ByFred Topel, writer at
Fred Topel

The CW’s new superhero show [The Flash](movie:15273) won’t be on until October, but the buzz is speeding up fast. We all know The Flash is DC’s hero with super speed, but it took the success of Arrow on the CW to spin off The Flash in his own series. Grant Gustin appeared on an [Arrow](series:720988) episode as Barry Allen. In the first episode of The Flash, a particle accelerator accident gives Barry his powers.

The particle accelerator was an experiment of S.T.A.R. Labs, run by Harrison Wells. In the aftermath of the explosion, S.T.A.R. Labs is destroyed. All that’s left are Harrison and his two assistants Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes). With Barry showing new powers and abilities, the remaining S.T.A.R team is studying him closely. Cisco even designed a red suit with a lightning bolt on it for Barry.

Harrison Wells is played by Tom Cavanagh, perhaps best known for the TV rom-com Ed. Harrison is giving Barry unprecedented access to S.T.A.R. facilities, but we have a sneaking suspicion all is not what it seems with Harrison. When you watch the pilot, if you haven’t already seen it at Comic-Con, you might agree. So when I met Cavanagh at the CW party for the Television Critics Association this summer, I tried to find out what Harrison Wells is really up to. He, naturally, tried to deflect me with humor.

  Tom Cavanagh
Tom Cavanagh

What brought you back to TV? Because it was The Flash?

Well, they backed up the money truck thanks to my agent. That’s what it was. A man’s gotta eat.

Were you looking for anything on TV and The Flash came up, or were you a comic book fan already?

We were looking for stuff preferably that had a lot of nudity. When that wasn’t available, we looked at the comic book world.

Was Harrison Wells a character in the comic books?

It’s interesting. Harrison Wells is kind of a created character which I like, but he is and isn’t. People are just going to have to watch to get a better answer for that question.

I noticed the Easter egg at the end of the pilot, which I won’t spoil, but the date shown does tie in to some of the comic books. Is what Harrison Wells is up to from the comics, whether Harrison himself is or not?

Yeah, I don’t want to answer that but I like that you thought it through.

You’re welcome. What kind of mentor is Harrison to Barry?

Barry’s pulled in three different directions. He’s got his father in Iron Heights. He’s got his father figure in Det. Joe West and then he’s got the man who is basically sheparding him into this whole new experience, new world, and that’s Harrison.

Did you understand the duplicity of Harrison right away? Did you have questions for the producers?

I understood pretty much everything about Harrison from the beginning.

Do Caitlin and Cisco work for Harrison or are they all going rogue?

No, they had the incident at the place so basically they’re a rogue crew but they are together as a rogue crew. Cisco, Caitlin and Harrison don’t have individual designs. They’re trying to do things collectively.

This might be a very basic question but did you have to learn how to do wheelchair stuff?

It’s not a basic question. It’s funny, when I talked to the guys about it, the wheelchair is a significant story point so I’m not going to say too much about it. I had anticipated a throwback thing. This thing the props department came with is for 2014, with a lot of bells and whistles. It’s not the easiest, most easily operable thing. Right now I’m like a race car driver. It’s incredible how I can maneuver that sucker around, but I didn’t know that I was going to have such a steep learning curve and it was actually kind of fun to do.

Does Harrison want Barry out there fighting crime and defeating bad guys? Is that good or bad for S.T.A.R. Labs?

Here’s what I’ll say. Barry is good for Harrison.

Is there a lot of technical fantasy science you need to learn?

I think out of all the actors on this show, the character of Caitlin has it, I’m not going to say the worst, but she’s got the most challenges, which she handles deftly.

Have you become a comic book fan doing The Flash?

No, I wouldn’t say so. I think I’ve always operated at what I thought was a pretty high level of comic book acumen, until I got this job and realized that I’m very much on the lower end of the spectrum in terms of knowledge. That’s nice, because I wouldn’t say I’m exactly a neophyte but the learning of it has been really enjoyable.

How would you describe the energy on set with you, Grant, Danielle, Carlos and the superhero world?

I would say the energy is spectacular. I would say there’s a certain pulse to The Flash right now. Clearly if there’s no viewership, that just goes away and we have no control over that. Right now, we’re going forth feeling that pulse. It’s very exciting for us and on set you feel that energy.

Did you go back and watch Arrow to see what led up to this?

No, the pilot was very self-contained for us. I was already familiar with Arrow. The nice thing about what the guys are trying to do, and I think it’s good because it’s a pretty smart move for The CW because they’re known for a certain demographic, and yet there’s no age limit to the comic book world. Moreover, if you look at what happens in multiplexes these days, people gravitate to the superhero world and it’s not just comic book ball park, it’s everybody. So for The CW it’s a smart move, bringing in a larger demographic and a demographic that is large and already exists. What they’re doing is if you have been for decades a Flash fan, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re just coming to it for the first time, we’re starting at ground zero essentially. This pilot is essentially the genesis of the Flash, so anyone who has a cursory interest can lock on and be rewarded.

Did you have any idea there’d be three new comic book shows starting this fall?

Three? What’s the third?

It’s you, Gotham and Constantine.

What’s Gotham now? And what’s Constantine? I don’t know of those other two. No, more power to ‘em.

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