When filming tonight’s all new episode of The Flash, Danielle Panabaker had to contend with shocking revelations, frightening new villains and perhaps most intimidating of all, asking her fellow actors if they’d mind doing another take. The gifted actress, who has played Caitlin Snow since the show’s 2014 debut, is making her directing debut with tonight’s episode, which picks up right where the show left off before going on its spring hiatus—with the revelation that Barry and Iris’s daughter, Nora, had been secretly working with the Reverse-Flash since she first made herself known to them.
Panabaker’s episode, “Godspeed,” promises to answer the question likely being asked by Team Flash and its millions of fans—why? Yet, that answer is just a part of what promises to be one of the season’s most pivotal episodes. It also gives us a look into Nora’s day-to-day life in the year 2049, reveals the emotional fallout caused by the shocking revelation, brings new turmoil to Barry and Iris’s marriage and introduces a popular new villain from Flash’s comic book universe. It would be plenty for even the most seasoned television director to juggle, let alone an actor new to the task. Yes, Panabaker manages to get some pretty impressive moments out of her fellow cast members, enough to make us hope that this isn’t her last time in the director’s chair.
We had the chance to talk some Flash with Panabaker recently, who let us know how she wound up directing such a key episode, how it felt introducing a new villain and whether she’d prefer to share her body and mind with Caitlin Snow or Killer Frost. Surprisingly, we managed to make it through the entire interview without any ice puns. Barely.
Let’s get the obvious question out of the way. How did you wind up directing an episode of The Flash? Was that always something you wanted to do?
I think I’d always paid attention. I’ve been acting for over fifteen years, and I’ve always been fascinated by the way all the different artists come together to make a television show or a movie and just the collaborative process between them. When I saw Tom Cavanagh direct in season 3, that’s when it really occurred to me to start asking if directing was a possibility for me. So, I did the Warner Bros. directing program last summer and got a directing spot.
Having now directed an episode, does it change the way you view your job as an actor?
I don’t think so. I think that’s part of the reason that I felt so comfortable with directing because I’ve always understood that an actor’s role in making a television show, while important, is not the only piece of the puzzle. So, I don’t think it will particularly affect my acting. Maybe it has, but I like to think that it hasn’t.
How was it directing a cast that you work with regularly? Do you think it made it easier, or more challenging?
Hopefully, it made it easier. They were incredibly generous, kind and open with me. Hopefully, my relationship with them over the past five years, as they’ve seen what a professional I am and how seriously I take my job, I hope it led them to have faith in me. I think they did. They trusted me, and I did my best to give them a space to play and really do their best work.
So, what can you tell us about your episode of The Flash?
It starts as a direct pickup from [our last episode]. Team Flash has just discovered this bombshell that Nora’s been working with Reverse-Flash all season, and it starts with them trying to understand how and why she could have done this. So, they look to her journal and they try to unravel this mystery of why Nora behaves the way she does. That takes us to the year 2049, where we see Nora West-Allen as a young CSI. We come to understand her relationship with her mother a little bit more and also why turns to Thawne for advice.
What’s some of the fallout between Nora and her parents?
It’s sort of the biggest betrayal that Barry could ever fathom that his own daughter would be working with the Reverse-Flash, the man who killed his mother in front of him when he was a child. He feels a lot of betrayal from that. It’s a struggle for him. I think his hurt is a little bit different than Iris’s, and she doesn’t quite understand immediately. So, they’re going to have some struggles both as a couple and as parents on how to deal with this.
The episode is called “Godspeed,” which is the name of a Flash villain from the comics. Is that a coincidence, or will we be seeing him in the episode?
I’m so excited that we will in fact see Godspeed in this episode. I think it’s cool that it’s pretty much the only time we’ve had a speedster villain this season. Obviously, aside from Reverse- Flash, but he hasn’t been doing a lot of running. I actually reached out to DC to get comic books to understand more about Godspeed and to see his powers and how they look. Just to get as much information as possible.
He’s a newer villain. Were you at all familiar with him before you got the episode?
I was not familiar with him before I directed, but I did my best to learn everything about him so I could portray him well.
The relationship between Caitlin Snow and Killer Frost is one of the more interesting ones on television right now. How would you describe it?
I didn’t know in season 1 that this is where we would be in season 5, but I do love this storyline. We’ve gotten to see how Caitlin feels about Killer Frost and how Killer Frost feels about Caitlin, and this interesting, unique dynamic where there are essentially two different people inhabiting the same body. It’s a unique thing on Flash and in our universe, and it’s a cool story to tell. I think it’s been a lot of fun to see them figure out how to communicate with each other all season.
It feels like they’ve evolved from suspicion to now really needing each other. Do you think that’s a fair assessment?
I think it started as much more than suspicion—Killer Frost was trying to get rid of Caitlin and take control of this body entirely. They’ve sort of been wresting control from one another, and I think they’re more effectively coexisting now and are both quite protective of each other, which is nice to see.
As a performer, is it ever hard to keep them straight? Or has that been a fun challenge for you?
It’s not hard to keep them straight. I feel like Killer Frost is such a distinct personality, and I love Caitlin and I’ve been playing her so long. It’s fun!
If you, Danielle Panabaker, had to share your body with one of them, either Killer Frost or Caitlin Snow, which of them would you want it to be?
Oh, I don’t know… Maybe Caitlin Snow? I feel like she’s a little bit more methodical and cleanly. She’s certainly smarter. I think maybe she’d save me a few doctor’s bills.
Now that you have some experience with it, what superpower do you think would be the most useful for directing a TV show?
The superpower of effectively communicating what you’re asking for in the way that it can most easily be heard by the person you’re asking it from. I think that’s the biggest thing—being able to communicate with everyone and ask them for what you need in a way that they understand.
If that’s a superpower, it sounds like one you can actually achieve. Is that what you’re working on for the next time you direct?
Yeah, I’ll keep trying!
"Godspeed," directed by Danielle Panabaker airs tonight at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on The CW's The Flash. For the latest news, features and conversation on The Flash, click here.