THE FLASH Interview: Robbie Amell Talks Firestorm, Origin Stories, and Extreme Action Scenes

     February 10, 2015

  • Possible Spoiler

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The CW series The Flash is not only a highly entertaining, funny and fun show, but it also has a great balance of heartfelt moments and dangerous villains. The character of Firestorm is the perfect example, in that both Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell) and Dr. Martin Stein (Victor Garber) are stuck sharing the same body, whose meta-human alter-ego is practically uncontrollable, and each only wants to get home to the woman they love.

During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Robbie Amell talked about this two-episode arc, getting to explore more of Ronnie’s origin story, why Ronnie wants his fiancée Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) to stay away from him, trying to keep the fantastical Firestorm as grounded as possible, what he thought about seeing himself covered in flames, having a cool action sequence with The Flash (Grant Gustin), adopting some of Victor Garber’s mannerisms from his time on Alias, in playing the dual role, and whether either or both of the men sharing one body would like to try to be separated, even if the attempt could be catastrophic. Be aware that there are some spoilers.

robbie-amell-the-flash-imageCollider:  Firestorm is such a fun, crazy character to watch. How has he been to explore? 

ROBBIE AMELL:  Thank you! It’s wild. I’ve played less Ronnie and more schizophrenic homeless man on the show. It’s nice to have this origin story coming up. The character looks incredible and it’s been really fun to go on this weird journey, but I haven’t really gotten to develop Ronnie as a character yet. With the next two episodes, I get to do that, which is great.

Ronnie told Caitlin not to look for him again, and then flew away in a big fire ball, which definitely makes a statement, but obviously, she didn’t take his advice.  What can you say about what we will be learning about, with these next two episodes? 

AMELL:  You find out that the reason Ronnie told her not to come looking for him is because he just thinks he’s too dangerous. He doesn’t want to hurt anybody. You’ve got Stein and Ronnie fighting for control. The problem is that, if neither one is in control, the meta-human version of Firestorm is so powerful that they can end up hurting loved ones. You’ve got Stein fighting for control, so that he can get home to his wife. And you’ve got Ronnie fighting for control, so that he can get home to his fiancée.

How did you approach finding your performance as Firestorm? Were there specific things in the comics that helped you, or was there anything that the producers told you that were key for you? 

the-flash-robbie-amell-image-3AMELL:  What’s funny is that the comic book version, who I love and hope that I’ll one day get to play a little more of, is the guy who’s very hammer-and-nails and down-to-earth. He’s a 9-to-5 guy who likes to make her happy and goof around. Caitlin always talks about how he’s the only one who could make her laugh. That’s the character I was looking forward to playing, and I got to play that for some flashbacks in Episode 4, but then I became this schizophrenic weirdo. The main thing I was trying to do with the homeless version of the character is just how scary it would be, if you really started losing control of yourself and you were worried about hurting people because, at any moment, you could burst into flames or shoot energy out of your hands. So, I couldn’t exactly pull from life experience, but I just tried to keep it as oddly grounded as I could, in such a fantastic world. The nice, fun part about it is that you get to see the transformation and the real origin story with Firestorm.

What did you think when you saw how you would look at Firestorm, with all of the flames? 

AMELL:  I was terrified [to see it] because fire is really tough. Even in big-budget movies, fire is really hard to do, to make it look like it’s actually on you and to make it look real. Armen [Kevorkian], our visual effects supervisor from The Tomorrow People also does The Flash, and he’s so incredibly talented that I never should have worried. I remember that I went in, in Burbank, and I had a full digital double made, which takes a couple of hours. They put a bunch of dots on your face and you make a bunch of different facial expression while they scan your face. The only other person to ever have it done is Grant [Gustin], so the nice thing about the two of us having scenes together, and having action scenes together, is that, at any moment, they can just turn it into visual effects and they can have us do whatever they want. So, there’s going to be some really cool stuff, over the next couple of episodes, with Grant and I. I was so excited when Armen sent me a video and said, “This is for your eyes only. Don’t even tell anybody you saw this.” He sent me the video of me bursting into flames for the first time, and I was like a little kid again. I was so excited. It’s funny, when I talk to people about it, they’re like, “So, how’s it work with the fire? Do you have some sort of special thing on?” There is no fire on me, at all. I’m standing there, like an idiot, and they make it look good. Luckily, we’ve got talented people behind it that make it look great.

the-flash-robbie-amell-image-2What should we expect from Firestorm and The Flash? How well-matched are they, or aren’t they?

AMELL:  It’s pretty rare for The Flash to meet somebody close to him in power, especially somebody he’s not actually trying to hurt. He’s just trying to bring him in and help him, but Ronnie/Stein is not really in a position where they can be helped without a little persuasion. You get to see, not so much a fight scene, but a little action sequence between the two. On paper, all I thought was, “There’s no way they can do this. This is a big, huge $150 million movie scene.” And they pulled it off. We shot all of it. That’s probably the most excited I am, to see anything. That’s in [the next episode].

Did your time on The Tomorrow People, constantly doing and reacting to things that weren’t there, really help you prepare for what you’re doing on The Flash

AMELL:  Yeah. You can’t be self-conscious about it. You can’t think about what you look like because you look so silly. You just have to go with it and hope for the best. The nice thing with a show like this is that there are unbelievable producers and visual effects artists, who I grew to trust on The Tomorrow People. You can really just go for it and know that they’re going to make you look good. You just get to have fun. It’s like a kid playing superhero when you were young. I used to pretend I was Batman, all the time. Now, I’m just doing it with fire and a budget.

the-flash-robbie-amell-victor-garber-setThe last time we spoke, you said that you were going to have to grab a bite to eat and have a beer with Victor Garber, and try to pick up some mannerisms of his to incorporate into your performance. Did you ever have time to do that, and is there anything you’ve specifically incorporated? 

AMELL:  I knew Victor from beforehand, so we were texting back and forth, before I got to Vancouver. We went out for dinner that night and I was like, “Victor, I’ve been watching Alias, so I just want you to know that I’m doing Victor Garber from Alias,” and he laughed. He sent me a really nice message saying that he recently saw the scene in ADR. Victor is an incredible guy. For someone who’s been around the business and been as successful as he has, it’s really nice to become friends with someone like that and to see what a genuinely sweet individual they are. My fiancée and I have gone out to dinner with him a few times since then, whenever he comes to town, and we were in New York for a couple nights and went and saw him. It was nice. It rekindled a friendship that we had, a couple of years ago.

What’s it like to essentially play two characters living inside of your own body? Are there moments that it feels a bit schizophrenic? 

AMELL:  Absolutely! It’s difficult because, a lot of times, I find that I pull from as much personal experience as possible. Since I don’t have any in this department, it’s about putting myself at the mercy of the director. The nice thing is that I trust Glen Winter, who’s such a talented director. We would talk about the scenes beforehand and while we were shooting them. I just laid myself at his mercy and trusted him and followed his guidance, and just used my instincts. Hopefully, it worked.

If any attempt at separating Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein could be catastrophic, would either/both of them want to try to do so anyway? 

AMELL:  That’s the question, and it’s answered at the end of [this next episode].

The Flash airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.

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