SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains potential spoilers for both recent and future installments of “The Flash” and “Arrow.”
“Arrow” and “The Flash” had a massive presence during The CW’s Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour session in Pasadena on Sunday, bringing 16 cast members and executive producers to the joint panel for the two DC Comics-based series: “Arrow” stars Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, David Ramsey, Colton Haynes, John Barrowman, Brandon Routh and Matt Nable; “Flash” stars Grant Gustin, Tom Cavanagh, Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell, Robbie Amell and Victor Garber; plus executive producers Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim.
The panel — in front of a large group of entertainment reporters including CBR News — contained a few major revelations already reported: Cavanagh seemingly confirming that his character, Harrison Wells, is indeed the Reverse-Flash, as ambiguously teased on last month’s “Flash” midseason finale; that very early talks have happened on a potential “Atom” spinoff; plus a look at a costume for Robbie Amell’s Firestorm. But there was still plenty more packed into the panel, including Stephen Amell commenting on Oliver Queen’s defeat — and possible demise? — at the hands of Ra’s al Ghul on the “Arrow” midseason finale.
“We had a very full discussion about the third season, back in late June or early July,” Amell said. “They said, ‘The first arc of our season will commence with Sara’s death, and will end with Oliver facing Ra’s al Ghul and losing. I personally love when there is adversity for the protagonist, and when we give other characters on the show an opportunity to equip themselves, and to come more into leading roles. We’re 50-plus episodes into the show, and if we don’t give other characters an opportunity to shoulder the load, then we give nothing for the viewers to attach themselves to, and it’ll be really difficult to do our next 50 episodes.”
Amell also fielded a question from a reporter asking, “Why are there so many superhero shows?”
“‘Arrow’ came out in 2012,” Amell replied. “A lot of people liked the pilot, but talked about how genre shows — specifically comic book adaptations — didn’t really work that well on television,. And then it did. So now there are more. I think that’s pretty much it.”
Berlanti — whose credits range from “Everwood” to “Brothers & Sisters” to now “Arrow” and “Flash” — added that he doesn’t see much of a separation from his DC-based projects to other work in his career, regardless of genre.
“We really don’t think of them like superhero shows and genres shows,” Berlanti said. “I know it’s probably hard to believe. We get most excited when we’re in the story room to work with these actors, and create character stories for these people. It’s no different from when I’ve been able to participate in family shows, or teen dramas, or straight-on character shows. What’s the heart of the story, what are we following, why do we care and why is this going to be excited and interesting?”
Speaking of the current boom in comic book-based television shows, Guggenheim was asked to comment on what he sees as the differences between Marvel vs. DC — a question inspired by the fact that his wife, Tara Butters, is the co-showrunner of the recently debuted “Marvel’s Agent Carter.”
“I think DC offers a more hopeful perspective,” Guggenheim said. “I’ve written DC Comics and I’ve written Marvel Comics. I tried once to do a Marvel approach to a DC Comic — it handles differently. Marvel’s a little bit more the world outside your window, DC is more aspirational and fantastical. That’s not a qualitative judgment. One is not better or worse than the other. They’re just different.”
Not only are there more superheroes on TV in general, there are more joining the ranks of “Arrow” and “The Flash” specifically — including Cassidy’s character, Laurel Lance, stepping into the Black Canary role in impending “Arrow” installments. It’s a move that’s been expected for the character since the show debuted, and Cassidy expressed clear enthusiasm for the opportunity.
“I’ve been waiting for this to happen, and I’m obviously very excited about it,” Cassidy said. “They told me that this was where the character was going from before we even shot the pilot. As we’ve always said, every character has to earn it. You can’t just all of a sudden, overnight become a superhero. You have to go through this journey. In season three, after losing her sister, she goes from avenging her sister to honoring her sister to becoming her sister. It’s been amazing.”
Routh’s Ray Palmer — the subject of those “Atom” spinoff rumors — also looks to be taking on a more actively heroic role on the show in the near future, though Guggenheim stated the character is “on a slightly different track then the other members of Team Arrow.” For his part, Routh talked about taking on another DC character years after playing the DC character in 2006’s “Superman Returns.”
“I was hesitant, yes, to be honest, stepping into the DC world again, really never thinking that would happen,” Routh told the assembled TV press. “But I went for it with open arms. it’s been nothing but an amazing experience, getting to play a character that I get to go and have fun and be light most of the time.”
“Part of what [Oliver’s] experienced this year is seeing the crusade grow beyond him, and that’s very much by design,” Guggenheim said of the rise of fellow costumed vigilantes in the current “Arrow” season. “It ties into pretty much everything we’ve got planned for season three.”
On the other side of that, Diggle is most definitely not a costumed character, and Ramsey spoke on the importance of having a civilian hero on the show — and on the importance of his character being a Black man in the “Arrow”/”Flash” universe.
“For me, it’s important for employment,” Ramsey joked, before continuing, “Aside from that, I think it is important. It’s important for television, I think — to see this man as probably the second-in-command on Team Arrow, with a potential wife and child, well-adjusted to his time overseas as a soldier. I think that’s an important story no matter what color it is, but particularly if he’s African-American. And particularly in the DC world, in the comic book world. I’m proud of it. I’m proud also that he’s part of the DC lore, he’s now part of the DC canon. Fifteen years from now, this is an honorable soldier, an honorable person, in this DC Universe that can be played by someone else, that has an existence of his own. That started here.”
“So is it important? You’re damn right,” he concluded. “It’s very important, for a number of different reasons.”
On “The Flash” side of things, Gustin responded to a question on how the actors keep the show grounded and not “cheesy” despite the lighter tone and over-the-top action.
“I’ve been playing superhero since I was a kid,” Gustin said. “You don’t think you’re goofing around as a kid, you take it very seriously. I think as an actor, what I try to find first in a scene is what is my truth in that scene — if I can find truthfulness in any scene, no matter how big it is, it’s going to be grounded.”
Cavanagh similarly provided his thoughts on playing the morally dubious Harrison Wells — a character that’s much more dubious now that Cavanagh has stated he’s indeed the Reverse-Flash.
“It’s a real joy to play,” Cavanagh stated. “His agendas don’t necessarily make him a bad guy, not a mustache-twirling bad guy. He needs Barry to do well, and essentially Barry needs him to further his own powers. The fact that he’s got certain complications, for me, is enjoyable. The way they write it, it’s never landing too heavily on one side.”
With Miller and Purcell both in attendance, much was made over the two “Prison Break” leads once again paired together as Flash Rogues Captain Cold and Heat Wave — something that was certainly no coincidence, as Miller shared that he helped recruit Purcell onto the show.
“Wentworth and I have an intuitive understanding of each other as human beings, first, and that resonates with us on-screen,” Purcell said, stating that the connection dates back to their earliest “Prison Break” days.
“I’m pretty naive to the whole comic book world,” Purcell added. “I of course have done my research now. My kids think it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my fucking life.”
Keep reading CBR for more from the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour.
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