1:00 pm EDT, February 23, 2016

‘Legends of Tomorrow’ exclusive: Ciara Renée on Kendra’s path, Vandal Savage and representation

Hypable spoke with Legends of Tomorrow‘s Ciara Renée about Kendra forging her own path, her dynamics with the rest of the team and what playing Kendra means to her.

On Legends of Tomorrow, Kendra is the reincarnation of an Egyptian priestess, Chay-Ara, who was murdered with her lover, Prince Khufu, by Vandal Savage. In each lifetime, Khufu remembers his past lives while Chay-Ara has no memories of them. Khufu always seeks out Chay-Ara, and they are both able to tap into the powers of the hawk god, Horus — becoming Hawkgirl and Hawkman.

In this lifetime, Khufu’s reincarnation, Carter Hall, was murdered by Vandal Savage but Kendra remains alive. Along with the rest of her team — featuring favorites from Arrow and The Flash — Kendra seeks to stop Vandal Savage once and for all.

In our interview, Renée discusses what life is like for Kendra now that she must continue living without Carter, who was serving as her guide transitioning into a new life as Hawkgirl.

Legends of Tomorrow season 1 Ciara Renee interview Hawkgirl

What’s your favorite thing about Kendra as a character?
My favorite aspect of Kendra’s personality is her desire to protect. I feel a strong connection to that want to shield others in my real life, so that’s a point at which we can connect.

As a female hero of color, Kendra represents a lot of people who have never seen themselves as hero before. How does it feel to play a character like that?
I am ecstatic that we’re slowly beginning to see more and more representation of different colors, faces, body types, etc. on TV, and I’m very conscious of the responsibility that kind of precedent holds. As a young girl I know how exlcusionary the TV/Film industry felt because I rarely ever saw women who looked like me. Having the opportunity to be able to encourage and inspire young women to see potential in themselves that they hadn’t previously is an awe-inducing feeling. My sincerest wish is not just that we continue to see more representation and diversity, but that these characters get to branch out and tell different stories outside of the usual stereotypical tropes we’ve seen play out for decades.

What’s the biggest challenge of playing a character with hundreds of past lives informing her?
I would say the hardest part is that I don’t know about all of them, and neither does Kendra. However, the part I like best about all of her past lives is that the writers and I get to discover them and then play with what that version of her was like.

With Carter’s death, will we see Kendra finding happiness and love for herself? Is that something she is open to?
I think we see a lot of fear from Kendra. She is powerful, strong, and fiercely protective of others, but her road to finding that has thus far been paved with a ton of trauma that threatens to undo her courage at every turn. And rightfully so. I think the healthiest thing for Kendra, and indeed all people, is always to track your own path and allow yourself to discover who you are. I think we’d all love to see Kendra step into her own, without the guide she’s relied on for the past 4,000 years. But I’m sure many people can relate to the kind of courage it takes to live and depend on oneself.

Legends of Tomorrow season 1 Ciara Renee interview Carter, Kendra

We’ve seen a relationship develop between Sara and Kendra, each trying to help the other tap into the side of herself that she’s missing. What’s the biggest challenge Sara will face in trying to help Kendra control her warrior side?
Again, I think this hearkens back to Kendra’s fear side. This creature inside her is terrifyingly powerful and foreign, as well as dangerous. And with Kendra’s desire to protect I think she struggles a bit with the knowledge that embracing her inner warrior is a necessary evil to truly protect the greater good. But if Kendra’s story continues to be fraught with as much peril as we’ve seen thus far (and believe me, it is) I think we’ll start to see a shift from fear to strength.

Will we see Kendra leaning on other members of the team as well as she figures out this whole demigoddess thing?
Yes. I think we’ll see a lot of attempts at connection within the team. Whether those connections last or are helpful is a different story. But as someone who grew up feeling like an outlier with few ties to her old life, I think she seeks solitude just as much as she seeks relationships.

On the flip side, are there any members of the team Kendra is having a hard time connecting with?
I think Kendra really struggles to see the good in the two villains because they are only looking out for their own good and she finds this starkly contrasts her belief that we should always try to protect one another. However, her black and white ideas about justice are sure to be drawn into focus and put to the test on this journey.

Legends of Tomorrow season 1 Ciara Renee interview insert

How is Kendra dealing with the knowledge that she has to be the one to kill Vandal Savage? That’s a lot of pressure for anyone to carry, much less someone who has only just been pulled into this life.
I think it’s something she’s been sitting with and mulling over every night since she discovered the fact. But with each memory that comes back to her of the love, the families, the time destroyed by Savage, I believe her resolve to end this cycle strengthens.

If Kendra is successful in killing Savage, it’s implied that that will end the reincarnation cycle. Has she reconciled with the fact that stopping Savage could mean that this will be the last life she’ll ever live out, and she and Carter won’t be reborn into the next? Or is that something she is even thinking about?
I don’t know that she understands how exactly Vandal’s death will affect her and Carter reincarnating, but she’s probably run through all of the potential possibilities. I think she’s definitely wanted to find Carter in another lifetime, but she’s aware that taking a past or even future Carter out of the timeline could be dangerous to a whole lot of people and therefore a very selfish thing to do. Then again we all think we’d do the right thing when the situations arises but can we really know for sure?

If the team is successful in defeating Savage, what do you think Kendra would do next? Would she keep using her powers to help others, or does part of her want to return to the simpler life as a barista in Central City?
I HIGHLY doubt Kendra would go back to Central City. Being a barista held no significance for her, it was merely a placemarker until she found out what she was truly meant to do. I don’t know that anyone can reach such heights (no pun intended) and be satisfied with impotence and the mundane afterward. She was itching to be released and to find her purpose. I doubt she’d forsake the path now.

Legends of Tomorrow airs Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. ET on The CW.

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