The appeal of a superhero blessed with superspeed isn’t hard to grasp, but it was never just the powers of The Flash that attracted fans, but his many allies. It was Barry Allen’s successor, Wally West that came to represent the hero for an entire generation (thanks to animated TV shows and films), and while producers of the upcoming series aren’t promising anything just yet, they confirm that the hero could make an appearance “eventually.”
During The CW’s panel at this weekend’s PaleyFest (hat tip to TheWrap), The Flash executive producer and writer Andrew Kreisberg confirmed that the existence of Wally West is, indeed, on the showrunners’ minds. In fact, the casting of both Iris West (Candice Patton) and her father, Joe (Jesse L. Martin) was no coincidence. While he had previously been depicted as a red-haired Caucasian, the company-wide reboot that returned Barry to the role of the one and only Flash also cast Iris West’s nephew Wally as African-American.
Comic book enthusiasts can be just as critical and outspoken as movie fans when it comes to changing the ethnicity of heroes or villains, but DC – and the producers of The Flash – are standing behind their decision. In fact, it’s one that was made with both the TV show and comic in mind. That means that if and when Wally appears in the Flash/Arrow TV universe, he’ll do so resembling his latest incarnation:
“What’s very cool is in the New 52 they hadn’t reintroduced Wally [yet]. When they reintroduced Wally [in the New 52], they made him African-American. So now and forever, Kid Flash will be African-American.”
Executive producer Greg Berlanti (Arrow) reiterated the fact that the change in ethnicity was the plan from the beginning:
We made the West characters African American so we can eventually head in that direction, absolutely… That’s our hope.”
Fans shouldn’t look too deeply into Kreisberg or Berlanti’s comments as a confirmation that Wally will appear as he did in the comics, since the mere fact the the New 52 version of Iris West is not African-American – and that her father Joe has been created specifically for the TV show – proves the showrunners aren’t forced to strictly adhere to the comics.
Since it’s also unlikely that the show’s writer are already looking past establishing Grant Gustin’s Flash and Robbie Amell’s Firestorm, the important thing to take away from these comments is: DC re-imagined a famous character as African-American, and the show is following suit. The arrival of Wally as a costumed hero may be years away, but Kreisberg and co. have prepared their world for his arrival.
In the process, they have taken an even larger step forward than DC, by establishing that the West family (from Iris to Wally) is an African-American one. Even if Joe is a new addition to the Flash mythology, acting as a second father to Barry Allen is already cementing his role as an important one going forward.
Changing the ethnicity of a comic book superhero (or gender, for that matter) is always met with varying levels of concern from the fans. After all, some of these characters in question have been depicted as a specific ethnicity for decades, whether it was directly tied to their origins or not. But speaking purely from the perspective of a producer on a TV show aimed at a wide audience, Berlanti explained his feelings on diversity:
“You want to go to a place where you work everyday where you get to tell stories that look and feel like the audience in America that are watching.”
That’s a sentiment being seen across all entertainment these days, even if comic book superheroes having grown to level of “American myths” means their re-casting carries extra weight. It will be interesting to see if the show’s skeptics are as quick to embrace some added diversity in The Flash when it applies to a Justice League member, not his love interest.
What do you think of Kreisberg and Berlanti’s comments? Are you happy to see the TV show plan to support the New 52 universe, or does your focus rest squarely on Barry Allen? More importantly, do story and performance come before ethnicity? Sound off in the comments.
The Flash premieres Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 @8pm on The CW.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for updates on The Flash as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.