LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES Interview: Director Jeff Wamester Breaks Down His Approach To Epic Team-Up (Exclusive)

Legion of Super-Heroes director Jeff Wamester (Green Lantern: Beware My Power) returns to the DCAU to take Supergirl into the future and talks us through his approach to telling this action-packed story.

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In Legion of Super-Heroes, Supergirl ventures to the 31st century to find answers to her present-day dilemmas, only to encounter new problems and an old enemy. The movie, which is an action-packed delight, is coming to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital on February 7 from Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment.

Struggling to adjust to her new life on Earth, Supergirl leaves her and Superman's space-time to attend the Legion Academy. There, she quickly makes new friends, as well as a new enemy with old ties: Brainiac 5. However, a nefarious plot lurks in the shadows as the mysterious group known as the Dark Circle seeks a powerful weapon held in the Academy's vault!

Meg Donnelly and Harry Shum Jr. lead a star-studded cast as the voices of Supergirl/Kara and Brainiac 5, while Jeff Wamester (Justice Society: World War II) directs Legion of Super-Heroes from a screenplay by Josie Campbell (She-Ra and the Princesses of Power).

We spoke to Jeff about the movie last week, and the filmmaker shared plenty of fascinating new details about his latest DC Animated Universe blockbuster. 

Along the way, he sheds some light on what drew him to this team-up with Supergirl and the Legion, the creative freedom focusing on lesser-known DC Comics characters offers, and his approach to both the setting and characters. We also hear from Jeff on why he hopes to eventually give Aquaman his own, long-overdue, animated movie!

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Between this movie, JSA, and Green Lantern, you’ve explored the past, present, and future of the DC Animated Universe; what’s it been like to go from one extreme to the other in telling these stories? 

[Laughs] It makes it interesting! It’s easy to repeat stuff when you’re doing these kinds of movies, so it’s been really fun to play with the different time periods. I connect with a lot of these things because I’m a big fan of sci-fi, so that’s been the fun part of this one. I also grew up watching 40s movies, so that made Justice Society really fun, and then it was kind of a mix with the Green Lantern movie where it was the past and sci-fi at the same time. It’s been really fun to work on all these movies! 

The DC Universe does have a really rich history, something that’s evident from the movies you’ve worked on, so do you feel like you’re really well-versed in that now or are you still discovering things on your journey? 

I’m still discovering stuff all the time. I mean, I grew up reading comics from the time I could actually read, and I still learn new things. Butch [Lukic], who has been collecting comics even longer than me, still surprises me with the stuff he knows. I still get surprised by the characters in this universe as well, and that’s just part of the fun of working with Butch [Laughs] as he imparts information to me about an artist or superhero who I somehow never knew about.

What was it about this particular story, which brings Supergirl into the world of the Legion of Super-Heroes, that made you want to be part of telling it?

Well, I’m not the creative producer, so Jim [Krieg] and Butch decided to bring these characters into it. I was given the script to go off that and tell the story, so I can’t answer the why of bringing Supergirl into this story as I wasn’t involved in the decision. Growing up on comic books and seeing crossovers everywhere was always fun. Who didn’t pick up one and wasn’t excited to see something like that? For me, that’s really fun. 

I love this new animation style these movies are using, but were there any particularly challenging scenes to pull off here in what is a very action-packed adventure for Supergirl and the Legion?

A lot of the background decisions in terms of look and stuff like that are led by Butch, but I always enjoy seeing where he’s going with all of it. Every time. He walks in, and he knows, visually, what he wants to do. Right from the beginning. It’s always fun when we start boarding that we get these background designs and see where he’s going with it and what we can do within the stage he sets is really fun. 

We’ve seen the destruction of Krypton from Superman’s point of view countless times, but it’s always refreshing when it takes place from Supergirl’s perspective. What did you most enjoy about that? 

I think us seeing this from something other than Superman’s point of view adds that wrinkle to the story. I don’t know how many times we’ve seen Krypton’s destruction from Supergirl’s perspective beyond a quick flashback, so to see it play out live and explore it a little more rather than a hint was really interesting. Superman’s story is so specific, so to see the damage from Supergirl’s perspective is really interesting and a different interpretation than you could get with the Man of Steel. 

You get to play around with a lot of DC’s more obscure characters in this movie, so did you find that offered a little more creative freedom than if you were focusing on The Flash instead of Arm Fall Off Boy, for example? 

Absolutely. Every time we get someone new, it’s kind of like, ‘Oh, okay, how are we going to handle this character’s powers? What is it going to look like?’ You can’t always do what you see in the comic books because they have a certain language, and it’s different when you’re doing a film or animated projects. We always try to take something and decide whether we either can’t do those powers in such a specific way or, sometimes, we can. Why? Because it will look great, but there are other times when we know we can’t pull it off a certain way, so we have to figure out how we’ll handle those powers right down to what their body language will be like, how much we can grab from the comics that will work on screen, and how much we have to create and integrate into the story. That’s always exciting. I love delivering a first interpretation of a character, even if it’s just in the current style we’re doing. It’s always fun figuring out how to interpret that and saying, ‘Let’s go look at a bunch of reference material and figure something out.’ It’s a lot fun and that’s why we do this. 

As a fan of Supernatural and The Long Halloween, I loved seeing Jensen Ackles return as Batman; what was it like for you having him as your Dark Knight?

It’s always fun. We’re kind of becoming familiar [Laughs]. We enjoy catching up with each other when we do the voice recording and it’s a lot of fun bringing characters back. It also makes it easy because they know exactly what they’re doing and there’s not a lot of direction needed other than maybe the odd specific scene. A lot of it was online, but it was still great. 

Meg Donnelly is fantastic as Supergirl as well, of course. You must have been excited to have her join the cast as well?

Oh yeah, and even more so after we did the recording. Her performance was really stunning and tear-jerked us all in a couple of scenes. 

Brainiac 5 is another fascinating part of this story, and you really get to delve into that character’s history here by heading into the future; what about that did you enjoy most as a storyteller? 

It’s always exciting when we get to see a different aspect of a character versus what is typical in the comics. There’s always the ‘icon’ of that character you see, but then if we have a wrinkle or challenge them with something different, it always makes it super exciting because you can add more depth to them compared to what you see from the ‘icon.’ You know, when you see Wonder Woman, you have an idea what she’s like, but when you challenge her with something new and put them in a different situation as we did in Justice Society, it’s always fun to give a character a little more depth and nuance than you would ordinarily see from the icon. 

Now, the movie does have a huge post-credits scene. I won’t get into spoilers, but is there anything you can tell us about that?

Yeah, [it’s a great tease]. I don’t know how much I can say without WB hanging me if I do, but we’ll have to just leave it as being a great teaser…

[Laughs] That’s fair enough! As we discussed at the start, you’ve now been all over this DC Universe - what do you hope is next for you in this world? 

I feel like someone is trying to make me pitch a story as people ask me all the time what I’d like to see, and I’d love to do Aquaman. He needs his own animated movie. We haven’t really given him his just due, especially with him being part of the Justice League. I’d love to see that. 

Legion of Super-Heroes is set to be released on February 7. 

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