On the winter finale of the hit CW series The Flash, Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) must come to terms with the fact that her fiancé, Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell), is not actually dead, but has instead been transformed into something very different, now known as Firestorm. That revelation will affect her very deeply, and compel her to want to get to the bottom of what happened.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Danielle Panabaker talked about how proud she is of the show, how humongous the winter finale is, what Caitlin will be dealing with now that the fiancé she thought was dead has turned up in a very different form, working with Robbie Amell and Victor Garber as Firestorm, how much Team Arrow has affected Team Flash, what it’s meant to her to have the support of the Arrow family, and what fans can expect when the show returns with new episodes in 2015. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: What’s it been like to see fans responding to the show in the way that you must have hoped they would, and to do so on such a huge level?
DANIELLE PANABAKER: It’s so funny, I don’t really know that I had any huge expectations for it. I just crossed my fingers and hoped people would like it and hoped people would watch. It’s been incredible to see the response. This is my first time being on a show and being on social media, and the way people respond, especially on Twitter, it’s great to see how invested they are in the show. Truthfully, people stop me on the street to talk about it and how excited they are. The security guards at the Vancouver airport are very excited about it, too. It’s fun! It’s so great. I love that people tell me that they watch it with their family and how invested everyone is. I just am so proud.
What’s it like for you to get to be a part of the superhero universe, at a time when comic book movies and TV shows are so popular?
PANABAKER: I’m really proud of our show because I feel like we’re doing something unique, especially for television. The way the special effects are, every week, it just blows my mind how much they’re able to accomplish. And yet, both our creators and we, as an actors, try really hard to continue to tell a story that connects on an emotional level, too. I’m just so proud and so excited to be a part of it.
Are you glad that you play one of the characters who’s in on the secret identity, from the beginning?
PANABAKER: Yeah. It’s already a bit of a challenge because, as a viewer, I know more than my character does. Sometimes I want to take her and be like, “Don’t you know what’s going on?!,” but she doesn’t know.
As an actor on the show, what’s it like to have a creative team that’s just as passionate about the story they’re telling and the characters as the fans are? Does that level of passion become infectious for everybody?
PANABAKER: Absolutely! And I think that, if they weren’t as committed and as passionate about the show, it wouldn’t be as good. That also translates. When they’re excited about the new stories that they’re gonna tell, it makes us excited to tell the stories, as well, and to do it well. We’re not just showing up and punching a time card. We’ll sit around and have debates about, “Is this true? Is this authentic and genuine?” We all care so much about it.
Without giving anything away, what can you say to tease what’s coming in the winter finale, and what your character’s place is in it?
PANABAKER: I’m so excited for the winter finale. It’s a humongous episode. For starters, Barry is dealing with the Reverse Flash, which is such a big thing for him. It’s so connected and it’s so crazy that there’s a bad version of him out there. So, to see the two speedsters battling it out is going to be absolutely incredible. And for Caitlin, as we saw in last week’s episode, Ronnie is, in fact, not dead. She comes to that realization in this episode, and it’s really tough for her. She thinks she’s losing her mind, a little bit. She knows her fiancé is not alive anymore, and yet she thinks she’s seeing him. As a doctor, especially, that’s a challenge for her. So, she’s dealing with that and she confides in Cisco, and she’s gotta go find him. This is the love of her life, and if he’s still out there, she needs to find him and figure out what’s really going on.
Caitlin was in a pretty bad place, after the loss of her fiancé and prior to the discovery of Barry Allen’s power. What has this newfound focus and purpose given her?
PANABAKER: I think it gives her so much passion, and I can relate to that. When you’re excited about what you’re doing, you wake up every day excited to do it and excited to go to work, and I think she has that with Barry. She’s so excited to work with him, and help him change the world and make it a better place. I think it’s really inspiring.
Because she has so deeply invested herself in helping Barry Allen be a hero, how deeply do you think it hurt her when he lashed out at her with the comment about him not being Ronnie. Has she forgiven him for saying that, knowing that he wasn’t in his right mind?
PANABAKER: I think it certainly was very rude and very hurtful, but knowing that he was whammied, and that wasn’t really Barry being mean to Caitlin because he had been affected by another meta-human, I think she forgives him.
How much will everything be thrown into upheaval for her, when she realizes that Ronnie is not actually dead, and that he’s transformed into this other version of himself?
PANABAKER: It’s like taking her world and shaking it upside down. Everything that she thought she knew is wrong. Ronnie is still out there. Unfortunately, he’s not the Ronnie she knew. The kind, loving fiancé that she thought passed away probably doesn’t exist anymore. He’s this new entity. The scientist in her is a little bit curious, but most of all, she wants to figure out what happened to him. He’s still alive, but it’s not really him inside, so what does that mean for Caitlin? That’s a journey that we go on, over the next few episodes. It’s not a simple answer that you can get to quickly. It’s gotta play out a little bit.
When you work with Firestorm, are you working with both Robbie Amell and Victor Garber?
PANABAKER: I do get to work with both of them. You’ll have to wait a few more episodes to see. Obviously, everybody knows how talented Victor Garber is, but Robbie is also an incredible actor, too. It’s great to see.
In the cross-over episodes, we really get to see how Team Flash and Team Arrow can help each other out, but they also had a real affect on each other. In what ways would you say Team Arrow has and will continue to affect Team Flash?
PANABAKER: The biggest thing for Caitlin is realizing the depths of their actions. When they’re in Central City and they’re talking to Barry over the microphones, it’s a little bit easier to be detached from what they’re actually doing. Barry struggled with that, very early on, seeing someone die and knowing that he couldn’t save someone. Team Flash is a little bit removed because they’re not in the thick of things, but when they go visit Team Arrow, they get thrown into the thick of things. Caitlin has to use her doctor skills to save the day, and that changes them and rocks them, and it wakes them up to how scary everything is that they’re dealing with.
How has it personally impacted you, as an actor, to have the Arrow family embrace what you guys are doing on The Flash?
PANABAKER: Oh, it’s so great! They’re such wonderful people, over there on Arrow, and they’ve been so welcoming. I use the analogy of being the freshmen in high school, and those kids know what they’re doing. Katie Cassidy was so wonderful to me, when I first got there. She was like, “Here’s what you need to do, you want to fly this airline, you want to use this credit card, this is where you want to stay, this is where we work out.” It was so generous of her. I’m very grateful for them.
Would you say that Caitlin is personally content with being the only girl in S.T.A.R. Labs, or does having someone like Felicity around make her wish she had someone to bounce things off of, more often?
PANABAKER: I think she absolutely would love to have another woman around. It’s one girl against three boys. Women are inherently more sensitive and emotional, and these boys certainly don’t understand that. It’s a little bit of an uphill battle sometimes to convince them to see her point of view. But the relationship with Cisco is very familial. They trust each other and know they have each other’s backs. It’s great.
Whether it’s someone on The Flash or Arrow, is there anyone that you would like to see Caitlin have a storyline with or get mixed up with, in some way?
PANABAKER: I would love to see Caitlin have more of a storyline with Joe. I think Jesse brings so much heart to our show, as an actor, but also Joe, the character, brings so much heart and warmth. Some of the scenes between Joe and Barry are some of my favorites on the show. I would love to see Caitlin and Joe spend some more time together.
What have you most enjoyed about playing this character?
PANABAKER: I love seeing the relationship between Caitlin and Cisco. I have a younger sister and I know what it’s like to know that that person is going to have your back, no matter what, but that you also have inside jokes with and a shorthand.
Knowing where things leave off with the winter finale, what can you say to tease what Caitlin will be going through, once the show returns in 2015?
PANABAKER: It’s going to be a really interesting journey for her, as she copes with what’s really going on with Ronnie now and she tries to move on. She makes some mistakes. She’s trying to let go and loosen up, but maybe she’ll take it too far. Firestorm continues to show up. He doesn’t just disappear, as much as that might be the easy answer. So, she’s still got a lot of stuff to work out with him.
The Flash airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.