‘Doom Patrol’ may be the oddball of superhero TV series but it has only gone from strength to strength since its debut in 2019. With the recent release of its third season — it’s craziest yet — Gulf News had a chance to speak with one of its lead stars April Bowlby, who plays Rita Farr on the show.
“I would describe this season as the best season yet. It’s very exciting. And the relationships are just getting deeper and deeper. And I think that the characters are finding themselves and making a lot of progress in this season. Not to mention it’s wacky and strange and psychedelic as always,” said Farr.
‘Doom Patrol’ follows the unlikely heroes of the eponymous team who all received their powers through tragic circumstances and are generally shunned by society. Bowlby’s Rita Farr (also known as Elasti-Girl in the comics) is an Olympic swimming gold medallist turned Hollywood actress who is exposed to unusual volcanic gases while shooting a film in Africa. When Farr recovers, she discovers that she can expand or shrink her body at will, but also has no control over when her body suddenly turns into a gelatinous state.
Over the last two seasons, Bowlby’s Farr has explored the trauma of her accident and the subsequent disfigurement and the insecurities it brings to the surface, but Bowlby claims this third season is where the real work gets done.
Excerpts from our talk with Bowlby follow …
The trailers highlight Rita Farr’s massive involvement in this new season. How big of an impact would you say she makes this time around?
I would say it’s Rita’s season to shine. I think she is fed up with her constant inability to make the move. Like she gets it, she’s building up this these last three, you know, two seasons. In this season, she overcomes her fears. And she really steps into a position and I’m going to say, from my point of view, she’s the leader of this season.
Your character is convinced that there’s this new brotherhood of evil that’s behind all of the stuff that’s going on. Can you tell us a little bit more about that, and what’s happening right now?
So the Brotherhood of evil is introduced, the brain is introduced and they are after Rita. So they have to kind of camp out. And what happens is they camp out at this resort for like 70 years, because Rita never shows up. And then finally, Rita shows up, and they’ve kind of lost all steam for this.
One little guy is like, ‘Oh, I didn’t wait 70 years for nothing’. And then there comes the fights. And basically Doom Patrol is sent to Hades, and they’re in the afterlife. And then so throughout the season, the Brotherhood of Evil is one of the villains. And so it’s constantly causing issues for the Doom Patrol to move forward in their journey.
And there’s also the survival of a whole time machine, right? So does Rita maybe want to give this time machine a spin on her own? Where would she want to go?
Yes, I think that in season three, Rita is definitely going to climb into that time machine and travel. I don’t think she has any idea of where she’s going. Or I mean, look, look, when you time travel, you lose your memory. So you understand that this is going to be an issue for her. And she goes back in time, but then she goes forward in time.
There’s a lot of time travelling and somehow our writers made it very clear what’s happening. And I think they build it off really well. It’s hard to explain but there is time travel, and Rita does go back in the past. She finds love this season as well and she finds real joy and she lets go if only for a moment of the self-doubt and the self-hatred that she has, which is really beautiful to see.
That’s amazing. Now to take it back a little bit just for fans who are not in the know yet. Can you tell us a little bit about how your ‘Doom Patrol’ journey began? Did you always want to be in a superhero series?
Yes, I’ve always wanted to be in a superhero series because it’s amazing. Who doesn’t want to be a superhero? And when I heard about ‘Doom Patrol’, I didn’t really know they were a superhero team. But I actually thought that they were a bad superhero team. I was just like, ‘Oh, I think that they’re villains’.
Which when I did my research, they kind of are because they’re not villains per se, but they’re certainly not shiny superheroes. They’re the misfits of the superhero world. And I think the more I got to know what the story is, the more exciting it becomes. Because then you play opposite of what everyone thinks a superhero is.
So it’s layered with this awesome behaviour that you normally would have to cover up if you were a shiny superhero. And now we get to be a dysfunctional family who’s doesn’t want to be superheroes but have these crazy powers and have to sort out how to how to use them and not hurt each other.
The cast has been working together now for three seasons. How would you describe your working relationship with the core team?
It’s amazing. We are like a dysfunctional family. We have a beautiful shorthand now like, you know, it’s very comfortable. And I think we rely on each other a lot.
We trust each other’s choices in the room. And yeah, we love each other. We also have a new character introduced this season, Madame Rouge. And it was interesting to work with her because she is so new. So I really had to pull it together and make new choices. I just didn’t realise how effortless it became with the cast before. And with this new character, it was quite a challenge to find out what the new relationship is.
Do you think we’re coming close to a conclusion? Or are we still far away from something like that?
I think you might know better than I do. [Laughs.] I’m like, ‘oh, what’s happening?’ I also feel like with the world in which ‘Doom Patrol’ lives, it could live forever, honestly.
How would you say ‘Doom Patrol’ is different from any other superhero show out there right now?
I think it’s different in the sense of that we really think our show is special because of how our characters are all dealing with real life issues — body dysmorphia, mental health issues, addiction, multiple-personality disorder ... And I feel like we’re a band of very dysfunctional people who have been given, for good or for bad, these superhero powers.
I think in that sense, people can see themselves in a way that perhaps like we’re all going through our own journey and our own traumas and everyone wants to grow. And I think that our show is unique in that way that we get to tell that story that everyone is a superhero, you don’t have to be shiny, you know. We’ve got it in us.
Don’t miss it!
‘Doom Patrol’ is now streaming on Starzplay.