Episodes 8 (“The Scientist) and 9 (“Three Ghosts”) of Arrow are two-part mid-season finale event, introducing police scientist Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), as he arrives in Starling City to help Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and his team investigate a robbery at Queen Consolidated. Both episodes have exhilarating, exciting and shocking moments worthy of any winter break, and Barry Allen has such fun interaction and chemistry with the team that it’s easy to see why they’re jumping straight to a pilot for The Flash, which will most assuredly go to series.
During this recent interview to discuss the introduction of Barry Allen and how that will lead to The Flash on his own show, actor Grant Gustin, executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, and DC Comics’ Geoff Johns talked about what brings Barry Allen to Starling City, who this version of the character is, how tricky the character was to cast, how the attraction between Barry and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) will affect Felicity’s relationship with Oliver, that Episode 20 will just be an episode of Arrow now, instead of being a backdoor pilot, that there’s a chance that some Arrow characters could appear in The Flash pilot, why they decided to hold back on the costume, how they will include Easter eggs on both shows, and the hope that all of this success could lead to more superheroes on television. Check out what they had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
ANDREW KREISBERG: Barry comes to Starling City because there is an unexplained robbery at Queen Consolidated, and Barry is very interested in the unexplained, for reasons that we will find out over the course of these two episodes. He’s the opposite of Oliver, in a lot of ways. Barry is outgoing and funny and a little bit unsure of himself and smart. He’s a bit of a squeaky wheel. The contrast between Stephen [Amell] and Grant [Gustin] is both comical and fun, and has been really great to watch.
Grant, you were the first person to read for this role?
GRANT GUSTIN: Apparently!
What did you connect with, in the character?
GUSTIN: I immediately thought he was really funny and endearing, and I hadn’t done anything like that. I had a lot of fun with that, throughout the audition process. They started steering me in that direction, immediately, as soon as I met them. They wanted me to just have fun with it, and I took it from there.
What do you like most about the character?
GUSTIN: He’s fun to play. He’s likeable. I would be his friend. I haven’t had the opportunity to play a character that I would actually enjoy spending time with, so that’s nice.
Was the Felicity/Barry Allen attraction something you always wanted to touch on?
KREISBERG: That was just something we talked about when we were trying to figure out how we were gonna bring him in. We spent a lot of time talking about Barry, even before the pilot aspect, just about how we were going to introduce him in these episodes. With the way the season had been going, we were talking about Oliver and Felicity, and their growing relationship or feelings for each other. The fact that Barry and Felicity are so similar, and they’re both a little bit uncomfortable in their own skins and are both very likeable and personable, it just seemed like they would instantly hit it off, which would just complicate things for Oliver, even more. It just felt like the right way to go. One of the things we did when we were testing some of the finalists was have Emily Bett Rickards come down from Canada to read. The minute we saw her read with Grant, it was a done deal.
GREG BERLANTI: We wanted to make sure he didn’t seem like jailbait next to her.
How will Barry affect Felicity’s relationship with Oliver?
KREISBERG: Oliver isn’t quite sure what he feels. He knows he feels something for her, but can’t quite define it. I think he’s surprised to find, in this episode, when Dig points out to him that what he’s feeling might actually be termed jealousy. For Felicity, she doesn’t want to like Oliver, in a way. She finds him unattainable and, in a way, he is unattainable, especially when he says, at the end of Episode 6, “It’s probably better if I’m not with somebody I care about.” So, while she does like Barry, she probably throws even more into it because now he’s somebody who’s available. And Barry being as smart as he is, he is familiar with liking somebody who doesn’t like you back, which is something that will be explored further, down the road. He sees that about her. That’s certainly something we pick up in Episode 10. The fall-out from Episode 9 carries over into the next episodes, as far as the Oliver and Felicity relationship is concerned. Barry has had a profound affect on them, and that will carry through.
We’ve seen The Flash in a few other projects, in the past. Grant, do you have a favorite previous Flash?
GUSTIN: To be honest, I’ve never seen anybody else portray The Flash. The last time a series was around, I was an infant. I haven’t seen anyone else portray The Flash, which I thought was really fun about this, once they got excited about me. I’m a superhero fan. I was a big Superman fan, growing up. I’ve always been a big superhero fan. To even have the opportunity to audition for this blew my mind, and to have them get excited about it was really cool. But, I wasn’t trying to be any Flash that I knew about or had seen because I really didn’t have that much knowledge in that category. It was just fun to have them get excited about my random take on Barry Allen.
KREISBERG: It was his spot-on take.
How will Grant Gustin’s younger look affect this version of Barry Allen/The Flash?
KREISBERG: It is an elephant in the room, so we addressed it. But, we’ve always seen him as being a little bit younger. The thing that was really important to us, more than anything, was that he really should be a contrast to Oliver and to Stephen. Stephen is the more traditional, square-jawed, muscle-bound hero, and that works really well because he needs all of that. One of the things about The Flash is that he’s a random guy who gets struck my lightening. He needs the bolt of lightening to be a hero, and Oliver doesn’t need the bolt of lightening.
GEOFF JOHNS: The cool thing, as a contrast, is that Oliver needs the heart, and Barry has the heart. Oliver has the body, and Barry needs the body.
GUSTIN: Yes, I have. I started training a month ago, and will continue onward. My work-out routine is much different than what [Stephen] did and what he still does, just because our body types are so different. But it’s a lot of working out, for hours at a time. That’s what it entails. It’s about running. I’ve been training with an Olympic running trainer and putting some mass on my body. That’s where we’re at, right now. I’m doing a lot of eating, and eating a lot of protein, in general.
Geoff, as someone who has a long history with The Flash, what qualities do you see in Grant Gustin that are unique to Barry Allen?
JOHNS: He’s earnest. Grant, as an actor, has brought more to Barry Allen than we’ve seen before, especially seeing him in the days of when he’s taking his first steps. He’s got that heart, he’s got humor and he’s got compassion. Barry was always a nice guy. He’s the guy who stops and makes sure everyone is all right, and then keeps going. And Grant embodies that. He’s the perfect Flash.
BERLANTI: The tricky thing about casting this role is that we were trying to hit a moving target, in that, if we were just creating a character out of nothing, that nobody had any preconceived awareness of, it would be a lot easier. But, we knew the character that we were trying to honor and the spirit of the kind of character we were trying to bring to the show. And then, we went into casting and it’s not like we had a pilot script. When we cast Arrow, we had a pilot script and we went out to all the actors and everybody read a whole script. We had sides. So, really basically off these sides, we were just looking for someone who was the essence of the character. In addition, you’re looking for someone that fits into the Arrow universe we have, but still can really potentially have the promise of their own universe and their own show. Had we not found Grant, I’m not sure we would have done the character. We looked at everybody. It was certainly the largest search I’ve ever been a part of for a TV show, and he just was the part. Suddenly, it didn’t become about age. It didn’t become about any of those other things, other than, if I were a kid and I got to watch the living embodiment of The Flash, this is who I would want to see do it. Our real hope with these episodes is that when people watch them, even before he becomes The Flash, that they connect with him in the way that we did.
Since you leave Barry Allen on a cliffhanger in Episode 9, are you pretty sure about the pilot going to series?
KREISBERG: We have been doing this long enough that we know you don’t bank or count on anything. Every part of the Arrow-verse has been gravy for us. The fact that we got to write the script, and then we got the pilot, and the show got on the air and there was such a great response to it, and now we’re getting to do this, honestly, we’re just loving the work. Loving the work and enjoying each other and enjoying the process has worked out very well for us. That’s really what we do. We keep our heads down and look to the stars, and thank them that we get to write these characters that we grew up with loving. If it plays, then we’ll see.
KREISBERG: We’re still trying to figure that out now. Episode 20 will just be an episode of Arrow. In some ways, having that be the backdoor pilot would have actually made things a little bit harder because we would have to take a right turn from where we are in our ongoing story to incorporate that. In some ways, this has freed us to take The Flash and just do The Flash separately, and stay on a straight line. Right now, we’re in the middle of working on Episodes 14, 15 and 16, so it’s giving us a little bit of time to figure out how to best utilize that episode.
BERLANTI: In the back half of the year, you definitely hear about what’s happened to him, in the way you’re hearing about Star Labs in the periphery. Especially in terms of Felicity, since she has a connection with him.
Will the pilot for The Flash keep you from adding superpowers to the Arrow universe? Are you going to keep it separate now?
KREISBERG: I think that’s future us’s problem. Part of the introduction of the Mirakuru serum was a gateway superpower. If you can accept that, then The Flash is a little bit easier. We’ll probably want to keep Arrow as distinctive as possible and The Flash as distinctive as possible. Part of the fun will be seeing how those two things play out in both shows.
JOHNS: There are story reasons why The Flash will feel different and he’ll take on different things in his series.
Is there a chance that any Arrow characters could appear in The Flash pilot?
BERLANTI: Definitely, there’s a chance. I’m not saying definitely yes, but that’s our hope.
JOHNS: We’re using a lot of mythology and a lot of characters from the comics, in the development of The Flash show. I don’t want to get too specific yet, but you’ll see a lot of characters and elements from the comics. It’s very much The Flash.
KREISBERG: We’re working out the pilot details now. I think that Barry’s love of the hero is going to play a part in the creation of his persona.
BERLANTI: We were holding back the costume element because we knew that, if we did Episode 20 as its own stand-alone episode, we’d have to find a real reason for people, in addition to the quality of the show, to come back in Episode 1 [of The Flash]. When you make a backdoor pilot like that, you have to remake the pilot. So, we thought the suit would be a perfect way to introduce that in the time span between Episode 20 and Episode 1. And now that Episode 20 has become a pilot, one of the great things about it is that we get to add a suit. So, that will appear in the pilot episode now.
KREISBERG: Greg had a great line, if it had just been Episode 20. At the end, Barry was looking at a picture of the Arrow and he goes, “I need a suit.” And his clothes were all shredded from the friction.
Grant, what are you most looking forward to viewers getting to see, with both Barry Allen and then later with The Flash?
GUSTIN: I’m looking forward to the whole thing, at this point. I’m just really excited about the whole thing. I still can’t process it all. I’m looking forward to just getting the pilot script and seeing how Barry is going to handle this happening to him. He’s not just excited. It’s scary. That’s what I’m most excited about playing with. That’s what I loved most about the character, in the audition process. It’s not just that he loves superheroes and he’s a fanboy, and all of a sudden, he’s like, “I’m gonna be one and I’m really stoked about it!” It’s more like, “This is terrifying. This is really happening to me.” I’m really excited to play more with that.
KREISBERG: The show will be slightly tonally different from Arrow, but it still exists in the Arrow-verse. In the Arrow world, people don’t have superpowers. So, when this fantastical thing happens to him, even if the show itself isn’t grounded, the character’s reaction to what’s happening in it will be grounded, and that’s what will make it still feel like it’s in the world of Arrow.
Are you going to include Easter eggs in The Flash universe, like you do with Arrow?
KREISBERG: The Easter eggs have worked out really well for Arrow, and we certainly don’t plan on not continuing that with The Flash. There are even some ones we’re talking about for the pilot, which will be really interesting. DC Comics has been really great in encouraging that, especially working with Geoff Johns, when it doesn’t step on other things that they’re doing. The thing that works best on the show is when it doesn’t matter if you get it or not.
JOHNS: In The Flash pilot, in particular, almost every character has some kind of basis from the books.
Will you get into The Flash’s backstory, on his show?
BERLANTI: Yeah, we will tell a big piece of that backstory. If we do a great job with the pilot and it goes to series, I don’t think we’ll do what we did on Arrow. The cool thing about The Flash, if we do it well, is that there are other ways to get at stories that feel more truthful to who the character is and what’s awesome about that character. That’s really exciting to us, as we break the pilot story.
KREISBERG: Yeah, if we’re not too tired. In the same way that Arrow was conducive to bringing on character like Deadshot and The Huntress and some of the more grounded people, in success, with The Flash, hopefully there’s a way to bring on some of the more fantastical characters that will probably still go through the grounding lens with which we view everything, but we could tackle some of the bigger villains and possibly heroes. With Arrow, I know everybody wants Batman to come on, but Arrow has to be the coolest person on Arrow. The same thing with The Flash. Barry has to be the coolest person. If we’re lucky enough to get to do more past the pilot, it will be about making sure the audience loves The Flash, Barry Allen and Grant Gustin as much as we do.
JOHNS: Because this is expanding the DC universe on television, we have talked about other characters and concepts and things that can exist within this.
Do you have a dream characters you’d love to include?
KREISBERG: There is a hint of a major character in the pilot [for The Flash], but he might get cut. That’s the fun stuff. We’re getting to bring The Flash on TV now. When Greg brought us the idea for Arrow, this was inconceivable. So, the fact that we’re here and we’re doing The Flash, we’re just so excited about that.
Arrow airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.