Andrew Kreisberg didn’t know he was about to start a television revolution when he co-created Arrow for the CW. But the world he built embraced both the hardcore fans who knew and loved the source material, as well as those just looking for strong, dynamic storytelling. He proved that comic book stories were not just niche ones, and the success of Arrow (whose debut pulled in more viewers than the CW had seen in three years) certainly made it easier for DC Comics to adapt other series, like Constantine, iZombie, and Arrow spin-off The Flash, which Kreisberg is at the helm of, too. SSN sat down with Kreisberg at the 2014 Summer TCAs to talk about how he’ll juggle his shows and keep their stories unique, despite one being born from the other.
SSN: It seems to be the year of the comic book series on television. What will set The Flash apart?
Andrew Kreisberg: What I’m most excited about with The Flash is getting to show [him] in action. The technology has gotten to the point where you can really do the show. Even the original show in the ‘90s—part of the reason it ended was financial; they just couldn’t keep it up every week. Hopefully, that same fate won’t befall us. But we felt like we found a great place creatively for Arrow and that world, and like it was time to introduce this grander DC mythos.
SSN: And of course, you’re not having Barry keep his secret from everyone.
Kreisberg: We try not to repeat ourselves! Whenever somebody found out that Oliver was the Arrow, everything instantly became more interesting. I think we waited a little too long with some people finding out. To me, Lois Lane saying, “Clark, you just missed Superman. He was right here. Where were you?” is the least interesting aspect of it. That became a trope on the old Superman show and the movies; it was one of the smartest decisions they made in Man of Steel that she knew from the start. For us, we didn’t want to waste a lot of time with what can be an old school thing; we wanted Barry to have support.
It’s much more interesting that he has this amazing ability and yet he’s not the most adult person in the world. With Oliver, wherever he goes he’s the leader of the team, where for Barry, in some ways, he’s this kid with an amazing gift. One of our touchstones was The Right Stuff. But that book and movie [were] not just about the test pilots, but about the scientists and all the people working with them. In a way, Barry is a grand experiment, so to have more people know his secret, we are able to explore that aspect of it.
“It’s much more interesting that he has this amazing ability and yet he’s not the most adult person in the world.” -Andrew Kreisberg
SSN: Speaking of support, in the pilot Barry goes to Oliver for some advice, and though you are planning some crossovers between the two shows, you can’t do that in every episode.
Kreisberg: Barry has three fathers—Joe, his foster father; his real father, Henry; and Wells, who is this man he’s always emulated. Cisco and Caitlin provide their own support. You know, Wentworth Miller is playing Captain Cold in episode four, and he will, ironically, provide a measure of growth, [too]. I know we booked Robbie [Amell as Firestorm] for three episodes. There are other characters coming in, not necessarily to train him.
That’s why we wanted Barry Allen to be someone like Grant—someone younger, a bit more naïve and a bit more cute. When Oliver wades into battle, you’re more afraid for who he is up against. With Barry, even though Barry has these super powers, you should always be afraid that he’s going to come up short. [The Flash] is Barry’s journey to being a superhero. So, every episode for him is about learning something new. Oliver is a fully formed adult. In fact, Oliver’s problem is that he needs to unlearn things—all the terrible things that happened to him in those five years. But for Barry it is about learning and becoming.
SSN: The end of the pilot episode leaves us with a very ominous look at the future. Just how long will you wait to play that out?
Kreisberg: There’s going to be a lot of those twisty tags in the show. It’s very much of the comic book genre, and it feels like it fits in well. All I can say is that we have a very specific plan, and there is nothing in that final scene that has not been thought through. If you watch Arrow, you see we’re pretty big fans of accelerated storytelling, and you know there is always more to tell. We have a very clear path for season one, and that last scene plays very much into it.
SSN: Although Arrow and The Flash share a network and therefore are not in competition with each other for ratings, they are in competition with each other for your time. So how are you balancing working on both?
Kreisberg: We’ve been doing Arrow for two years, and that’s two years of the production staff learning how to make this show. It’s also two years with the writing staff, and everybody over there has really stepped up. Whereas, I did a lot more literal writing on Arrow last year and the day-to-day decisions about costumes and visual effects and props and whatnot, I’ve been ceding a lot of that to other people [now]. What I’ve been mainly focused with on Arrow is helping to break stories and working to make sure episodes are in the right shape emotionally and structurally. More of the sort of nitty-gritty time, I’ve been devoting to Flash.
The Flash premieres on the CW on October 7, and Arrow returns on October 8.