The CW is about to unleash something super. As you’ve no doubt heard, the television destination for metahuman (and vigilante) heroism is on the cusp of a four-show crossover.
Beginning Nov. 28, with Supergirl on Monday, and continuing with The Flash on Tuesday, Arrow on Wednesday and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow on Thursday, the DC Comics-based series will merge for a multi-part story. Thus far, we know our heroes face the mind-controlling alien threat of The Dominators, who invade earth due to its out-of-control metahuman problem.
But the real story is what happened behind the scenes.
In Season 3 of Arrow, and the first of The Flash, the characters played, respectively, by Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin popped into one another’s shows in stand-alone tales. Then, the crossover from last season involved a shared narrative that launched Legends of Tomorrow. Last year also saw The Flash cross over into Supergirl’s (Melissa Benoist) show, before that series moved from CBS to its current home on CW.
But now, with four shows intertwining, it is fair to call this crossover the most ambitious of television history. Beyond being a feat that should excite comic book fans, it is also a technical achievement – and one hell of a challenge – for the casts and crews of each show to pull off.
After all, as Amell points out, it’s not as the challenge from a two-show crossover to four is only twice as large.
“It goes exponentially,” he said. “It’s like 32 times!”
With that in mind, I recently visited the four Vancouver sets of these CW shows to ask about pulling off this achievement, and where their characters may fit in the big story.
How does this year compare to the craziness of other years?
The first year was crazy because we just tried to do it. Business as usual: Stephen will go one spot, we’ll go the other spot. I remember Flash was ahead of us, and I read Episode 307 of Arrow, which was going to be taking place concurrent with Episode 108 of Flash, in terms of our filming schedule.
I read Episode 307 of Arrow expecting to be very Colton Haynes heavy, or a Lance flashback, or something. I knew David, Emily, and myself were going to Central City. Yet, we were all over the episode. Lance wasn’t in it; it barely had any of Colton (I sometimes vacillate between character names and people in real life). It didn’t seem like there was a ton of planning between the shows.
Last year was a step in the right direction but it was a bit of the tail wagging the dog, so to speak. Legends was shooting their pilot, and built their schedule weeks in advance without any consideration of Flash or Arrow. That’s not their priority; they were the ones doing their pilot.
This year, it is a four-way crossover insofar as it begins at the end of Supergirl’s hour. But it really was her as a visitor, and then a three-way crossover between Arrow, Flash, and Legends. Everyone got together, and made a schedule. Our First Assistant Director, who put together that schedule, handed me this big piece of paper that was five straight weeks of where I was going each day. It was hard work, and I didn’t have a day off for five weeks, but there was a spirit of teamwork that made it palatable.
What are the challenges of an actor coming to your show, and you heading to their shows? Is it a crazy time?
It is for everyone. But within the chaos – that’s what we all love about it. When else do you get to do something like that? Not just crossover with one show, but three? I think, logistically, it is an impossible feat we somehow did in terms of scheduling, and getting humongous group scenes when there are three other shows still shooting. To get everyone in a cast to be on one show? It was kind of chaotic, but so much fun, and an electric energy any time we were in the same room, especially in our suits. I can’t wait for people to see it.
Is this a big challenge to tackle?
Logistically, there is. Obviously, you’re doing four different shows so there’s that and then you have to do pickups of the shows and things you missed.
There are times we went back — we just shot something on Legends, for example, but it was an Arrow episode on Legends’ set, and we were like, “What happened just before this?” And we’re always looking to the First A.D. or the director during these crossovers and being like, “What just happened?”
I mean, you do the work and you do know what happened, but, at the same time, you don’t because it’s four shows. And it’s four shows that, you know, we’re doing our show. You know the shows, but you don’t know it as well as you know yours, right? So, you’re kind of getting educated as you go.
It’s fun as an actor, though, because you get to work with the other actors from other shows and you don’t really see them unless you’re doing these events. You know, you do the 100 Episode Party, you see them there. You get to see them at different dinners, but you never really get to work with them. That’s always fun to do. But, yeah, logistically, it’s a challenge, but it’s fun, man.
I think I posted some pictures that I took the other day of the crossover. You know, we’re on a rooftop with all these different superheroes and you’re just like, “Wow, this is great stuff.” I just had Lou Ferrigno and Bill Bixby when I grew up, man, but this is like good stuff right now.
(Sara Lance/ White Canary)
How is she going to react to Kara/Supergirl?
I think she is intimidated by her, at first. She is used to being the bad bitch in town, and then all of a sudden comes this alien girl who can levitate, and burn things with her eyes. It is kind of like, “OK...” So it is needing to get over that intimidation, and go, “I see you.” And she is impressed by her, for sure.
On the longevity of the crossovers and the behind the scenes crews...
Make no mistake, it is quite the feat to get these shows on the air. It can be quite draining for someone like Grant or the main characters. But we see how much you guys enjoy them that I don’t think it will ever go away. It is so worth the lack of sleep and energy to see how much fans enjoy the crossovers. I think it is something that will happen for years to come, and we’re glad to do it. And it’s not just us, but the crew and production making it work. They are really busting their butts to make us look good, and give you a great product to enjoy. There are thankless (sic) crew members that are really making us look great.
(Hank Henshaw/J’onn J’onzz)
How satisfying, but also tiring, was this project?
It was such a huge undertaking...just seeing all those trailers! It was an amazing achievement, and I’m looking forward to seeing how we’ll pull it off, and bring it together. It is fun working with actors from different shows that are already established. Logistically, I know Melissa was just shattered. She is one of the hardest working actors I know. Doing four days on the crossover, and then coming to us for half a day – she was exhausted. It was a crazy undertaking. Hopefully we pulled it off.
It is really hard to do one show. To try and do two shows in one time? That’s impossible. To try and do four shows in one time? It can’t be done. Somehow, the scheduling works out, and it is the biggest puzzle to put together these pieces. The unsung heroes are the ones who manage to get it done, because it can’t be done. I have worked in television for 117 years, and you can’t do two shows at once. It just can’t be done, especially if you’re asking the leads on each show to do the lead storyline but also go do this and that on three other shows. It somehow manages to happen because the people behind the scenes make it work.
The rest of get to show up. We’re told, you’re going to Supergirl and doing this scene in a hangar with 17 other people. Here are your lines. We just show up, and do it. We are the beneficiaries of all this incredible planning.
It is done for the audience. And it great to see some of these people, old friends, on our show. For us, the super hero universe is quite small. All these people have become quite good friends. Even if we don’t share the same show, we share the same universe. Getting a chance to play with them is a tremendous pleasure.
Will you discuss the logistical challenge of the crossover?
Kudos for all the production staffs on all the shows. It is such an epic task at hand to get all these different actors to focus on their shows, and come back and forth. It is very strenuous on everyone, but we know the fans love that. Myself being a comic book fan, one of the dopest parts of comic books was seeing different worlds collide, take on one task – whether it’s Age of Apocalypse or whatever, it is something great to see different characters interact. It rarely gets done in this capacity on TV, so it is something we as actors love. We love to give to our fans, and love to sacrifice our time to bring something as amazing and epic as a four-way crossover to people.
Was there a character you were excited to interact with?
Cisco was definitely a character I wanted to meet. What bummed me out about the crossover was I was sick during it. I was enjoying it, but also having to lay down on a makeshift mat and have warmers on me because I was dealing with the flu. But getting to work with ‘Los was really cool.
You play a very skilled character, so did you get to be involved in the crossover?
She certainly gets to meet some of the other characters, which is really fun. She meets them in a high-stakes situation so it is very much “get on with the job.” There isn’t much time to have a chat at first, but at the end of our crossover, it is wonderful because you see everyone together, celebrating in a sense. That is when they get to chat a little bit.
As a new character on this show, what is it like to come on, and all these insane things are happening [like the crossover]?
What I love is every episode is a different movie, because it’s a completely different cast...there’s no time to wait around. You just have to jump in full force.
You and Jax received a message from Future Barry Allen a few episodes ago. How are they reacting to that?
You know, it comes out in dribs and drabs. It is a big mystery. It is a spoiler if I give you too much information, but it is part of the whole mystery of time travel. The fact this is coming from Barry years later, and the way he finds out – that all happens in the crossover. It unfolds as things do on these shows.