As veteran Central City cop Joe West, Jesse L. Martin doesn’t need a superhero suit to play the hero (though it sounds like maybe he might like one).
Martin, a veteran stage and screen performer best known for his stints in the Broadway smash “Rent” as well as its film adaptation, and as Detective Ed Green on nearly 200 episodes of “Law & Order,” returns to role of police detective for the new CW series “The Flash.” But this time, he’s surrounded by the kinds of powered-up perps only a superhero can attract.
In an one-on-one, slightly spoilery conversation with Comic Book Resources during a stint to show off the new series at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills, Martin revealed the challenges — and the fun — of being the most normal character on the call sheet.
CBR News: You’ve played a detective before, but this is a very fantastical world. What can you tell me about the adjustment of how to play a grounded guy in this very heightened kind of reality?
Jesse L. Martin: The adjustment, basically, is just being even more grounded, because things get so, so crazy, things get so out of hand, that you have to be almost superhuman just to keep everybody grounded. You have to have the nerves of steel, if you will, even though I’m not a man of steel — just nerves of steel! I have to have logic and common sense where others may not use logic and common sense because they have powers. I have to actually be the most human in the room, which makes me feel kind of powerful.
Since the pilot, you guys have shot a fair share of episodes — what’s been a fun discovery about your character, and your character’s relationship with Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen and Candice Patton’s Iris, your TV daughter?
The thing that’s been most interesting to me, and most fun as an actor to play, is how complicated the relationships become. You know, I helped raise Barry — I did raise Barry — and he and I were very, very close. I know that Barry’s basically in love with Iris, so that causes a lot of weird and sort of difficult emotions for a dad to deal with.
And when I realize that he’s become the Flash, that makes things even more heightened, because you know, eventually he’s going to want to tell his best friend in the entire world. If he tells Iris, that makes her vulnerable. That just makes me crazy, because I want to protect my daughter and I want to protect him. So I’m protecting him, I’m protecting Iris and I’m protecting the Flash. [Barry] also has a bunch of new friends, over at S.T.A.R. Labs, with Harrison Wells, Cisco, Caitlin, and I don’t necessarily trust Harrison Wells. I may even have a bit of a jealousy of him, because he’s pulling a father-figure thing, too. All these things are deliciously difficult for an actor.
How much action are you getting?
All of it!
You’re not just sitting at a desk, shuffling papers?
No, not at all. I don’t think there’s a moment, when I’ve actually sat at the desk. Well, there may have been one or two, but you have to understand, I don’t have any super powers, so when somebody runs, I have to chase them with my own feet. There’s no CGI for that. I just chase them.
You get to be in your street clothes, which has got to be some kind of an advantage.
I suppose that’s an advantage, but I don’t get a cool suit!
How do you deal with the very perfect Eddie Thawne, Iris’ love interest?
Well, the fact that I even discover that there is a love between Eddie Thawne and Iris causes me great pain. Eventually, I warm to it, because Iris, you know, she’s a young woman, and she can do what she wants. She’s also very strong-minded, so she puts me in my place about it at one point. But I never get used to it.
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