‘The Flash’ & ‘Arrow’ stars team up to talk heroes, villains and spin-offs

The CW just had the biggest panel of this press tour, with 13 actors from “Arrow” and “The Flash” – Stephen Amell, Grant Gustin, Katie Cassidy, John Barrowman, Colton Haynes, David Ramsey, Tom Cavanagh, Brandon Routh, Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell, Robbie Amell, Victor Garber and Matt Nable(*) – plus producers Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim. Panels that size – particularly involving two different shows, even if they're linked like these two – are usually unwieldy and leave lots of people sitting silently on stage, but this superheroes and villains panel was lively, had a lot of interplay between the two casts, and almost everyone had at least one good line or moment. (The only exceptions: Colton Haynes and Matt Nable from “Arrow,” neither of whom got asked anything.) 

(*) You'll note Cassidy was the only woman from either show. After the panel, Berlanti admitted to a small group of reporters that he had messed up on that. They were juggling which actors to bring, ultimately deciding to mainly bring people who played costumed heroes or villains, because the CW was going to put all the costumes on display in the hotel lobby. But even given that, he acknowledged they could have brought the actresses who played Huntress or Cupid, and that it was a mistake to not have more women there (particularly given how much interest there is in characters like Felicity and Caitlin).

Because there were so many people and so much to talk about, the panel was a bit more patchwork than some others, with the only through line being the larger idea of trying to take all these superheroics seriously, even as everyone has fun with it.

When Grant Gustin was at one point asked about “The Flash” feeling larger-than-life but also grounded, he said, “I've been playing superhero since I was a kid, and you don't think you're goofing around as a kid. You take it seriously. As an actor, I try to first find what is my truth in a scene.”

Later in the panel, after hearing some of the comic book novices like Dominic Purcell talk about how much they've been enjoying their roles, John Barrowman – who also recalled playing superhero as a kid – said, “What's great is hearing guys talking like that who aren't into the comic book thing… It's almost like they've discovered this… We used to play with our Amigo action figures of these characters, and now we are these characters… That is the biggest gift.”

Bouncing around topic-by-topic:

Hey, isn't Arrow dead?: The most recent episode of “Arrow” ended with Ra's al-Ghul running Oliver through with his sword and kicking him off a mountain, and a reporter jokingly asked if Stephen Amell was just here as an emeritus castmember.

“Quite frankly, I feel like I earned my spot here,” Amell joked, before talking about why he's pleased that Oliver will be out of action for a bit until he gets a comic book-y resurrection: “I personally love when there is adversity for the protagonist, and when we give other characters on the show an opportunity to acquit themselves and come more into leading roles. We're 50-plus episodes into the series, and if we don't give other characters an opportunity to shoulder the load, we don't give the audience anything to attach themselves to, and we make it much harder for the next 50 episodes that we just found out about.”

Who's the Reverse-Flash?: (Note: some “Flash” spoilers” for this one.) The screens flanking the stage kept playing slides of each actor next to a comic book drawing of their character. When it was Tom Cavanagh's turn in the slideshow, his picture appeared alongside a drawing of Reverse-Flash. A critic asked if that meant that Harrison Wells is definitely the Reverse-Flash, and Cavanagh and his co-stars scrambled for how to answer.

“We didn't make the slide show!” Gustin insisted.

Cavanagh vamped until the reporter asked him directly, “Are you the Reverse-Flash?” He adopted a gravely super villain voice and said, “Yes, I am Reverse-Flash.”

The reporter then asked “The Flash” producers if they would care to comment further; Kreisberg laughed and said, “I think he's doing a great job.”

Later, someone asked whether Eddie Thawne – who shares a last name with the comic book version of Reverse-Flash – was just a red herring, or if there might be more than one Reverse-Flash.

“His name is not an accident,” said Kreisberg. “Eddie's connection to the Reverse-Flash lore is going to pay off big time in the back half of the year.”

Prison breakers again: Miller and Purcell became close friends on “Prison Break,” so when “The Flash” began looking for an actor to play Heat Wave opposite Miller's Captain Cold, Miller suggested his old co-star, wanting to their partnership to have the weight of two people who have known each other a long time.

“I can take credit (if it's great), or I'm responsible (if it's not),” Miller joked.

“I wasn't sitting back home going, 'God, I want to do 'The Flash,'” Purcell said bluntly, as Gustin pretended to be offended. “I'm pretty naive to the comic book world. I of course have done the research now. My kids think it's the coolest thing I've ever done in my fucking life. I'm having so much fun with this character. He allows me to be bold and big and broad and explosive, and things I really appreciate and enjoy.”

Two men, one hero: Miller and Purcell aren't the only former co-stars being reunited by “The Flash.” Robbie Amell and Victor Garber will play the two halves of Firestorm, with Garber happy to re-team with his “Eli Stone” boss Berlanti, and Amell happy to work again with Garber after a good experience together making the TV-movie “The Hunters.” Amell recalled that when he took that job, his fiancee was a huge fan of “Titanic,” and when he brought her to the set, “Victor beelined to her and couldn't have been a more amazing person.”

“She's even prettier than Robbie!” Garber raved.

One man, two heroes: Routh has already been to the superhero mountaintop as the star of “Superman Returns” (as I've said before, Routh wasn't the reason that movie didn't work, and deserved better), and wasn't necessarily looking to step back into this world, even though he's now playing Ray Palmer (aka the Atom) on “Arrow.”

“I was hesitant, yes, stepping into the DC world again, never thinking it would happen, that I would never play another superhero having played, in my mind, the pinnacle character,” he said. “But I went forth with open arms, seeing the great work they were doing on ' Arrow,' and it's been nothing but an amazing experience playing a character where I get to have fun and be light most of the time and have fun with Emily (Bett Rickards). It's just become such a cool experience. Everyone on the show is so amazing to work with, it's great to be on a show that's so loved and appreciated it. So, yeah, I'd love to keep playing this character.”

Is there a chance of an “Atom” spin-off?

“We're in very early talks about a very general idea that we haven't dug deeper on yet, and we're not allowed to say anything yet,” said Berlanti. 

Who is that unmasked man?: All but one of the actors on stage is playing or will soon be playing a costumed hero or villain. The exception: Ramsey's Diggle, who still battles crime in civilian clothes, with only an occasional ski mask to conceal his identity. I asked if he was okay with that, or if he had been pressuring Guggenheim and his other bosses for Diggle to get a costume like Roy's.

Ramsey didn't seem eager to get into spandex.

“We're toying around with some of that stuff,” he said, “but Diggle's exception, if he is exceptional, is because of his normalcy. Everyone is extraordinary on the show, and they're still struggling with the crucible they've been put in. Diggle's crucible, which was Afghanistan, he has adjusted to. He has a wife and child at home, and has no debate in his spirit about balancing that and the crimefighting at night. You don't want to take that away from him, which makes him accessible and makes him normal. So a mask does something else to him. We'll see. The producers and I are talking about things… But I think part of the appeal of Diggle is that any of you could be him, and you don't want a mask to take away from that.”

Shirts and skins: Barrowman, often the life of the party at events like this, mostly hung back and tried not to respond to questions not aimed directly at him. Late in the panel, a reporter asked both Cassidy and him what it's like to be surrounded by so many good-looking men.

After Cassidy admitted she couldn't stop smiling backstage being surrounded by these guys, Barrowman quipped, “I just like it when there are fight sequences when shirts are off. I never miss any of those. Stephen finds it very strange when he's in the makeup trailer getting his scarring done, and I am there.”

Meet the Black Canary: Cassidy also said that the producers had told her Laurel would eventually become the Black Canary before the pilot was even shot, but “Every character has to earn it. You can't just overnight become a superhero. Season 2 for Laurel, you've definitely hit rock bottom… Season 3, she goes from avenging her sister to honoring her sister to becoming her sister. It's been amazing. I love taking her name.”