Warning: Spoilers below if you’re not caught up with The Flash
On The CW series The Flash, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Team Flash have used the meta-human cure on Orlin Dwyer (Chris Klein), aka Cicada, to strip him of the powers he’s been using on his mission to kill all of the meta-humans in Central City. And while the cure might have worked, it didn’t stop Cicada, as the even angrier and more determined adult version of his niece Grace (Sarah Carter) appears to have stepped into the suit, seeking her own revenge and destruction.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Sarah Carter talked about auditioning for The Flash without knowing what role she’d be playing, what excited her about getting to explore this character, making an impression with your entrance, what it’s like to work in the Cicada suit, Grace’s very dangerous mission, and whether she could ever be redeemed.
Collider: When the possibility of playing this character came your way, what were you told about her? How was she pitched to you?
SARAH CARTER: Well, they came up with mock sides, so there was a script that they wrote specifically to audition for the character, that didn’t say anything about who she really was and how she really fit into the show. They just wanted to see what I would do with the elements that they needed. It’s an uncle with his niece, but they made it father-daughter. And they wanted to see that psychopath quality, so they had some vulnerable human moments, and then some quick flips into that vicious rage. The sides were so fun. The character that they offered to me, I knew would be complex and wild. The Flash is a show that’s been on for five years, so I knew that it would be great and that there would be a lot to work with, but I didn’t know exactly what I was stepping into when I said yes, which was a little bit of a risk. I had to learn on my feet, a lot. The episode that just aired also didn’t say too much about who the character is, and I didn’t get to read any future episodes. They hadn’t been written yet. So, it’s been an exciting collaboration. Juxtaposed to that, there was a lot to learn. The show is deeply rooted in the comic book first, and then there’s what they’ve done with each of these characters, along the way, so I did my homework. I binge watched Season 4 and what I could of Season 5, the weekend before I went [to Vancouver], and I walked onto the set with a lot of respect and a certain amount of knowledge, and also just a completely open spirit to who she is and where we’re going.
When it comes to this character, what’s really been the most exciting about getting to explore someone like her?
CARTER: She was beautifully set up for the audience, so that took care of a lot of my homework. The audience already knows and loves my character, as a little girl, and they know that she’s been wounded, so all I had to do was make sure that I walked on as a force to be reckoned with, and a force of evil, with a human heart underneath it all. She just wants vengeance for her parents’ deaths, which everybody can relate to. So, I felt it was a pretty easy platform to step onto, and I just had to enjoy it. I know that sounds crazy because she’s angry and vicious, but she’s also really powerful.
If you’re going to make an entrance onto a superhero TV show like The Flash, this is certainly one way to do it and to definitely make an impression.
CARTER: Yeah, exactly!
How did you mentally prepare to come into the show, in such an intense way?
CARTER: Preparation-wise, being mentally prepared, it was really just about being open and feeling physically sharp, and being willing to be quick on my feet, listen to direction well, be humble, and really give it everything that I have, physically and energetically. It’s a leap of faith, in a lot of ways, and it’s just being willing to play. Ironically, that was the biggest challenge for me. I could not believe how willing to play every single actor on the show is. There’s actually very little direction. People are so good at their jobs, and so sensitive to where everybody else is and what their characters do, that they can anticipate each other’s next moves. They say, “Action!,” and people just go for it. That was a shock, at first, to get so little direction, but then I realized, “Oh, they expect each actor to be playful, and to do their homework, and to just come with the imagination of their character and bring it to the screen.” The writing is phenomenal, and then the actors, on top of it, are also respected and given a lot of room to play.
If you’re going to be on a superhero show, you obviously want a suit, and this character has a cool costume. What was it like, the first time you got to see yourself in the suit, and what’s it like to actually work in it?
CARTER: Not only did I not see myself, I couldn’t see anybody else. The hood was hard to deal with. They have four people around you, before they call, “Action!,” and when they cut, to first put the hood on and secure it properly to a headpiece that you wear underneath, and then they have to un-clip it. You can’t do anything yourself because you’ve got these huge gloves on. But luckily, Chris Klein was there on my first day, and he is such a sweet guy. We had a father-daughter dynamic, immediately. He made sure that I knew how to put the mask on and take it off, and that I asked for help when I needed it because you really do need to take it off between takes, or you start sweating and it’s actually hard to breathe. I love fighting. I was a dancer, so I wanted to be able to use my body and move my body easily. We ended up finding a way to really reveal who she is, underneath all of that, because she’s masquerading as him. She’s dressed like him because she wants people to think that it is him. At a certain point in this character’s arc, she does take it all off.
What does being Cicada mean to Grace?
CARTER: She’s in the costume because she’s come back to save her uncle. She has a lot of respect for her roots, for her parents, and for her uncle, and her uncle has trained her in the future. They share the same mission. She is who she is because of him. I think there’s strength and pride in that.
Do you think or hope that we’ll get to a point where we might understand her actions, or do you think it’ll be hard for viewers not to see her as a villain?
CARTER: In a way, it’s a fortunate position because the viewers already see the human underneath her. I think the question becomes, will she ever be vulnerable again, or is she too far gone? That’s a question for all of these villains. I’m really enjoying playing a character like this right now because I think we’re seeing a lot of this kind of damaged human, having power in the world, and you really wonder whether they’re redeemable or relatable. My personal belief is that everybody is, but I think that she’s certainly dangerous, and I don’t know that she will be redeemed.
Any character sees themselves as the hero of their own story, and they don’t look at themselves as the villain.
How would you say that Grace sees herself as the hero of what she’s trying to do? Why does she think that what she’s doing is right?
CARTER: I think she’s deluded, in a similar way to misguided leaders thinking that what they do is right. She has a mission to wipe out all meta-humans, in order to purify. She’s straight up nuts, but she doesn’t think she is.
The Flash airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.