"The Flash" may be fresh off its blockbuster, two-episode crossover event with "Arrow," but, true to its name, the CW series has no plans to slow down. In fact, the Season 2 winter finale Tuesday, "Running to Stand Still," will feature the debut of one of fans' most anticipated new characters -- Wally West aka Kid Flash (Keiynan Lonsdale).
In a departure from the character's story from the comics, Wally will not be just a nephew of Iris (Candice Patton), but her brother and Joe's (Jesse L. Martin) biological son! That will make the character's debut, as well as his road to eventually joining Barry (Grant Gustin) as his junior speedster, much more complicated. Australian actor Keiynan Lonsdale, 23, known for his role as Uriah in the "Divergent" franchise, spoke to International Business Times to discuss how he landed the coveted role and what Wally's debut means for "The Flash."
Read the full interview below:
International Business Times: Congratulations on landing the role of Wally West! What was the process of getting the role like and how much did you know along the way?
Keiynan Lonsdale: It was a really cool process. It was different. I auditioned for “Legends of Tomorrow” at first for the Firestorm character -- although, they had not said it was for “Legends of Tomorrow” yet, so everything was always under wraps. I auditioned with [casting director] David Rapaport and decided to watch “The Flash” just so I could kind of get an idea about the universe and how these shows were all connected and I immediately got hooked. Then, my team called me and said, “You are not going forward for ‘Legends of Tomorrow,’ but the producers want you to come back and audition for this role of Wally West, who is Kid Flash.” I didn’t know exactly who Wally West was, but by the words “Kid Flash” I could kind of see where it was going. So, I did all my research and it was this really weird thing where I was auditioning for this show I loved watching.
I auditioned quite a few times and my last audition was with Candice Patton, so that was awesome. She just recently told me that the producers told her to make me work really hard! I didn’t know how I was going to be related to Joe and Iris though, when I was going to get my powers, or even what Wally’s personality would be like. Everything was kept under wraps until the last minute.
IBT: What does “last minute” mean exactly?
Lonsdale: I did a marketing shoot about a month before shooting and they had let me know prior to that that I would be Joe’s son. So, that was pretty cool and then they told me, “Do not tell a soul.” So, then I told my Mom … obviously.
IBT: You are not exactly coming out of nowhere -- you, obviously, star in the “Divergent” movie franchise -- but comic book fans are famously ravenous about casting. What was the sudden attention like after it was announced that you would be Wally West?
Lonsdale: It was interesting. It was pretty up and down. It was the first time I ever had to deal with people referring to the color of my skin. That’s not something I ever really had to deal with before. Wally is traditionally a Caucasian character with red hair and a lot of people fall in love with their characters -- they have had them for so long -- and they fall in love with their personalities and how they look is how they picture them and when that changes it can be difficult for them. What I have seen since the casting though is that the majority of people are now really supportive and see that Joe and Iris are African American, so, if I’m Joe’s son … I’m most likely going to be black. Plus, Wally is mixed race in the New 52 (comics) version as well. People are smart and know that the way a character looks does not affect who they are, so it’s been an interesting reaction.
IBT: “The Flash” seems like it would be a very fun set and the cast all seem very friendly with each other on social media. What was it like arriving on set?
Lonsdale: My first day I walked in and it was kind of intimidating how happy everyone was, which was cool. That does not always happen. Everyone was just singing or making personal jokes and they are also very inclusive and welcoming. When you watch the show you feel like everyone has a good connection so you just kind of assume that and I had heard that the cast is great and the crew is great, but it really is a cool family vibe on set. As a newcomer -- it seems like I’m always walking onto a second film or a second season -- it can tough, so when you are made to feel welcome it is much easier to feel comfortable in your performance.
IBT: Speaking of family, let’s talk about Wally West and his new family. Much was made of that fact that Wally will be Joe’s son and Iris’ brother, instead of a nephew or more distant relative. Do you think that change was a big deal?
Lonsdale: I think it is a huge deal. I think going forward you will see how much that affects the family dynamic with everyone -- Joe, Iris and Barry included. I think because it is such an immediate family connection it makes the stakes higher because, if you find out you have a nephew, that is a surprise, but if you find out you have a son, that is a slightly bigger surprise! It also allows for more emotional depth between the characters and in the storylines. I certainly enjoyed it.
I have also noticed how comic fans really love the West family connection between Wally and Iris. Even as aunt and nephew, people love how close they are, so this will be a very cool dynamic to see.
Watch the promo for "Running to Stand Still" below:
IBT: Will those family connections come easily?
Lonsdale: I don’t think it will be an immediate connection. Wally is stepping into a whole new world with a whole new family and he’s just a regular guy. He’s not necessarily the most open guy in his life at this point. He has just found out that he has this family, so it will not be easy. However, that allows there to be more experiences and hardships that they will go through together, which will make them closer and make them really feel like a family.
IBT: What can we expect from Wally’s relationship with Barry?
Lonsdale: It is not going to be an immediately easy relationship. For Wally, he is new to this family and his defenses are already up high. So, then to step into a family and not feel like he has a place here and then see that Joe basically already has a son in Barry -- that is not easy. I think in Wally’s mind there is a little bit of sibling rivalry there and he doesn’t know Barry. Plus, since Barry is such a nice guy it can be even harder to swallow sometimes. It is really about trying to find his place and Barry being there makes it harder for Wally to know where he stands. I think that is cool though. Hopefully going forward, one day these characters will one day be running side to side, so it means a slow burn friendship.
IBT: Since it is going to be a slow burn, would it be safe to say it will be awhile for Wally gets exposed to S.T.A.R. Labs, meta-humans and that side of the show?
Lonsdale: I think [the writers] are going to take their time with that, but you just never know. It is one of those shows where you think things are going to go one way and then one episode could change everything. At this point when we are introduced to him he is just a regular guy and it is more about exploring the family dynamic. My guess is that it will take some time.
IBT: Well, then how are we going to see Wally spending his time when he is not working on connecting with his new family?
Lonsdale: Racing. Drag racing.
IBT: Will Joe be a fan of that?
Lonsdale: Probably not, considering he is a detective, but that is Wally’s thing. That is a cool thing. Wally is obsessed with speed right off the bat and Iris is pretty concerned about that as well, which could create more tension. It means there will be some cool things for the audience to see in terms of the racing.
It is not something I ever had an interesting in, but that is what is cool about acting. One day you are fighting a war from the future and the next day you are a superhero or a drag racer.
Lonsdale: Well, my main goal doing the EP was just to put out a collection of music for myself and see what I could create that was completely from my own influences and without trying to create hit songs. I’m really happy with how fans have reacted. I have a really small music fan base, but I think it’s awesome. I love how people have connected to a lot of the songs in different ways than I expected. A lot of the lyrics are, obviously, pretty personal and relate to experiences that I’ve dealt with, but when people tweet me or write to me about how they feel about a song it is almost completely different than I intended it to be, which I think is awesome. That’s the cool thing about music. It has inspired me to keep making music, although, it has been harder, as of late, with my schedule.
IBT: You are a very busy guy.
Lonsdale: [Laughing] Yeah!
Listen to Lonsdale's music below:
Lonsdale will make his debut on the Flash in episode 9, “Running to Stand Still.” “The Flash” airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. EST on the CW.