“The Flash” appears to be amassing an army of speedsters. Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) already protects Central City as the first Flash introduced on the hit CW series.. Earth-2’s Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears) and Zoom entered the picture in Season 2. Now, Wally West, played by Keiynan Lonsdale, has arrived in Central City.
Introduced in 1959’s “Flash” #110 from DC Comics, Wally West gained super speed in a freak laboratory accident and became his Uncle Barry’s sidekick, Kid Flash. However, “The Flash” TV series has reimagined Wally as the son Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) never knew he had. A street racer with a bit of an attitude, this incarnation of Wally doesn’t possess any special abilities — yet.
Lonsdale spoke to CBR News about reinterpreting Wally, personal baggage and his heroic potential. In addition, the Australian actor weighed in on costumes, his hopes for the character and whether he’s faster than co-star Grant Gustin.
CBR News: How did this role come about? What was the audition process like?
Keiynan Lonsdale: I originally auditioned for [Jay Jackson, one half of Firestorm on] “Legends of Tomorrow.” Then, a week or two after the audition, my team called me explaining that the producers from “The Flash” wanted me to come and read for a character called Wally West, AKA Kid Flash. I had been binge watching “The Flash” Season 1. Then, I had three or four auditions with them for the Wally role. My final audition was reading with Candice Patton. At the time, I wasn’t aware if I was playing the brother or nephew. It was interesting and everything was left as a surprise for me.
How well-versed were you in the Flash legacy and Wally West?
I didn’t grow up reading comic books. I wish I had now that I have a bunch of the “Flash” ones. I think I would have really loved them when I was younger. During the audition process, once I knew that it was such an important role, I did my research. I’m still trying to educate myself. Obviously, the show has its spin on everything, but it’s fun homework to do.
What was interesting about introducing Wally at this point in his life as opposed to already having powers?
As the audience, it’s always exciting to see someone go from point A to point B. Just as we watched Barry develop into the Flash, it’s an exciting journey because you feel like you are on that journey with him. The same is important for Wally. He’s such a great character. It’s great to understand how he becomes Kid Flash. You’re also more invested in the character when you understand who they are in the beginning, and why they become, and who they become in the future.
At the moment, Wally has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He’s also illegally street racing. What makes him hero material?
I think he has to figure that out. I wouldn’t necessarily say he is at this point hero material. He mentioned in the argument with Joe that he is the man of the house. He has been the man of the house his entire life. He’s honestly taken care of himself, of course, but he’s also taken care of his mother who is very sick. He’s doing something he loves, which is racing, but he’s also doing it for that reason. He’s doing it to make the money because they didn’t have that financial support ever from his father. Anyone who fights for their family, anyone who puts themselves in danger, although I wouldn’t myself street race, he’s a hero for his mom. That’s where it starts, but he has a long way to go before he’s superhero material.
Wally starts off on shaky ground with the new family. How does his presence rattle the West household?
His dynamic is interesting because everyone is dealing with something for now. For Wally, it’s a lot to accept everyone at once. It’s just not going to work like that. He needs to have individual experiences with people and bond with people. That’s his way of joining the family. It’s rocky with each of them, with Joe as we saw, with Iris to come and especially with Barry.
Wally and Barry forge an unbreakable bond in the comic books. Is there a spark of that in the TV series? What are their early interactions like?
It’s fun to read. At first, Grant and I were like, “When are we going to get to work together?” It’s been this slow progression. We’ve been filming some interesting stuff. There’s a lot of tension with Barry and Wally. Mostly, that’s coming from Wally’s side because he sees Barry as being in his place. Barry got to grow up with Joe and Iris. The more Wally becomes involved in the family, the more he isn’t necessarily a fan of Barry. That’s another thing as well. He has to develop this trust and that’s what he doesn’t have. That’s going to be interesting to watch as those two characters do develop that strong friendship and trust.
It’s been a lot of family drama for Wally. How does he get sucked into Team Flash’s adventures?
It’s going to take some time. Right now, it’s definitely been about the family. Also, moving to Central City, he’s not used to these metahuman attacks and the fact there is a Flash that exists. All of that is information he has to process before he even gets mixed up with S.T.A.R. Labs.
With Wally’s need for speed, what does he make of the Flash?
So far, we haven’t heard directly from him what he makes of the Flash. I believe Wally thinks the Flash is awesome. He is a fan of speed in general. The idea that a human can run that fast is going to be mind-blowing to him. I’m sure he looks up to the Flash in that way, which is interesting considering there is that tension with Barry.
What else can you tease about Wally’s arc on the show?
There’s going to be a lot of growth from him. As we said, he’s not in a great place. So, even though he has a chip on his shoulders, he’s dealing with a lot. Anyone dealing with that many family issues has got to be on the defensive side. We’re going to get to see Wally become more of himself, show more of who he is to the family, and to the audience.
Comic book readers know that Wally becomes a speedster, that he eventually assumes the Flash mantle and marries Linda Park. What are your hopes for the character?
All of those things. I would love to see Wally and Barry fighting side by side. I think that would be super fun to play those scenes and it would be a really good nod to the comics. I think the fans would really enjoy that. For the majority of the show, when we’ve been dealing with other speedsters, they have been on the other side. They’ve been on the evil side, aside from Jay.
In terms of love interests, it’s something that would be a slow progression. I think it would be awesome to have Wally and Linda connect in the future. It’s always cool when you have that feeling that people are destined to be together. I’d like to see that play out. I’d really just love to have Wally be super adventurous and be super open to everybody. Obviously he’s blocked off at this point. There will come a time when he develops trust with everyone.
Once Wally gains super speed, he will require a costume to protect his identity. There have been multiple interpretations of his suit in the comics. Which one do you fancy?
Probably the New 52 one. I like the silver and red. I don’t know what that would look like in real life. The costume designers do an incredible job with every single outfit they put together. I have faith that whatever it is, whatever color, whatever design, it will be amazing. I don’t know. I try not to think about it too much. I don’t want to get my hopes up on one specific style if it’s something else. I’m sure I’ll love it either way.
Changing gears, your movie, “The Finest Hours,” premieres this week. There’s a lot of water and waves crashing around. How demanding was the shoot?
It was super-challenging. It was one of the most challenging shoots I’ve ever done, maybe the most challenging shoot I’ve ever done. Working with water is not easy. We were really cold and really wet all day, from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day, for about four months in total. It was intense. It was also amazing because just like the real people that went through that experience, we become a crew and we were all going through the same thing. Obviously, it was nothing in comparison to the real ordeal because we got to go home at the end of the day. It was tough.
We were mostly in a massive soundstage, so they had a giant tank and they had different parts of the ship depending on what we were filming. Usually we would be filming in one section for maybe two weeks and then we would move down the stage to the next section.
Lastly, there’s some debate over who is faster: Wally or Barry. But, in a race, who would win between you and Grant?
I don’t know. We should probably test that out. I think Grant is a little bit taller than me, so maybe his legs are a bit longer. I’ve got some pretty long legs, too. They can go pretty fast. It might be a tie. I’m going to say it’s going to be a tie to keep the peace, but we’re going to have to test that.
“The Flash” airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.