The Flash: Cast and crew preview the show from SDCC 2014
‘The Flash’ is one of the most-anticipated new shows of the fall season. We’ve seen the pilot and interviewed the cast and crew at SDCC this summer. This is what they told us.
Once you build a successful comic-book based series on a network that loves you, the natural thing to do is to build a spinoff. The Flash, along with “parent” show Arrow, represent much about what’s right on The CW these days. Grant Gustin is a perfect Barry Allen, and producers Geoff Johns, David Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg have surrounded him with an outstanding cast, including Broadway star Jesse L. Martin (Joe West), TV heavyweight Tom Cavanagh (Harrison Wells), newcomers like Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow) and they have even brought in someone who knows what it’s like to be under the cowl in John Wesley Shipp (Henry Allen).
We sat down with these folks at San Diego Comic-Con this summer, and as the show is set to premiere next week, we share what they told us is coming up in season one:
You can tell that Gustin really likes Barry, “He’s just full of hope and optimism. He’s easily relatable.” He’s played so many characters that he wouldn’t want to be in the same room with (we’re looking at you, Sebastian Smythe) that it is refreshing to play someone who people like. He grew up a big (very big, says the tattoo he showed us) Superman fan, so he’s had to learn a lot about the character he now portrays. He’d originally thought about reading the entirety of the run of Flash books, until he saw just how many there were. The New 52 series seems to be similar to what they’re trying to do, and Gustin points to just how knowledgeable and accessible the producers have been in helping build the character grounded in the canon.
Gustin is looking forward to delving into some of the Flash’s extended powers, specifically time travel. They tease it a little in the Pilot, but he wants more. “I think it just presents a lot of fun storylines.”
John Wesley Shipp
Shipp hasn’t yet felt that moment of weirdness seeing someone else in the suit, but the following week was to be his first scene with Grant in the Flash costume. If that moment of “weirdness” was to happen, he expected it then. But his Flash was much different tonally then this Flash. “I can’t imagine Emmet Walsh killing Priscilla Pointer [the actors who played his parents], you know?”
You can tell that Shipp is still disappointed that his show was cancelled after just one season. “Although for a one season show, it has had an incredible life … but how often do you get to come back?” He called it an extraordinary opportunity for healing.
When asked about watching the evolution of superhero properties in popular culture since 1990, Shipp talked about how audiences are more informed, “It’s a smarter sensibility … so we can address the fact that The Flash is about speed and needs to be aerodynamic.” But he kids that the landscape is saturated with comic shows and movies now. He joked with our table that we were too young to remember it used to be all about westerns, and lately it’s CSI and Law & Order.
Shipp is taken by Grant Gustin. “He’s really sincere … he’s very real.”
Shipp says he doesn’t want the character to be “Dawson’s dad thirteen years later.” Obviously prison has changed Henry, but he thinks that it is more important to demonstrate that impact in a nuanced way, “If you don’t [see how prison changed him] that’s my bad, that’s my failure.” One of the most difficult things he experienced in prison was that no one – save Barry – believed him, including specifically Joe West, his neighbor and friend … and the man who raised Barry in Henry’s absence. That’s a reunion I’m looking forward to seeing.
Shipp points to the audience’s thirst for darker shows like Constantine and The Walking Dead as to why there’s been difficulty getting another Flash property off the ground. And while this The Flash tends to be a little darker in some areas – specifically in the Allen family backstory – it is still very much rooted in the tone of the comics. Gustin’s sense of comedy: running into himself, tripping over his feet balanced with his power, demonstrates an everyman quality that is endearing.
Cavanaugh was asked about what research he might have done with folks who are wheelchair-bound. He dodged the question specific to The Flash, but talked about the work he did for a little-seen independent film called Sublime. After that, he said, working in a motorized wheelchair was a big improvement. He said that the differences in the two wheelchairs were symbolic of the differences of working on a big-budget production like the show, and a much tighter-budgeted small film.
Cavanaugh was attracted to the different layers the characters portrayed, especially Harrison Wells. You could tell too, that he was a bit taken aback by fast-paced storytelling that occurs in the first nine episodes. If there is anything that The CW should get credit for, it is helping to usher in shows that tell stories at a breakneck speed, and it looks like The Flash is going to be one of them. “Things that you might want to keep in your quiver, they’re firing those things off in a hurry.”
Cavanaugh thought he had a pretty good understanding of The Flash’s stories from the comic books, but after taking the role, he realized he was a neophyte. But producers Kriesberg and Geoff Johns have been incredibly helpful, informative and – almost more importantly – welcoming to someone who wants to learn the canon.
Panabaker is excited to be a part of a superhero franchise with a preexisting fan base, “It’s so cool! It’s so great because people are excited about The Flash.” Playing Caitlin Snow, who brings a lot to the table, is a big part of that. “It’s great to have a really smart woman on board who also brings that emotional, sensitive perspective.” Snow is fresh from the trauma of losing her fiancé in the accident, so has that drive to keep Barry safe. That trauma has also made her much more serious than she was pre-accident (a side of her we will get to see in flashbacks early in the season).
It doesn’t look like Caitlin is being set up as an immediate love interest for Barry, but there’s a triangle dynamic that might develop with the two of them and Iris. “Barry has always pined for Iris but he can’t have her, so he’s got to figure out what’s next? The sad scientist over here?”
Kreisberg was taken by one of the decisions that Smallville made early on, showing how Clark had trouble adjusting to his powers. There is something to be said too about having too much power and becoming god-like. “We’re going to try and keep [his powers] – at least early on – as limited as we can.” But there is definitely a desire (as is apparent in the Pilot) to eventually get to some of the Flash’s more dynamic powers like phasing through matter and (gasp!) time travel. Expect a Smallville-esque difficulty in learning to contain those powers.
There was a conscious decision early on on Arrow to ground the stories in reality as much as possible (thus the mirakuru storyline). The Flash, however, represents an ability to go a step farther and open the world up a bit. Berlanti came up with the idea of the particle accelerator as a way of “building” a group of super-humans all tied to the same event. “The thing that will keep it like Arrow is the way in which people view these impossible, miraculous things,” explains Kreisberg. “We’ll never have a show, especially early on, where people are just like, ‘oh yeah … guy’s flying.’”
Kreisberg doesn’t see a lot of competition between Arrow and The Flash and the other new DC Comics properties coming to television this season. “One of the things that DC did really well this year is for all of the shows they’re doing, they are so completely different. Even Arrow and Flash are two very different shows; one is a grounded, crime, revenge, Shakespearian drama and Flash is more blue skies, superpowers.” Their approach is that they are only in competition with themselves to make quality television. But a “rising tide lifts all ships,” and he’s looking forward to seeing Gotham and iZombie.