Greg Berlanti Talks ARROW, THE FLASH, SUPERGIRL, Crossover Episodes, Spinoffs, Ra’s Al Ghul, Firestorm, Resurrecting Characters, and More

     January 16, 2015

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With The CW’s superhero block returning next week, The Flash on Tuesday, January 20, and Arrow the following night on Wednesday, January 21st, the casts and executive producers of both series, including Stephen AmellGrant GustinKatie CassidyDavid RamseyDominic Purcell, and Wentworth Miller, were on hand at the TCA winter press tour to talk about what’s coming up for the costumed vigilantes.

Following the panel presentation Executive Producer Greg Berlanti took some times to speak with a handful of journalists.  He talked about upcoming baddies, feeling free to resurrect characters, what he learned from the big crossover event, potential future DC spinoffs, creating a female led superhero show with CBS’s Supergirl, and more.  Check out what he had to say after the jump.

What can you say about this incarnation of Firestorm? 

the-flash-amell-panabaker-1GREG BERLANTI:  Episodes 13 and 14 almost play like a Firestorm origin story, which has been exciting for me.  It was very helpful to know Victor [Garber] and Robbie [Ammel] as well as we do personally, because so much about it is – I sort of think of it like Prelude to a Kiss – that notion of being trapped in each other’s minds and bodies and then knowing each other.  Robbie went back and looked at a bunch of Alias episodes before – you’ll see in an episode early on he’s possessed by martin and has to be Victor.  So there’s lots of great stuff coming up.

Do I have to go homes and get my scrabble tiles to spell out “Eddie Thawn” and start doing all the anagrams? 

BERLANTI:  [Laughs] I’m not going to say it better than Andrew said it because I’ll stupidly give something away, but it was always our hope that it would work out the way it seems to be working out and we do try and take advantage of it.

You guys haven’t been shy about killing off major characters on Arrow.  

BERLANTI:  Yeah.

Can we expect some major deaths on The Flash this season? 

BERLANTI:  I think we also haven’t been shy about bringing back dead people.  We may have one of those shows where no one’s ever really dead, but that’s OK.  I think that’s always where a lot of the stakes lie in these shows, so it could happen.

UnthinkableSarah’s death had a real air of finality. 

BERLANTI:  Right.

It was pretty vicious.  Was that your guys’ way of closing the book on that? 

BERLANTI:  I don’t close the book on anything ever, because there’s flashbacks and we’ve had Tommy come back a bunch.  That’s been really fortunate. I think – Alan can answer this better than me – but it’s like the comic books where the characters come back.  They die and that ends a story point, and a lot of times they’re revived.  I think it’s like the books that way, to me at least.

Anything you can say about Supergirl and what the tone of that is? Where are you at with casting? Are we going to hear something soon? 

GREG BERLANTI:  I hope you hear about casting soon or we’re not going to be able to make the pilot. I would say it’s tonally closer to The Flash than Arrow. That’s probably the best way to say it.

How is the casting process coming? What are the challenges? 

BERLANTI:  As with all these things, there’s only one person. I can’t imagine someone other than a lot of our actors playing these roles so I feel you’re always just looking for that person.

Do you want a fresh face? 

BERLANTI:  We have no preference that way.

When you say tonally closer to The Flash, does that mean more romantic? 

BERLANTI:  Well the nature of the character is a bit, and who we have in her life, who we’re surrounding her with. Also, tonally I thought of those kind of characters in the DC universe, and I’m sure Jeff would agree – they both died in Crisis of Infinite Earths – no, they’re similar.

Is there a possibility Supergirl crossing over with Arrow or The Flash

the-flash-vs-arrow-flash-arrowBERLANTI:  So much has to go right. We have to make a great show. Again, I think of myself, if I were watching it, I would want to see that, but we have to get so many things right to make a good show, and so much of it is luck unfortunately.

People have clamoring for a female led superhero project. How are you guys approaching that element of it? 

BERLANTI:  That was really important to all of us when we set out to working on it, and it was really important to DC, and it was really important to the women I’m working on the show with, the women that work at the studio, and the women that work at the network.  In a lot of ways I’m surrounded by more women on the project that can answer the question better.

Did you learn any lessons from Wonder Woman

BERLANTI:  I think for us it’s always more learning more from our own mistakes and our own successes.  So a show like Arrow and Flash without stuff I learned on Eli Stone and No Ordinary Family probably wouldn’t exist in terms of visual effects and stunts, things like that.  Story wise, what we’ve learned on these shows, the thing we’ve always learned is how important casting is.  If you’re right on the money and you have the kind of actors we have on these shows it just makes you look so much better.

Is the approach to the material different for CBS than it is for CW? 

BERLANTI:  No, again, just in terms, I would say with each of them it’s always, “How can we improve on what we’ve learned before?”  But no, we don’t think about the shows in terms of networks that way.

arrow-draw-back-your-bow-emily-bett-rickards-brandon-routhThe fact that there is even the kernel of The Atom and there is this possibility of expanding it to another show on this network, is that amazing to you? 

BERLANTI:  That was equally thrilling to the studio, the network and to DC.  It is our hope to do that, but we’re literally just now – it’s very formative.

Are there any particular lessons you guys learned on the crossover episode that you might carry over to the future? 

BERLANTI:  Absolutely.  It was, in a way, like doing almost two episodes on top of two episodes.  It was so much back and forth.  I’m still kind of amazed that everybody up there pulled it off, and the real testament is to the people on ground in Canada and the logistics of balancing that.  Because they did an extra episode and a half this year on top of everything if you think about it – shuttling people back and forth.  There was definitely a period of about a month where I think every actor wanted to kill me, but then they saw the result and I think there’s obviously an expectation by the fans, by the studio, by the network that we figure out a way to do it again next year.  It was so rewarding. It was just  rewarding to be a part of a pair of episodes that were like can’t miss TV.  That’s why we do what we do.

Beyond the huge crossovers once a year, are there more thoughts about things like Felicity visiting? 

BERLANTI:  Yeah, we do a bunch of that in the back half.  That’s also the exciting thing.  We do it with writers, we do it with cast, we do it with stunts, sometimes we do it with visual effects.  That’s the benefit of it in a lot of ways, too.  It’s really fun for some of the writers to be like, “Oh, I’m going to go write Flash this week,” or vice versa.  All of that always enlivens and makes things better because you get new perspectives all the time, and so we’re going to do it with the characters.

Anybody that you can say? 

arrow-the-climb-stephen-amell-and-matt-nableBERLANTI:  We’re just starting to book them so I can’t say until they agree, or else they can drive their price up [laughs].

It feels like Ra’s al Ghul’s part of the story might be mostly over with.  Was mostly brought on to knock Oliver down a peg? 

BERLANTI:  His story is very vital in the back half of the year.  Yeah, it was – think you’re kind of starting to see our tricks by now, but the mid-season cliff hanger is in a lot of ways very declarative of the back half of the year.  We think of it as the midpoint in a film.  So we have hints of things in the first act, in the first six or seven episodes that lead up to something, and then definitely by the end of the year we haven’t expressed – I mean you can look at Tom [Cavanaugh], what happened with Tom, what happened with Matt [Nable] or Ra’s on Arrow in the same week in the same pair of episodes and I think that’s structurally something we’ll probably stick with because it gives us something to drive toward.

The new DC show that you guys are hinting at. Is that something that you can expect to be a backdoor pilot out of Flash or Arrow as an existing character or is it something all new? 

BERLANTI:  Honestly if I could even hint in a weird kind of answer I would, but it’s so much more formative than that. We love this universe and we want to keep growing it.

Are you guys working your way up to Justice League? 

arrow-the-climb - katrina lawBERLANTI:  [Laughs] No, we are trying to do more of what we enjoy, and it’s true the shows are so plentiful with characters and storylines, so there’s a region of the universe we felt like we haven’t dealt with yet that we’d like to deal with.

Sixteen people on stage, one woman, so many men… 

BERLANTI:  I’m glad you asked that actually. Here’s the thing, we put the list together and it was very much about costumes in the lobby I think. Otherwise people like Jesse Martin would be here, people like Emily would be here. One thing we don’t talk about that much, but at least half of our writers between the two shows are women, so that’s exciting and interesting. But what I wanted to say was that we should have had more women up here and that’s on me, that’s my fault, because I went through the list and there’s so many varying factors, but I should have just said we have The Huntress, and Nyssa, and we have Cupid this year, and we have others coming up in the back half of the year, peak a boo, just great characters. but I think it was a combination of costumes and a combination of who you all would be most interested in seeing, maybe they headlined their own series before that have come to play with us, so there were varying factors, but I personally should have said “Guys, this is an opportunity to show all the great female characters we have on the show too.” So that’s my fault.

Any tips for surviving pilot season? 

BERLANTI:  Just stay passionate. I think a lot of people – it’s a warying process, and it gets later and later. You don’t know why, but they pick up things later and suddenly we’re expected to pilots in six weeks, prep and make them, as opposed to eight weeks. But I think just stay passionate and stay focused, and know that a lot of it is luck, a great deal of it. When you get Stephen or Grant, these kind of people, you don’t plan for that when you’re writing a script.

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