‘The Flash’s John Wesley Shipp on Jay Garrick’s Return, the JSA and That Form-Fitting Supersuit
The Flash‘s Jay Garrick (John Wesley Shipp) is back in Central City (and on Earth-1) this week and it’s not just to run the fastest errands ever. Now that Barry (Grant Gustin) has made a mess of the timeline with his Flashpoint fumble, it sounds like the elder Speedster is stopping by to get the kid to put the brakes on his back-and-forths through his past. The fact that he looks exactly like Barry’s late father, Henry Allen, should help the advice sink in, right? Here Shipp discusses his returns as both Henry and Jay, as well as what could be in the cards for the Justice Society of America member.
So congratulations. As Henry and Jay, you have so far been wrongfully imprisoned, held hostage and killed by Zoom, brought back to life and sent to another universe. Not to mention everything you went through as Barry on the original Flash series. This is quite possibly crazier than anything you ever did when you were on soap operas!
I have to tell you, it’s interesting that you bring up that comparison because people were talking to me about the intensity and the almost-protective quality of daytime TV fans. And there’s a real parallel there with the comic-book universe. When I go to these conventions, they’re very aware, and I’m very aware, that The Flash [character] was 50 years old when I got to it in 1990. And they are very protective in a wonderful way about the stories and the characters, and it’s been great to see the positive reaction that I’ve gotten. It’s crazy, isn’t it? Somebody on Twitter the other day just put a picture of me as Zoom [on Batman: The Brave and the Bold], Barry Allen, Henry Allen and Jay Garrick. It’s like, ‘Yeah, I’ve kinda been bouncing all over this universe, right?’
Exactly! And now, in just the first two episodes of the season, you get to bring back Henry and Jay.
It is remarkable. Within the context of a comic book action-adventure show, they have gifted me with a remarkable acting challenge because [executive producer] Andrew Kreisberg was very clear—and I agree 100 percent—that Jay and Henry have to be as different temperamentally as they look alike. So Henry, of course is very affectionate, very warm in temperature; Jay is cool, reserved, he’s not sure what this kid is up to. Jay sees himself as the keeper of the Speed Force, and is this kid going to mess it up? It’s pretty much that relationship. We had a blast shooting the Episode 2 Jay-Barry scene.
What brings Jay back?
You know we’re doing our version of Flashpoint which will have ramifications throughout the season, and without getting specific, Jay sees Barry about to take some actions that [impacts] Jay’s position as the head of the JSA and the keeper of the Speed Force. So, he catches up with Barry and they have a little come to Jesus moment about what Barry is about to do.
Well, someone needs to straighten him out a little bit.
You know, every now and then the kid’s got to be sat down and talked to. [Laughs]
And now you just mentioned that he’s the head of the JSA, and they are building a JSA on Legends of Tomorrow. Has there been discussion of you joining forces with those guys?
I need to be very clear about this because when I first started with announcing that I would be doing Jay Garrick, I made the comment that the palate is wide open because in the comic universe, Jay Garrick is the head of the JSA. That was interpreted as me saying that I would be on Legends. I have no indication at this point that it’s going to happen. Would I love to work with those guys? Would that be a trip? Absolutely! But, I have no indication at this point that it’s going to happen.
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You mentioned the difference between these two characters, and we had such an emotional, affectionate, loving relationship between Henry and Barry. But now, you have to play this different character opposite the same Barry. How is that for you basically not getting to play that emotional level with Grant?
It is remarkable. It’s like when Grant and I were running lines for Episode 2, at one point, he just looked down and just starts laughing. And I said, “What?” and he said, “This is just such a trip, running these lines, playing this scene with you.” It’s a remarkable creative experience to get to know an actor all over again and that’s what it amounts to. Jay is, as I said, very cool in temperature, and he doesn’t have the emotional investment in Barry that Henry had, clearly. And yet, every time Barry looks at Jay, he sees his dad, and it’s that dissonance that causes “the feels,” as they say. [Laughs]
We didn’t get a lot of info about Jay’s world at the end of last season because he was finally freed and then hopefully went back home. When we last saw him, he was trying to like leapfrog back to his Earth. Did he get there?
Well, I don’t really want to say too much about that. We certainly will find out very shortly whether he made it back, and if he did, what’s going on. And we will see him again. I am cleared to say that we will see Jay sprinkled through the season when he is needed.
Did they do any adjustments to the costume for you?
Yes! I didn’t know until the last minute that they were going to resurrect me as Jay Garrick last year. I would have stopped eating months before! So, in between the end of Season 2 and the beginning of Season 3, I trained, I lost a few pounds, we took in the suit. Let me just say that I’m much happier with the Season 3 press photos that have come out than I was with the end of Season 2 photos. But that’s just an actor’s vanity, you know what I mean? [Laughs]
Well, you’re basically wearing a very unforgiving scuba suit and TV right now is filled with a lot of these young bucks wearing very tight leather. You want to represent!
And I have to take a moment to say this is something that Kate [Main], the head costumer, pointed out to me. I was expressing an insecurity about that very thing, coming back 25 years later and not only being compared to the other kids running around but being compared to myself 25 years ago. And she said, “Well I think it’s a very honorable enterprise to put out there in the world that you don’t have to be 25 or 30-years-old in order to be a superhero.” And I was so glad she said that because it makes you look at it from a whole different perspective.
Real talk? You still look damn good.
Well thank you! I appreciate that and I will take all of that kind of affirmation that anyone cares to give. [Laughs]
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW