Tonight’s eagerly anticipated new episode of The Flash kicks off this year’s two-part crossover with its sister show Arrow. In the process, it introduces a character arriving on the small screen after first being introduced on the comic page 75 years ago—the winged warrior known as Hawkman. Brought to life by actor Falk Hentschel, Hawkman will make his debut in this week’s crossover before reemerging in a big way as part of next year’s DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. For fans of the high-flying hero, it’s a moment that’s been many years in the making. But for Green Arrow, the Flash and the rest of their friends and allies, it’s a harbinger of likely doom, since hot on Hawkman’s heels is the immortal despot known as Vandal Savage.
We recently had a chance to speak with Hentschel about tonight’s blockbuster episode, which manages to outdo last year’s crossover in both action and stakes. Here’s what he had to say.
So how did you find yourself playing Hawkman? How did that come about?
I was in Germany, visiting my niece, and I got this notice about the Hawkman character. We went back and forth a couple of times. We did a few tapes. Then I got the notice in Europe that I was going to start working in September. It actually happened really fast. Usually it’s a long process.
Did you know anything about Hawkman at the time?
I did. To be honest with you, I don’t think I’ve ever read a comic of his, but I knew his backstory, which is also what drew me to him. However, the version I knew is the one we didn’t go with, and that’s the one where he’s an alien with the Nth metal.
Yeah, there are a few different versions of the character, and I know the fans are curious about which variation they might see on the show. It’s Carter Hall, right?
So how does he find himself in Central City?
He is actually after Kendra, Hawkgirl, who doesn’t know yet that she’s Hawkgirl. He tracks her down to Star City and she’s with Flash and Arrow. They actually see him as a major threat because he just swoops in and picks her up, and she has no idea who he is. So when we start out, we’re not friends.
Hawkman and Hawkgirl certainly have an interesting relationship in the comics, how would you describe it in the crossover and in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow?
Bickering! Carter comes into this telling Kendra, “Oh, we’ve done this hundreds of times. You’ll love me. You’ll get there. You may not love me now, but you’ll remember.” And meanwhile, she’s just like, “Who are you? You’re nuts.”
That dynamic keeps going. I feel like we disagree most of the time, but in a fun, loving way. Obviously, as we go on, there’s that 4,000-year-old attraction that’s just sort of undeniable.
In the comics, Hawkman often has a contentious relationship with many of the other heroes. How does Carter get along with the Flash and Green Arrow?
To be honest with you, pretty well. We start out with a major fight—Flash and Green Arrow against Hawkman. They also think he’s a bit crazy at first. Arrow is the one who eventually points out that what he’s saying actually makes sense—Cisco’s seen Kendra with the wings and we’ve seen him with them as well. Flash is the one who’s uncomfortable with Hawkman’s ideas about getting Kendra to become Hawkgirl. I mean, I just want to throw her off the roof and tell her to fly!
So they take some time to warm up to me, but they eventually do.
Vandal Savage is the villain in the crossover, and he’s going to be a big character as well on Legends. How would you describe him to people who aren’t familiar with him?
Intense. Intense, but also fun. He’s friendly most of the time, and then he’ll switch on a dime and turn on that sort of satanic evil of his. He’s just extremely unpredictable, and Casper Crump is doing a terrific job at that. Plus, he looks perfect. I saw the comics and then looked at him and was like, “You’re the guy.” He looks exactly like the comic.
How big of a threat would you say he is to the people of the world?
Huge. He’s one of those bad guys who really believes that what he’s doing is good for the world. He doesn’t want world domination for selfish reasons. He believes he needs to cleanse the world to make it a better place. He thinks he’s altruistic, ultimately. I think that is always the most dangerous villain that you can have—somebody that’s purely convinced that this is the right and loving thing to do for the planet.
Does Carter have a history with Vandal Savage prior to the crossover?
Oh yes, they go back 4,000 years. What we’re doing is that they got intertwined when these comets hit and their life forces are now shared. We reincarnate, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and he becomes immortal. He’ll die and just come right back. There’s also a sort of love triangle that’s been going on for 4,000 years.
What are you most excited for Hawkman fans to finally see on the screen?
What I hope is that we found a good mix of everyone’s intentions. My personal intention that I was fighting hard for was that I wanted him to have a sense of humor. He’s been around 4,000 years, and I’ve see him as if you don’t get it by now, that you need to let go a little bit and be lighter with life, then you might never get it. But at the same time, he has this gravitas. He has a lot of really important things to share about some dangerous things to the world that everybody really needs to hear and understand. I’m hoping that we struck a really nice balance between a serious super hero and someone lighter. I mean, he’s died 206 times. If he died again, he probably wouldn’t be too worried about it.
Finally, what can you tell us about DC’s Legends of Tomorrow?
As a fan and as an actor, to be on a show with nine super heroes was pretty inspiring and also a little shocking. It’s ginormous. You have nine awesome, big personalities that you’re working with all the time. Especially in the pilot. We have a lot of nine-people scenes. Just from an actor’s point of view, that was pretty mind blowing. We were wondering how we were going to even get it done. Also, I love the fact that the cast they put together for this couldn’t be more different from one to the next—from Victor to Franz to Wentworth . Everybody is amazing and very unique. I love that about it. I’m just very grateful and thankful for the cast, the team and the crew.
Part one of the Arrow/Flash crossover event, “Legends of Today,” airs tonight at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on The CW.