Shazam! Fury Of The Gods' Lucy Liu And Rachel Zegler On Greek Mythology And Dragon Tech [Exclusive Interview]

"Shazam! Fury of the Gods" is almost in theaters, and in the new DC movie, there is a brand new threat to our world. The Daughters of Atlas — Hespera (Helen Mirren), Kalypso (Lucy Liu), and Anthea (Rachel Zegler) — are out of their realm and in ours, looking for an artifact that has the potential to destroy life as we know it. 

If the names sound familiar, it's because these are characters from Greek mythology. Their origins have changed a bit: Anthea is actually the Roman name of one of the Graces, and Kalypso is the one who imprisoned Odysseus in "The Odyssey." In the film, they need the wizard's (Djimon Hounsou) staff to complete their task ... and to get those pesky superhero kids in adult bodies out of the way. 

I recently spoke to Lucy Liu and Rachel Zegler about their roles, working with Helen Mirren, how Zegler auditioned for a different DC role, creating their powers, and Zegler's crush on co-star Adam Brody from his "Gilmore Girls" days. 

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

'[Helen Mirren] is a gangster'

You both play characters out of Greek mythology, but it's changed around a little bit. Did you research that? Was that part of your character development?

Zegler: No, not for me. [My character doesn't] really exist in the zeitgeist, so I was able to have that freedom of collaborating with David [F. Sandberg -- director], and with Henry Gayden, our writer, and [producer] Peter Safran and [executive producer] Marcus Viscidi, and really talking to them about what they thought her arc was going to be. Because she's not really laid out for you in any kind of comic book, which is the fans you want to deliver to in a movie like this. So I got to cater to me.

Liu: You can use your imagination. I think that's one thing that, when you look up the characters, it just says the Daughters of Atlas. You don't really get the whole slew of information, which I think in some ways is better, because you have a clean slate. I think Henry wrote characters that he had in mind — that the Shazamily and the goddess family could have a head-to-head, not just mental, but also physical fight, which was interesting. Also, it's not drawing from another DC world, so it can be a clean ... well, not quite clean, but a clean break if there needs to be.

You worked with Helen Mirren, and I know she broke her finger on set. I heard that no one knew. I know David didn't know. Did you?

Zegler: She didn't complain!

Liu: She's a total pro. She is a gangster. She doesn't complain about anything. She just goes through it and carries on. She is very professional, but she is also really passionate about what she does. That is just who she is. I mean, you look at her finger. It is [bent], wasn't it? Fully bad.

Zegler: It's proper f***** up. And she called it her "Shazam finger," like it's a little souvenir from the set.

'He originally had come to me with Supergirl for The Flash'

Rachel, I know this whole audition happened before "West Side Story" came out. What was the audition process like? How did the experiences differ? 

Zegler: Oh gosh, it was so fast. I auditioned for "West Side Story" for a year. They really kept me on the edge of my seat for a year. I sweat out my entire junior year, so it was horrible. Borderline abuse, at that point, for actors, that anybody who has done it knows, having you go in nine times for something is torture.

So then with this one, I booked them a month and a half, and I was like, "Is this what it's like? Is it supposed to be like this?" And my agents were like, "Yeah." But no, I read for Rich [Delia], who was our casting director, and he originally had come to me with Supergirl for "[The] Flash," and I was not right for it. He was like, "You know what, I've got a character in mind for you for 'Shazam.' They're looking at X, Y, Z. We would love it if you came in and read."

So I read on Zoom. Obviously, the era of Zoom is isolation, pandemic era. Then I went back in, and I read for David Sandberg, and then for the last time, I had a chemistry read with Jack Dylan Grazer. The story goes that Jack picked me. That Peter Safran, our producer, turned to him and was like, "Which one did you like the best, Jack?" and he said, "Well, she's Maria in 'West Side Story,' so we got to have her." Because Jack is a very big "West Side Story" fan. Jack loves "West Side Story." So I have him to thank, really.

'David had a very good sense of what he wanted'

I know though this is very grounded in the real world, there is obviously CGI because, you know, magic. David said you guys didn't know what it was going to look like. So how did you come up with your movements for it? I'm always fascinated by that.

Zegler: I trusted David a lot.

Liu: David had a very good sense of what he wanted, and I think that is very important. He is open creatively, but I think ultimately, he has a very good idea of what the visual effects and special effects are going to be, and how they are going to be. So you have to really give it up to him.

Zegler: Also, our VFX artists have a very cool function on their iPad, where they go up and are able to show you dimensionally what it's going to look like. In comparison to you, how big is it? But there was a really funny day where when we were doing the scene where Billy, as Shazam [Zachary Levi], comes up to the dome and touches hands with Jack [Dylan Grazer - young Freddy]. We were doing something in the studio, so it was in Black Hawk in Atlanta, and Marta Milans, who plays Mama Rosa, asked what all of the pink X's were. She obviously meant to ask what are these going to be, but she was like, "What are those pink X's on the wall?" And David Sandberg went, "I don't know, we keep taking them down, and some a***hole keeps putting them back up there," and she believed him for a second. It was very, very funny. That's exactly who David is. That's all you need to know about David Sandberg, honestly.

The opening scene with the [Athens] museum is so cool. I loved that scene so much.

Zegler: Yeah. DJ [Cotrona -- adult Pedro] and I were geeking when we saw it for the first time. We were like, "This is so cool." 

There's the speech, that twisty speech [Kalypso's spell language]. Is that actually a language? Was that made up? 

Liu: It's supposed to be chaos. I asked David what it should be, and he was like, "It doesn't really matter. So you can say whatever you want."

Zegler: So you were speaking Parseltongue?

Liu: I did! I went, "Let me bring in Harry Potter for this."

Zegler: Klingon!

'I had a huge crush on Adam [Brody] growing up'

You're playing against two Freddys. What was it like, having to look at them as the same person?

Zegler: I think Adam does such a great job, because Jack is so hard to capture and recreate, and Adam does a really great job. That teenage anxiety and awkwardness, Adam really does so well. In that scene on the rooftop, it was so fun. I had a huge crush on Adam growing up, so I was terrified that day. I had a crush on his character from "Gilmore Girls." He played a character called Dave Rygalski. So I told him. I was like, "I just wanted you to know ... I need to get this out of my head: I was in love with you."

Liu: Oh my god!

Zegler: "It's no big deal. I'm sorry ... Now flirt with me." It was amazing. Dreams came true. 

I need to know his reaction!

Zegler: He was so sweet about it. He gave me so many behind the scenes [things] about "Gilmore Girls," and how they really nailed down the fast-talking, and how much he loved Keiko [Agena], who played Lane [Kim], and how much he loved working on the show.

I'm curious how you guys came up with the [sisters'] history. How deep did you go?

Zegler: A lot of it came from Henry, I feel. Henry was really involved, and any question we had, he was able to answer. And if he wasn't, he'd be like, "Let me go consult some literature about this." And we took cues from each other, I feel. 

Liu: He's so smart. I think that he really had a good idea, in a sense, of what he wanted to do. Also, he was able to imbue humor within the goddesses, with us being very serious, and playing them very serious, which is what made it funny. 

My next question is about the dragon [Ladon, the mythical dragon that Liu's Kalypso rides in the film].

Liu: It was something they were using really for the first time. It was something automated that they created, and it was for cars, and then they plopped me on there, and they made it very easy. We tested it out. There's different speeds you could go at. I'm sure it's something that they use now all the time.

"Shazam! Fury of the Gods" will hit theaters on March 17, 2023.