In the “Grodd Lives” episode of The CW series The Flash, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Team Flash must deal with Dr. Wells, aka Reverse Flash (Tom Cavanagh), unleashing the very angry gorilla, Grodd, on Central City. Joe (Jesse L. Martin), Barry and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) head down into the sewers to catch Grodd, but quickly learn that won’t be so easy, after he kidnaps Joe.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Jesse L. Martin talked about the events that lead up to Grodd’s release, just how pissed off the enormous gorilla is, how much fun it is to be a part of such a totally wild storyline, how Joe would really feel about a Barry and Iris romance, what fans should brace themselves for with the season finale, Barry Allen facing the big decision to go back in time and save his parents or to stay in the present in the life he lives now, that so many major things happen in the finale that it’s “mind-spinning,” and all of the questions he has about where Season 2 could go next. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: Just when you think things can’t get any worse with Dr. Wells, he has to go and unleash Grodd. What can you say about the events that lead up to that bright idea?
JESSE L. MARTIN: Grodd is an absolute mystery and unknown to Joe until he shows up and is talked about. It’s been established that Joe actually isn’t really fond of regular gorillas, let alone really huge, supernatural, telepathic ones. Joe has every reason to be horrified, but jumps into the fray anyway because there’s nothing else to be done. So, Grodd showing up is a really, really big deal for everybody.
What can we expect from the interaction with him and just how pissed off he is?
MARTIN: That’s the thing, we’re not even sure why Grodd is mad. Barry has an idea of what may have happened to Grodd because of Grodd’s telepathic abilities, but Joe is in the dark about how this whole thing happened and how this gorilla became what it is. It’s obviously grown in size. It’s much larger than a normal gorilla, and it’s evolved in intelligence and emotional abilities. So, the idea that this thing is just floating around the sewer, waiting to kill anybody that shows up, is absolutely terrifying for Joe. And unfortunately, Joe has to spend some time with the big boy.
How hilarious is it to act in scenes where you have to pretend that there’s an enormous angry gorilla acting opposite you?
MARTIN: If I thought about it too much, it would make me laugh. But the truth of the matter is, when you’re doing it, it’s just like when you’re a little kid. You start imagining what it is and what the danger might be, and you go for it. That is fun and absolutely liberating. There were times when we did have an actor in place who was wearing a suit, and we could get an idea of what the scale of this creature is. But in most cases, you’re literally acting to air, so you just have to ramp your imagination up as far as it goes and go for it, and it turns out to be a lot of fun. It’s not so hilarious, if you don’t think about it.
Back when you were on the Broadway stage, or at any point during your run on the very serious Law & Order, could you ever have imagined that you’d be here, on a superhero TV show, being kidnapped by a giant gorilla?
MARTIN: No, and I was saying that, at the time. I was like, “In all my days, I never really imagined this.” I hoped that somehow I’d get in a situation where I would get to do things like that, in this fantasy realm, ‘cause I had never really gotten to do it. Now that I am, it’s one of my favorite gigs. To get to do those kinds of things, every single day, is an actor’s playground. It’s a hell of a lot of fun.
What should fans brace themselves for, in regard to the season finale, and how worried should they be that not everyone will make it out intact?
MARTIN: You should be worried because so many cataclysmic things occur in the last two episodes, where it truly is life and death, not just with the characters you’ve come to know, but with everybody in Central City. So, there’s a lot to worry about. There’s a lot to be concerned about. We’re not sure who’s actually going to make it, or if everybody is actually going to make it to the end. We’re not sure where we’re going to be, time wise. The whole notion of time travel rears its head again. Part of the finale has to do with the decision Barry has to make, between going back and saving his mom and keeping his dad out of prison, or staying in the present where he has the life that he has, and that he absolutely loves and enjoys. So, it’s a big dilemma for him. He, of course, asks Joe’s opinion and Joe, being the guy that he is, tells Barry that, if he has the change to save his mom and his dad than he should, regardless of what that means for their relationship. The whole episode is Barry grappling with whether or not to go.
When you finally got to read that finale script and found out where everyone and everything would ultimately end up for the season, what was your reaction to it all? Could you ever have seen it going the way that it did?
MARTIN: No, not at all. I definitely couldn’t. So many major things happen that it’s hard for me, as a person, let alone the character, Joe, to wrap his head around. It’s mind-spinning, what occurs and what we find out. The events that happen because of things that we set off, it’s cataclysmic. I’m not sure how much else I can say ‘cause I don’t want to give away anything. It really is life or death. You’re not even sure if it’s life or death in the present, life or death in the future, or life or death in the past, or a little bit of all three.
Could you immediately see where things might be headed for Season 2, or did you immediately have questions about what could be coming next?
MARTIN: All I had was questions about what could possibly be coming next. When I think I know what’s gonna happen, pretty much the exact opposite happens. The way the writing is revealed to us, we get the scripts one at a time. I don’t have a trajectory for how things are going to end, or what the relationships are going to be, by the end of it all. I don’t have any notion of that. And it’s on purpose. I asked them not to tell me too much because I want Joe to find out when he finds out, so I have no notion. As far as where we’re going with Season 2, the only thing I know is that we’re probably going to start the second after the place we end, in the first season. That’s all I know, and I only know that because I heard it by accident. That could even be wrong or change, by the time we actually get there. So, I have no idea what to expect.
When did you first learn that Dr. Wells was going to really be someone else, and that that someone else would also be Reverse Flash, and what was your reaction to that storyline?
MARTIN: It was only in the middle of the season that Joe really knew that something else was going on with Dr. Wells. He always felt there was something wrong with him, or something devious about him, but it was somewhere in the middle of the season that he found out he was right about that and had to prove that it’s true. Joe being a detective, he had to go the legal route to prove it, so they could then prosecute him. But, we’re not talking about a regular world here. We’re talking about a world with meta-humans and supernatural powers, and all these things. Eventually, Joe has to not abandon the law, but skirt around it because there are so many things happening that can’t be explained to the general public, or even the police officers or detectives that Joe works with. He has to go rogue, a little bit, to even get into this hunt, if you will, and story. If only his bosses knew what he was doing and why he was doing it, particularly when it comes to Wells and the meta-humans, and the idea that someone lets them free and they’re roaming Central City causing all kinds of drama and tragedy. Joe has to completely pretend that he has nothing to do with it, when he has everything to do with it.
Joe West is a smart guy, and he knows how Barry feels about Iris (Candice Patton), as well as the fact that Iris now has some feelings for Barry. But how would he truly feel about Iris getting into a romantic relationship with Barry, knowing that he’s The Flash and knowing the kind of danger that he’s in, all the time? Could he ever get behind them being together?
MARTIN: The way Joe sees it is, if they’re in love with each other, it doesn’t matter what he thinks because eventually they’ll find a way to be together. He can probably have some control over how long it takes before that happens, just by keeping information. But Joe slowly learns that keeping information from his children, particularly Iris, is not a great thing. When she finds out, she feels absolutely betrayed, and that is a wound that doesn’t heal right away. So, there’s a danger in it, but Joe feels like, if that’s the course of nature, than that is the course of nature. They’re not really brother and sister. They just grew up together.
Joe clearly feels guilt over Barry’s father being in prison, and everything that’s happened with Dr. Wells. What do you think needs to happen for Joe to be able to fully absolve himself from all the guilt that he’s carrying?
MARTIN: I don’t know. I think it’s probably more interesting, story wise, that he never really does let go of that guilt. That’s one of the things that drives Joe, particularly with Barry and Iris. He’s got several things to feel guilty about with Barry. There’s the death of his mom, even though Joe didn’t cause it, and his father being imprisoned. And with Iris, we’ve yet to even discuss what happened with Iris’ mom. I believe there’s a huge amount of guilt when it comes to Iris and her mother. We just haven’t explored that part of the story yet. Hopefully, in Season 2, we’ll find out some things.
The Flash airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.