5 QUESTIONS with “The Flash” JOHN WESLEY SHIPP
The legendary actor answers some questions about meeting fans on the convention circuit and teases the upcoming climax as The Flash heads into the final act of Season 8 and beyond!
For fans of the genre shows that dominate in primetime and across most subscriber services, the convention circuit is among one of the best ways to gather and meet like-minded individuals, dress up in your most inspired cosplay, and especially get up close and personal with some of the stars of your favorite series. As we start to move out of the global pandemic that has kept many of us in closed quarters and at a safe distance, most comic cons that had been scaled back, are starting to get back into the swing of things.
Among the stars that fans have enjoyed most getting the opportunity to meet in person, John Wesley Shipp is always a draw, and “The Flash” actor is looking forward to meeting his public and sharing some smiles this convention season. Having starred on the original CBS primetime critical hit as CSI investigator Barry Allen turned superhero in the 1990s The Flash and returned to The CW 2014 reboot opposite Grant Gustin who assumed the lead role for the reboot, as “Henry Allen”, Barry’s father wrongly accused of murdering his wife, while the real killer wreaked havoc for our hero!
The 2-time Emmy Award-Winning actor’s particularly unique insertion into this world has given him a perspective unlike any of his fellow cast mates in the DC primetime universe. Shipp was there to witness his son fulfill his destiny of becoming the Fastest Man Alive, and assumed the role of the “Golden Age” hero Jay Garrick while returning to his original 1990 heroic roots to help save the multiverse from a “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, and continues to inspire the next generation of heroes when it was revealed that Garrick was part of Stargirl’s original Justice Society of America.
We caught up with John and asked him about the upcoming conclusion to The Flash and where else he’ll be making appearances this coming season in primetime:
5 Question With…
Q: It’s been a pretty turbulent season for Barry (Grant Gustin) and the rest of Team Flash on The CW’s THE FLASH, starting with “Armageddon”! How has the “Golden Age” Flash, Jay Garrick been handling it all especially as the season begins to move into its last “graphic novel” for this year?
SHIPP: We’ve seen Jay primarily in the future: 2049 — we see him surprising Bart and Nora that he is alive. I love these scenes, as Jay is extremely protective and sensitive toward “his” young speedsters. Also, we get to see Jay’s sense of humor as he teases about his meeting with “President Luther” in a fun gotcha moment. Of course, Garrick is always on hand when the going gets critical — in whatever timeline is called for — as we see in the Season 8 finale.
Q. Jay and Joan Williams (Michelle Harrison) have uniquely established themselves as a significant presence in the lives of XS and Impulse, Barry, and Iris's super-powered kids from the future. What’s it been like creating that relationship with those “next generation” heroes, and also inspiring them to perpetuate the legacy that is such an important component of The Flash mythology?
SHIPP: I am consistently amazed by how one season of THE FLASH in 1990-91 has resonated with the writers and audiences through multiple characters I have been given the opportunity to play in this franchise. I hope it’s because, whatever the role, I have reached inward to find the human element within the superhero context. I am delighted to be working with Jordan Fisher and Jessica Parker Kennedy, as they are extraordinary talents who bring their truth and A-game to the work. The opportunity to “mentor” these characters was one that I missed with Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) - the writers went in another direction - and I am enjoying every moment I share with XS and Impulse onscreen. It really helps that Jessica and Jordan totally sell their affection for Jay, an affection I certainly feel for them, both as characters and as colleagues.
Q. Speaking of legacy! On another CW hit series (that takes place inside the CW multiverse) DC’s STARGIRL you’ve crossed over and established that Jay Garrick was a part of the Justice Society of America, a team of heroes that predates the Modern Age and Heroes, and has inspired Stargirl (Brec Bassinger) to continue to carry the torch. So far, you’ve been the only other hero to venture into that world setting up a great bit of history. What is it like to know that The Flash/Jay Garrick has had a place in inspiring Stargirl and the rest of the new JSA to follow in his footsteps? What does Jay Garrick’s history prove about heroism?
SHIPP: I consider it a great honor to have been chosen to officially bring DC’s STARGIRL into the ARROW/CW-VERSE. There is a continuity with my being the one to do it - having already joined disparate universes together in the past - that the writers have used to soothe even the viewers who initially wanted to keep DC’s STARGIRL separate, its own entity. The fact that I am positioned to fill that role fills me with pride and gratitude. Like the character, it is good to play Jay Garrick in his seat of authority on DC’s STARGIRL, with the Justice Society in full swing and the Justice League still in the future. An audience member told me that I seem more like Jay Garrick on DC’s STARGIRL than they had seen me be on THE FLASH. For the reason mentioned, I certainly feel that: a hero in his element as opposed to the equally enjoyable mentor/Uncle Jay role. If anything, I hope my participation demonstrates that heroism is ongoing, it does not have an expiration date. Once we set the bar, we are never off the hook, so to speak, of the standards, we have set for ourselves.
Q. Given all the characters you’ve had the opportunity to play in the DC multiverse (Henry Allen, Jay Garrick, Barry Allen/Earth-90), is there one that is closest to your heart? What part of that character’s story has been the most exciting moment to play?
SHIPP: Of course, Barry Allen being the first “Flash” character that I played in the critically-acclaimed Warner Bros/CBS version in the 90s, that character holds a special place in my heart. My Barry set the stage for all of the franchise roles I’ve assumed going forward. It was also my first big-budget prime time series in which I was able to meaningfully contribute to the tenor and the tone of the project. So I will always love that one. I also revisited my Barry as a reference for when I went on to play Professor Zoom, Henry Allen, and particularly Jay Garrick. Of course, it was a trip to bring Barry back to complete his journey in The CW THE FLASH ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’. Playing Barry Allen, and having been associated with that role for 24 years, set me up to fill out the character of Henry Allen opposite a younger version of Barry brilliantly portrayed by Grant Gustin. I wouldn’t trade those father/son scenes in The CW THE FLASH for anything… it was the perfect way to hand the franchise off to a fine young man and actor who certainly has proven his metal over 8 seasons! Remarkable. Jay Garrick is the character I am uniquely qualified to play now, given my history with the franchise. I look forward to discovering more and more of him as I continue playing him on 2 different shows.
Q. With the world returning to some bit of normalcy, it must be great to reconnect with fans on the convention circuit. Are you looking forward to your visit to Smallville Comic-Con in Kansas this month? What is the best part of meeting with the public?
SHIPP: Conventions fill in the gap left by the absence of a live audience in the studio. I think being raised the son of a minister in which I’ve consistently had contact with people at emotionally important times in their lives, leads me to embrace the moments when THE FLASH supporters relate to me what the characters I play have meant to them, to their lives, family relationships, how these characters have given them comfort and/or helped them grow emotionally. The pieces of themselves that they discover in the way I play a character, a scene, or even a moment, create a bond between us that I think would be duplicated in very few other professions. People will apologize to me for becoming emotional with me. It is important for me to let them know that when they take the risk to open themselves to me in this private and personal way, it is a beautiful act of trust. They are giving me a gift greater than they can possibly imagine.
You can meet John Wesley Shipp when he appears this season at a convention coming to a city near you. John will be appearing at Smallville Comic-Con, June 18-19 and for details check out the info here smallvillecomiccon.com.
THE FLASH | Season 8 continues to air Wednesdays at 8 PM on The CW.