This week's episode of The Flash, "Rayo de Luz", marked the third time that series star Danielle Panabaker stepped behind the camera to direct. After making her directorial debut with Season 5's "Godspeed" and following that up with Season 6's fan-favorite James Bond-esque "License to Elongate", in "Rayo de Luz", Panabaker helped bring to life a story centered around one of Team Flash's newer members, Allegra Garcia (Kayla Compton) as she sought to reach her cousin Esperanza, better known as the dangerous villain Ultraviolet.
ComicBook.com sat down with Panabaker to chat about her work on "Rayo de Luz", about how the experience of directing has changed for her since her first time behind the camera, how COVID-19 has changed working on The Flash, what's next for Frost, and what it's like for the popular series to be approaching its 150th episode milestone.
"I'm really proud of this episode for a variety of reasons, but most especially for Kayla," Panabaker told ComicBook.com. "I think she's so talented and you know, she's been on the show for two seasons now. This is really her time to shine and she really stepped up to the plate and did an incredible job telling this story. She was so prepared, really so professional, so easy to work with, so collaborative, and I'm excited for fans to continue to see a little bit more about her character's past, present, and hopefully future."
Read on for our full interview with Panabaker.
ComicBook.com: This is your third time directing The Flash after Season 5's Godspeed and Season 6's "License to Elongate" which were both fantastic episodes on basically every level. How has the experience of directing changed or evolved for you since that first episode?
Danielle Panabaker: I think I feel more confident now. You know, I'd watch Tom [Cavanagh] direct on the show and I chatted with, shadowed and you know asked advice of many of the different directors to come on our show and directors I've worked with on other shows. So, I'm incredibly grateful for the support and guidance of so many people and so many women in particular. I've been very fortunate, you know, that so many women lifted me up in this journey as well. And I've learned from all of them. And I think I'm definitely a little more confident, a little more relaxed now. It's interesting, the editing process is something that is fascinating to me. And I've loved getting to learn more about that as the years go by as well.prevnext
COVID-19 has obviously changed a lot in the world generally, but specifically in the entertainment industry, and working on a television set is a bit different than perhaps it was even just a year ago. How did that impact your work as a director this time around?
Everything is different because of COVID, absolutely everything. We are really lucky to have the support from the top down on a safety perspective but you know, our writers have to be COVID conscious as they're writing these episodes, less people in scenes, socially distant if possible, less intimacy things like that. So you know it starts there. And every day of prep was different, everything's on Zoom, you are not able to see as many people as you would. Typically, you would do a couple of props meetings and you'd be able to look at the prop. Sue has such incredible gadgets on the show and our props department creates amazing ones. Historically, I'd be able to go into their office and play with them and touch them and now because of COVID, everything's done on Zoom so they hold things up on Zoom. It's a different show and tell in that sense. It's a little bit more challenging but also the reality is through looking at how things translate on-screen so how something is reading on a Zoom screen might inform how it will read on the episode as well. So everything was different.prevnext
For me, the biggest challenge is working with actors which is one of my favorite parts of the job. But you know, as an actor as a director, typically you like to be able to have a conversation and now you can't stand within six feet of each other and you know, you're wearing a mask and goggles. And it's you know makes communication a little bit more challenging on set with every department quite frankly. So that was something that you just have to navigate your way around. Yeah, I would say COVID made everything harder.prevnext
As a seasoned cast member and now a more seasoned director, what would you say that the biggest challenges for you in both capacities have been?
I will say for challenges, and I have to give credit to our writers, the challenge is keeping it fresh. The cortex has been the cortex since the pilot. I mean desks have shifted around a little bit, but it's largely been the same. So you know both as an actor and as a director how to keep that space fresh, how to find new and interesting things to do in that space and to be in that space. So again, the writers gave us a lot of fun material to play with this season getting to play both Caitlin and Frost on a regular basis added a whole new level for me, but keeping it fresh is definitely something I try to be conscious of.prevnext
Season 7 has been a big season for both of your characters. What's next for Frost now that she's had this incredible journey and this really huge evolution as a person?
I'm really grateful for this. I remember there was a moment I think in season four where I pulled one of the writers aside. I was a little frustrated, let's just say that, and you know, really expressed my desire to see a better, more cohesive storyline for her. And I feel like they've laid the groundwork for that, both in seasons five and six. In season six she was a little bit more of a toddler, she's sort of got to experience things for the first time, a little bit more of a kid just you know, playing and having fun and pushing boundaries and making mistakes. And I think it's been really rewarding to see her grow. And now in season seven understand that there are consequences to her actions and take responsibility for them. So I'm really proud of her for that. And, you know, I think she'll continue to be an important part of Team Flash in that sense.prevnext
The Flash hits a major milestone with its 150th episode this season. As an original cast member, how does it feel to be at this point and a part of this series?
It is really remarkable. You know, I really approach it all with a lot of gratitude for the opportunity to The CW and Warner Brothers and Greg [Berlanti] and the other executive producers on the show for believing in me both in giving me the role initially and then supporting me as a director. And with all of these fantastic storylines. I feel incredibly supported by the people I work with and that's honestly a gift. So I am grateful. I'm grateful for this opportunity.prevnext
It's really remarkable. I remember filming the pilot and everybody was starting to look for apartments of where to live and I was like 'Guys, we're just doing a pilot like, you don't know if the show's going to get picked up. You don't know if people are going to watch it. Let's not count our chickens before they hatch.' And I was wrong. I probably should have been looking for an apartment then too. I've been doing this long enough that I know how fortunate and lucky we are and I'm grateful. I'm grateful for the fans and for their passion and devotion to the show because without them we wouldn't still be here. We wouldn't be making 150 episodes of The Flash.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.prev