John Wesley Shipp...Back In The Suit
Summer may be signaling the last of its record breaking heat across the country (we hope), but for fans of the hit CW show The Flash fall couldn't come soon enough. For actor John Wesley Shipp Season 2 couldn't have been more remarkable, with the most unpredictable whiplash of a twist that threw him back headlong into the midst of the Speed Force. John has a unique connection to The Flash franchise having originated the role of CSI investigator Barry Allen in the 1990 prime time series that premiered on CBS, and was invited much to the delight of his fans to become an integral part of the contemporary reboot starring Grant Gustin.
When John was approached about being initiated into the new action series, he had his trepidations about what the producers might have in mind. Having already established a working relationship with Greg Berlanti -- the two worked together during a run on the popular Kevin Williamson drama Dawson's Creek on The WB (the predecessor to The CW) -- John was interested in how the new show would evolve. After meeting with DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns it became apparent that Berlanti and his team, including co-conspirator Andrew Kreisberg were excited to integrate John into their cast, in the role of Henry Allen.
Rumors began to circulate that John would be joining the new cast, and many anticipated he would be playing Jay Garrick, the original Golden Age Flash. "If I'd been asked to play any other character, I don't know if I would have been as interested to join the show," the actor said. "Henry Allen was the perfect way in for me; to bring me into The Flash. It would be completely different than what I'd done before as The Flash. Henry was all new." As the wrongly convicted heart surgeon, father and husband, John spent most of the show's First Season incarcerated in Iron Heights Prison, playing most of his moments behind glass and opposite Gustin. Their heartfelt moments between father and son delivered some of the season's most memorable and powerful moments. "It was easy working with Grant," John said, "because we were both getting to the truth of this father and his son relationship. Our scenes served to reveal a side of Barry we wouldn't see anywhere else inside of that hour -- the human side."
John has nothing but high praise for his entire cast, but reserves the most affection and respect for the series' star Grant Gustin. "He's exceptional and handles it all so well; with grace and enthusiasm. I can't help but feel proud of him." So you can imagine that after spending more than 14 years locked up in a fictional jail cell, before finally becoming a free man in the Season 2 premiere episode, Henry Allen might have wanted to stick around Central City and make up for lost time with his son, the Fastest Man Alive.
"But it's like Henry says in the episode...can Barry be everything he needs to be, worrying about his dad," added the actor, "and can Grant come into his own, with John watching over his shoulder. It's an interesting parallel." John's logic is sound, but fans were broken hearted when Henry essentially walked out on Barry, or at least it looked that way. "Henry would always be there for Barry, when he needed him," says the actor, "and he comes back to Central City when Barry needs him the most." Perhaps it was inevitable -- at the conclusion of Season 2, and after a lengthy battle with the evil speedster ZOOM, Henry Allen is murdered!
It's a turning point for Barry, who now feels the weight of having lost both of his parents to circumstances beyond his control, and when ZOOM's captive -- the man in the iron mask -- is rescued by Team Flash, no one could have imagined what came next! ZOOM had not only stolen the powers of a speedster, but also the identity of another. When the iron mask came off, we learned that the man being held captive by ZOOM was none other than Jay Garrick/The Flash of Earth-3 -- and he looks just like Henry Allen!
To put that into the most "meta" terms: The actor John Wesley Shipp, who originated the role of Barry Allen in the 1990's CBS primetime series The Flash, returned to The CW 2014 The Flash as Barry Allen's father Henry Allen, is murdered, and has been recast as the "original" Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick for the upcoming new season! Once a Flash, always a Flash, but it would seem as if John Wesley Shipp, was born to play this role -- it was in fact the role that fans assumed he would be cast in when his name became connected with the reboot. The news of the recasting even came as a surprise to John.
"I just thought, what a great idea," he said. "What a gift to the fans. They all thought I was going to be Jay Garrick, but I was so grateful to have been given the role of Henry to play first. Henry's story has already been written, but as for Jay Garrick -- well, that's a whole other story. The possibilities are endless!" The audience is certainly hoping that will be the case, especially as bits of plot lines began to surface revealing that Barry causes a "Flash Point" event, basically rewriting history for himself. Comic book fans of the book by Geoff Johns of the same name have an idea of what's to come.
So what will that mean for Barry? What will that mean for Henry? In fact, what does that mean for Jay Garrick even? John knows about as much as the rest of us do, and he doesn't have any plans to ruin anything for the fans. "Who knows what's going to happen," John said, "but isn't it wonderful? Anything can happen!" With rumors circling that the Justice Society of America would be connected to DC's Legends of Tomorrow is it possible (perhaps inevitable) that Jay Garrick will play into that arc? "I don't know," John admitted. "We'll have to wait and see, but it's a big, television universe that we have to play in."
Back in uniform, 25 years after his own series ended (prematurely by some opinions) and having grounded himself in the more realistic role of Henry Allen first, John Wesley Shipp is ready to join the speed force once again, and show the new kids on the block exactly what he's made of. "It's certainly a lot of fun, and there is some pressure -- I mean, I'm running around in a super suit, next to a bunch of 20-somethings, playing one of DC Comics biggest icons...but Grant is so enthusiastic about it how could I not jump in?" With Season 3 of The Flash ready to premiere in October, fans are bracing themselves -- The CW just got real super in primetime.
John Wesley Shipp returns to The Flash in Season 3, and will be appearing this weekend at Terrificon, the Terrific Comic-Con, at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT, Aug 19 - 21.