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Spoilers below for The Flash's latest episode, "Enter Flashtime."
Because The Flash swapped out its traditional speedster villain in Season 4, there hasn't been the same impetus to keep as many speedster heroes around. But a nuclear bomb changed all that in "Enter Flashtime," which welcomed back Violett Beane's Earth-2 Jessie Quick and John Wesley Shipp's Earth-3 Jay Garrick. Shipp spoke with CinemaBlend's own Laura Hurley ahead of the episode, and during their chat, he talked at length about two ways in which The CW's Flash is a big improvement over his own Flash series from the 1990s: the superspeed scenes and the super-suit costumes. His words on the effects:
In the 90s, we didn't have the possibility of CGI to the extent that they have now, so like in our pilot, when I'm cleaning up the room and it turns into a tornado in the living room, that took forever to shoot because I had to actually go around the inside of the circle and pick up clothes and pick up clothes, and then they brought in my double to go counterclockwise on the outside of the circle, and then they had to have air cannons and blow all the clothes. In other words, it couldn't be drawn in in post, and so it took forever. Running around the track where they sped up, where I'm testing the new suit, we had to run around the track!
I'm not saying that the new show is easy by any means. These kind of shows are, as you know, incredibly difficult to shoot, but there is a lot that the digital doubles can now do. Which was a very peculiar experience, going to LA to be digitally scanned for my digital double, and I was like, 'Oh, can you take a little bit off my waist? How about my arms?' You're being scanned for your digital double and so you get to a certain point in the script now and you know that D.D., as I call my digital double, is gonna take over.
I always feel bad when I see super-speed scenes in older movies and TV shows, since it almost necessarily means things played out much as John Wesley Shipp described. In order to show a 20-second scene of Shipp's Flash cleaning a room, he had to spend a legitimately lengthy span of time cleaning the room, with the footage sped up after the fact to make it look impossibly quick. Whereas now, Shipp isn't even needed to film the entire stunt, since part of it is created using solely digital forms. Of course, that basically just transports Shipp's former efforts over to the computer effects team, but they likely don't need to strain their muscles all that much.
And it's not just the CGI that has been improved in the nearly three decades that have passed between John Wesley Shipp's Flash series and Grant Gustin's version. The visual essence of the superhero himself, the snazzy super-suit, has also seen major advancements that don't make things quite as grueling for those inside. Part of it has to do with audiences no longer being obsessed with giant muscles.
I think it reflects modern sensibilities. Back in the 90s, we were still in the post-Pumping Iron, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco [era]. Everything had to be larger than life. The muscles had to be bigger. And of course the modern suit reflects a much more scaled-down version, which makes sense because it's aerodynamic. In terms of functionality, it's so much easier! Because we have an under-suit and then we have an outer leather shell which can be peeled off and the under-suit can be washed, which makes it a much more pleasant experience for everybody on the set, as you can imagine. Because the old suit, they would hang them--even though it cost $100,000 to build four suits in 1990 -- I'd take it off, it'd be soaking, dripping, wringing. They'd hang it in my trailer, spray it with Lysol, and I'd put one of them back on, and the next morning it'd still be wet and sticky. So it's a much more pleasant experience.
I've often wondered why The Flash would need to have bulked up pecs and biceps, since his speed is generally what gives him advantages in battles, and not specifically natural strength or brawn. Granted, doing all the things that Barry Allen (or Jay Garrick) does would probably promote muscle growth in big ways, but not in the same way that lifting weights for four hours a day will. But forget about the looks; one of my least favorite things in the world is putting on wet clothes, so I cannot imagine how miserable I would have been squeezing into and out of a sweat-and-Lysol-matted Flash suit on a daily basis.
John Wesley Shipp also talked about how the face cowl situation is easier these days. Especially for him, since Jay Garrick only dons his bolt helmet.
Of course I don't have the cowl now, so it's hotter for Grant. But they don't have to glue that cowl to his face. Because once I was in that cowl in 1990, I was in. It was glued under my chin, across my cheeks and my face. Well, they now don't have to do that. And the cowl can come off. So it certainly has improved. There's no necessity for a cooling unit under the suit like I had, like race car drivers wear, that had tubing and they'd pull the tube out in between scenes and plug me into an ice chest, circulate ice water through the vest to kind of wake me up. There's no need for that now. Thank God.
For all that ice water on his torso, though, John Wesley Shipp is obviously proud to have taken on the Scarlet Speedster role for his first TV series, and he's always happy to return to The CW'sFlash to bring some Earth-3 guidance to Barry's chaotic existence.
We'll hopefully get to see John Wesley Shipp returning to The Flash in the near future to help uproot the Thinker's plans, but for now, we're pumped to see Iris get in on the speedster action in next week's episode, airing on The CW on Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. ET. Until then, head over to our midseason premiere trailer to see all the new and returning shows that are on the way.