Interview by Edwin A. Santos
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Tonight’s episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow finds our heroes and villains return to where they began…at Star City. But, home is not where the heart is as they encounter thieves, destruction and mayhem. And, for White Canary (Caity Lotz), she slowly uncovers what happened to Star City’s resident hero and old friend…Oliver Queen / Green Arrow. Stephen Amell guest stars.
For this month’s FAC In Focus Series, we are happy to bring you an exclusive interview with one of the writers of tonight’s sixth episode titled Star City 2046 of the hit television show, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow by FilAm Creative’s VP of Content, Edwin Santos. Please welcome Ray Utarnachitt!
Edwin Santos: Please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what you do? Tell us a little bit of your journey?
Ray Utarnachitt: My name is Ray Utarnachitt and I’m an Executive Story Editor on “Legends of Tomorrow.” Before this I co-wrote a freelance episode of “The Flash” and also wrote on “The Tomorrow People” and “Person of Interest.” I’m originally from Michigan and studied Film at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I, of course, thought I was going to be a doctor for many years and I was even a Biology major for most of my college years. But to the dismay of my parents, I switched tracks and graduated in Film!
Edwin Santos: Utarnachitt?
Ray Utarnachitt: My mother is Filipina and my father is Chinese born in Thailand. Thus the Thai surname!!!
Edwin Santos: Have you ever wanted to be a writer?
Ray Utarnachitt: As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a writer.
Edwin Santos: What is your first piece you ever wrote?
Ray Utarnachitt: The first thing I really remember putting a lot of effort into was a story I wrote for a class competition in elementary school. My story took place in the future and the entire Earth was covered in water — and these three scientists had to explore the deep ocean in a futuristic submarine because of reports of a sea monster. Of course, it was terrible and I didn’t win. Haha. But I was pretty drawn to genre storytelling at a young age.
Edwin Santos: Other than a script coordinator, it seems you have held other positions in film and television such as a visual effects assistant in 1999’s “The 13th Warrior.” Were you figuring out what you wanted to do or were you already focused on becoming a writer as those varied positions were just the means to get to your current position?
Ray Utarnachitt: When you move out Los Angeles and you have no real connections to the film industry, it’s incredibly difficult to figure out how to get started. There are no signs pointing you where to go to be a writer. And because there is no one clear path to get to where you want to go, you kind of just pick one and see where it leads. Most of my film industry experience is actually in Film Production — I started as a production assistant (PA) on set working on commercials, music videos, and infomercials. Then I worked as a PA in Visual Effects for a short while before working in the production office as an Assistant Coordinator. But throughout all that time I kept working on my writing trying to get better. Eventually, those jobs I had which had nothing to do with writing actually led me to people who would eventually hire me as a writer. So, it was a matter of staying focused and always keeping your eyes on the prize. It wasn’t always easy but you have to believe in yourself and keep figuring out how to get what you want.
Edwin Santos: What is your daily writing process when developing scripts for “Legends of Tomorrow?”
Ray Utarnachitt: On any given day, we could be doing any number of things in the writers’ room. It all depends on where we are in the schedule. Sometimes we’re generating ideas for the next episode on the slate or we’re further along in the process and actually detailing specific beats for scenes which will be in the episode. What’s exciting about working in a writers’ room is that every day is different.
Edwin Santos: With such an ensemble show as “Legends of Tomorrow” is, how would you describe your process in fleshing out characters as well as balancing the characters and their story arcs?
Ray Utarnachitt: With every episode we usually try to uncover whose story we’re trying to tell at this point in the season. And once we do that, we try to find another character who could be a good foil for that person in order to express the story. Once we’ve figured that out — we then try to come up with interesting character combinations for the other characters. That’s been the most fun about writing for such a huge cast, with each pair-up you get different results because each character is so unique.
Edwin Santos: This Thursday’s show,”Star City 2046″ is your first written episode for “Legends of Tomorrow.” Are you excited to see something you’ve written on the page to now share it on the small screen? Or, are you very professional and soft spoken about the experience that it is nothing really exciting anymore?
Ray Utarnachitt: It is always exciting to see something you’ve written finally broadcast for everyone in the world to see. So much work goes into each episode from the inception of the idea for the story all the way through post-production. It’s nice to see the outcome of all that hard work.
Edwin Santos: Who is your favorite character in “Legends of Tomorrow” and why?
Ray Utarnachitt: I think my favorite character is Ray Palmer. I like him because of his undying optimism. And he always finds humor even in the darkest of situations.
Edwin Santos: As a Filipino American, do you feel there should be more FilAms (or POC) television writers in the writers’ room to give voice and tell stories about our experiences? Even in the fictional fantasy world “Legends of Tomorrow” thrives in?
Ray Utarnachitt: Yes, of course. I feel there should be more diversity in general in writers’ rooms. It’s essential to get other points of view that are not typically represented in stories on television. The good news is that in the years I’ve been in the industry I have seen some improvement in this area — but we could always do better.
Edwin Santos: And, last question… Currently, DC Comics has Asian American superheroes in their canon but they all have been sidekicks. Which one of them do you feel should appear, hop on the Waverider, join the “Legends of Tomorrow” cast and make a name for himself / herself?
Ray Utarnachitt: I’m not completely familiar with this character, but I read somewhere that there’s a new version of Captain Steel who has Filipino origins. I think that would be very cool to have someone like that on board the Waverider!
Edwin Santos: Thank you for your time.
Ray Utarnachitt: Thanks!
After my interview with Ray, I did some research. I remember a Captain Steel when I used to collect comic books when I was a boy but he was not Filipino. Until I remember about DC’s New 52 comic book canon. In “Earth 2” #13, the character known as Captain Steel was revealed to have Filipino origins.
The New 52 version of Captain Steel was created by writer James Robinson and illustrated by Yildiray Cinar. Robinson told the media he was including a Filipino superhero to add diversity to the book.
Thus, “Earth 2” #13 had the World Army’s Commander Khan describing Captain Steel this way: “Although an American citizen, he’s native Filipino—born in the Philippines. His father—natural or adopted, we’re still unclear—wanted the best for his son.”
Another CW show, The Flash is currently visiting multi-dimensions and parallel universes where their first stopover was Earth 2. But, then again, the Legends of Tomorrow on the Waverider can also make a pit stop at Earth 2 . So, who knows where DC’s first superhero from the Philippines could turn up? Though, I have to agree with Ray. It would be cool to have Captain Steel turn up in Legends of Tomorrow.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow / Episode #6 / Star City 2046 written by Marc Guggenheim and Ray Utarnachitt airs tonight, Thursday, February 25 at 8pm ET/PT on The CW. Check your local listings.