Not a lot is officially known about “The Flash,” The CW’s superhero spin-off from hit show “Arrow.” But based on current rumors, as well as the little official info we do know, it looks like the show may be the one to break the network’s reputation as “the home of shows with a bunch of white people on ‘em.”
On the two episodes of “Arrow” before the show’s winter break, the Flash’s civilian identity, Barry Allen, was played by actor Grant Gustin. Allen is set up as an assistant forensic scientist in his hometown’s CSI division, who is secretly using his position to look into the suspicious murder of his mother when he was a kid. By the end of the two-episode arc, Allen had gained powers (presumably) after getting hit by lightning and smashing into a shelf full of chemicals.
Reportedly, Warner Brothers execs were so happy with Gustin’s performance (and they should be, his episodes garnered record highs for the show) that they went straight to shooting a pilot for “The Flash,” rather than bothering with a back-door pilot on “Arrow.”
The pilot will be directed by David Nutter (who also directed the pilot for “Arrow”), and written by “Arrow” vets Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, as well as comic book writer Geoff Johns.
Here’s where things get interesting. Every hero needs a supporting cast, and traditionally on a CW show (or any show, really, let’s be honest: TV isn’t the most multi-cultural thing in the world) that would mean a bunch of white guys and girls, and one person of another ethnicity for good measure. For “The Flash,” that looks to be radically different.
The first note of change came when casting breakdowns for Allen’s love interest Iris West, and her father Detective West leaked on the Internet. In the comics, both characters are as white as driven snow, but on the casting breakdowns they were listed as African-American. “Ghostbusters” star Ernie Hudson even talked about going in for the role on a podcast, which seemed to confirm that bit of news.
Then on December 26 a rumor started going around that fellow DC Comics superhero Cisco Ramon, a.k.a. Vibe would be joining the show in a potentially recurring/sidekick role. If you couldn’t guess from the name, Vibe is Latino.
Add in a two more that could potentially be in the cast:
» Linda Park, an Asian-American reporter featured briefly on “Arrow” who in the comics went on to marry Allen’s successor Wally West.
» David Singh, Allen’s Indian American boss, who was name-checked on “Arrow” and would surely play some part in the pilot.
Other than Gustin, that’s an entire cast (potentially) of non-Caucasian characters. Now granted a lot of this is based on rumor and hearsay, and we could end up being entirely wrong. If they can change the ethnicity of the Wests from the comics, they could definitely change Singh, or Ramon to be Caucasian. Color-blind casting does go both ways.
But regardless, it will be interesting to see the show develop, and hopefully in this progressive direction. Unlike the speed at which the titular hero moves, this particular change on television, to a cast make-up that also reflects the world we live in today, has been a slow one.
“The Flash” premieres on The CW in Fall, 2014.