Cast and executive producers from all four of The CW’s DC Comics-based “Arrowverse” series — “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Supergirl” and “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” — united Saturday afternoon as part of the annual PaleyFest at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, for a panel discussion moderated by Kevin Smith and Q&A with fans.
Kevin Smith — who has directed episodes of “Supergirl” and “The Flash” — started the panel by joking that this will be the closest he’ll get to the Oscars stage (the Academy Awards are held at the Dolby Theatre each year). Smith also mused on the appropriateness of this event being held on a Saturday. “My morality was built on Saturdays,” he said. “Saturday morning cartoons taught me to be a better person. Saturdays reading comic books taught me to be a better person.”
“I look at these as sacred texts,” Smith said of superhero comic books. “When I was told they were doing TV shows based on comics I loved as a kid, I was skeptical. I had those comic books in such high esteem, and nothing could touch that feeling. It took me a long time to buy into the CW shows. Jason Mewes [Jay from the View Askew films], thank god, he’s the biggest CW fan. I’m pretty sure their demographic is 12-year-old girls and Jason Mewes.”
Smith continued to explain that he was “finally sucked in” by the Arrowverse when King Shark was introduced on “The Flash.” “King Shark, one of the most ridiculous villains in the DC Universe, you would never want to try him in live-action,” Smith said. “I got a phone call that he would be in the episode — Jason Mewes called me up.” Smith said Mewes sounded panicked on the phone. “Are we under attack by ISIS?” he asked. “No, King Shark’s on ‘Flash’!”
“I had the same feeling that I used to get when I read an issue of the comic book,” Smith said. “I felt transported. I felt like a better person. I wanted more.” Smith said he then binged all of the “Arrow” and “Flash” he missed.
A sizzle reel highlighting previously seen sequences from all four shows was then shown to the audience.
On the panel: “Legends of Tomorrow” executive producer Phil Klemmer, “Arrow” executive producer Wendy Mericle, “Arrow” and “Legends of Tomorrow” executive producer Marc Guggenheim, executive producer on all four shows Andrew Kreisberg, “The Flash” executive producers Todd Helbing and Aaron Helbing, “Supergirl” cast members Melissa Benoist and David Harewood, “Arrow” cast members Stephen Amell and David Ramsey, “The Flash” cast members Grant Gustin and Candice Patton, and “Legends of Tomorrow” cast members Caity Lotz and Brandon Routh.
Smith asked Kreisberg and Guggenheim about celebrating 100 episodes of “Arrow.” “I remember being here at PaleyFest, and one of the questions being, ‘Will there ever be superpowers on “Arrow”?’ and in all sincerity, we said, ‘No, there will never be,” Kreisberg answered, showing how far the franchise has come.
Kreisberg recapped his conversation with Arrowverse executive produver Greg Berlanti about the idea to introduce Barry Allen in “Arrow,” and later on his own show. “We can’t even do this show!” Kreisberg said he joked at the time.
Guggenheim credited Berlanti for coming up with the “perfect way” to both honor the show’s 100th episode — which intersected with the “Invasion!” event between the four shows — along with moving the crossover story forward. “It was a great, emotional episodes in the middle of all of this alien invasion craziness,” Mericle said. “It felt like the 20th anniversary of ‘Fantastic Four,'” Guggenheim added. “It felt more like an anniversary or a milestone issue of a comic book as opposed to a milestone episode of a television show.”
“Every time I get to go to ‘Flash,’ I get to have so much fun,” Ramsey said of his roles in the “Arrow” crossover episodes. “It’s actually a lighter atmosphere on ‘Flash,’ because there’s bright light. There’s a jail with every color — everybody’s smiling, everybody’s happy. And we’re literally separated by a wall. By the way, they have cans of sodas on their show — we don’t. We don’t get Coke, or Mountain Dew, or Pepsi — ‘Flash’ does.” Guggenheim joked that as soon as the “Arrow” ratings are closer to “The Flash,” they’ll get soda.
Amell shared his thoughts on shooting 100 episodes of “Arrow.” “That scene where I get to say goodbye to my parents? Not a lot of prep went into that one,” Amell said, since he was feeling a lot of the same emotions as Oliver Queen. “That just came naturally. I’m very, very proud to make it to a hundred episodes, and I think the path to 200 will be easier.”
Kreisberg said the musical episode of “The Flash” is something of a “gimmick episode” — not in a pejorative way. He compared it to episodes of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” like “Hush” or, naturally, “Once More with Feeling.”
Kreisberg also confirmed that the next season of “The Flash” will not have another speedster as (to use a Whedonism) the Big Bad. “They’re not who they are yet,” Kreisberg said of the continued development of Green Arrow and The Flash. “I bet that we’re getting close!” a playfully exasperated Amell interjected.
Smith asked Gustin about the fan reaction to Barry’s reality-altering time travel. “I try to give him a break, but I understand the backlash,” Gustin said of Barry Allen.
Smith credited Iris as “the one true superhero who doesn’t have powers.” “I love that she provides this human quality to this very superhuman show,” Patton said. “It’s something we can all identify with. This show reminds us that if you did get struck by lightning tomorrow, are you Barry Allen or are you a villain? Who are you today, and what kind of person are you? I think she’s extraordinarily important to Barry’s superhero narrative.”
Talking the latest season of “Supergirl,” Kreisberg said, “The one thing that ‘Supergirl’ can really do, is that it’s already built that the show can take on issues. We were talking about what’s going on in the world, in terms of immigration, in terms of journalism, in terms of LGBT rights, we realized this show and this cast could mix that real-world stuff into the superhero world. I’m as proud of those episodes as anything I’ve done in my career.”
Smith asked Kreisberg about the relationship between Alex Danvers and Maggie Sawyer, and what it’s meant to fans. “If we made someone feel a little less alone in the world for 42 minutes, that’s really special,” Kreisberg said.
Talking to Benoist, Smith said that the Red Kryptonite episode of “Supergirl” was one of his favorites, and mused on how meaningful the character is to women and girls, and people in general. Benoit said that she gained insight from talking to Lynda Carter, TV’s “Wonder Woman.” “I think I was overwhelmed by that prospect in my first season, and now, especially with what’s happening in the world — I got to go to the women’s march in DC — it’s so meaningful,” Benoit responded. “Especially Supergirl — her motto is hope, help and compassion. I think that’s such an important message to spread.”
Harewood discussed moving from the comparatively more serious territory of “Homeland” to “Supergirl.” Harewood said it was an easy decision for him based on the quality of the material. “I thoroughly enjoy coming to work every day. I feel very fortunate to play such a fantastic character.”
Klemmer talked the current, second season of “Legends of Tomorrow.” “We never set out to blow anyone’s minds,” Klemmer said. “Obviously, it’s a crazy premise. And we have to have stories that are on that scale of absurdity. I think there’s actual heart to the show that keeps it tethered to the real world.”
“What’s amazing is on your show, every week you get to fuck around and break time,” Smith observed to Klemmer, about “Legends.” “And on ‘The Flash,’ he breaks it once, and there’s a whole season about it!”
“I never know what’s coming,” Lotz said of her role in the Arrowverse, which has shifted multiple times over the years since her debut on “Arrow.” “I really don’t know where things are going. They had Sara step into the captain role — didn’t see that coming. Sara is kind of a lone wolf, so she needs to either be doing her solo things or leading, because she’s so strong-headed.”
Lotz also joked that “Legends” is something of a “misfit” in the Arrowverse lineup. “You’ve got ‘Flash,’ ‘Arrow,’ ‘Supergirl’ — hey, there’s another show!”
Routh discussed his changed role from “Arrow” to “Legends.” “I think Ray’s arc from ‘Arrow’ to ‘Legends’ is letting go of the fame, the money, the leadership,” Routh said, with Ray Palmer now more worried about the “greater good” than being remembered.
Smith then asked Routh about acting in The Atom suit. “For the first hour, it’s fine,” Routh answered, adding there’s “a way for [him] to use the restroom.”
Before moving to Q&A, Smith asked about the next crossover between the shows. “We’re going to try to do a real four-way crossover, with all four shows,” Kreisberg answered. Someone from the crowd said they wanted Kara and Iris to meet in the next crossover.
“This was actually the easiest one for me,” Amell said of last fall’s “Invasion!” crossover. “Every production built in down days. The production director gave me an old-school calendar, telling me what show I was going to each day. I thought it came off really well this year. Ultimately, the opportunity to do something like that is why we do the show.”
“By the way, the producers always say when we get to the end of the crossover — we’re not going to do that again,” Amell continued. He recalled a dinner he had with CW President Mark Pedowitz, where he asked, “Mark, we’re going to do a crossover every year, right?” “Fucking right we are,” Pedowitz replied.
The first fan question was from someone, identifying herself as the founder of a mental health non-profit, asking how the casts stay mentally healthy with their hectic scheduling, and their thoughts on helping fans with anxiety and depression. “We have so much fun on the set,” Harewood said, adding that it means a lot for the actors to help fans do great things, like lead a non-profit.
A fan asked the casts for their dream crossovers, and Amell had one in mind. “The ‘Arrow’ side of it is just Oliver and Diggle having a cup of coffee and playing chess. At the end, the Legends, Supergirl and Flash show up and say, ‘We need your help,’ and we say, ‘We’re good.'” Gustin said he just wants to see more of Ray and Barry on-screen together.
Kreisberg teased the appearance of Abra Kadabra, who knows what Savitar is, in the upcoming 18th episode of “The Flash” season three. “It becomes a moral conundrum to let Abra Kadabra go in order to learn Savitar’s identity,” he said. Kreisberg continued to tease that episode 19 sees Barry heading to the future.
Next question: Is there a chance of filming locally in LA? (All four Arrowverse shows are currently filmed in Vancouver.) “Which one of them put you up to it,” Guggenheim joked, referring to the cast. “We haven’t talked about it — but now I guess we will.” “The truth is, it’s all based on economics,” Kreisberg added. “With ‘Supergirl,’ it’s the first time there’s an actual side-by-side comparison,” because the first season, on CBS, was filmed in LA. “It was financially impossible to make that show down here.” “There’s biggest guest stars, and there’s more of them, and there’s more visual effects,” Kreisberg continued. Someone in the audience yelled “Calista,” referring to Calista Flockhart’s greatly reduced role in this season. “Well, there’s always a downside,” Kreisberg said.
“It was really hampering the storytelling,” Kreisberg said of filming in LA, noting that for four episodes in season one, the villain of the episode stopped by Kara’s apartment. “It’s never easy to make these shows, but now we have the money to tell the stories we want to tell.” Gustin pointed out that it’s not just money, it’s also “what Vancouver is” that adds to the shows’ settings.
“When we started ‘Arrow,’ we got the vast majority of people who cut their teeth making ‘Smallville’ for 10 years,” Amell added. “You cannot overstate how fantastic the crews have been.”
A young fan asked if Felicity and Oliver would get back together. “That’s not really up to me,” Amell answered. “But I will say that they have some really, really cool stuff coming up.”
In the last question of the panel — more of a quest — a clearly enthused fan asked for a photo with the cast members. Amell obliged, with Harewood bringing her on stage for a superhero-filled photo-op.