In the next episode of The CW series The Flash, entitled “Abra Kadabra,” The Flash (Grant Gustin) battles Abra Kadabra (David Dastmalchian), a villain from Earth-19 of the 64th Century, who has a very specific grudge against the speedster. When Abra offers to reveal Savitar’s true identity, if Barry Allen will release him, Barry very deeply considers taking the deal, until Gypsy (Jessica Camacho) shows up to nab the troublemaker for herself.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor David Dastmalchian talked about being a part of so many top secret projects, how cool it is to get to play a character like Abra Kadabra, using his knowledge to manipulate Barry, why this episode plays out like a comic book, how being from the 64th Century informs who this guy is, and the fun of getting to learn real magic tricks for the role.
Collider: You’ve previously been a part of projects like The Dark Knight, Ant-Man and Gotham, now you’re on The Flash, and you’ve got Twin Peaks and Blade Runner 2049, which are all very secretive. Which was the most secretive, and what measures of secrecy were taken?
DAVID DASTMALCHIAN: Everything has been secretive. My first job was The Dark Knight, and I had to go to an office to sign NDAs and some legal paperwork to be able to get the pages. The part that I auditioned for wasn’t the part that I played in the film. The part I auditioned for was one of the bank robbers – the clowns – at the top, in the heist sequence. So, when I got this other role, I had to go to an office and sign some papers, and then I got handed these three pages of script, which were what I’ve come to learn in the years since, since I’ve actually become a working actor, dummy sides. They weren’t even real script pages! So, I memorized the one line that I thought I had, which was, “There he is, let’s get him!” I drove around in Chicago, practicing saying, “There he is, let’s get him!” And then, when I showed up for work, that wasn’t even what I was doing or saying. That’s pretty serious! But, almost everything I’ve done has been shrouded in some kind of secrecy. And I have two upcoming projects that I’m very thrilled about, but I’m afraid to even utter their names because the knock will be downstairs, as soon as I get off the phone with you.
How cool is it for you to get to be a part of The Flash, playing Abra Kadabra?
DASTMALCHIAN: Even with The Flash, I was worried about what I can and can’t talk about. The way they wrote in the arrival of Abra into Barry’s life is that he’s coming from the future and he already has a huge chip on his shoulder about who The Flash is, what it means to be a speedster, who Barry is as a person, and what he’s done to his goals, as a magician. But, there are a good number of things we can talk about with this episode without spoiling the really fun reveals for the audience. It’s really crazy exciting to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the comics shop I went to as a kid in Kansas City. I’m going to try to go back there for them, to celebrate. I just feel like I owe so much of my creative life and imagination to the heroes, and by that, I mean the creators, writers and inkers of the comics, and then the films that I grew up watching. It’s really freakin’ cool to be doing this!
We know that Abra Kadabra makes the offer to reveal Savitar’s true identity, if he’s let go. Is he truly sincere in that offer and can we trust the fact that he says he has that information, or is he the type of guy who would say anything to get out of a situation?
DASTMALCHIAN: Oh, I will say absolutely, on the record, that Abra Kadabra knows, 1,000%, the identity of Savitar. That’s no trick! With every magic trick, there comes some real concrete technology and real concrete information. How he can utilize that knowledge, and what power that gives him over Barry and his friends, and even Gypsy, who’s trying to take me back to Earth-19, is fascinating to watch unfold in this episode. This episode plays out, in many ways, like some of my favorite comic books have. In a short burst of time, we’re going to go on a hell of a ride with these guys. What’s also exciting about the way comic books work and this show works is that we know the hero doesn’t always have to win at the end of the episode or the end of the comic for the story to retain interest. So, he absolutely knows, but how he chooses to use that knowledge and how he ultimately pulls off his greatest trick on The Flash and his friends will have to remain to be seen.
Is it frustrating for him to have so much history with and animosity for Barry Allen, that’s totally one-sided on this Earth?
DASTMALCHIAN: Not at all! Think about the amazing power, knowing what I know now about things that have occurred in my life, and I could click a button and, all of a sudden, be back five minutes before the time that I fell at the roller rink and my teeth got chipped, or I could circumvent getting my heart broken by breaking up with the heartbreaker before they broke mine, think about how wonderful that would be. Abra knows things about Barry, and he knows things about The Flash. The audience and the people who read the comics are going to be looking at this from The Flash’s point of view. I don’t, as the person getting to step into the manifestation of Abra Kadabra. I’m looking at it strictly from his point of view, and he has really clear and succinct goals, in the future. So, to know that this high-and-mighty, do-gooder, moral kid, in the future, is going to cause him so much frustration, misery and suffering, it feels good to get back and do the things that he’s about to do to him. He does get to really make him suffer, and ultimately, he may just defeat him. The great thing about being from the future is that he gets to adjust it.
How does being from the 64th Century inform who this guy is?
DASTMALCHIAN: So much because of technology. Like any great magician, you’re always one step ahead of your audience. There are moments where he wants to trick The Flash into thinking he’s got the upper hand, so that it gives him that much more satisfaction when he pulls the rug out from underneath him. Having the technology at his disposal that he has, it gives him a great deal of pleasure, and it also ups the game of his showmanship. Ultimately, that’s what he is, as well. He’s a true showman. He’s not doing this strictly based on his principles. At his heart, he wants to entertain, and he entertains himself a lot, in this episode, with some of the great tricks that he pulls off. And having that technology at his disposal, some people would say is cheating, and that it’s not fair and not true magic. Go to Las Vegas and watch the shows of the people that you consider great magicians and tell me that that’s not technology that they’re using. He just happens to use it in a much more effective manner.
What sort of tricks does he have up his sleeve, and how extensively did you have to prepare to pull them off?
DASTMALCHIAN: As well as loving comics and movies, as a kid, I loved magic. It was a hobby that was always in contention with my hobby of collecting comic books, and I chose comic books. So, when I found out that I was going to be playing Abra Kadabra, one of the many cool things about the team at The Flash – and I’m talking about the whole team, of the producers, writers, creatives and props department – was that they brought me up a couple days early and I met with a true illusionist, named Alex Zander. That’s awesome, right? His first name is Alex and his last name is Zander. He’s an illusionist, and we spent a great deal of time together because the writers, director and producers agreed about how much my craft is a part of my character. So, the little thing you do, as a magician, like card flourishes and coin flips, are all things that magicians have spent decades of their lives, committed to training with. I was really grateful that they connected me with him, and some other individuals when it came to the props, as well, so that I could spend a lot of time diving into the world of being a true magician. And some of the tricks have stuck, so I love taking them around and doing them, all the time. I hope I can do much more!
The Flash airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.