The January 27 episode of The Flash introduces the comic book character of Pied Piper, played by Andy Mientus. We got to speak with Mientus by phone about his appearance. He called from New York where he is currently on Broadway with Les Mis, but he was excited to talk about The Flash.
Mientus went to University of Michigan and holds a theater degree. His theater work includes national tours and off Broadway, then his TV debut on Smash before landing Les Mis. The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8 on The CW.
Nuke the Fridge: Do you have a big entrance on The Flash?
AM: Yeah, I’d say so. I’m definitely the main thrust of that episode. I get a proper origin story and everything, so it’s very exciting.
Nuke: Tell us about the Pied Piper.
AM: I’m playing Hartley Rathaway, AKA The Pied Piper, who is one of the original Rogues. The character’s been around in the original comics for decades and decades and notably is one of the only out gay characters in the DC universe. Something I find really cool about him is that he’s got a history and a relationship with several of the other characters which you’ll see pretty quickly when I come in. So it’s a bit of a different dynamic than a typical villain of the week on The Flash.
Nuke: Do they have time in the episode to mention that he’s out, or is it not part of this episode?
AM: I wouldn’t say that it’s the focus of this episode. It’s definitely not an Afterschool Special about being gay, but it’s also not something that they’re shying away from or trying to downplay. I think it’s really tastefully and successfully integrated as just being a part of this character but not the only thing or the most interesting thing about his character. It’s just another fact. He’s got brown hair, he wears glasses and he’s gay. There’s a lot of other things going on too.
Nuke: How did you get this part? Was it a big audition?
AM: It was a pretty simple audition, luckily for me. I met everybody over at The Flash when I auditioned for the pilot. I actually auditioned for Barry in the pilot. That went well. I got good feedback on it but Greg Berlanti and everybody thought that while I wasn’t quite a fit for Barry, I maybe could be somebody else on the team, somebody down the pike so they would keep me in mind. So then I sort of forgot about it, because you hear that kind of thing all the time. “We’ll see you later.” So I was going about my career and my business. I’m doing a show on Broadway right now in New York and I took a few days off to go on vacation. While I was on vacation I got a call about auditioning for this role. And I took a look at it and I just thought it was a really great fit and something really interesting, and something I really, really wanted. But I was on vacation in Disney World and was terrified about trying to slap together some self tape in my hotel room. I didn’t think it would show me in my best light, so I begged them to let me come into L.A. the following week as soon as I could get in. So I flew into L.A. just to audition, and thankfully they agreed to see me. It was just one audition. I went in and read just for casting. Nobody was even there, no producers or anything. They just put it on tape and then I had the part two days later and then it was announced three days later.
Nuke: Is the Pied Piper a metahuman?
AM: He is not a metahuman. He’s a gadget guy, so he’s very human. It’s really interesting actually. He gets by with his genius which is naturally born.
Nuke: Do you have a lot of action in the episode?
AM: I do, yeah, and I’d never done anything like that before, so it was a big learning curve and just really exciting and a little scary but generally really fun. I had never done anything with green screen. I had never done any combat on camera. No pyro and effects other than the little bits of stuff I’d done on stage. So seeing that stuff actualized on that scale was incredible. You’d read at the table read that now he’s going to blow up this car. I just assumed that’d be visual effects in post. I’d throw my hand at a green screen and they’d so it later, but no, cars were blowing up 20 feet away from me. It was really exciting.
Nuke: They’re such pros with that on The Flash and Arrow. Did they help you through it?
AM: Oh, absolutely, yeah. The stunt people were so patient and made me so comfortable. I think I actually was a little surprising to them because with my theater background, I wasn’t really scared to get on the ground, get thrown around a little bit because I’m doing eight shows a week of Les Miserables on Broadway which is this incredibly physical war story so I’m falling off this barricade and getting shot and all this stuff. So there as a scene where I had to fall to the ground, from standing to the ground, maybe three feet. They padded me up so incredibly. I was like, “You’re very sweet but I promise I’ll be okay.” So it was a lot of fun.
Nuke: Who do you have a lot of scenes with? Mainly Barry, or some with Harrison, Caitlin and Cisco too?
AM: I get to play with everybody which is really, really cool. Without giving too much away, as I said, I’ve got a relationship which is extrapolated pretty quickly but I’ve been in a relationship with everybody at STAR Labs so there’s a lot of opportunity for me to talk about the past with everybody and you get to see us as just human characters, not as super adversaries. I had a lot to do with Grant which was great because we’d been friends for years so it was just really fun for us to be in our super costumes having a battle when he’s been to my house for a Halloween party. It was pretty surreal, and I had a lot with Tom Cavanagh which was really great because I just really respect him. I think he’s such a great actor and a generous scene partner, so I learned a lot from working with him.
Nuke: Did Grant know you had auditioned for the role of The Flash?
AM: No, I don’t think so. Grant and I had known each other for a while so I got good feedback on that audition but I didn’t test or anything like that, so I just let it go. When I heard that he was testing and then when he in turn got it, I was so thrilled for him. I called him and congratulated him because everyone loves Grant. All of his charisma that you see on screen is completely genuine and I think everyone who knows him is so thrilled for all the success he’s been having. It’s a cliche to say but it’s really true that it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. I was just completely thrilled that it was him and I was like, “Oh, of course it’s him. It’s got to be him.” But then when I found out that we were going to get to play together and in this hero/villain relationship, I was just completely psyched and so was him. Our first day together we were standing in this elevator waiting to go make our entrance and do this scene. We’re standing there waiting for “action” and looking at each other in our superhero costumes and just started laughing because it was so surreal and fun. We’re just like little boys in costumes playing pretend, but for millions of people.
Nuke: Were you a comic book fan before you auditioned for The Flash?
AM: I’m embarrassed to say that I wasn’t, which is not to say that I wasn’t such, such a nerd but I was a real video game nerd. I know that I would’ve been into comics but my parents didn’t provide them for me. I think they said the video games are enough and made me go outside a little bit. I was definitely familiar with this universe and especially with The Flash, the main character of The Flash and everyone else in the Justice League/greater DC universe, just because I feel like to a certain generation of kids, these characters feel like Greek heroes or something. They’re people that have always existed and you hear about and know about even if you never actually leaf through one of the comics. So as soon as I got the e-mail with the audition and I saw The Flash, I was immediately excited even though I didn’t have a personal connection with Pied Piper specifically or didn’t know the universe back to front, I saw that red costume and it immediately made me nostalgic for being a kid and playing in my backyard.
Nuke: Was there time to give you a bunch of comics and do a little reading?
AM: Yeah, so that was one of my major geekout moments when I got this job was that a few days after I got cast, I was in touch with DC and they sent over this care package basically of a big old stack of comics with my bits labeled so that I could jump to specifically what I needed to get this crash course on this character and the other characters around me, which was the most fun. After having read Les Miserables in its entirety to prepare for that show, this enormous unabridged French novel where Victor Hugo’s talking about the intricacies of the sewer system of the day for about 500 pages, to then get to read a bunch of comics was a real treat.
Nuke: Is Les Mis the ultimate Broadway show to do?
AM: It’s definitely one of the classics. One of my costars says it’s sort of like the Star Wars of Broadway which I think is really true just in terms of its scope and its fan base and its legacy. So I feel like that. I sort of feel like I couldn’t have asked for a better Broadway debut. It’s definitely not the way most people make their Broadway debut. Most people are lucky to understudy or work their way through the ensemble or be in a few flops before they are in a show that runs long enough that they don’t have to go right back onto the unemployment line, but luckily for whatever reason I’m making my debut in a great role in this show that’s really beloved and I’ve been able to play out my full contract. We didn’t have to worry about the show closing early. So it’s been a real blessing. I couldn’t have imagined it going better.
Nuke: Do you have your eye on movies eventually?
AM: Yeah, that’s sort of the final frontier for me, now that I’ve finally done Broadway and I’ve done a few things on TV. Definitely. People ask me all the time what I prefer, stage or screen? They both have their own advantages. One of the advantages of doing a stage play is that it’s finite. You have one script that is only so many pages long and you do it again and again and again and can sort of get better at it and learn more about it and plan accordingly. Whereas with TV, you don’t know what is coming at you until a few days, a few hours, sometimes even minutes before you shoot it. So you sort of have to just stay on your toes and know the character really well, but there are surprises and sometimes you look back and say, “Oh gosh, if I had only had a little bit more time with this, I could’ve made something more interesting.” So I feel like a film is really the perfect marriage of those things where you have one finite script that isn’t going to change too much and you get to rehearse a little bit more than trying to bang out episode after episode of TV to get a season done. You get to study for a little while and pore over it, but you then get the opportunity to do the intimate work that you’re able to on camera and not have to push your performance out to the last row. So I’m really excited to get the opportunity to do that in the future hopefully because I think it’s going to be the sweet spot of all the things that I like about both mediums.
Nuke: Is The Flash open for you to come back in future episodes?
AM: Without giving too much away, absolutely.
Nuke: I mean, it’s a comic book so that’s not giving anything away.
AM: Right, you know that in comics Piper’s a major, major character. I can’t really speak to what they’re planning. This is obviously its own iteration of this story and there’s going to be some differences of course but the way it’s left, I think with all of the opportunity that they’re giving his relationships with the other characters and how much there is to tell about this one character, I think the probability is pretty high that we’re going to hear from him more.
Nuke: Would you like to cross over on Arrow too?
AM: Oh, absolutely. I’d be thrilled to. I don’t know anyone on that show. I’d make some friends. One of the luxuries of working on Flash was I knew Grant. I went to school with Carlos. He stayed in my apartment when visiting the school and then we did a couple years together at school and did concerts and shows together. I knew Jesse Martin from Smash so I felt like I was coming into this group of friends that I already have and playing around. So I’d like to make some friends on Arrow too.
Nuke: Now you know Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim.