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Arrow is getting a jolt of Flash.
Glee alum Grant Gustin will enter the fold for a two-episode run on The CW comic-book drama beginning Dec. 4 as Barry Allen, the genius scientist who eventually turns into the speedy superhero simply known as Flash. In his first episode, “The Scientist,” Barry makes his way to Starling City after an “unexplained robbery” hits Oliver Queen’s family company, Queen Consolidated.
“Barry is very interested in the unexplained for reasons we will find out over the course of these two episodes,” Arrow executive producer Andrew Kreisberg told reporters Monday afternoon in previewing the anticipated hour.
To say Barry is on the other side of the spectrum from Oliver is an understatement. For the producers, there were rich stories and character dynamics to mine because of the characters’ obvious differences in personality and physicality.
“He’s the opposite of Oliver in a lot of ways,” Kreisberg said. “Barry’s outgoing and funny, a little bit unsure of himself and smart and sort of a squeaky wheel. The contrast between Stephen [Amell] and Grant is both comical and fun and has been really great to watch.”
Gustin was the first to read for the role and was immediately drawn to how “funny and endearing” the character was. “I hadn’t done anything like that,” the actor said. “I had a lot of fun with that throughout the audition process. [The producers] started steering me in that direction immediately as soon as I first met them…and [I] took it from there.” Gustin also gravitated toward how “likable” Barry was, something he hadn’t yet experienced in his young career. “I would be his friend,” he said. “I hadn’t had the opportunity to play a character I would actually enjoy spending time with, so that’s nice.” (He played the cocky Dalton Academy Warblers lead singer Sebastian Smythe on Glee.)
There had been some noise over the decision to go for a younger Barry in Arrow‘s iteration of Flash, with those familiar with previous versions hesitant about the idea of introducing a boyish, fresh-faced scientist.
“It is an elephant in the room, so we addressed it,” Kreisberg said, acknowledging executive producer Greg Berlanti‘s suggestion that lines of dialogue be added about Gustin’s younger look. “The thing that was important to us was that he really should be a contrast to Oliver and to Stephen. Stephen is the traditional square-jawed, muscle-bound hero. That works really well, because he needs all that. One of the things about Flash is he’s a random guy who gets struck by lightning. He needs the bolt of lightning to be a hero in a way Stephen doesn’t.”
Berlanti noted that it was more important for the producers to find an actor that fully embodied “the essence of the character” and, to a lesser degree, “someone who can fit into the Arrow universe we have but still can potentially have the promise of their own universe and their own show.” Just how pivotal was Gustin’s casting? “Had we not found Grant, I’m not sure we would’ve done the character,” Berlanti said.
Gustin, who was an infant when The Flash TV series aired in 1990-91, “wasn’t trying to be any Flash that I knew about or had seen,” simply because he had no basis of knowledge.
For now, Barry is only set to appear in the next two Arrow episodes. Originally, episode 20 of Arrow would serve as a backdoor pilot for a potential Flash series, much like The Vampire Diaries was used to kick off The Originals spinoff this past spring. Whether Barry will still appear in the 20th episode, now a “normal episode of Arrow,” remains to be seen. “We’re still trying to figure that out,” Kreisberg admitted, reasoning that the original backdoor pilot plan created complications a normal pilot order wouldn’t have. “In some ways this has freed us to take the Flash and just do the Flash separately and stay on a straight line.”
Berlanti added that Barry’s presence will still be felt throughout the season, with viewers finding out “about what happened to him in the way that you’re hearing now about Star Labs on the periphery” and “in terms of Felicity, since she has a connection with him.”
In past interviews, Arrow cast members and producers have highlighted the growing connection between Barry and Oliver’s right-hand woman, tech guru Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards). Rickards had characterized their interactions as “flirty.” (It was revealed that Rickards and Gustin had a chemistry test, which sealed the deal for Gustin.) “It’s really interesting to act with someone who’s…literally as smart as Felicity, because I know very few people who are as genius as Felicity is,” Rickards told The Hollywood Reporter in October.
As the producers told it, having the two like-minded souls bantering back and forth helped Barry make a bigger splash in his entry into the Arrow world.
“It’s something we were talking about when we were trying to figure out how we were going to bring him in,” Kreisberg said. “We spent a lot of time talking about Barry even before the pilot aspect…the fact that Barry and Felicity are so similar and they’re both uncomfortable in their own skin and both are likable and personable, it seemed they would instantly hit it off, which would complicate things for Oliver even more. It felt like the right way to go.”
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.
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