As originally reported by The Hollywood Reporter, the CW has cast Grant Gustin (with that aliteration, he sounds like a perfect Stan Lee character) to play Barry Allen in the upcoming season of Arrow. He will appear in episodes 8 and 9, and then re-appear in episode 20, which will function as a backdoor pilot for a spin-off show centered around the Flash. Gustin is most know for playing the villainous Sebastian, i.e., new head of the Warblers, in six episodes across the most recent two seasons of Glee. Let’s talk about this.
We knew that the first episode to feature Barry Allen begins filming September 30, meaning a casting announcement of who was playing the future Scarlet Speedster was expected to come at any moment. The people who were rumored candidates were largely uknowns, just as Arrow‘s own Stephen Amell was at the time of his casting as Oliver Queen. So, on that point Gustin is a bit of a surprise, at least to me in that I actually knew he who he was as a only recently-lapsed viewer of Glee. Whoever they cast would be young, impossibly handsome, probably with an impressive physique and possibly also blonde to correspond with the classic comic book depiction of Barry Allen. Song & dance ability was not really a job requirement, but Gustin brings that with him from his time on Glee.
So, let’s address the superficial parts first. This is the CW after all, the land of needlessly shirtless men (not just Stephen Amell) and Abercrombie Fitch models posing as wayward youth (sorry, Colton Haynes, even if you are from the same town as me-true story, he is). You don’t go to the CW for Shakespeare.
AGE + LOOKS
Grant Gustin is young, maybe even younger than anticipated. At 23-years-old, he is nearly a decade younger than the 32-year-old Stephen Amell. Frankly, his actual age is not important; it’s how young he actually looks. I’d say he looks a little too young for the role at this point, perfect for passing as a teenager in high school but somewhat implausible as an assistant forensics analysis for the police department. However, if the idea here is for Barry Allen to be a rookie, wet behind the ears, Gustin will definitely look that. He is a prototypical CW actor, handsome with some to spare and older than he looks:
He’s not Stephen Amell ab-tastic (few are), but he has the leaner frame and impressive but not overly bulky muscle definition that corresponds to the normal comic book version of Barry Allen. To put it another way, he should look good in the red & gold Flash costume, with indications from the producers at the moment that his costume will not deviate greatly from the classic costume from the comis:
Gustin’s not really blonde, although I’ll admit that I’m the last one to ask about hair color as what many people call blonde I think of just being dark brown.
So, I guess we can offer multiple checkmarks on the “does he meet the criteria for the role?” scorecard. It’s not a 100%, though, due to the hair color. That’s not a dealbreaker for me, but I have to admit when I frst saw the headlines “Glee Actor Cast as Flash” I immediately thought they meant the very blonde Chord Overstreet.
Gustin’s starred in 3 films, and 4 TV shows, most notably 8 episodes of 90210 and 6 of Glee. However, I’ve only see him as Sebastian on Glee. It seems unfair to judge anyone based solely on Glee, considering the show’s notorious streak for horribly jarring abrupt tonal shifts and incredibly loose grasp of characters behaving in a believable and consistent manner. As a character, Sebastian was no different, introduced simply as an obnoxiously grinning and regrettably one-note villain to the New Directions and foil to the Blaine-Kurt romance. Then at the end of the third season, he was used as the character most changed by the attempted suicide of another character. Suddenly, Sebastian was depicted as genuinely repentant, which would have been easier to take if he had ever been shown as someone recognizably human and not a mere plot device prior to that point.
To be fair, though, Gustin at the very least was a relatively impressive dancer and singer on Glee:
One imagines his experience with the choreography of dancing on Glee will translate well to the choreography of fight scenes. However, was there ever anything in Gustin’s performance on Glee that made me want to tune in and see him carry his own show every week? No; not even close. Then again, it turns out I had actually seen Stephen Amell in a small role on Vampire Diaries before, and he never registered with me at all until he showed up on Arrow. So, although I’m currently struggling to picture Gustin as anything other than Sebastian on Glee I’ll reserve judgement until we get to see what the Arrow producers and writers do with him.
For his part, Gustin told THR, “I’m unbelievably excited. I’ve been a lifelong fan of DC Comics, so I can’t be more honored and can’t wait to get started.”
If you want to be spoiled, check here for our prior breakdown of everything the producers had said about the Flash on Arrow and his own TV show. In short, we know quite a bit about what is to happen with Barry Allen this season. It is assumed he will not be introduced fait compli in terms of his powers but instead somehow obtain the power for superspeed and thus begin the transition to the Flash over the course of the season. All of the Barry Allen episodes are being written by Arrow co-creators Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Arrow consultant/DC comic book writer Geoff Johns, all three of whom will transition to the Flash spin-off show should it get picked up to series by the CW (it’s no guarantee it will).
Arrow begins airing its highly anticipated, increasingly jam-packed second season on October 9. In addition to The Flash, other DC characters being added to the cast on a recurring basis include Black Canary, Bronze Tiger, Sebastian Blood, Isabel Rochev, Amanda Waller, Sin, and possibly even Atom and Metamorpho along with The League of Assassins.
What do you think of the casting? Do you like Gustin? Am I too hard on Glee? Should be ashamed that I kept watching Glee after most people stopped? Just wish I’d shown more pictures of Gustin shirtless? Let us know in the comments.
So, this is awkard. My skepticism was totally wrong. I now love Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, as my reviews for every episode of the first season prove.