The Flash better be prepared to pay the piper. The Pied Piper, that is. Introduced in 1959’s “The Flash” #106 from DC Comics, a hearing-impaired Hartley Rathaway, AKA the Pied Piper, created a flute device to transform sound into devastating sonic waves or hypnotic melodies. Eventually, Rathaway abandoned his villainous ways, came out of the closet and turned into an ally and friend of Flash successor Wally West. For now, The Pied Piper will be making some noise when he targets Dr. Wells and S.T.A.R Labs in “The Sound and the Fury,” tonight’s episode of The CW’s “The Flash.”
CBR News spoke to actor Andy Mientus about his spin on the Pied Piper and bringing the character to television. In addition, we discuss portraying a gay comic book character, sound versus speed and why Mientus makes a better Rogue than hero.
CBR News: Were you a comic book fan growing up, and did you jump at the chance to become involved in “The Flash?”
Andy Mientus: I did jump at the chance, although I actually wasn’t a comic book fan. I was a video game kid growing up and wasn’t ever introduced to comics by my parents. But, for a lot of kids, these characters have existed for so long and are saturated in other media, such as games and films. They are like fables. So, even though I had never read a Flash comic, I completely identified with childhood memories of that lightning bolt and that red costume. There was this nostalgia when I heard they were doing this show. Then, I was so excited to be a part of it, but I didn’t know really anything about Piper before. I had this quick crash course that’s been really helpful. Hopefully, I’ve done everyone proud.
Were there certain aspects of the Pied Piper that you gravitated towards?
Yeah, I guess I gravitated towards his motivations or his villainy. He’s a complex character. Instead of being a mustache-twirling guy who wants money, he’s got some deep-seated issues that come from his identity and from his upbringing. That creates the evil in him. It’s interesting and gives me something to really play with, rather than just playing some caricature of a villain.
Is that what separates him from Flash’s other Rogues?
Absolutely. That, and he has some history with some of the other characters, so I get the opportunity to play with a lot more of the cast than just the Flash. It’s all just a little more personal. Not to give too much away, but I can really dig at some of the other characters because I know their pasts. I know them well enough to know what’s going to get under their skin. Hartley is incredibly clever. There’s a lot more going on than the typical villain. He was a blast to work on.
Dr. Wells calls the Pied Piper his “prodigal son.” What is their history?
Hartley used to be involved in S.T.A.R. Labs. Hartley is incredibly clever. The first thing it said on the breakdown for the character when I was auditioning was he was a genius. He was the star of that world and then all of that went sour. Now he’s back and has an agenda.
Is there a rivalry between Piper and Cisco (Carlos Valdes)?
As I said, Hartley was a star at S.T.A.R. Labs. Obviously, he’s going to have certain opinions of the people running the show now. That’s all I will say.
What does portraying one of the first openly gay comic book villains mean to you?
It’s an incredible show of progress. Ten years ago, having any gay character on any show would have caused major controversy or uproar. Now, there’s pretty much a gay character on every show, including a hit superhero show. That’s amazing to me. It speaks to the producers taking the fans seriously and trusting them with being able to handle that, rather than just assuming a comic book crowd is some straight-male, adolescent crowd that would be disgusted by that. They know the comic book crowd is really diverse, mature and accepting. It shows that they are taken seriously and are ready for this. I am honored to be part of that.
Since you originally auditioned for the role of Barry Allen, how much fun has it been playing the villain as opposed to the hero?
I always love playing the villain. I tend to play villains a lot. It’s always more fun and more interesting. It suits me better. I completely get why I wouldn’t work as the Flash. I’m a little more angular and a little too strange in my life in the way I am and the way I look. This role feels like a perfect fit to me. It’s really been a blast.
So far, the Flash has been able to outrun basically anything his foes throw at him. What kind of battle can viewers expect to see considering Pied Piper’s means of attack revolves around sound?
What’s really interesting about the battles you are going to see between the two of them isn’t going to be so much about the manner of what I’m shooting at him, and whether it’s sound or fire or ice. What sets Hartley apart is his intellect. He’s not as good at the implementation as he is at the planning of it and actually getting the Flash in the wrong place at the right time. He’s always two moves ahead of the Flash. He’s really just a scientist. He’s not a trained warrior.
The television version of Piper doesn’t use a flute. What’s the deal with the gloves?
If you look carefully at the trailers, there’s a part where you see the gloves close up and there’s a bit of green, which is like on a flute or a wind instrument. It’s sort of like a throwback to the actual comic books. It’s cool they were able to tie in that reference to make it feel authentic.
Piper mocks Flash by saying how being scooped by a guy in red leather is a fantasy of his. Was that pure sarcasm or him trying to rattle Flash?
I think it’s both. Hartley’s biggest strength is in his wit and intellect. He knows exactly how to get under these characters’ skins. When you see the episode, you’ll see more of that. He’s taking each person there and cutting them down with his words to get to them. Hartley’s is trying to make Flash uncomfortable and trying to make a joke about this arrest. You see I’m not awfully worried about it.
In the comic books, Pied Piper eventually develops a friendship with the Wally West Flash and renounces being a bad guy. In what way, if at all, is that set in motion?
You see pretty quickly that there’s more going on with him than wanting to mess up the Flash’s day. You see what he’s fighting for. They really don’t’ make him out as a bad guy. You see the good in him. You see a good person underneath that black hood pretty quickly.
Your costume is pretty “badass.” What did you like about it and how did it help you relate to the character?
I loved that it was like real clothes. I feel Hartley would have gone out and bought them to be stealthy and to be invisible, rather than some spandex thing to look like a super villain. It’s much more realistic in that way. On a personal note, I like that it wasn’t spandex and skin-tight because then I didn’t have to worry about what I looked like in it. It was really comfortable on those long-shoot days. It felt authentic to be wearing and would actually be useful in lurking in shadows, instead of being something flashy just because we’re on a superhero show.
How much more of the Pied Piper can viewers expect in the future?
I’ve shot two episodes. I’m doing this Broadway show [“Les Miserables”] in New York, so I’m a little tied up at the moment. The way this little introductory arc ends, you see the potential for more to come.
Andy Mientus makes his “The Flash” debut as the Pied Piper tonight at 8pm on The CW.
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