The CW
Storm Santos
The CW
Storm Santos
The CW
Fill 1
Fill 1
October 15, 2020
Online Originals

The Core of the Character

Grant Gustin digs deep to find the core of Barry Allen.

Melissa Byers

As anyone who watches The Flash knows, there are a lot of Barry Allens.

Barry Allen, AKA the Flash, exists in many parallel, alternate worlds, and Grant Gustin moves among those worlds with what seems like an incredible ease. Truth is, it's not always that easy. Gustin says, "I think for me, it can become overwhelming, the overall arc of what's happening with the show at times, and keeping everything straight can be challenging. Especially last year when we were doing the five part crisis crossover.

"And honestly, when we were shooting that, instead of trying to make sense of everything at any given time, and this is usually what I stick to with the show as well, I just stay focused on what my, what Barry's arc is, and what his trajectory is.

"And I always read the entire scripts, and at some point, understand what every other character is going through. But my work has always been focusing on Barry's emotional arc, and just the through line from one scene to the next.

"So honestly, when I just pinpoint it on that, it's not too hard to keep straight. But I even know as a viewer that it can be overwhelming at times.

"My mom and sister just binged their way through the whole series, because they needed to watch season six. And my mom in particular, always gets overwhelmed, just like, "I don't understand what's happening here, what's happening there." My sister has to pause and explain it to her."

Add to the series itself the so-called "Arrowverse," which started with the CW's adaptation of the Green Arrow series of comic books into Arrow, from which have sprung numerous spinoff series, from The Flash to Supergirl to Legends of Tomorrow to the upcoming Superman and Lois, and you have multitudes of crossover worlds, characters, and storylines. 

Gustin explains, "It's a lot, but it's consistent with how the comic books are. I started reading comic books. I hadn't read them growing up. And I was always a fan of the genre with films, and animated cartoons, and whatnot. But I started reading the comic books when I started Flash.

"And you're reading one, and then you find out that there's a crossover. The Flash crosses over with Superman, and then you're reading the Superman, and Superman crosses over with Supergirl. And so I'm trying to read them all, and our shows have been consistent with the way that the comic books work in that sense. And it can be a lot to take in. You find yourself doing your homework as you're watching."

Although a wealth of source material exists, Gustin realized early on that he would have to find his own way into the character, He says, "Our Barry is very much his own Barry Allen. It's not necessarily pulled off the page of any specific comic. I think in a lot of ways, actually, the Barry we have on our Flash is a combination of different Barry Allens and Wally Wests that we've seen from the comics.

"Because Wally was always more of the tongue-in-cheek comedian, where Barry was more of the straight man in the comics. And so sometimes I'm that, and sometimes I'm. doing physical comedy, and I'm quirky and nerdy. But I think mostly, as far as the core of the character , it is me just trying to bring as much of who I really am, as Grant, to Barry.

"So I think probably what shines through for the most part is just whatever's at the core of me, as myself, because I think that's just how I approach characters in general, is I can be hard on myself as a human and as an actor. But one thing I always try to remind myself, when I am hard on myself, or if I'm not feeling super confident in myself in whatever lane I'm in, in my life, is that only I can bring to the table.

"I can only bring myself to the table, and I'm the only one, I'm the only actor that can do that. So I try to just stay consistent with trusting myself, and bringing as much Grant to the different Barrys, or any character I play, as possible. "

Gustin is aided in his quest for authenticity by his Flash castmates. Barry's wife, Iris, is played by Candice Patton, his best friend Cisco, played by Carlos Valdes, scientist-turned-villian Caitlin played by Danielle Panabaker, scientist Harrison Wells, played by Tom Cavanaugh, and Barry's surrogate father and father-in-law Joe played by Jesse L. Martin.

Add to that stellar core cast occasional appearances by the original TV Flash John Wesley Shipp, and you have a wonderful group to play with.

Gustin says, "It's like a family. It's got it's ups and downs. It's a long journey. It's nine and a half months. So all of us as humans go through different things throughout the season. But to see, I think we can say unequivocally, we've seen everyone grow as actors, maybe with the exception of Tom Cavanagh, and Jesse Martin who were fully developed when the show started.

"But Candice Patton, and Carlos Valdes, and Danielle Panabaker ... Danielle was very seasoned as well when the show started, but, myself included, I know I've come a long way, as far as my confidence, and my craft, and doing this type of work, with this type of turnaround. And I know I can say the same for those cast members, Candice, and Carlos, especially, I think all three of us hadn't had much film or TV experience.

"Watching the show, I see personally so much growth in us as actors. So I'm proud of that for all of us. And then to see all these guest stars that come in and out, like Mark Hamill, and to have John Wesley Shipp - his Flash show just had its 30th anniversary, I believe.

"We've had some pretty incredible guest stars come through, and I've learned a lot from them too. And it's just been cool to see them work, and to get to work with them. We've been really lucky. I mean, with Clancy Brown, back in season one, and all kinds of really cool, impressive actors have come through the show."

As the cast returns to film the seventh season, Gustin is ready for the future. He says, "Keep trying to level up. I'm preparing myself for whatever's beyond Flash too, but the character is really important to me. I know how important it is to a lot of the viewers, and I know how much bigger it is than me.

"Somebody else will play this down the line once I'm done playing this character, other than Ezra Miller, who's playing it now. But there'll be many different iterations of this character throughout the years. And again, I know how much bigger it is than me, and how important it is to people. And I feel super lucky to get to be a part of it. So I've always taken it very seriously, sometimes to a fault."

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