Don't call him a hero.
But Jefferson "Jax" Jackson, the reluctant half of the Firestorm matrix played by actor Franz Drameh on The Flash tonight, will be a Legend soon enough.
If there is one drawback to tonight's episode, it's that Jay's selection for -- and acceptance of -- the Firestorm matrix is a fait accompli, since the vast majority of fans know going into "The Fury of Firestorm" that Drameh has been cast as a series regular on DC's Legends of Tomorrow, the time-traveling team-up series spinning out of the events of Arrow and The Flash in 2016.
That said, Drameh's performance is a highlight of the episode, and the actor took some time out to talk with ComicBook.com about filming the episode, his take on the iconic superhero, and what's in store as he and co-Firestorm Victor Garber head off to Legends.
The idea of legacy heroes -- superheroes who pass the mantle on -- is a big part of DC's mythology. Did you get a sense of the importance of that element in your research?
Yeah, definitely. That's always a bit of a daunting task, when you have to take over a character -- sort of -- in that way. Obviously, Jax is totally different from Ronnie. But definitely, it was a daunting thing. But I think those characters are so different, and I think it will give a perspective on Firestorm that the fans will like.
Speaking with you, you seem very down to earth and classy, which is also true of Victor. Onscreen, though, you're meant to be more opposed. What's the most fun of playing almost an antagonist to Victor?
Oh, it's great becuase we can literally bounce off each other and no take is ever the same. Victor will give me a look that I'll react to. It's just brilliant working with him. We can bounce ideas off each other and he's so much fun to work with.
For the fans, there's an element of this episode being a teaser for Legends. As an actor, is it ever a challenge to avoid looking ten steps ahead, and living in that moment?
That was cool, actually. Sometimes it's difficult, but that's how it is when you're an actor. You're on a project for a little while and you can move to something else. You meet all these friends that you might not see for a while, but I had an absolutely amazing experience on The Flash.
When you got the casting notice, did you have any expectations? Did you think you were going to end up as Cyborg, or Jason Rusch or somebody, or were you clued in fairly early on that you were going to be an original character?
Well, I'm a fair bit of a comic book fan myself, so when I got the initial sides for casting, the character was called "Michael, a.k.a. mystery hero," so they weren't really giving it away. But I was reading the sides and I was wondering "Who is this character?" And then I saw Stein. Stein was in the script, that's who I was reading with, and so I kind of had an idea. I was like, "Oh, maybe this is who I'm playing. I had an idea; it wasn't concrete, but it turned out my idea was correct. But definitely with that knowledge, I could tweak my performance to something I thought was truest to the character. Even though his name is Jax, I thought that fans will kind of appreciate and see a lot of similarities to original Firestorm characters who have been.
It's interesting that your character seems a bit more blue collar than Ronnie was in this version. Is it fair to draw conclusions between Jax and comic book Ronnie?
Yeah. That's what I think it is because he doesn't come from a science background, whereas Ronnie did come from a science background. He's a jock, basically, who gets injured, works as a mechanic, but scientifically, that's not his forte. Also, he doesn't want to be Firestorm. he doesn't really want any of these powers; he just wants to be a regular guy and do regular stuff like everybody else. But when everything hits the fan, he does step up and does what needs to be done.
You said something similar during our set visit in Vancouver, and it's interesting that there are very few reluctant heroes so far in the Arrowverse. Is it fun to play somebody who, fundamentally, just can't escape the goodness in their nature?
Yeah, I definitely think that's one of the things that drew me to playing this character. There's a lot of fun and a lot of depth you can get to a character who doesn't want to do something, but does it anyway. What motivates him to do that? Why does he make those decisions? And ultimately a lot of those decisions are forced upon him. Something happens to him, and he has to react, to man up and step up and grow up, too.
In this episode, what can you tell fans who haven't watched yet, about the threat you face?
On the search for the new half of Firestorm, there's more than one candidate. So through that, as you could imagine, people not exactly making the cut, things can get pretty heated and certain powers emerge and then it's up to the S.T.A.R. Labs team to rectify their own mistake and sort it out.
Just from a writing standpoint, I was struck by the fact that the confrontation goes down in a football field. Is that to your mind a nice parallel to your character's backstory?
Yeah, it's almost like he's come full circle, and he started out on the football field as just an athlete -- as this star quarterback -- and he's come full circle. Even though he can't do that anymore, it's a fitting and a symbolic place for his emergence as a hero, as Firestorm.