It's a theme with which Shipp isn't unfamiliar. This is his second go-'round on The Flash, this time starring as Henry Allen, the father of the title character. Barry Allen, The Flash, was Shipp's role last time around, in the short-lived CBS series that debuted in 1990.
That series also featured Amanda Pays as Christina McGee, Vito D'Ambrosio as Officer Tony Bellows and Mark Hamill as James Jesse, The Trickster. Those three either have or will all reprise those roles on The CW's iteration of the series, with at least Hamill apparently sharing some screen time with Shipp as both characters sit in jail.
Before we get to that, though, Henry Allen is a target of jailhouse violence in this week's episode of The Flash, and so Shipp joined us to talk about the ways in which history is repeating itself, and the ways in which this second The Flash experience is new and different.
How was shooting with Mark Hamill again? Everyone's very excited that you'll be appearing in the same episode together.
Well, it's great fun. You know, the complication is that I'm not the same character and he is, but it doesn't matter once we're in the scene together because it's Mark and John, back up to some of our old tricks. So we had a great time. I hadn't seen Mark or Carol Anne or their daughter in years and years and years.
Mark had said to me, "You know, this is the second time this summer that I've been able to revisit a project that I thought I'd never see again." Of course, he was talking about Star Wars and now The Flash. And I said, "Yes, I'm very mindful of the unique situation and opportunity of revisiting a project 24 years later that I thought...I had no reason...
...I was surprised when I voiced Professor Zoom in Batman: The Brave and the Bold for Warner Bros. I certainly didn't then expect to be back in primetime, playing my own father, so to speak. So I've been Barry, I've been Barry's worst enemy and now I'm Barry's father. What's next? Who knows?
One thing that struck me is that there are some elements of your show that feel like they've echoed into the new show -- looking at the traveling van and some of the work scenes and the like. Do you ever look at some of these things and go, "I remember doing that!"
First of all, we have executive producers that were big fans of the first effort. The first thing Andrew Kreisberg said to me when I saw him on set for the pilot was, "You know, we've already met." I said, "We have?" He said, "Yes, I was an assistant on the backlot at Warner Bros. when you were doing The Flash 24 years ago." He said, "I totally came, invaded your space and fanboyed out on you."
I said, "Well, I guess I was nice!" [Laughs] I'm glad I was in a good mood that day. You never know!
Also, when we were shooting the pilot, David Nutter told me, "You know, you were my hero growing up." I never know when I was doing Dawson's Creek that Greg Berlanti's favorite superhero was The Flash. So we have three executive...oh, of course Geoff Johns. That goes without saying!
So we have executive producers who loved this character and were well aware of our strengths and our weaknesses in the first effort. And I think they've learned. I think the network has learned. The way they've cradled this effort, first by bringing Barry onto a show that's already established then spinning him off...the way the publicity has been spun and the way they've rolled out who's going to be what. There's always a new announcement, isn't there? And they're perfectly spaced to keep interest high in between events.
I'm very aware that there are little homages. I was watching a scene and there comes a point where the centrifuge isn't working, and he hits it and then he gets the idea, he takes the test tube out and vibrates it at high speed. I'm sitting there going, "Now, wait a minute...I did that exact action!" So who directed this episode? David Nutter. So that was a direct homage. This time, there is an incident in which Barry goes through an activity, I can't say exactly what that is, but he performs an action very consistent with the character of The Flash, and his reaction on the other side of that is very similar to what I did. So they are writing in little homages and little Easter eggs for the fans. And you know what the great thing is? I don't get the sense that they're doing it so much for the fans as they're doing it for themselves and each other.
The beautiful thing about this project is we always get the feeling that the executive producers are enjoying what they're writing and what we're doing as much as we hope the audience will, and we think that reads.
There's so much excitement. When we did the table read and Mark came in and I'd seen him for the first time in all these years, then we patched into a big screen in LA, Andrew was saying hello to each one of us and he welcomed me back...then he got to Mark and it was like, "I don't even know what to say." When we found out before Christmas, he said that he felt like Christmas had come early, which is something he also said in an interview, but it's palpable. These producers, they aren't afraid to show you how excited they are, both the fact that we're involved and they can't wait to tell you. When he knew Mark had been cast, Andrew fired me off an e-mail: "Boy, have I got a great surprise for you!" They're tickled to death.
Well, that kind of enthusiasm is infectious and it goes all the way from top to bottom. It's a nice feeling, a nice set to work on, I'll tell you.
We've seen you primarily in just that one room. Are we going to get to see a bit more of Henry in his element?
Well, what you're going to see is Henry start to form alliances. Up til now, his entire view of the outside world and connection to the outside world has been through Barry. Now, Joe knows he's not guilty and there's an alliance -- I can't tell you exactly how -- that begins to form that leads directly, it's no secret, to Henry getting roughed up in prison.
Watch for Barry's reaction to that. I think it's a very interesting reaction that Barry has to his father now forming alliances. He is now, not Henry's only window on the outside world.
The other thing that happens is as a result of being roughed up is that of course Henry is taken to the infirmary so we get to see father and son actually face to face with no partition between them and that's also metaphorical because what happens in the course of that scene is we get to address, does the father recognize the son? Does the father know? If he knows, would he say so? Or if not, would he try to open a window for the son to be able to tell him, and if he does that, how would he do that? Those are the questions that are answered in this episode and that's why I'm so excited about it.
If they were to find some kind of contrivance to suit you up, which suit do you like better -- yours or Grant's?
I think Grant's suit is appropriate to Grant; it's more aerodynamic. Grant is much more gifted physically than I ever was. He dances, he performs well, he can perform moves in that suit that I couldn't have performed in or out of the suit, and certainly not in the suit.
My suit was my suit. It fit the Barry Allen and the sensibility of that time. I don't think his suit would work as well on me nor mine as well on him, you know what I mean? I think obviously we have an Oscar winner, Colleen Atwood, designing a suit to fit the form of the given actor and a more urban, modern sensibility.
That works specifically for a much younger Flash -- he's ten years younger than I was when I took the part -- and it works for today's sensibilities.