The Pied Piper (Andy Mientus) has a score to settle with Team Flash. After previously targeting Dr. Wells (Tom Cavanagh) and escaping Cisco’s (Carlos Valdes) custody, Pied Piper dropped off everyone’s radar. Tonight’s all-new episode on The CW, “Flash Back,” sees the Flash (Grant Gustin) travel back in time where he encounters former S.T.A.R. Labs employee-turned-villain Hartley Rathaway. As always, Pied Piper is one step ahead of our heroes — which could spell doom for Team Flash.
Mientus recently spoke with CBR News about the Pied Piper’s return to the series, his rivalry with Cisco, matching intellect with Team Flash and whether fans can expect to see him join up with the Rogues.
CBR News: Viewers have been curious when they’d be hearing from Pied Piper again. However, they might not realize how busy you have been in the theatre. Has your schedule kept you away from “The Flash” or is this the first time producers approached you about coming back?
Andy Mientus: It was the first time they’ve approached me about coming back. It just so happens I went back four days after we closed “Spring Awakening,” which [“Flash” Executive Producer] Andrew Kreisberg saw in Los Angeles. I don’t know if they were waiting for me to be available or not, but the timing was pretty perfect, one way or the other. It was serendipity. I closed “Spring Awakening” and a few days later, I was in Vancouver. I had to dye my hair because my hair was bleach blonde for “Spring Awakening.” It was a big process to get me back to Pied Piper.
Hartley was last seen escaping Cisco. In “Flash Back,” we know he returns to settle the score, but how does he go about wreaking havoc on S.T.A.R. Labs?
The episode actually involves the Flash returning to events which had previously taken place. I can say the episode is a big gift to the fans, especially the fans of Season One. It’s this great little grace note because Season Two has been so plot packed. So much has happened and so many elements were introduced into the universe. This episode is the real glass [of] water from all of that where you get to check in with people from Season One that you might have been missing. You are reminded who they are, where they were, and how they’ve affected Barry — and in turn, where they are now.
In that case does Team Flash only encounter Pied Piper in the past, not in the present?
It is in fact in the past. Time travel is involved and that is how you meet me again.
Is Pied Piper better prepared in this episode or has he learned nothing from previous encounters with Team Flash since they won’t technically have happened yet?
What sets him apart from the other villains — and the reason why people really like to watch him — is that he’s got a personal score with every single person that he’s dealing with in S.T.A.R. Labs. He knew Cisco and Caitlin [Danielle Panabaker] and Wells for quite some time before the explosion. He doesn’t know Barry, but he knows what the Flash is to Wells. It’s all very personal to him.
When you first met him, he was acting from a really emotional place, trying to get revenge. In this episode, you get to see him slow down and do that great thing he can do, where he is a move ahead of everybody. You get to see how his mind works against Cisco and Caitlin’s, and how they complement each other. You get to watch these scientists, these great minds, having this chess game. I think you get to see him release his blind desire for revenge and really look at his long-game situation.
There’s bad blood between Hartley and Cisco. How does that boil over and will they participate in some meaty banter?
It’s one of my favorite parts to play because Carlos and I went to school together. I’ve known Carlos for almost a decade. It’s a blast for us to do that stuff together. There’s definitely more of it. There’s a humor to it that I really enjoy. I’ll say there’s some real fan-service in this episode to the fans who responded positively to that. You get to watch them interact together and have this verbal sparring, in addition to the actual action that’s going on. It’s not only from a place of them trying to one-up each other, but there is a weird affection there. There’s more of a rivalry than just being bitter enemies. They do respect each other’s intellect. It’s a whole lot of fun and it’s definitely still present.
As the Pied Piper, Hartley employs a deadly bag of tricks. What new gizmo or gadget does he bring to the fight?
Without giving too much away, you actually get to see him stripped of his gadgets. You get to see him rely on his intellect, which I think is the most interesting part of a lot of the characters on the show. Even someone a bit villainous like Hartley can actually be something of a role model. You are watching these characters that are endowed with superpowers like Barry, but before the powers, he was somewhat of a genius. He was a scientist and really good in forensic science. You’re watching Pied Piper get through this situation and fight this battle with only what’s between his ears.
“The Flash” can be heavy on special effects. What were some of the challenges of filming this episode?
This was the first time that I’ve had to do that thing that you hear about as an actor, where you’re doing a scene with an “X” on a stick, a tennis ball on a stick. You’re working with something that’s not actually there. I was actually surprised when I shot the Season One episodes and how much the effects were practical and real. A lot of those cars blowing up and flipping over in that bridge scene was really happening in front of me. I was shocked by that. I thought for sure it was all going to be CGI. This time I had to do some acting with literally a tennis ball on a stick. It’s one of those actor challenges that you have to chuckle at and then commit to fully. It felt like some milestone in my personal career, to finally get to that point.
Do you feel your background in stage acting prepared you in that department?
Absolutely. Most stage actors are so game for anything. Most of them love training where they had to do some silly exercises on the floor that felt really dumb at the time, but taught you to let go and not be so literal and not judge yourself. If somebody tells you, “Hey, this tennis ball on this stick is really dangerous and coming for you,” you just let go and don’t question it and pretend.
Hartley is a smart guy, but everyone has a weakness. What’s his kryptonite?
I think his kryptonite is the lack of control over his own emotions. He is, I think, the smartest guy in the room all the time, even among these scientific giants. Maybe Cisco is his match, but I like to think he’s at least the smartest one in the room always. In Season One, we saw him get really blinded a lot of the time by how badly he wanted to enact his revenge on Dr. Wells, even putting other people in danger. I don’t believe that Hartley — in that scene where he’s on the bridge and sending those cars over the bridge — is a murderer because he knows the Flash is going to come and collect the people and no one is going to be harmed.
I don’t believe he’s a typical villain in that way, that he has no regard for people getting hurt. You see in scenes when he’s talking about the accelerator exploding that he’s actually quite worried about the people in the city. But, he doesn’t think that through when he’s trying to get to his endgame of having revenge on Dr. Wells. I do think there are certain glitches in his logic that in the end, make him lose the game.
Audiences expected Hartley and the Rogues to assemble by now. Is that team something you’ve boned up on and would be up for exploring?
When I was first cast, they were very generous and sent me this big old stack of comics. They pulled all the Pied Piper stuff for me. Most of those stories were to do with the Rogues. Now that almost everybody has been introduced, it would be a shame not to get them all together. Just me having read those stories, I would love to see it. The fans would go wild for it. I hope it happens. Obviously, they’d be wrangling a lot of elements and actors’ schedules, but there’s a lot of story to touch on.
Would the Pied Piper make a good member of the Rogues as envisioned on TV?
I don’t know. Even in the comics I was sent, he isn’t a full member. He’s with them, but he feels like the outcast of the group. He doesn’t get along with them. I feel he has more in common with Team Flash if he could get over his own issues and learn to like, and work, with everyone. I do hope he finds his path. There’s something really interesting about him being the lone wolf, who appears and disappears, pops in and out, and is always lurking in the shadows. Me, as the actor, I want to see him interact with all these great characters. It’s such an amazing ensemble cast. I would love to team-up with those guys.
“The Flash” airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.