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The Flash's Tom Cavanagh Explains How He's Not 'Completely' Leaving, Takes Speedy Trip Down Memory Lane

Flash Tom Cavanagh

Though we hear that Tom Cavanagh has one final Flash appearance ahead of him (and it may be sooner than you think!), the versatile actor contends that even once that has aired, he won’t be gone gone.

As recently reported, Cavanagh soon will wrap his run with the CW series, and in fact he completed his stint as a series regular a few weeks into Season 6. TVLine spoke with the assorted Wellses’ portrayer about how Reverse Flash will always be with us, the pros and cons of supersuits, underappreciated costars and much more.

TVLINE | You already gave my esteemed peer Chancellor Agard a great interview about why you’re leaving. But to sum it up, it sounds like you given the show the best you’ve got… and vice versa.
Yeah, not to go over old territory, but having a show that offers you any modicum of job security is such a boon and a privilege. I play basically the Joker to the Batman, and the Batman is always going to need the Joker, Superman is always going to need Lex Luthor, and Flash is always going to need Reverse Flash, and that’s who I play. I think we’re always aware that that guy, the antihero, the guy’s real nemesis is always going to be out there lurking, which allows me to leave the show without completely leaving the show, in a good way. It’s always a little more heartbreaking to leave a thing that you’ve spent a lot of time doing when you know that it’s game over and you’re not going to see anybody again. This is kind of the best of both worlds, and I’m grateful for that.

TVLINE | Are you leaving anything on the table, Tom? Any accent, any persona for Wells that we never got to?
It’s already a massive exercise in shamelessness on my part. [Chuckles] But there are maybe a few others in the back pocket. You never know. There are a few more where I’m like, “Oh, this guy would be fun!” I was running one by Grant Gustin, and it wasn’t so much an accent as an EAGER LINE DELIVERY!, and we both were like, “Oh that guy is really annoying.” I was like, “Yeah, he could fit in really well.”

TVLINE | Ever workshop one where showrunner Eric Wallace or someone was like, “Ehhh, no. Too much.”
Largely I’ve been left to my own devices, which is kind of nice. I sort of floated the Sherloque character in Season 2, but Greg Berlanti was like, “Well, Harry is kind of an antisocial ball of anger.”

Our first season was Flash vs. Reverse Flash, which was so darn enjoyable, and the screenwriting was t-a-u-t taut. And as you know, in television, a lot of times that is how you start out. Like, I’m watching this show Broadchurch right now, and Olivia Colman might be the best actor on the planet. And I’m like, “This is fantastic, but how do you do Season 2?” I don’t know this to be true, but I got the sense they were like, “We’re going to tell this story and if we get the numbers, we’ll figure out Season 2 when we get to it!” That’s more often than not a lot of the case in television.

Greg and I came off doing two shows together and neither of them lasted very long. Greg wanted one season of Flash on his desk and when it became apparent that there was going to be more than one, we were like, “What a lovely problem to have!” We thought, “Well if you can’t have Flash vs. Reverse Flash every season, instead of having an overarching antagonist, what if we had a daily antagonist?” Grant [Gustin] and Danielle [Panabaker] and Candice [Patton], Jesse [L. Martin], Carlos [Valdes], they’re all so winning personality-wise, and my thought was, “What if we had a guy who really wasn’t?” [Laughs] What if he’s just throwing a wrench in the works and wasn’t likeable? That was the genesis of Harry, and the fact that he came from another Earth led to, “Maybe there are others out there!”

Flash BarryTVLINE | What did you think of the episode where Grant had to channel a few of the Wellses?
That was so funny because Grant has a certain effortlessness with which he can deliver story, and I don’t think he necessarily gets credit for how prepared and how good an actor he is, and how hard he works to make it seem effortless. He has Barry Allen in his wheelhouse, and The Flash, and it’s very easy for him at this stage to drop right into those characters. But when he had to channel my guys, that professionalism came out in him — in the form of terror. [Laughs] So he was like, “Do the line for me. How would you say…?” And then he was spectacular with it. I found it quite annoying that he was a better me than I was. But good on him.

Flash Cisco WellsTVLINE | One of the hallmarks of The Flash has been your banter with Carlos. Is there a certain serendipity that you’re both leaving around the same time?
First, I will say that I love Carlos Valdes; I just think he’s a great human being and a spectacular talent. I love sharing the screen with him. I’m going 2-for-2 when I say that he doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves, but in many ways he has sort of been the heart and soul of the show, in that he embodies both the science that we hang our hat on and the emotion and the poignancy. Carlos can do all those things, and rare is the actor that can. You see stuff behind his eyes, you see the weight of the decisions the characters have to make, and it translates to the audience.

When you do a long-running show, at some point, if you’re Cheers, it’s, “Let’s get the Cliff storyline out there! And the Woody storyline! It can’t be all Sam and Diane, and Sam and Rebecca!” Carlos and I were quite aware that on a show called The Flash you have to serve the Flash.

I love doing, as you say, our on-screen banter, and the nice thing about the relationship we have is we can sort of do that off-camera, too. That’s who we are, and since a lot of that stuff was never written, we fashioned it — like, “OK, I’m going to do this,” “And I’ll respond with this,” “And then I’ll be like this….” A lot of that ended up finding its way to the screen, which I think people respond to, because it was genuine.

Right now, as a matter of fact, I’m working on — and it seems crazy to say — a musical, of all things, based on the company MoviePass. [Laughs] We’ve got a pretty solid script at this point, we’ve got the music, we’ve gotten into the studio to record, and we had a read-through.  Carlos is one of the most talented musical people I’ve ever met so I roped him in for one of the leads, and one of the great pleasures of the past few months has been watching him soar in the studio. As you have seen on The Flash, he makes everything better.

Reverse FlashTVLINE | Which was more uncomfortable, the Pariah costume or Reverse Flash?
The Reverse Flash suit they crafted for months; it was like nine episodes in before I ever put that thing on. Those leather workers/artisans did such an incredible job, with fitting after fitting. With the Pariah suit, we were under the gun [to be ready for the crossover].

When crafting the Reverse Flash suit, we knew that guy has to be able to roll on concrete and jump off buildings. Pariah had to be less action-ready, so we could add more things to it. The collar alone, you could not have an item like that if there’s stunt work. I had, like, nine different levels of stuff that I was putting on!  It took [costume designer] Mary and I a good five minutes to suit up, which after a while you think, “Maybe I’ll complain about this….” But then you look to your left and Cress Williams has, like, three full-time costumers who would bring out fans in a box because his Black Lightning costume is such a big and powerful thing — and he would handle it all with such good nature. I wasn’t going to stand beside that guy and whine, when he’s been doing it for so many episodes. That was a good slap in the face.

Cavanagh Cress CrisisTVLINE | Was there anybody in the Arrowverse you regret you didn’t get to work with more?
That’s a great question…. And not to be politically correct, but I would spin it around to say I’m grateful I got to work with as many as I did. You know how massive an undertaking the crossovers are, and how they largely can’t be done. “OK, it takes us eight days to barely shoot one show. Now in these eight days let’s shoot four.” It’s an impossible undertaking, and the true heroes are the assistant directors who find a way to schedule it. “OK, Melissa Benoist can he here for an hour, then an hour travel time to the other set, and she can be there for four hours, and then…” It’s just incredible. And the fact that somebody like Melissa was as amenable and professional as she was to make it happen! Add in the fact that you got to rub shoulders with the cast from all these different shows and, well, that’s a rarity. That’s usually a one-off.

TVLINE | Back in the day, it was a massive deal if, like, Richard Belzer crossed over to one show from Law & Order. One person, for one episode of one other show!
You’re exactly right. I almost never keep this stuff, but we were on the Legends set for a crossover from two seasons ago, and there’s Cress and Brandon [Routh] and Caity [Lotz] and Melissa….. So I kept the call sheet, which is normally Grant Gustin, Tom Cavanagh, Candice Patton and maybe three other names. This thing was like a hundred names! [Laughs] Like, holy hannah! And that was just one day’s work. I’m happy that I got to work with as many of these people as I did. It was unexpected, and in the best way.

TVLINE | Lastly, what can we expect from the Superman & Lois season finale that you’re directing (airing Aug. 17). Have you seen a script yet?
I sort of know the direction that it’s going in….

TVLINE | David Ramsey told me it’s a whole other world for directors over there, working with anamorphic lenses and everything.
The lustre and the glow they’re putting on that screen is exemplary, and the idea that you get to be a part of one of the top franchises on television, and one that is being rebooted in an intelligent way, with heart and family bonds…. Getting to direct that finale, I’m truly looking forward to it.

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