Just how fast are new challenges going to be coming at Barry Allen in the hotly anticipated third season of “The Flash?” Given what co-executive producer Todd Helbing had to share with CBR, even Barry’s going to have a hard time keeping up with everything that’s being thrown at him.
Season Three, of course, kicks off with the introduction of the show’s take on the modern classic comic book story “Flashpoint,” in which Barry takes temporal matters into his own hands and prevents his mother’s murder in the past, changing the contemporary timeline in ways both sublime (Cisco’s now a tech billionaire) and shocking (Wally West is now in action as The Flash).
But that’s only a portion of what’s lined up to test Barry’s mettle in the reformed reality, as Helbing reveals in a fast and furious conversation with CBR about new and returning villains, who’s who in the new reality, and even if Grant Gustin and Ezra Miller could someday find themselves racing side-by-side as parallel universe Flashes?
CBR: Let’s start with some of the bad guys for Season Three: we know Mirror Master is coming. Which iteration of Mirror Master are you guys hewing closest to?
Todd Helbing: We’re making Mirror Master meta-human, so he doesn’t have the gun. You’ll discover how he got his powers. The first time in episode four we see his origin story. So you understand where he got his powers from, exactly what his powers are and how they manifest. It’s cool to be able to see a guy covered in mirrors, so we’re all really stoked about it.
Is he Scottish?
No, no. He’s good ol’ American. [Laughs]
Savitar is another villain you have in play – an interesting choice, as he’s yet another speed-based villain. Tell me the take on him for the show, and where you’re going to distinguish him from your other bad guys.
I would say, in one regard, he’s more of a psychological villain. Yes, he is a speedster – but there’s this essence to him… Much like in the comics, he’s kind of this cultish leader, so I would say that there are people very devoted to him.
Andrew Kreisberg mentioned to me there is potential for Grodd’s return.
Yeah, okay – if he told you, then we’re good! Yeah, so there’s definitely potential for Grodd. If you’re paying attention to our show, we’ve had this progression, and the last time we saw Grodd, he was in Gorilla City. I think we’re going to try to push the envelope in story-sense, and in visual effects-sense, and really tell this amazing potential Grodd story.
Is there another high-concept character like Grodd or King Shark, that initially seems impossible to do right on TV that you guys have your eyes on? Like, “Let’s see what we can do with…”
Not at the moment. I mean, look, personally I would love to fold King Shark in, like, every episode. I think from conception… when I saw him first in the comics, I’m like, there’s no way that we could ever do this. Armen Kevorkian did — our VFX master. It’s just one of those, I mean, there’s a bunch of wacky villains, to be frank. But I don’t know. Right now, we don’t have any plans to do anything at that level – this year anyway.
Let’s talk about the junior speedsters. We know we’re going to see a Kid Flash, and certainly potential there to see Jesse Quick. So let’s talk about Kid Flash first. We’ve see him in the costume — how soon does that story start to unfold that gets Wally into the red and yellow?
You’re going to see him in the Flashpoint universe. He’s The Flash, there. So right off the bat, you’re going to see Kid Flash. But his journey to how he becomes Kid Flash is something that we’re exploring over the whole season.
Are you able to say anything about Jesse?
I mean, Jesse, Violett Beane’s definitely going to be on our show. So you’ll see what happens to her, how she was affected from last season.
Are you able talk about any of these DC Universe utility players, like Captain Cold? What can you say about how you might approach those characters?
Well, Wentworth [Miller] is coming back. He’s going to be in Episode 4 as Captain Cold. We have sort of ideas for how to bring the others in, but as of now, all we have right now is Cold for sure.
Wentworth’s portrayal of Captain Cold, everything about it is perfect for me. But no, unfortunately, I haven’t been up there for any of the Wentworth episodes yet.
On a bigger DC Universe discussion, is it fun to figure out who you might loan from your established characters over to “Legends,” or to “Arrow?” Do you like having those sort of summits where you decide, “Hey, let’s move the chess pieces around?”
Yeah, I mean, a lot of this is Greg [Berlanti’s] mastermind plan, but yeah, whenever we talk about who we can bring in at what point, we’ll pitch – at any time during the year, we’re like, “You know what would be really great…?” Like last year for King Shark it was, “Let’s bring Dig over.” So any time we have an opportunity to do it, we jump on it. But it’s a lot of, how many times can you bring him over? There’s a whole cost factor that we have to take into account. So we just try to figure out the best story to bring in whenever we can.
Then there’s my favorite character, Harry.
Yeah. I will say there’s a Harrison Wells in Season Three, and you’re just going to have to tune in to figure out exactly who he is!
I imagine that as writers working with Tom Cavanagh, it must be a blast to figure out the new way to approach it.
Last year at the beginning of the year, we were writing Harry completely different. Tom was really the one that was like, ‘No, we should make this guy an asshole.” The first table read he was cutting out lines, and we’re like, “Oh, he hates this.” Then the conversation after that was really about, “I can really bring this antagonistic character in our group.”
Being able to work with somebody like Tom – and he has every idiosyncrasy down for the different characters – then to be able to put him in an episode like 217 last year, flashback when Barry runs back, and he’s playing like four different versions of Wells in that episode. So for him to be able to slip in and slip out of those different characters is unbelievably fun for us, and to write.
Once we talk to him about these characters and get his opinions and what he adds as an actor. He’s really the one that’s bringing this to life. Then it just sort of explodes creatively.
I feel like the only real consistent critique of the last season that I heard was that people wanted a little more agency with Iris, for her to be a more proactive character.Have you guys addressed that amongst yourselves?
Oh, yeah. Yeah I mean, those Earth Two episodes were a perfect example of, when Iris is proactively leading certain aspects of the story, she just pops so much more. I think there’s always going to be an aspect of her relationship with Barry. She’s really his lightning rod, his grounding mechanism. And it doesn’t matter what universe they’re in or what timeline, they always seem to find each other.
But yeah, we definitely this year are proactively trying to get her involved more in the journalistic point of view, and really drive a lot of these stories.
Now that you guys have seen what happens when you get Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist in a room together–
–how did that inform what you wanted to do with the crossover episode earlier this season?
Well, again, the chemistry is so amazing on screen. I feel like we could write any scene and it would be amazing with them. For that crossover, it’s really like the story starts there. So we’re still working out the machinations, but it’s going to start on “Supergirl.” It’s just Grant and Melissa, and that’s going to sort of jump-start everything.
As far as you personally, for this musical episode we’ve heard about down the line: are you terrified or are you super-stoked?
I’m super-stoked! I mean, to do a superhero musical is kind of magic to my ears. I grew up playing the piano. I mean, I’m not going to tell you that I’m a musician my any stretch. I’m really excited about it. I know Greg has a lot of ideas, and the way he wants to do it.
Look, Carlos Valdes is an unbelievably talented musician – you could watch him online, he’s got a music video. Grant and Jesse, obviously. Candice, I think, Keiynan apparently can sing unbelievably well, which I just found out yesterday!
So really, that Earth Two episode where Joe was a lounge singer, I think it was confirmation that this is something we definitely need to do. And now to incorporate the whole cast… I don’t know about Danielle, yet! Yeah, I think she’s a little bit still just sticking her feet in there. What other show on television do you get to have superheroes singing?
Now that you’ve been a part of the series and really delved into “Flash” history in the comic books and potential storylines to adapt and be inspired by, tell me what you love about the stories you’ve seen in that character’s history – things about the mythology of The Flash that you’re still really excited about.
This whole experience for me and my brother: we weren’t comic book guys. When we met with Geoff Johns, and Andrew and Greg, we were very upfront about that. For whatever reason, we’ve always written genre – “Smallville,” “Spartacus,” “Black Sails” – so we just love, we love action shows, and we love anything that’s grounded, and we love emotional stories. So this whole idea that they had for the beginning, which is heart, humor, spectacle – it just spoke to us creatively. It’s everything that we want to do.
“Spartacus” got unbelievably dark, but we got to do some really cool stories on that show. We really wanted something that was positive, and something our parents could watch, and something that, at the end of the episode, you felt really good.
So I don’t know if I have a specific comic book [story] – I was really stoked to do Flashpoint. But in the last two and a half years that I’ve been there, it’s like when that question was about “What’s your favorite superhero?” It really is The Flash. It’s not because I work on the show. It’s because over the course of two years, I’ve really gotten to fall in love with this character. So I think it’s just his character more than anything. It’s not a specific comic book reference.
Now that we’ve gotten a glimpse of Ezra Miller’s Flash, tell me about the friendly competition that now I’m sure exists.
Yeah, I saw the suit. It’s super cool. Anytime in this genre, there’s a success out of it, it just does everything for the superhero genre, so I want them to be successful. But to be honest, Grant Gustin will have done, by the time that movie comes out, almost 100 episodes, 100 hours of television. Grant is and always is going to be The Flash to me.
Your show always has so much fun with time traveling and parallel universes. If it felt right with everybody, would you bring Ezra on as another parallel universe Flash, just for fun?
That’s an interesting idea. I think that’s sort of beyond my control, for sure. I mean, I don’t know – it’d be fun!
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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