The Flash Exclusive: Jesse L Martin on Det. West and Weather Wizards
by Fred Topel
After the Television Critics Association panel on The Flash this summer, I ended up going one on one with Broadway legend Jesse L. Martin. The veteran of the original production of Rent has had a storied history on television on Law & Order, Ally McBeal and most recently Smash. He plays a very real world role on the latest DC comic book show The Flash and mentioned in the panel that he hasn’t read the Flash comic books himself. He hung around after the panel so I was able to talk to him further.
Martin is Det. Joe West, a policeman who’s taken a personal interest in Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) since his mother was killed and his father convicted. Barry works for Joe as a CSI and has an unrequited crush on his daughter Iris (Candice Patton). When Barry is given super powers, and West sees him fight a Weather Wizard, West begins to believe there’s more going on in Central City than just crime. The Flash premieres October 7 on The CW.
Nuke the Fridge: Do you get any Law & Order deja vu playing a detective on The Flash?
Jesse L. Martin: Only a little bit. You know, when I’m suiting up, putting the gun in, the badge and the whole nine, yeah, I get a little bit. But it’s so different, dude.
Nuke: You shot Law & Order in New York. Is The Flash on a soundstage?
Jesse L. Martin: This is on the soundstage and on location in Vancouver.
Nuke: Being a New York actor and a Law & Order veteran, how does it feel to mimic the city in Vancouver?
Jesse L. Martin: It actually feels remarkably the same. Once you’re on the street, you’ve got the yellow police tape up, there’s a crowd gathering which we’ve hired. And there’s a crowd gathering on the other side that is just people that live in the city and they want to see what we’re doing. So it feels remarkably the same. Less busy, if you will, because Vancouver’s not as busy as New York, but it feels remarkably the same.
Nuke: Is that partly because Vancouver has done it so much, they know how to do a “New York” type city?
Jesse L. Martin: Oh yeah. I don’t know if they’re doing New York. We’re not New York. We’re Central City. Yeah, they’re good at it. They know what they’re doing in Vancouver. They film a lot of things. When we were doing the pilot, there were something like 40 productions going on at the very same time.
Nuke: Is Barry keeping his job as a CSI with West?
Jesse L. Martin: Oh yeah. Yeah, he has to. That’s the job.
Nuke: What are the cases West and Barry investigate every week, outside the superhero stuff?
Jesse L. Martin: That’s a good question. I don’t know yet because we’re in the middle of filming the second episode so I’m not exactly sure. So far we’re dealing mostly with metahumans because they seem to be taking over Central City.
Nuke: What were the special effects in the Weather Wizard scene in the pilot?
Jesse L. Martin: I was only there on the practical side of things, acting on the other side of things.
Nuke: But there was nothing there, right?
Jesse L. Martin: No, there was nothing there. It was just acting. I got to see a lot of stunty things where I actually saw Barry tumble out of the tornado and things like that, but most of it is total green screen. So I was just acting towards the screen or a dot on the wall, that kind of thing.
Nuke: Did you have stunts yourself?
Jesse L. Martin: Yeah, I did actually. I actually had some stunts and it was fun.
Nuke: Had you done a lot of that in your career?
Jesse L. Martin: A little bit on Law & Order, just running, tackling, that kind of thing but of course if you’re a regular character on a show, they don’t want you to get hurt so they make sure you’re doing the minimal of stunts. It’s the same thing here, the minimal of stunts. We’ve got a great stunt team so there’s no reason to throw myself on the ground if this guy standing behind me can really do it.
Nuke: As far as you’re concerned, are you doing a cop drama?
Jesse L. Martin: That’s a good question. Yes. Not a superhero show.
Nuke: When you decided not to read the comic books, were Geoff Johns and the DC guys pushing you, like, “Maybe take a look at this?”
Jesse L. Martin: Nope. They were totally cool with it. They were like, “We totally understand why.” Listen, if I was playing one of the metahumans, I’d definitely read them. I probably will read them anyway but right now I don’t want to know too much because if I know what’s coming, I’m afraid that will show up before it needs to show up. So I’d like Joe to stay on the ground and everything to be a surprise for him.
Nuke: Is your contract set up so if they want you to cross over to Arrow, that’s allowed?
Jesse L. Martin: I believe so, yeah. I think we’re all game to be part of the whole universe, whatever it’s going to be. That starts with Arrow with us.
Nuke: Would you welcome that if it comes up?
Jesse L. Martin: Totally, I love those guys. They’re right next door to us in the studio.
Nuke: Even if it adds an extra week to your season?
Jesse L. Martin: I’m here to work. You know what I mean? I’m here to work. I’m good with it.
Don’t forget to check out “The Flash” every Tuesdays on the CW starting this fall.