who don't turn sharp corners, who do think outside the box. That's a great message and it's definitely a message that I think the world could use right now as we face all this uncertainty and all these challenging things."

The jam-packed episode was a boot camp of sorts for the first-time director who was tasked with pulling together the second-biggest hour of Season 5. That's no easy feat considering Guggenheim had just come off Crisis on Infinite Earths and admitted to being emotionally and physically exhausted by the time he stepped into the director's chair for the zany series. The hour not only set up the season finale, but leaned into Legends' uninhibited chaos with a series of parodies that made filming the episode feel like a TV gauntlet. But while it may have been a massive undertaking, Guggenheim assured that it was also an incredibly fun journey.

Shayan Sobhian, Matt Ryan, Tala Ashe and Nick Zano, DC's Legends of Tomorrow

Shayan Sobhian, Matt Ryan, Tala Ashe and Nick Zano, DC's Legends of Tomorrow

Jack Rowand/The CW

"The joke that the writers love to say is that they were basically giving me my director reel. What was fun for me was we tried very hard to visually distinguish each of the shows and direct them the way they would be directed," Guggenheim explained.

That meant filming the Friends knock-off Ultimate Buds with three cameras on a proscenium stage as is customary for a multi-cam, half-hour sitcom. Guggenheim took a different approach with the Downton Abbey spoof Highcastle Abbey, which required long lenses for that more cinematic feel and handheld cameras to follow the servants just like they did in the PBS show. When it came to the Star Trek parody Star Trip, Guggenheim again adapted to the OG show's distinct shooting style with zoom-in shots, cameras on dollies and even miniature ships filmed against a green screen.

"That was something I threw out as an idea in prep and we all were like, 'Well, at some point, that's going to go away. At some point, we're going to realize we can't afford to build miniatures and you've got to then mount the unit to film all this stuff," Guggenheim said. "I kept going through prep day after day and it never went away, and that's because the crew just really went the extra mile. We all had a blast. Every day on set was something fun even when you had the normal stresses of making your days. We had a lot of laughs."

The beauty of Legends is that it can make you cry until you laugh and then milk your tear ducts dry with its sheer earnestness. We saw that earlier this season with Nate (Nick Zano) and Ray's (Brandon Routhtearful goodbye to each other, which stirred up emotional responses from both the actors filming that heartbreaking scene and viewers who had a hard time seeing the best buds part ways for good. In a similar vein, "The One Where We're Trapped on TV" struck an emotional chord with the gang finally remembering who they are through a montage of memorable moments. It's a double whammy with both old and new Zari (Tala Ashe) appearing separately, allowing for a long-awaited reunion between old Zari and Nate. Plus Astra, who'd been reunited with her mother, was forced to say goodbye—at least for now. 

With two Zari's existing at the same time and in the same place, the crew faces yet another conundrum: How can Old Zari co-exist with New Zari and her brother Behrad? According to Guggenheim, that's a mystery left for the season finale.

"Certainly, what's going to happen with both Zari's and her brother is a big one," he said, noting that the finale will both address season-long arcs and set up Season 6.

As the Legends gear up to face Charlie's sisters head-on, how this merry band of misfits stacks up against a group of gods will shape the final episode of this season. More importantly, the finale will tackle Charlie's moral dilemma and whether she'll stick with her newfound family or side with her sisters in the end. 

DC Legends of Tomorrow's season finale airs Tuesday, June 2 at 9/8c on the CW.