Interview with HUMANITAS Trustee Greg Berlanti
Greg Berlanti must have superpowers. That’s the only explanation for his ability to juggle an insane number of projects, including television’s best broadcast pilot.
Marvel might be kicking DC’s ass in the big-screen clash of the comics titans, but over in television, it’s stuck playing Clark Kent to DC’s Superman. While the mega-hyped Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. stumbled out of the gate last fall, DC’s scrappy, thrilling Arrow—based on Green Arrow, the vigilante that billionaire playboy Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) becomes after being discovered on a remote island five years after he was presumed dead—has had confident command of its world since premiering in 2012. That’s in large part due to the brilliance of Greg Berlanti, who runs Arrow alongside Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg.
And now, DC’s go-to television guru is at it again, with The Flash, broadcast’s best pilot this fall. (It premieres Tuesday on The CW at 8 p.m. ET/PT; Arrow kicks off Season 3 one night later, also on The CW). It’s the story of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), a CSI investigator whose mother died under mysterious circumstances when he was 11. Barry is struck by lightning during a freak storm and, after nine months in a coma, wakes up to discover he has become the fastest man alive. While almost all new shows take much of the first season to find their way, Flash arrives impressively fully-formed and self-assured. And, oh yeah, it’s a helluva lot of fun.
Berlanti sat down to talk about how comics changed his life, how he pulled off Arrow and Flash, and his own superhuman abilities to juggle an insane amount of TV and movie projects.
How did your obsession with comics begin?
I grew up in New York and there was a Caldor that had a Sunday flea market. They had a comic book section, and I would bring all the change I collected from the week and dump it on the comic book stand. That was 11 or 12, through 15. And it happened right at that renaissance that was Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths—all this stuff was happening in comic books that was really cool and easy to obsess about.
And then you discovered The Flash at 13.
He was the first character that made me cry. He died in the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Barry was really like the first fanboy in a lot of ways. Amongst all these DC guys, he was always like, ‘Wow, there’s Superman!’ ‘Oh, that’s really cool what Batman can do!’ He was saying the things and feeling the things that you were feeling while you were reading the comic book. And there was the notion that, okay, I’m not from another planet like Superman, but I could get struck by lightning. That could happen to me! Then, when he sacrificed himself for all of them, it was like, wow, potentially the least powerful or least iconic of this group had died for the safety of the whole universe. That was a really pronounced thing. I remember thinking, “I didn’t think that comic books could make me feel this deeply.” So that was how I latched on.
When you created No Ordinary Family, you basically made the mother a female Flash.
Yeah, she’s a speedster.
So by that point, you’re thinking it might actually be possible to do The Flash someday?
Yeah. While I was working on Green Lantern, I met [DC Comics Chief Creative] Geoff Johns. When I came back to Warners in TV, everybody at DC and at Warners television said, “Which character would you like to do as a TV series?” And Arrow was the one that I said, “I could see how that’s something we could do on TV that you couldn’t do anywhere else.” Knowing that his origin story was his time on the island, the fun part about it to me was okay, let’s tell a five, six year story about how he becomes [Arrow]—how in a film, that would be the first 20 minutes of the film. But on the show you could actually tell it narratively over a long period of time.
You could also point to Lost as a show that proves you can do…
Flashbacks and flash-forwards, that helps for sure. But there were questions and doubts at the outset. Everybody said, “Well, how is this going to be different?” I said, “We’re shooting in Vancouver and they shot in Hawaii. It will not look like Lost. It will look colder!”
Read more at The Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/10/06/the-tv-superhero-guru-behind-the-flash.html