Viewers were introduced to Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) during Season 2 of the hit CW drama series Arrow, in a way that made the character both likeable and intriguing, and it was easy to see why he immediately got his own TV show. With The Flash now making its debut, he’ll get his own backstory and mythology and villains to fight, while also playing into the bigger DC universe and, at times, characters will cross back and forth between the two shows.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actor Jesse L. Martin (who plays Barry Allen’s surrogate father, Detective Joe West) talked about which of his friends is the most excited about him being a part of The Flash, his insistence on reading the script before agreeing to the role, that his prior knowledge of The Flash ended with knowing he was a guy who could run really fast (oh, and having the underoos, as a kid), what he thought of the suit the first time he saw it, how excited he is to learn what comes next with each script, the dynamic of Joe’s relationship with Barry, and getting to work with John Wesley Shipp, the original Flash who now plays Barry’s father. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
JESSE L. MARTIN: I have a good friend, Michael Capone, who has always been our resident comic book nerd. When I told him that I was meeting with Andrew Kreisberg and Greg Berlanti about playing Detective Joe West on The Flash, he was like, “If you don’t take this job, I promise you, I will kill you.” He literally said that. He said, “You would be an idiot to not take this job.” And then, when I finally took it, he was the first person to go absolutely bonkers. He went with me to Comic-Con, and it was the first time he got to go with somebody who was part of a big deal and with somebody who’s his friend. I’m super psyched. I can’t even believe what’s happening with the show already. Just working on the show is enough, to me. The things we get to do on a daily basis, with all of the special effects and stunts, I don’t get to do much of that stuff, normally. I was in Rent, for God’s sake. The closest we came to stunts was dancing on a table. That’s it.
What was the audition process like for this show? Were they very secretive about it all? Did you even get a full script?
MARTIN: I got the full script, after I met with Andrew and Greg. They were very secretive, but I told them, “I can’t say yes, until I read something.” So, it was in pencil that I would do it, until I read it. I was already ready to do it anyway, but I was trying to be savvy. Once I read it, I was like, “There’s no way I’m not doing this show. This is really, really awesome.” I’ve never gotten to do anything like it, ever.
Had you, personally, been familiar with The Flash?
MARTIN: Not at all. I’m so not a comic book guy. The most I knew about The Flash, as a little kid, was the underoos. I had The Flash underoos. I just knew that was a guy who could run really fast, so I figured that, in my underwear, I could run really, really, really fast. That’s really all I knew. I didn’t read comic books, growing up. I was more of a science fiction/fantasy novel guy. I loved reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan, and that kind of stuff. I didn’t get into comic books. But what I did appreciate about them was the artwork. I thought the artwork was incredibly beautiful, and I wanted to be able to draw and paint like that. I did end up becoming a drawer, a sketcher and a painter because of comic books, but I didn’t read them. Not at all. And I don’t even read them now. With The Flash, I told Andrew and Greg and Geoff [Johns] that I’m not going to read them. I don’t want to know that much. Joe West doesn’t know that much, just like the audience. He’s gonna be the audience, if you will. He’s gonna see it the same time that they see it and be like, “What the hell was that?!” And I want to keep it that way. I don’t want to know too much.
What did you think, the first time you saw what the suit would look like?
MARTIN: It looks great. I was blown away, actually. There’s always that fear that it’s gonna come off really corny and cartoony. The first time I saw the photo, I was like, “Well, that looks really cool. I can’t wait to see what it looks like in person.” And then, there was the day that Grant [Gustin] showed up wearing the suit, and we were like, “Woah, that’s awesome!” It looks so cool. They really know what they’re doing.
Has it been an adjustment to play a character when you never know where things are going?
MARTIN: Well, on TV, you never know where it’s going. They may even lie to you about where it’s going. You never really know because the scripts come in, every couple of weeks or so. But with this one, it’s exciting. Before, I would have anxiety about it because you never know what they’re going to do with your character. In some cases, characters just completely disappear. With this one, I know I’m gonna stick around because I’ve got kids to take care of, even though they’re young adults. It’s just getting super exciting, every time that I learn what’s new and what’s next.
There’s a very interesting dynamic between Barry Allen being in love with Joe’s daughter, Iris, but Iris is dating her father’s partner?
MARTIN: And I’m supposed to be oblivious to all of it, but Joe knows. He’s got an inkling about everything. He knows that Barry might have something for Iris because he raised them together. He also has an inkling for what Iris might feel for Eddie Thawne, but just hasn’t said anything yet, out of respect for his grown-up daughter. His bigger concern is when Barry becomes meta-human and The Flash. Iris has such a great connection with Barry and she spends a lot of time with him. Therefore, it puts her in danger, every single time they hang out. That’s a big concern for Joe. It’s not just about Barry getting hurt, but also Iris getting hurt.
Will we see you interact with John Wesley Shipp?
MARTIN: Yes, you will. You definitely will. It blows my mind because that’s the only Flash I really knew of. I didn’t get to watch the show much, as a kid, but I did know that he was The Flash. And he’s an awesome guy. Me, him and Grant have a lot in common. All three of us are Virginia boys, and our birthdays are four days apart. We have this weird, funny, symbiotic relationship. He’s a hell of a lot of fun to work with on set. He’s just a great guy.
The Flash airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.