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‘The Flash’: Tom Cavanagh on Reverse Flash’s Superhero Showdown

In the penultimate episode of “The Flash’s” freshman season, “Rogue Air,” Barry (Grant Gustin) must contend with the Reverse Flash (Tom Cavanagh) and a pipeline full of escaped meta-humans, including Mark Mardon, aka Weather Wizard (Liam McIntyre); Jake Simmons, aka Deathbolt (Doug Jones); Roy G. Bivolo aka Rainbow Raider (Paul Anthony); Shawna Baez, aka Peek-a-Boo (Britne Oldford); and Kyle Nimbus, aka The Mist (Anthony Carrigan).

Luckily for The Flash, he’s got friends in high places, including The Arrow himself, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), and the entity known as Firestorm (Robbie Amell), who are willing to lend some muscle in Barry’s battle with Eobard Thawne.

Catch up with the Rogues in Variety’s exclusive clip below, and read on for more from Tom Cavanagh on why Eobard captured his ancestor, Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), and the impending three-on-one battle between the heroes and the Reverse Flash.

Eddie got a lot of depressing information dumped on him at once last week…

Cavanagh: Dumped on him with glee, no less…

Since we’re dealing with the headache of time travel, do you think Eobard was giving Eddie that information about his future and not marrying Iris as a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Well, I know why he was giving him the information — it’s not “do I think” it’s “I know” because of who I am. [Laughs.] What doesn’t work so well for this interview for you is, I’m not going to tell you. It would be giving away too much… But you can glean from that, there’s plenty of storyline there.

You spent half the season having to play coy — does it feel like a weight has been lifted, being able to talk about Eobard’s real motives?

100 percent. I’m pretty forthright when it comes to these — I know that everybody has a job to do, and it was actually very frustrating for me to have to dance around what were completely valid and interesting questions that I would have loved to have answered. But of course, to protect the show and the storyline, I just could not. And when episode nine came along, and I was revealed as the Man in the Yellow Suit, it was probably much more of a relief for me, playing the character, than it was for the media. So yeah, to be able to talk about it is so gratifying. Eobard Thawne and being the Man in the Yellow Suit, the Reverse Flash, is the reason I signed on to do the show.

Mentally, do you refer to him as Thawne or Wells, out of curiosity?

For an actor it was tremendous. A superhero show is a delight because my starting point always, always was as Eobard Thawne. I never thought of the character as Wells once. It’s always been Eobard Thawne and the Reverse Flash, so that’s the first layer. And the second layer was Wells, and then the third layer was Harrison Wells, pre-Eobard Thawne takeover and being able to add layer upon layer, it’s just so enjoyable to play. So from the beginning, everything I’ve said has had dual purpose and dual meaning. And any actor will tell you, when you get to have colors, even a simple line like, “I’ll see you real soon,” you know, it’s a real pleasure to play.

What was it like to go three-on-one with Grant, Stephen and Robbie in “Rogue Air”?

It’s a relief that it wasn’t a “handsome-off.” If it had been a handsome-off, it would’ve been a miserable defeat right off the bat for me. Those are three very good-looking gentlemen right there that I was facing off with. When you do a movie, you spend two hours moving the narrative along to the big culmination or cumulative scenes. When you do a television show, instead of two hours, you’re doing 20-plus hours. But you know you’re headed towards a showdown — if you’re doing it right — of some sort.

One of the most gratifying parts is that we feel we’ve earned it. We’ve put 20 hours’ worth — in the case of Stephen, three seasons-plus — of effort into getting people to understand these characters, to identify with these characters, to know their world. And so, when you finally put in all that time, and then you bring the showdown, it’s a lot better than having two gun fighters face off on an empty street in the opening minutes of your show. For us having this classic old western standoff months and months into the season, we feel was well earned. To be able to take out what we put into the bank for this showdown was a great feeling. Not to mention the actual, physical shooting of it. Grant and myself, we are guys that the stunt men despise, because we like to do all that stuff. You finally get there and it’s like, well I’m not going to let [stuntman] Brent Connolly do everything. We like to suit up and get into it. It’s schoolyard play-fighting and it’s so much fun. Grant is terrific at it. I love doing it. And having an episode where you’re basically coming up with different ways to attack and defend was just a delight.

What were the logistics of that scene?

Well, earlier I said our stunt men despise us, but the truth is, it’s an actual love that’s there. We have an incredible, incredible stunt team. These guys — the stunt team, the stunt coordinator, stunt captain, and stunt men — put together a pre-vis for all of our stunts that we’re going to do. So that you can actually visualize as opposed to them telling you. It’s incredible the amount of work they take on and this is with replete with different camera angles, effects, and dialog. And so when you see that mounted up, it really gives you something to shoot for. I remember seeing the big fight in the football stadium between Reverse Flash and Flash, and I left that up on my computer for the entire season because it was so incredibly well done. Such a high bar to set. And so as actors, you’re like, “okay, that’s how good it looks before we even go to camera and that is something to shoot for, something to live up to.” So this is completely no different. They had it all set up. We knew where we were shooting. Everybody is comfortable with each other, and so it’s like you rehearse a dance or a play and the choreography is all there. Meticulously and painstakingly laid out.

You know I improvise this one thing, which you’ll see in there. It’s little flourishes and little touches like that you use to embellish what’s already set up. Even though it was four o’clock in the morning, out on a rainy street, I think all the guys will tell you it was so much fun to do.You’re doing this and you’re getting paid for it. It used to be you had to use all your imagination as a 14-year-old, now it’s, “Here’s your costume. Here’s your camera. Here’s the stuff. Go for it.” It’s tremendous.

“The Flash” airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.

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