The Flash returns Tuesday night on The CW after a brief hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic and while the wait is one that fans might have been happier without, there's something that they're very much looking forward to: the return of Sue Dearbon. A character that fans have been waiting for since the introduction of Hartley Sawyer's Ralph Dibny in Season 4, Sue was a fan-favorite when she made her debut earlier this season. Unfortunately, her arrival wasn't so well-received by Ralph and for good reason: she double-crossed him.
After that surprising double-cross, Ralph meets Sue again in Tuesday's "So Long and Goodnight" and ComicBook.com had a chance to sit down with Sawyer to talk about all things Ralph and Sue as well as how Ralph has developed as as character since we first met him. Sawyer also gave us a bit of insight on Black Hole and the role that mystery plays in the season overall. We also touch on how he's handling being at home due to the pandemic and get a little bit of a tease of what's to come for Ralph -- and what advice he would or would not give Barry (Grant Gustin) about his relationship challenges with Iris (Candice Patton).
Read on for our spoiler-free chat with Hartley below!
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW. "So Long and Goodnight" debuts April 21.
On pets and how he's handling quarantine
ComicBook.com: How are you doing? I mean, the world's crazy and everything right now.
Hartley Sawyer: I think, I mean, we're living in a computer simulation, right? Like what is going on? So, we were just talking about it, Claire and I were just talking about it, and I was like, "I think I've lost all concept of time on various days."
But all together, I mean, I'm good. We're very lucky. We're doing fine, but it's just such a bizarre thing and I just didn't have the words for it.
Yeah, I hear that. I do have to say though, your Instagram posts of your dogs has been such a huge, bright spot in my days. We don't currently have a dog, so I've got like major dog fever.
Well, that's your first mistake, not having a dog!
I'm not opposed to more stuff with them because I've been spending my time doing workouts outside and I bring them outside and everything, and I mean, it's funny, dogs everywhere right now are like, "This is the greatest thing ever."
Oh my gosh, yeah. I mean, cats don't care, but the dogs are like, "Oh my God, my humans are here. This is the best ever. Can we make this last for always?"
I think the cats want us to go back to work, honestly. That's the impression that I ... I think the cats are like, "Enough. Get out of the house."
I think the only things cats want right now is the fact that the humans are home means they might get more treats, but after that they're ready to fire us.
Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
So animals aside, it's been an exciting season, especially the last few episodes for Ralph on The Flash. A few episodes back, we finally got to meet Sue and so did Ralph. How has Ralph been handling Sue's very crafty double-cross?
It's an understatement to say she was not what he expected. I mean, I don't think that ... I think it's really cool the way that we brought Sue in, which I think everybody knows is that something that's kind of come up since I joined the show a couple of years ago. And we knew that on a long enough timeline, all roads led to Sue, but we really took our time getting there with developing it. And I've talked about that in the past that we wanted to really develop Ralph and move him down the line in terms of maturing and becoming the hero that he is and will be, so that he's ready for that when she comes into his life. And we never wanted to just get there and be like, "And now it's a thing." And make it that easy because something that Todd Helbing and I had talked about in the past, and Eric Wallace and I talked about this a lot, and Eric has done a great job with how sees and how he's planned out the whole Sue Dearbon thing was we don't want to rush any of this. There's a lot of interesting stuff combined here.
Then it was about a year ago he pitched me the idea for what she would be like, and how she would come in, and that she wouldn't be what fans probably expect, and that she wouldn't be what Ralph expects. And I just thought it was such a cool idea and it adds a different ... it's a slightly different interpretation of the character that people expected to show up, given Ralph and Sue in the comics and everything. But I think it's something very unexpected. And for Ralph, look, he expected a debutant. He expected some fragile whatever. I don't want to say damsel in distress because I don't think he saw it that way, but she's like a total bad ass. He didn't expect that.
Trusting Sue again...or not.
Yeah. I have to say, I'm a huge fan of Ralph and Sue from comics, and so as a fan and not just someone who watches the show, I had big expectations and I have to say that it was delightful to see how they kind of changed her and also kind of changed the relationship a little bit, but that fundamental chemistry between the characters is still there. It's very much still Ralph and Sue, and I thought that was really incredible. And speaking of the chemistry between them, Sue, yeah, in that crafty double-cross, it's pretty amazing like that, how she kind of got one over on him, but he has developed so much and he's so much smarter and more determined than ever. How do you think he's going to be emotionally when he encounters Sue again this week?
It's a tricky thing because when we left him the last time on, I think it was 6x12, she had really gotten under his skin I think. I think for me, certainly in the process of performing at the end of what was episode 6x12, it had been a long time since I think Ralph had ever been, angry is not necessarily the word, but he was really, really angry. But I think he's had time to process it and start to put it together and look, he's made up his mind, like he's going to bring her down, he's going to get her. He's going to confront her. So, I think he just has his mind set on that, and I think if we can say anything about Ralph, we can say that when he sets his mind on something, it's probably going to happen one way or another.
Absolutely. He is one of the most determined characters on The Flash in a completely different way than what you would expect. Do you think he'll ever be able to come to a place where he'll trust Sue?
I think that remains to be seen. I think a lot remains to be seen and without giving too much away, there are going to be ... there's a few things that I want to say about that, but that would be something that we're going to find out more about next week and in subsequent weeks.
On Ralph's journey
Okay. Now, like you said, Ralph was not in a place, when we first met him in season four, for Sue, but all roads have been leading there. I have to admit Ralph was not my favorite character on the show when he first appeared, but he has grown so much and you've done such an incredible job of really bringing this character to life in a way that's both familiar and unexpected. What's it been like for you to see Ralph finally be able to grow into that hero and come into his own as a more mature and more evolved person?
The funny thing about the way that he is now, particularly in season six is this is actually how I initially saw him in a lot of ways when I first auditioned for the role and when I first started playing the role, and I had a lot of conversations with them back then about with the writers and with the producers and everybody is sort of like, "Yeah, but I feel like he is this and this." And they're like, "You're right, but not yet."
And that was something that was interesting for me because I knew I was going to get to this point, but I sort of, we scaled it back to give us a lot of room to grow with him because when he came in, he was a world class jackass. And they brought something that we hadn't seen on this show before, it brought something different, and it gave us all that room to bring in for this arch over the last two theaters, which I think, I know for me an actor had been really, really fun to play. Where it's funny, when I go to work on season six, I'm like, "Man, this is the same guy, but he's grown so much."
And what's interesting for me is he feels more, he feels closer to kind of who I am in a lot of ways as a person now than he did in season four in many ways. It's sort of like I look at it as like he was a boy, now he's a man, you know?
The Flash Family
That's a pretty good way of putting it. One of the things we've really gotten to see in the development of Ralph is that he's created these really strong bonds with his Team Flash family.
They very much are family for him now. And leading up to Crisis, there was a lot of everyone thought Barry was going to be gone forever and there was a lot of pain and a lot of stress going into that. Now that crisis has happened and it didn't quite work out the way I think anyone thought it would, how has Ralph been handling this new reality now that when you plan for something bad to happen and it doesn't happen, there's kind of this, "Well, what now?" How has Ralph been handling that?
I think for him at this point being pretty embedded in Team Flash and being Elongated Man and the detective and all of that, I think for him this is kind of back to work. I mean, that was a monumental thing and we saw some of what Ralph went through leading up to, I think, his real fear that crisis was the loss of Barry, because I think Barry Allen is the closest thing that he has to a brother. Ralph credits Barry, and it's due credit, for pulling amount of what he was and kind of suggesting to him, "Hey, you can be more than this."
So, I think for him it's a huge sense of relief that at the end of the day, what Ralph wants to help whoever he can help but Team Flash is his family. It is his family. And I think for him, if they're okay, then he feels like he can carry on. And I think particularly with Barry, but that extends as you pointed out to the relationships he has with Iris, which I really like that relationship, the relationship he has with Killer Frost and with Caitlin, which has been so much fun.
And in this episode of what we see the relationship and the friendship, and we just discovered this last year that he has with Cisco.
Will we be seeing more of Ralph and can we expect to see him kind of get immersed in the Black Hole mystery that's been simmering this back half of the season?
So, we peppered in a lot of that stuff in our first sort of graphic novel dealing with Bloodwork "graphic novel" dealing with Bloodwork, in the first seven eight episodes of the season where we brought in this black hole thing. And some people at the time, they're going to be things that happened in those first eight episodes that seem like, "Oh, there's a thing that happened, but it's going to come back later on." Some of that's coming in, excuse me, on this episode and more of that will come to pass. There's going to be a lot. There's a much, much deeper mystery going on there and there's a lot of unexpected things in terms of how Black Hole plays into all of this stuff that's going on.
And it was really cool because I'd get scripts and I'd go, "Oh man, that thing that happened in 6x06, oh that's really a huge thing now." And different things that were callbacks and brought backs and so they're going to kind of find themselves immersed in this whole organization. This sort of specter like thing to use a Bond reference with Black Hole and it's really cool how it's playing out.
When not to use the Book of Ralph
One of the things that's been teased in the photos and the synopsis for the episode that we're getting on Tuesday is that there's a little bit of trouble in paradise for Barry and Iris. As fans know, this is not our normal Iris right now and that's a huge contributing factor. Ralph is also kind of famous for his Book of Ralph, and while that is generally life advice to getting over the love of your life, it's one of those things that kind of just says Ralph was full of advice and guidance.
Given that Barry and Iris are going through this challenging time, do you think Ralph's got any guidance to help his buddy Barry through rough waters?
I have no doubt in my mind that Ralph has pages upon pages upon pages of things that could help Barry and Iris. However, I think he knows, I think he's smart enough to know when to keep his nose out of something and I think this would be one of those things. I think his focus would be on supporting Barry and supporting Iris, and I think that's what it is. I mean, there are certain things that you don't overstep, and I think that might beyond it. It's the patriarch and matriarch of the whole family, so I think he ought to tread carefully there.
What's next for Ralph
What's next for Ralph? I mean, he's doing a little bit of everything. What's next for Ralph? What should fans be looking forward to without being spoiler-y?
Ooh, it's very hard for me to answer that without being spoiler-y. We're going to see ... If we look at what we've seen this season with him, I think it's from my vantage point this season, he's really coming through a zone, and again, I use that kind of boy to a man thing. If I can look at it now and I see sort of a full grown Ralph. It's not necessarily his "final form," but we're getting there, and I think going forward we're going to see him go to places that in season four, if you had somehow had a crystal ball and you would've been like, "Holy hell. Damn."
I think certain things are going to happen that are going to really surprise people in terms of what he's able to do as a hero and also what he's able to do as a human being. And I know that's sort of a very, very vague answer, but there's a lot of subtext there that I can't specifically get into, but it's going to be some really cool stuff that even a year ago or two years ago I think would have been very unexpected.
Favorites this season
Based on the episodes that fans have seen so far, what has been your favorite episode or favorite scene so far in season six?
I had a blast on episode 12 when we brought Natalie into Sue because she killed it. She killed it. And that one sticks out to me. And two of my all time favorite episodes that I've ever done on the show, I'm not saying they're my two favorites, but easily two of my top in terms of just sheer fun, and just enjoyment from start to finish, and pinching myself was an episode called Goldfaced last year, which I had a ball on.
I just love that one. And 6x06 this year, which Danielle Panabaker directed, "James Bond episode." That was just so much damn fun for me. And that was a real high point in a lot of ways. So, in terms of the journey this year, that's one of my favorite pieces that we've done so far. And then there, I won't give specifics, but there's a few things coming up specifically in 6x19 that are some of the most flat out fun, cool things, and exciting things, and funny things that I've gotten the chance to do this season, and that's coming up in 6x19, which I think airs in a few weeks.
Dibny. Ralph Dibny.
You mentioned "James Bond episode." Do you think you'll ever get to revisit Ralph as James Bond? Because that was hilarious.
I think there is almost no doubt that we'll get back to that at some point. I don't know anything specific and I haven't heard anything specific, but I think all around from how people responded to the episode and how fans responded to it, and the writers' work, producers' work, the crews' work, and then the actors working on it. I just think everybody was like, "Oh well we've got to do something like this again because this is just ..." I thought it was a very special episode, that it was something very different in a lot of ways, and so I think we'll definitely get back to that territory. And I love that side of it. You're like, "This guy is doing okay. This guy does this."
It was super cool to see him be more competent than Barry.
Yeah, I mean that was the fun thing was the role reversal there was like for two acts of that episode. I was like ... Ralph was sort of what Barry usually is and Barry was kind of what Ralph usually is, and that was a really fun role reversal, and I think that stuff is really fun. It keeps things really fresh and exciting when you see characters. And also for Ralph, what was fun is like, we talked about this over the years and this is kind of, I think, where the Goldfaced episode last year came out of was I was like, "There's this whole criminal world underground thing that this guy was involved in before we ever met him in season four." And we talked about that. But I was like, "It'd be fun to explore that."0comments
And I think in some ways that led us to Goldfaced last year and also this one last year of like this guy, when we don't see him in an episode, he's also doing all sorts of crazy things. And we hinted at that in 6x01 this year when he walked in with the tux and Dibny, Ralph Dibny. And then he had been running around the world doing all sorts of adventures.
This interview has been slightly edited for clarity and length.