The last time audiences with a taste for superheroic television saw actor Falk Hentschel in action, it was in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a mercenary take on the enduring baddie Whiplash on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Now, after guest stints on “Arrow” and “The Flash” and a big presence on “Legends of Tomorrow,” he’s playing a full-fledged DC Comics superhero, and an iconic one at that: Hawkman.
Continuing his recent guest shots as the Ancient-Egyptian-Khufu-reincarnated-as-modern-day-Carter-Hall take on DC’s Winged Wonder, Hentschel enters the new show with plenty of skill in the winged harness along with a lively “will-they/won’t-they” rapport with Hawkgirl (Ciara Renee), Carter’s past and, he hopes, future lover. The actor sat down with CBR News to discuss his excitement about getting into the 4,000-year-old head of the hero — and his relief at how, for now, the TV version is a little less inclined toward bare-chested adventuring.
CBR News: What first made you say, “I think I can be this guy?”
Falk Hentschel: “I can be 4,000 years old?” It was a multitude of things. When I read the character description, it was just an immediate connection that I felt. I am a very spiritual person, and I think a character that’s been around and witnessed humanity for this long — I always call him the “uncle” of humanity. That was one of the biggest things that drew me to it, the reincarnation part of it. What is that like? What’s his opinion on the world? And my name’s Falk, which is translated to Hawk, so that helped.
Because he’s been around for so long and in all these different iterations, is it a great actor’s opportunity to bring something different to each era that he appears in?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, I think you can play with all these nuances and where is he in the timeline of having learned this lesson in life. You know how we all have our own thing that we deal with? Our parents, the thing with your mother, the thing with your spouse, whatever. He’s had this opportunity 206 times now. I think you can sort of have the luxury to be in different time periods, to touch on different subjects. We’ll see what the writing will do. I’m tied to what I’m given, but I’m really excited to see what they’ll give me in the morning.
Along with having an intriguing story and concept in all of his various incarnations over the years, Hawkman’s always been very visually dynamic and striking from the very first images in the 40s. What’s it been like for you to bring that to life just with your own physicality? The costume can’t be the easiest thing to make work all the time.
I mean, I was actually really relieved. I thought I was going to get the harness and nothing else. I was like, “Okay. I’ve got to really beef up, and I don’t have the time.” I only had three weeks. No, I was really lucky. The costume was really comfortable. The helmet was great. I put it on, I was just really happy with it.
To be honest, costumes always for me helps so much in feeling the character. It does like over half of the job of the performance for me sometimes, because it just infuses everything with the feeling, and that helps.
Do you think you’ll quietly add bulk to yourself as the show plays out?
Maybe. If I do that, it has to be quiet. But to be honest with you, TV is so fast and we have so little time that I don’t know if I’m physically capable of doing it without hurting myself. I might add a little bit more. I think there’s a couple iterations in the comic world. There was one Hawkman that had more of a swimmer’s physique, with really slim kind of tone, which is where I think I’m at. Maybe I’m a little bit bigger than that. I’m definitely not The Rock, which the Hawkman is in a lot of other comics. Some fans are upset, some love it.
I just think, I’ve got to bring what I can to it and what I want to it. There is a limit, especially since I don’t have five months to prep like I do for a film. And keeping it up, I mean, that’s the part, with a show that goes on shooting 14 days and then go to the gym. And to eat — just the eating!
Tell me about finding that necessarily chemistry in a couple of different ways with Ciara? You play lovers who are deeply, passionately in love in one era, then you’re sort of at odds. You guys had to figure that out, I would imagine, quickly.
Again, a lot of the work was done for us by casting, because we just got along. That helped. We had a natural bickering, but in a positive way. We’re not afraid to step on each other’s toes and say what we think to one another, which helps in a work dynamic. So many times, she really came up with great stuff that we then used, or vice versa.
As far as the dynamics go, the script does a lot for you, obviously. Yeah, we work each scene together. We don’t just come in and do our thing. We do, at first, but then, through the rehearsal process, we really try — we’re really invested in this couple for the fans. I think there’s something very special about Hawkman and Hawkgirl. We’re the first couple in superhero history. They are this dynamic duo, so we really want to pay respect to that and make sure that, hey, are we doing this scene right together? And it’s been great. It’s been really lovely, working with her.
Within this ensemble of heroes, who is Hawkman? What is his role within the group dynamic?
Especially in the pilot episodes, he is sort of the encyclopedia on Vandal Savage. He is, I would say, the expert on the issue at hand. But also, is not used to working with that many people. I’m sure he has teamed up with, I keep saying this because it’s just my fantasy, Alexander the Great, Robin Hood, Robin of Loxley. Who knows?
But this huge group, and especially having his lover, he’s got to deal with this group while he’s trying to convince Ciara’s character Kendra that she loves him. There’s a lot going on, and he’s juggling a lot. At the same time, I think he’s excited and nervous about this opportunity that he has. It seems like, “Okay. This is a pretty good scene. We’ve got a good shot at taking them down forever.” Yeah, it’s an interesting dynamic.
That’s the other side of the intriguing relationship: creating that kind of history of centuries of hatred and battle between Hawkman and Vandal Savage. Your relationship with Casper Crump has got to be pretty central to what you’re doing.
Absolutely. Absolutely. That was another thing that was very lucky. Casper and I became best buds, I would say. We stayed in the same hotel in the beginning, so that really helped. Honestly, if we cross swords again, I don’t know if we will or not, but if we do, I’d love to see the humor between the two of them.
If you meet each other, or not, if you’ve been killing each other for that long, there must be somewhat of an intimacy that I would actually be really interested in. They’re clearly not friends, but there must be some sort of, “Here we are again…” They’re connected, I think, and I like humor in general. I think that’s really great about what a lot of the new shows are doing. So we’ll see. We’ll see what happens with that.
I really enjoy, obviously, Casper. He’s got such a great take on Vandal. He doesn’t play the cliche. He just really believes that this guy’s doing something good for the world. And he has a bit of a Christoph Waltz quality, in my opinion.
Was there anything particularly exciting about your research? Looking at the comic book Hawkman and all the different permutations over the decades, what got you interested in the character and his history?
Since I didn’t have a script when I signed on — I didn’t see the pilot — I was just very curious what the reiteration will be. I thought it was the guy who had the metal suit — the suit, the wings were made of metal. So I love seeing it come about, and we’ve discussed it and I’ve now been told, I know now that it’s a mix of things. It’s sort of its own iteration of that.
So I did the research on the comic and then quickly realized, “Okay, it’s going to be a mix of things, so stay present in the moment and go with what’s given. Also, focus on the part that is universal, which is the reincarnation of having been around for 4,000 years.” That’s sort of what I keep drawing from.
Do you have any inclination to believe in reincarnation?
I do. I absolutely do. I don’t know that I believe in it in the old fashioned sense of how it’s written down in scripture or anything like that. I think we’ve been around. We come back and forth, and we get the chance to do it again differently. So yeah, I absolutely do believe in reincarnation, yeah.
Did you see anything in those comic books pages, or even just a visual like, “Oh I hope I get to do that?”
Flying! Just flying, itself. No. You know what? I’m still waiting for that slow-motion mace shot. We haven’t had that yet. Maybe make the mace a little bigger than it is now.
No, I just really want that hero shot, you know? I’ve seen a couple of those in “Flash” and “Arrow.” They wind up in slow-mo. Completely silly, fun, little boy stuff that made me become an actor. I’d love to see one of those. But other than that, I’m enjoying all of it. The whole process.