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Why Robbie Amell went from The Flash to grittier heroes in Code 8

By Bryan Cairns

Code 8 has been a labor of love for Robbie Amell. Directed by Jeff Chan from a script by Chris Pare, the dystopian sci-fi thriller started off as a short film in 2016 starring Amell and his real-life cousin, Arrow's Stephen Amell. After some positive word of mouth and buzz, the two launched a crowdfunding campaign to produce a full-length version of Code 8, which will finally hit theaters and on-demand on December 13.

Set in a future where 4 percent of the population wield superpowers, Code 8 follows Connor (Robbie Amell), a financially strapped, desperate young man recruited by Garrett (Stephen Amell) to pull off crimes on behalf of the city's drug lord, Marcus (Greg Bryk). In the meantime, the militarized police force is hot on their trail and determined to bring down Marcus' organization – and anyone associated with it.

Actor/producer Robbie Amell recently spoke with SYFY WIRE about superheroes, fundraising, fan support, and Firestorm.

What was the inspiration behind Code 8?

Stephen and I always wanted to work together. We got to do that little bit on The Flash, but we didn't even say anything to each other. Then Jeff Chan, who directed the movie, he and I have been friends for a long time, and we wanted to work together. We knew we wanted to make something we were fans of. We love the superhero genre, but we wanted to make something a little different that we felt people hadn't really seen yet.

In what ways are you offering something fresh to the genre?

It's not that audiences haven't seen it. We are at a time where everything is so big. Everything is these universe-sized fights. That's cool. I love those movies. I go to every Marvel movie. I go to every DC movie.

With that being said, there's definitely a disconnect between them and the real-life, grounded stories that most dramas or thrillers or less superhero-y films are telling. Part of it is the budget, because we couldn't do these universe-sized fight scenes, but we felt we could do something cool with the money we had and the visual effects company we had.

Introduce us to your character, Connor, and the circumstances he finds himself in.

When you meet my character, similar to the short film, he's just trying to get by. The world he lives in is not conducive to anyone with powers. It's illegal to use your powers. This kid is just trying to get by. He's working as a day laborer, trying to make his couple of bucks. His mom is sick. His dad died when he was young. This is a guy whose mom is everything to him. They don't have money for her treatment.

Garrett comes along and Connor gets swept up in the criminal underworld of these people using their powers to make some money.


Considering you didn't get to spend much time with Stephen on The Flash, how much did you enjoy chewing up these scenes with him on Code 8?

It was great. We talked a lot about the first scene we did together, which was the diner. We grew up together. We moved to L.A. shortly after one another. We spent a lot of time together when we were young. He's seven years older, so there was a little gap where we didn't really hang out. When we moved to L.A., we became just as close as we once were. It was great being on set and doing what we love.

You've pulled off some pretty amazing feats as Firestorm on The Flash and as Stephen Jameson on The Tomorrow People. In terms of action, powers, or wirework, what did you do that you've never done before?

It's a little similar. Shooting fire out of your hands versus shooting electricity out of your hands works the same way.

When we were talking about using the powers in Code 8, you can't just use them forever. They take a toll out of you. It's physically and mentally exhausting. Stephen's character is a telekinetic. When he is stopping something with his mind, we wanted there to be a physicality to it, almost like he's pushing with his arms even though he's not touching it. Same with the electricity. We wanted to make it as if, "If these things existed, what are the questions we would ask about them, and how would we fulfill that?"

Your fundraising campaign's goal was $200,000. You raised $2.7 million. How blown away were you by the fans' enthusiasm towards this project?

It's amazing. We've gone around the world on a premiere tour. We went to Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles, Chicago, Australia, and London. It was unbelievable.

To get to share this movie with the people who made it possible ... This whole process is something I will never forget and will cherish for the rest of my life. It'll be fun to share this movie with everyone on December 13. Part of what took us so long was we wanted to find the best way to get it out there. Anybody who wants to see it in the theaters, hopefully they live near a major city. There's going to be a small theatrical run. On the same day, anyone who wants to watch it at home can watch it on iTunes or Video on Demand. We just want people to see it.

The possibilities for this universe seem endless. What conversations have you had about where you want it to go and sequels?

I can't really answer that question, but we are in talks to a place about it. We know we want to do more, and hopefully we will have something to announce in the near future.

Arrowverse's big Crisis on Infinite Earths is currently airing. Did they ever approach you about reprising your role as Firestorm?

No, I didn't make it back. Sadly. Stephen and I talked about it a bunch. They have so many people that they have to take care of. As amazing as it would have been to go back, it had to make sense for the story. It just wasn't in the cards this time around.

But I'm so proud of Stephen and what he did in his eight seasons. Without Arrow, Code 8 wouldn't exist. So much of the crowdfunding campaign was fans of his and fans of mine from our time on The CW.