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Filming Doom Patrol Is More Complicated Than You Might Think - Exclusive

Doom Patrol is a series that's even bigger than the sum of its many, many parts. Based on some of the strangest DC Comics superheroes ever created, the DC Universe-HBO Max show leans into the weirdness of its source material in ways no other comic book series ever has. The result is an unpredictable and often quite daring show that takes its characters to place viewers — even those familiar with the comics — might not have ever dreamed. In the first season alone, the characters of Doom Patrol visited a sentient street, battled a giant cockroach, got caught up in a secret government program they had closer ties to than they realized, and met a superhero whose powers were all built around flexing the correct muscle at the correct time. 

On Doom Patrol season 2, things get even weirder. The gang meets a super-villain who manipulates time, a killer who feeds off pain, a young girl who can manifest basically anything she can imagine, and so many others. 

Given all that Doom Patrol deals with, one might expect that much of the magic is added in during post-production. It's easy to imagine the stars of Doom Patrol surrounded by green screens, acting against something that will be digitally added later. However, while that may be the case sometimes, Doom Patrol actress April Bowlby told Looper in an exclusive interview that making the show can get a bit complicated on set in some surprising ways.

Big performances, tiny world

As the show's second season begins, much of the Doom Patrol crew find themselves in the same predicament they were in at the end of season 1. Bowlby's character, Rita Farr, and nearly nearly every other member of the team are strapped in a bug-sized state after they were shrunk during the season 1 finale. The Doom Patrol season 2 premiere, entitled "Fun Size Patrol," picks up as the team has basically learned to live their lives in miniature mode — having set up a temporary camp in Cliff Steele's (Brendan Fraser and Riley Shanahan) massive city model and found ways to amuse themselves until Larry (Matt Bomer and Matthew Zuk), the only one who didn't shrink, and the Chief (Timothy Dalton) figure out how to get them back to normal size. 

"Fun Size Patrol" is a delightful episode because it spends a lot of time with exactly how life for the Doom Patrol has changed in their new tiny states. Larry is functioning as the crew's caretaker, making them tiny pancakes and setting up movie nights for them, while each shrunken member of the Doom Patrol has learned to deal in their own way.

It's an adjustment for the characters, but it was also one for the actors. Bowlby explained to Looper most of the "tiny" stuff seen on the episode was really there for the cast to interact with.

"It was so much fun because on our set, really everything was there. It was like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, actually," said Bowlby. "You just use what was around you and that informs everything. So, it was great to be a tiny person. The popcorn that they gave us, this giant popcorn, you're like, 'Cool, how do I eat this?' And we had the giant pancakes."

Bowlby noted that it was also a bit tough to film those sequences — "everything was a challenge," she admitted — but that it translated well on screen and was overall incredibly enjoyable. "That's where we lived for a while, in this tiny little world with giant, oversized things. So it was really, really fun to do," she shared.

Four actors, two roles, one big family

Doom Patrol is a show that draws a lot of strength from its ensemble cast — which, in addition to Bowlby, includes Brendan Fraser, Matt Bomer, Timothy Dalton, Diane Guerrero, Joivan Wade, newcomer Abigail Shapiro, and more. But there are other key players in the Doom Patrol ensemble whom you may not know as much about — vital members of the team whose contributions are sometimes less noticed because we never hear their voices. 

Fraser and Bomer play the characters of Cliff and Larry, respectively, in flashbacks and at all times with their voices — but they aren't the live-action performers for Robotman and Negative Man. There are actually two other actors who don the metal and the bandages to fill those roles on set, and Bowlby considers both essential parts of Doom Patrol

"There's no way we could do our job without them," she said. "Matthew Zuk plays Negative Man and Riley Shanahan plays Robotman. And they embody [the characters]. That's who I perform with. That is the person who informs my performance. They leave their heart on the floor, and they're also completely professional. They give their all, and they bring magic to the set. We're very blessed to have them."

So, the next time you're watching Doom Patrol and marveling at how impressive the whole cast is, just remember to add two names to the ensemble.

Doom Patrol season 2 is now streaming on DC Universe and HBO Max. New episodes arrive on Thursdays.