When Emerald City Comicon began in 2003, the adventures of people with superpowers were primarily found in comics books. If fans were lucky, there was an occasional movie, and even more rarely, the film was a good one. now, we live in a world where there’s a quality superhero film every three months, and television provides us with weekly live-action adventures of some of our favorite heroes.
Last weekend, ECCC attendees were treated to a discussion with several stars from one of the most successful shows in this genre: “The Flash.” In the convention’s largest hall, thousands gathered to hear Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow), Robbie Amell (Ronnie Raymond/Firestorm), and Keiynan Lonsdale (Wally West) share stories about their experiences on the CW series’ set. Actress Clare Kramer (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) moderated the panel, and began by asking all the actors how much knowledge they had of the Flash comics before they started on the show.
“None. Absolutely none,” Panabaker answered. “It was like, ‘Welcome to the most confusing world ever!’ I’m always asking Carlos (Valdes) or Grant (Gustin), ‘Can you explain it to me again what this Speed Force thing is?'”
“I had just finished shooting ‘The Duff’ and ‘The Tomorrow People’ had just been cancelled,” Amell said of his introduction to the Flash universe. “Greg Berlanti — producer of ‘The Tomorrow People,’ ‘The Flash,’ ‘Arrow’ and ‘Supergirl’ — phoned me and asked, ‘Do you want to play Firestorm?’ I said, ‘I have no idea who that is, but I definitely do!'”
Unlike his costars, Lonsdale had the fortune of coming on to the show after it had been on the air for a while. “[Before I was hired] I had watched Season 1, and I was a fan. So when they said they wanted me to come in and audition for Wally West, I was like, ‘Okay. Cool!’ I had originally auditioned for ‘Legends of Tomorrow,’ so that’s how they initially got to know me.”
Amell’s character dies at the end of Season 1, but as comics fans know, superhero death’s aren’t always permanent. This is especially true in “The Flash,” as there are 52 alternate realities where a Ronnie Raymond might still be around. The Earth-2 Ronnie (a.k.a. the evil Deathstorm) has already appeared, and Amell indicated that he’s up for more.
“Whenever I see [Producer Greg Berlanti], I’m like, ‘When am I coming back?’ And his answer is always, ‘Whenever you want to.’ And I’m like, ‘I want to!'”
On the topic of Amell’s current workload, Kramer asked the actor about another project he is involved in, “‘Code 8,'” Amell replied, explaining that’s the title of a film that he and his cousin, actor Stephen Amell (“Arrow”) are trying to make together. The pair started an Indiegogo campaign for the project about three weeks ago. Their initial goal was $200,000, and they reached this within the first three days of the campaign. At present, they are at $675,000, with over a week to go.
The plot of the film involves a world where 4% of the population have developed super-powers. These abilities range from Class One to Class Five, with Five being the most powerful — and the most dangerous. It’s illegal to use powers in public, and the police have implemented the Guardian Program as a result. Unfortunately, these officers have become oppressors and use more force than they should. The people with powers aren’t considered heroes or celebrated, and they live under the poverty line. This film tells the story of their struggle.
A short film was made as a proof of concept, and it can be seen at the Indiegogo site. Due to Stephen’s involvement in the latest “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” movie, however, he was unable to participate in the sample. Actor Sung Kang (best known as Han Seoul-Oh in the “Fast and Furious” franchise) stepped in for the short, and everyone was pleased with the result.
“We’re getting our dream cast for the feature, though, thanks to you guys. Victor Garber has already said he’ll do part of it, and I’m not going to tell you the rest… The nice thing is,because we have to work around Stephen’s schedule, the timing is the same for all the ‘Flash’ and ‘Arrow’ actors. So essentially, we have an off-season to shoot, and we’re going to call in as many favors with as many people that we love working with as we can.”
Amell said he is really looking forward to filming because he and his cousin Stephen have wanted to work together for some time. The two have had the chance to share screentime together, but it wasn’t quite the experience they had been hoping for. “We got a little taste of it on the ‘Flash’/’Arrow’ crossover, but we didn’t even get to say anything to each other. There were different iterations of the script where we had lines to one another, and some of them poked fun at us being related while others didn’t. But then they were like, ‘We just can’t have you saying anything to each other because it’s just too weird.”
He and the other actors laughed at this, but agreed it was probably for the best. Panabaker discussed how one of her desires came to fruition — the chance to play Killer Frost. She knew about her character’s link to the villain, but it wasn’t until they started shooting Season 2 that she found out she would get to play the evil metahuman.
Panabaker said playing a supervillain is much more fun than playing what she calls “Sad Caitlin.” It’s almost a running joke on the set about the “unlucky in love” status of her character. Her first love, Ronnie, dies, and her next boyfriend, Jay Garrick, turned out to be the sinister Zoom. She hopes for more luck with her next romance.
Steering the conversation to a happier topic, Kramer asked the cast about their experience working with one of comicdom’s biggest fans, Director Kevin Smith. Panabaker said she doesn’t have many scenes in Smith’s episode, but she thoroughly enjoyed the time she did get to work with him.
“It was an amazing experience,” Lonsdale added. “To have a director who’s so excited to be involved with what we were doing — it brought such amazing energy to the set. He was just as eager as we were, and as eager as the fans, to create and to honor something people love.”
The conversation then turned to all the directors they have worked with this season and their favorite episodes. Amell mentioned his favorite, and although it wasn’t one he appeared in, he still had a special connection to the episode.
“The ‘Supergirl’/’Flash’ crossover was the best episode of ‘Supergirl’ I’ve ever seen. My fiancee was the Silver Banshee, which was awesome! So now I’m trying to get my way over there. There was the shout-out [to my character] when Grant [said to Supergirl], ‘You don’t know these people?’ and he’s like, ‘Blah-blah, Firestorm?” And I was like, “Oh, yeah!” And she’s like “Nope.” And I went, “Argh!”
“I want to go to ‘Supergirl’ so badly,” Panabaker said. “And ‘Legends of Tomorrow!’ I feel like ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ has so many Flash people, And — ohmigosh! — Killer Frost-Caitlin and Captain Cold would totally be friends!”
“Whoa. I hadn’t even thought about that,” Lonsdale said.
“Oh, I’ve thought about it!” Panabaker said enthusiastically. “I would love to go over to ‘iZombie,’ too. They’ve got pretty attractive zombies…”
“Hey, I could be over there and be dead!” Amell added to much laughter.
Asked about the things they were passionate about outside of the Flash world. Amell expressed his love for “The Walking Dead,” Lonsdale described himself as a “Final Fantasy” fanboy, and Panabaker said, “‘Downton Abbey’ just ended, and it made me cry.”
Next, a fan asked the group what was their least favorite thing about the characters they play. Panabaker replied, “I hate when Caitlin says you can’t do something, because that’s not in my nature. She does seem to shoot some ideas down pretty quickly.”
“Wally has some trust issues,” Lonsdale said. “That’s not something I really hate though, it’s just something he has to grow from.”
“Well, I hate to sound like a broken record, but I hate how often I die!” Amell offered.
As for which DC character the actors would like to see appear on the show, Lonsdale thought Aqualad would make a great addition, but Amell felt a darker turn would be fun.
“This is a weird question for me, because I would pick Batman, but I would have to play him. I’m already dead, so why not? Earth-3 — there’s Batman! And he looks a hell of a lot like Ronnie Raymond!”
The next fan to the Q&A microphone wanted to know if Wally West might have some romantic entanglements in the future. “I would love for the Wally/Linda Park thing to happen,” Lonsdale responded. “But in one of the recent episodes, there was a scene at a club where Wally and Jessie [Wells] had some kind of spark, so that would be fun to play as well.”
On the topic of Wally, an audience member expressed the hope and expectation that his character will eventually gain super speed. They were curious though as to how Wally might handle such a responsibility.
“Wally is young and he’s still learning so much,” Lonsdale replied. “But I would say before anyone becomes a superhero, they should become a hero first. Wally needs to figure out what that means to him, and once he does, I think he’ll be ready.”
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