If your exposure to the World’s Fastest Man comes exclusively from his hit CW series, or from his earlier animated adventures on Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, you may be surprised to hear that Barry Allen isn’t the only Flash. In fact, he wasn’t even the first guy to bear the moniker. That achievement belongs to the man who made an unexpected appearance at S.T.A.R. Labs at the end of last week’s Season 2 premiere—Jay Garrick.
The original Flash first debuted in 1940’s THE FLASH COMICS #1 before being replaced by Barry Allen in 1956. However, after 1961’s landmark story “Flash of Two Worlds” reintroduced Jay Garrick as being alive and well on a different, alternate Earth known as Earth-2, the character came back strong, remaining a vital member of Earth-2’s Justice Society of America to the present day. However, while Jay Garrick did make an episode appearance on Smallville and was a character in the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Young Justice, he’s never really been developed as a character in live action… until now.
Tonight’s episode of The Flash, “Flash of Two Worlds” (yes, just like the comic—fans should look for a fun tribute to the story’s iconic cover in the episode), begins where last week’s ended and features a much more substantial role for Garrick as well as the first official mention of Earth-2 on the show. It’s a crucial episode, and therefore, the time felt perfect to sit down with the man behind The Flash’s version of the iconic character. Here’s what actor Teddy Sears had to say about bringing a bit of comic’s Golden Age to prime time.
What’s it like helping to bring Jay Garrick to the screen for largely the first time?
I didn’t anticipate how thrilling it was going to be when I said yes. I mean, besides the sort of obvious stuff—suddenly I’m eight years old running around in the backyard, playing super heroes with my friends. That’s sort of a given that that would happen. But what I didn’t anticipate was how important it felt when I was doing it. Most specifically putting on that helmet. There’s a scene where I’m reunited with my helmet for the first time. I remember shooting it and there was a real sense of awe and reverence for seeing this thing. That was absolutely not acted at all. There was such substance in that moment. You just keep coming back to this feeling of “Wow!”
It’s clear you know a lot about Jay and seem really excited about bringing him to the screen. Were you a comic book fan prior to getting the role?
Very much so. Admittedly, I didn’t read The Flash when I was a kid. I knew who he was, of course. You can’t be a boy and play sports and not known who the Flash is because everyone out there wants to be the fastest. But yeah, I still have some comics. I have the very early Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I have early Wolverines. I have The ‘Nam. I’m a super nerd too—I have also Darkwing Duck in my collection. Stuff that doesn’t make me cool at all, but that I liked when I was a kid.
But I got really excited when I got this opportunity. I don’t want to say I dove into the comics because Andrew Kreisberg was really big on saying that we’re not necessarily going to mirror what has been done in the past. There have just been so many iterations. We’re going honor certain things, but we also want to make it fresh. But I did start reading some JSA. I wanted to familiarize myself with his world—who his friends and enemies were. I’ve just been geeking out over it, man. I just love it.
So you’ve been reading up on Jay Garrick, but you really are building your own take on it as well?
Yes, absolutely. While I’m educating myself on the landscape and the mythology, I really am making it my own. That’s one thing that Andrew Kreisberg was really insistent on. Bringing a lot of what the writers’ current intentions are, what I’m feeling about the character, bringing those things and fleshing them out in 2015 and not trying to play 1940s Jay Garrick. But I don’t think you can separate the two necessarily, especially aesthetically. Thank goodness they didn’t try to age up the helmet. They kept it a WWI-era helmet, but they did modernize the suit while keeping the original lightning bolt. So they’re really trying to achieve a balance between the two.
But I also think Jay Garrick is kind of an old school guy. He’s a physicist and chemist who has some years on Barry. He’s got more life experience. He’s a bit more world weary than young, eager Barry Allen. So all of those things I try to keep in mind while also doing what’s on the page and interacting with these wonderful characters at S.T.A.R. Labs.
Speaking of those characters, I was thinking about how so many of the characters on the show have lost something or someone, including now Jay Garrick. What sort of impact would you say that has on the characters’ group dynamic? Is that one of the reasons they’d come to embrace someone like Jay?
Yeah, I think that’s a very good point. Not surprisingly Barry’s not really sure about this stranger who comes in and says he is this person, specifically after what Barry experienced in Season One. But as these guys get to know each other and spend time one-on-one, and as Jay begins to prove his worth and teach Barry some things he didn’t know he was capable of doing, I think there is this sense that he’s one of us. I would imagine that having just lost his speed, something that’s very near and dear to him, that Jay does find himself on this island of misfit toys. He’s one of them, but then again they have all this loss in common. That can’t help but to bond people to one another.
Jay Garrick has such a retro costume, and yet it works onscreen and on you. How did you pull that off?
That was really fun. I wasn’t sure what they were going to do. You look at when he was introduced in the 1940s—is it his old football jersey that he puts on? I wasn’t sure how they were going to handle it, but they’ve successfully modernized it with this really cool, almost motorcycle jacket-like aesthetic. The jacket’s wonderful—it’s all good, the pants, the boots, but it’s really the helmet. The helmet sort of caps the whole thing off.
I love what they did to the helmet. If you look at it, it’s been around. It’s beaten up. It’s got the dings. It’s got a wonderful patina to it. It’s seen its share of battles. So the detail that the team put into it to have it arrive with a story and a history, that’s really what does it. As far as me making it work, they just took my measurements, man!
How would you describe Caitlin’s relationship with Jay? It almost seems like she has something of a crush on him.
There’s sort of a connection that these two have—a comfort level that you don’t get with too many people. I think they’re going to explore that a little bit. Jay and Caitlin are part of this bigger team at S.T.A.R. Labs and they’re going to have this series of interactions that I think we’re going to explore a little bit.
Fans will be pleased to see that the “hard water” origin story is intact! What did it take for you to sell that very Golden Age origin to a modern viewer?
Well, there are two stories—there’s a “heavy water” origin and a “hard water” one. It was hard water earlier in the comic and then it became heavy water. The hardest thing is not selling heavy water or hard water. It’s saying the “particle accelerator exploded.” Just saying that. We all laugh about how that’s just a hard combination of sounds to get out of your mouth. That’s sort of the harder sell.
It wasn’t too difficult imagining that this is who I was and I had that kind of life. Something happened and now I’m this. It wasn’t difficult to internalize it and sell it. There’s a sort of wistfulness that maybe comes from that. Also an excitement and a confusion. I just imagine what that would be like—sitting inside one day and suddenly something happens and your whole life’s different. That’s not too difficult to imagine even in modern day.
We know what Jay Garrick does on Earth-2. But if there’s a Teddy Sears on Earth-2, what do you suppose his story is?
That’s a good question because it wouldn’t parallel what you’re doing on Earth-1, necessarily. Okay, I’ll tell you what. I always wanted to be a professional hockey player and I was never even close to being good enough. So let’s go with that.
So how DOES Jay keep that hat on when he runs?
Duct tape and chewing gum?
It’s very much a work in progress, especially because the helmet is heavy. They really did it right—it’s a really heavy helmet. But since you asked, there are lighter versions. There are clear chin straps that we’ve used for certain fight sequences. There are some little tricks of the trade, but I like to just say it’s the Speed Force. The Speed Force just keeps it on his head.
Do you think when this season’s done there will be some good blooper reel footage involving the helmet?
Oh man, we had a volume after episode two! Trying to do this fight sequence, we had this whole sequence choreographed that we quickly had to chuck because we realized that as soon as Jay Garrick takes a punch and his head snaps back this helmet’s going to fly across the room like a discus. So I think it’s safe to say you’re going to get your fill at the end of the season.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on The CW. For more on Jay Garrick and the other Flashes, be sure to check out our Flash 101 feature, and for an introduction to Earth-2, don’t miss last week’s DC All Access video.