Any DC Comics reader is well aware of the reputation of the Doom Patrol, the self-styled  self-proclaimed world’s strangest superhero team, to go against the grain of mainstream superhero comics. But I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how far the television adaptation of the series would explore the weird and bizarre when it debuted back in 2018. Since then it’s become a critically acclaimed and beloved gem with the fourth season set to to arrive this week. Given the precarious state of Warner Bros. television projects at the moment, the future of the series is up in the air. Whether or not Doom Patrol Season 4 ends up being the final outing for the motley crew, everyone involved is clearly making sure they’re pulling out all the stops.

Ahead of the season premiere, The Beat had the chance to participate in a press roundtable with other outlets at New York Comic Con to chat with actors Joivan Wade (Cyborg), April Bowlby, and Michelle Gomez (Madame Rouge). During our conversation, the cast discussed a variety of topics including the experience working during COVID, a musical episode and much more!

Doom Patrol Season 4Q: How did they prepare you for such a weird show? Did they share the source material with you?

Joivan Wade: They didn’t prepare us. It was wacky. We tried to do as much preparation for ourselves. We read the editions from Grant Morrison and Gerard Way which is where we were the told a lot of our material was going to come from. You never really get to grips of it until you’re going up the donkey’s ass and then realize this is the Doom Patrol. It gets wackier and weirder each season. Just when you think you can’t get any worse than talking butts then you have sex ghosts. Season 4 is bigger and wackier and weirder.

Q: What can you tell us about Victor’s journey in Doom Patrol Season 4?

Wade: At the end of Season 3 we left Vic in a place where he confronted his father and decided that he is going to take matters into his own hands and he wants to experience what it feels like to be Vic Stone and just be a black man. We saw that when he was having a conversation with Frenzy and he was questioned about what it means to be black. This season we pick up with Vic losing his cybernetics and going on a journey to understand exactly who he is and make his own decisions. We see him battling with what it means to be a hero because he’s lost all of the glory of what makes him a hero. But I think he comes to the understanding that being a hero is not just the cybernetics and the power he has. It’s about the mentality of wanting to protect and serve.

Photograph by Dan McFadden/HBO Max

Taimur Dar: There’s a great episode in the previous season where during the Eternal Flagellation the team switch places with their subconscious selves and Vic remembers being in a store as a child and being told that they don’t sell black superhero toys. It really speaks to how much the culture has changed. Did that scene resonate for you?

Wade: Oh, 100%. One of my glory moments is being able to have some input in the writers room last season and being able to talk about some of the issues and wanting to address things that television doesn’t when it comes to black diversity in sci-fi and superheroes. It was really brave for the Doom Patrol writers room to say, “We’re going to do this and we’re going to have a conversation about this.” It has shifted over time but I think not enough. Until it does we have to keep having these conversations and putting it at the forefront. I give kudos to the team for allowing us to do that and for putting us in that position. It impacted me tremendously and it was great to be part of that journey and conversation.

Q: The show deals with serious issues but at the same time it is really wacky and fun. How do you juggle those two tones as an actor?

Wade: As an actor it’s been a dream. I started in theater and Shakespeare and then I ended up building a comedy network and platform in the UK and Europe. I stepped into comedy and created my own show on YouTube and television. I had a love for straight acting and drama but at the same time I fell into comedy. This show has been the perfect opportunity for me to balance both.

Q: How far is Cyborg willing to go?

Wade: I don’t think there’s anywhere Cyborg is not willing to go as far as the protection of the people. As long as he as an opportunity to save people and do right, there’s nothing that stops his bravery. In losing his cybernetics he’s very vulnerable, he still decides to go on that journey without the protection of his cybernetics.

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from this season?

Wade: One of the big things is the Doom Patrol. What I mean by that is the essence of the collective. For so long we’ve been in a place where they’ve been fighting against being the Doom Patrol and a band of superheroes. It’s always been going against the grain and mold of what it means to be a collective. This season is the first time where they’re forced to come together and be the Doom Patrol in its superhero glory. We get to the see the moments we’ve all been waiting for.

Q: Have you ever read the scripts and thought this is too weird?

April Bowlby: I think every season is this “gulp” moment of “How are we going to do this?” And every season I’m so surprised. It’s such an intelligent, loving and psychedelic show that I also have trouble following it in the scripts. But when we see it, I’m blown away by how we’ve created such a fantastic, beautiful story. There’s a musical episode this year that I thought there was no way we were going to be able to do this. I still felt that way after we shot the episode. Then I saw little clips from the episode and I cried.

Q: Favorite scene or moment that sticks out for you?

Bowlby: I really loved the Dada storyline and that Rita got to fall in love. It was under such a creative circumstance of going back in time to this period that she didn’t belong in but felt so at home. I thought that episode was beautiful. Also when she dances with Malcolm. The zombie episode which I rewatched the other day and it was so funny. We didn’t even speak. We spoke zombie and there were English subtitles at the bottom [of the screen]. Most of the time if you walked me through the episodes I would find so many memorable scenes.

Q: Were there any scenes that were difficult to film for Doom Patrol Season 4?

Bowlby: There was a scene where we all travel in time through different dimensions this season. We go into one of Rita’s movies and there’s pyrotechnics and she had to cross a bridge. We were on a stage and it was very hot. That was challenging because it’s 14 hour days and you’re really in it. That’s the physical part of it. The musical episode was really intense. They gave us singing lessons which was incredible. There’s dancing so you shoot your scenes for the day and then you’re off to rehearsal. You get to dance with members of Doom Patrol. You don’t know you’re a dancer and suddenly you’re dancing and singing! It came together very nicely.

Q: How much input do you have on Rita’s wardrobe?

Bowlby: I don’t have much input. I let our designer Carrie Grace, who is so incredibly phenomenal, give me her choice. And most of the time she is spot on. In the first episode of Season 4 Rita is the leader. It opens with Rita in her superhero outfit which is a cape and a beret and a vest and tie because she’s so dramatic and fantastic. Carrie just knows how to implement Rita’s behavior into what an actress would wear.

Photograph by Dan McFadden/HBO Max

Dar: Rita is definitely egocentric and vain, yet there’s a vulnerability to her. How did you go about making Rita endearing despite her selfishness?        

Bowlby: I think when Rita lashes out it’s in the moment. When she has time to reflect she feels vulnerable and insecure. It’s puffing up a little bit to protect her heart and herself. In Season 4 there is that aspect because she [becomes] a team leader and she really believes in herself and the team is following her. Because she is insecure and vulnerable she pushes too hard. Then the team turns on her and the Doom Patrol kicks her out of that role because she’s a little too pushy and takes her role too seriously. That breaks her heart and she becomes a mess of a meta-human. She’s really delicate.

Doom Patrol Season 4Q: Doom Patrol is a very character driven show so what’s the most challenging part of playing your role in the show?

Michelle Gomez: I don’t find it challenging weirdly because all the work is done for me. It’s on the page. And if you have a good script you literally just have to learn it and hope your acting buddy knows their lines too. If there is a challenge I embrace it.

Dar: Obviously filming any on-camera project during COVID is vastly different especially with COVID safety. What was your experience working on Doom Patrol Season 4 in the midst of COVID?

Gomez: It was really tough for the crew because they all have to wear masks around us and obviously we can’t wear masks because we’re on camera. I always felt really bad about that. There were certain things that had to be put into place which meant we could get on with our jobs and people were prepared to do that. It didn’t weirdly impact negatively on our relationship with the crew because we knew them from the year before. And the other guys had been on the show. We had relationships that were already built-in so it wasn’t too bad.

Photograph by Dan McFadden/HBO Max

Q: Any memorable on set moments during Doom Patrol Season 4 that brought everybody together?

Gomez: There was a lot of unity around COVID because it felt especially at the beginning before we got a handle on it that everybody was risking our lives to tell a story. And in a way we were. I’m so glad we were safe and looked after well.

Q: It seems like you like to play roles that allow you cut loose. What attracted you to this role?

Gomez: There was a promise of working with a former James Bond [Timothy Dalton]. That was flagged. I was like, “I gotta work with 007!” I was in another show called Doctor Who and played The Master. I didn’t get a time machine in Doctor Who which I think we still need to get back there and right that wrong. I was doing Flight Attendant which [producer/writer] Steve Yockey also did and he said, “There’s this amazing show Doom Patrol and you get your time machine.” So I said, “Sign me up! I’m in!”

Q: In this season Madame Rouge is working with the heroes. Is it more fun to play the villain or the hero?

Gomez: It’s always fun to play bad. But I think those consequences are starting to catch up with her and as they do she will continue to make dodgy choices. So it’s been nice to live in the grey area of is she good or is she bad? I like the nuance that she’s allowed to live in and makes it more authentic and a more fully evolved character.

Q: How was working on a musical episode?

Gomez: It’s probably the best episode of the season! It kind of felt like that while we were doing it. The Doom Patrol needs to come to Broadway! It’s crazy, beautiful, fun and great. We need more of that!

Doom Patrol Season 4 premieres on Thursday, December 8th on HBO Max