John Wesley Shipp has appeared in 16 episodes of “The Flash,” but tonight’s the night he finally gets a chance to fight back. In “The Present,” the mid-season finale of Season 3, Shipp will reprise the role of Jay Garrick when Barry Allen travels to Earth-3 to ask for advice on how to beat Savitar — and what ensues will be surprising and, yes, action-packed.
Shipp spoke with CBR about the upcoming episode, which finds him leaping into action as the Golden Age hero. The “Dawson’s Creek” alum had much to say about working with Mark Hamill, battling the “really extraordinary villain” that is Savitar, whether or not he’ll interact with Central City’s newest speedster Wally West and more. He also weighed in on the upcoming musical crossover between “The Flash” and “Supergirl” and addressed whether he would be willing to lend his voice to the episode.
CBR: it looks like Barry is going to visit Jay, for a change! What can you tell us about Earth-3?
John Wesley Shipp: Well, Earth-3 — I think you get a glimpse from the choices that Mark [Hamill] has made visually about the Trickster. I just loved the rippled effect when those first pictures came out and they were like, “Wait, who is he? Is he the Trickster? What is this? Is this an Earth-3 version?” As you said, Barry seeks Jay out in Jay’s world, and — lo and behold — who’s there when he gets there? What’s happening but Golden Age Flash is going up against the Trickster in a showdown that’s reminiscent of an action sequence Mark and I did all those years ago. It’s great to be able to see Jay in his element.
As you say, you’re re-reunited with Mark Hamill for this episode. What was it like for you to reteam with him for the second time in this series?
You know, I love doing it this way! I have to say, as Henry, I was constrained by the character, in terms of — I was pretty much just kidnapped. You know what I mean? Henry didn’t have superpowers, clearly. I was like, “God! I’d like to just go up against him once, or take just one swing at him, or something!” Now, of course, as Jay Garrick, here we are, archenemies.
You know, it was amazing on that set. When I walk on the set in costume, and particularly when Mark walks on the set, we bring the 1990s show with us. It still amazes me, for a show that went one season, the regard and the degree of warmth and enthusiasm and fun that people have when we hearken back to the original show, and this was pure — I mean, from what we’ve seen, Earth-3 is pure comic book, baby! It is quite a little showdown that Barry stumbles into when he comes to ask Jay about Savitar.
We’ve seen you play Jay Garrick a few times now, but we haven’t really seen him in action as a speedster. That’s going to change tonight…
Yes. It’s the most involved I’ve been in any episode by far of this new show. I had that scene, which I just love, in the diner in episode 2, where we pick up Jay and Barry there. The difference is now we have a common enemy. As soon as the name Savitar is dropped, it snaps Jay out of — I don’t want to say suspicions — wariness that Jay that he kind of has about who is this new speedster [Barry]. What are his intentions? What kind of superhero does he want to be? You know, is he going to change the timeline every time something happens that doesn’t suit him, or does he really honor my legacy, the legacy of the Speed Force, in terms with how he deals with it? As soon as we have a common enemy, now we begin to see the Jay and Barry from the comic books start to come to life.
Of course, whenever you have a common enemy and you’re fighting that enemy, there’s a bonding that takes place in a very real and a very immediate way, and we’re going to see that happen. It was fun to take Jay and stretch him out a little bit, and to be able get a couple of leaps and things and action sequences myself! It’s good that I still have it in me a little bit! It was really a trip. I can’t wait for people to see it, as you can tell. I’m clearly excited to see how it turned out myself.
Thanks to the preview for the mid-season finale, we’ve seen that Jay meets Savitar. How does that go?
Well, to set it up — Jay’s not sure that Savitar even exists. He’s a Speed Force myth and — as an unseen, unknown fear — is even bigger than a fear that you know. First of all, Jay is surprised — maybe even a little miffed — that Savitar showed himself to Barry! I’ve known him as a myth my whole life, me being Jay, and when I come up against him, I know that Jay knows that Barry alone and Jay alone cannot defeat or have a chance against Savitar. But, if we go up against him together, we have a shot. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to vanquish him at all; in fact, there’s some pretty hairy moments, and there’s some pretty hairy moments for Jay, which I really enjoyed shooting coming up against this overwhelming force that is Savitar. But yeah, it doesn’t go incredibly well, the first meeting, and so we pretty much have to go to Jay’s experience and maturity and — together with Barry’s youth and skill — come up with a way to get around this really extraordinary villain.
Earlier this season, Jay hinted that he has made mistakes similar to the ones Barry is making now. Do we get to learn more about that sometime soon?
Those hints keep being dropped. I mean, it’s very interesting to me, and I’m going to figure in more prominently in the second half of the season than the first. You just asked one of my questions, because nothing is wasted, I think we’ve seen in this show. So anytime something like that is dropped — and there’s more of it tonight! — there are more… As I said, I’m most involved in this episode than any episode I’ve done on this show so far. So we get to see Jay dealing with this young speedster, we get to see his reaction to Savitar, and there really are some curious things that Jay says that make me, John, wonder, “Okay, what’s coming?” Clearly, we’re in a legacy period. Superman is on “Supergirl,” you’ve got Golden Age Flash… One thing I love about the comic universe is the legacy and the lineage and — to be part of that group as an actor who played Barry 25 years ago, and now as Golden Age Flash, and seeing it from a whole different perspective — is quite unique.
Does Jay get to interact with Wally West at all?
Yes! We have all these possibilities, and I’m glad I had studied Jay and Jay mentoring Wally, because there’s a little moment where — and you’ll see it when it happens — there’s a little seed of that dropped into the episode, that I hope will also grow. But there’s a great moment in STAR Labs between Jay and Wally. It’s a little moment, but it’s clearly straight out of the comic book.
There’s also a big musical crossover with “Supergirl” coming up in the back half of Season 3, which begs the question: would you lend your voice to it, if given the chance?
If they asked? Yeah! That would be a trip! I’d have to say, “Hm, how would Jay Garrick sound?” I don’t know what they’re doing with that episode; I haven’t been approached about it so far. You know, we have two such talented actors, Grant [Gustin] and [Melissa Benoist]… They’re such good singers that it may center on those two, but yeah! Sure! Why not? I’d belt out a couple lines!
Starring Grant Gustin as the Scarlet Speedster, “The Flash” airs Tuesdays at 8 pm ET/PT on The CW. The series also stars Jesse L. Martin, Tom Cavanagh, Carlos Valdes, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Keiynan Lonsdale and more.
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