When “The Flash” Season 3 kicks off, star John Wesley Shipp will be a Man of Two Worlds. Thanks to Barry’s meddling with the timeline, Henry Allen is back alive in “Flashpoint,” but that doesn’t mean Jay Garrick is going anywhere. According to Shipp, both Henry and Jay will get caught up in the fallout of “Flashpoint” and all the havoc it will wreak on Barry’s world.
Speaking with CBR about the upcoming season, Shipp addressed the challenge of playing two different characters on the same show — a gig he calls “an extraordinary opportunity.” He also discussed the differences between his two fan-favorite characters, as well as Jay’s relationship with Barry, how some elements of Jay’s world will show up in “a very striking and crucial way” and whether or not Jay will have anything to do with “Legends of Tomorrow’s” Justice Society of America.
CBR News: In what is quickly becoming a “Flash” tradition, you now play two characters on the show: Henry Allen and Jay Garrick. How would you describe your different approaches to these characters?
John Wesley Shipp: Well, I love this question. It’s an extraordinary opportunity as an actor. I mean, rarely in a superhero action-adventure context, are you presented with a creative challenge just like this. Henry and Jay — and I talked to [executive producer] Andrew Kreisberg about this from the beginning — it’s important that they be absolutely different. When the iron mask comes off, Barry sees physically his father, but he couldn’t be more different. In temperature, Henry was very warm, and Jay is very cool. Jay does not have the emotional investment in Barry obviously, clearly that Henry had. Jay is the keeper of the Speed Force, and he’s looking at this young kid with a certain degree of skepticism and wondering what he’s going to screw up and what he’s not, so that presents a real conundrum for Barry. You know, he just lost his father and that relationship, and here’s this guy that looks just like him, but he’s not going to get the same thing — at least, not right away from Jay.
In the “Flashpoint” timeline, it looks as though Henry has lived a full life with his wife and son. How has that impacted his character?
It’s a very sunny… I have to praise Kate, the costume designer. Look at the difference in the way Henry is even dressed. Everything is lighter. Everything is brighter. Henry has grown old as a successful heart surgeon, not as a convict. You have a whole different vibe going on there with Henry.
On the flipside, you said that Jay will look at Barry with skepticism. Would you describe their relationship as contentious?
I wouldn’t say it’s contentious, but I would say that Jay — as the original speedster and as an older man — tends to think of himself as the guardian of the plain, the guardian of the Speed Force. And here’s this new speedster in town, who’s younger, who’s more impulsive, who’s rash, who maybe reminds Jay of how he was at the outset. He’s looking, and he’s watching very carefully to see how this kid — and I say kid, because that’s the way Jay views him — is going to carry on the tradition. Is he going to mess it up? What mistakes is he going to make that Jay was tempted to make, or perhaps did make? Where Henry Allen was that place that little boy Barry could come when he needed to be vulnerable, Jay is the person that reminds Barry that — if you want to be a superhero — it’s big boy rules, and that’s very different in temperature and in the relationship between the two.
Will “Flashpoint” impact Jay in any way?
Yeah! Well, Jay sees how Barry is about to deal with the different ramifications of “Flashpoint,” and Jay may or may not approve of what Barry is about to do. Certainly, if Jay thought Barry was about to screw things up or headed in the wrong direction, Jay would intervene. I think that’s what we have to look forward to very quickly as the ramifications of “Flashpoint” spin out of control.
Will we see any elements of Jay’s world on the show?
It’s a little early to tell. Right now, Jay comes in — oh, wait a minute! Of course you do! Yes! I can’t say, but yes. Yes, in a very striking and crucial way. That’s all I can say.
Famously, Jay is a member of the Justice Society of America, which just so happens to be appearing on “Legends of Tomorrow.” What are the odds that he’s familiar with the team?
I need to be very clear about this, because I was talking at the beginning about playing Jay and how it was a wide open canvas and how Jay is the head of the JSA — I was talking about the comic book world. I would welcome the opportunity. Certainly, they’re structuring contracts so that, if they so chose, they can move us like chess pieces across this wonderful comic landscape that Berlanti Productions has created with The CW. I have no indication at this moment that I would be crossing over, but I certainly would love to work with those guys. That would be a great challenge. But we’ll see! Who knows what they have up their sleeve?
Now that you’re a few episodes in, could you describe Season 3 so far in three words?
Oh, no — you’re asking the wrong guy! If Suzanne was on the phone, she’d probably laugh and say, “When has John ever described anything in three words?” You’ve stumped me on that one. I don’t know! I can’t answer that. I can talk about what’s exciting for me, but I’m not good at three words.
Then let’s talk about what’s exciting!
Well, obviously, it’s playing two different characters in the same universe, one very different from the other. You know, I so respect and I’m so fond of — I’ve made no secret of the fact — of how fond I am of Grant Gustin and how much I respect him as an actor and how thrilled I am to see his version of Barry Allen having this success that mine just missed. I loved the Henry/Barry relationship; those were some of the richest moments I’ve ever had on television. Now, I get to learn him and he gets to learn me all over again from a completely different point of view that’s kind of blowing both of our minds a little bit, because it’s like running lines with two different people. You know, that’s what I’m excited about. How often do you get a chance to play two different characters in two different episodes back-to-back? That’s a great challenge for me, keeping Jay and — even though when Barry looks at Jay, he sees his dad — it’s clear that Jay is nothing like him, at least not at the outset.
When you played the Flash over 20 years ago, did you ever see yourself returning to the DC Universe?
Never. At that last scene with Mark Hamill in Southeast LA at 5 in the morning… I ripped those wings off [my costume] and threw them in the air and swore I’d never get back into another superhero suit. Never say never! Now, I will say this: there have been certain improvements in 25 years. For example… it’s not just one piece! There’s an under-spandex piece and an outer leather shell. The salient information here is that it can be washed. [Laughs] So that’s a real plus for me and everybody else! It’s also so much cooler. It’s funny — when I was being digitally scanned, they kept saying, “Are you hot? Do you want a drink of water? Are you okay?” I’m like, “Are you kidding? I could be in this for 24 hours and not complain!” After what I went through in 1990! No, it’s functional as well as decorative.
I’m glad it’s improved over the years!
Oh, yeah! I don’t need a cooling unit. Also, because there’s no cowl, and I can take that helmet off whenever I want, and I do as often as possible! It’s completely, completely different and more workable — which is good, because I’m 25 years older!
Starring Grant Gustin as the Scarlet Speedster, “The Flash” premieres Tuesday, October 4 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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