Grant Gustin has played the Arrowverse’s Flash/Barry Allen since 2013. How has he redefined the character?
Since The Flash’s print debut for DC Comics in 1939, the character has become a widely popular hero in comic book lore.
Several speedsters have taken up the mantle – including Jay Garrick, Wally West and Bart Allen. However, arguably the most well-known man behind the mask is Barry Allen, created by Robert Knaigher and Carmine Infantino, first appearing in 1956.
Barry has been depicted in numerous media adaptations over the years. Actors who have played him in live-action include John Wesley Shipp on CBS’ The Flash between 1990-1991 and Ezra Miller, who has portrayed the character in the DC Extended Universe since 2016.
In recent years, actor Grant Gustin has become most associated with the character of Barry Allen/The Flash. The Glee alum first guest-starred as Barry in two episodes of Arrow before becoming the star of his own series from 2014 onwards.
Compared to other actors who have played The Flash and, indeed, the character’s appearances in other media such as comics and animation, Gustin bears several noticeable physical differences.
While Barry Allen has traditionally been shown as blonde and muscular, Grant Gustin has darker hair while also sporting a more slender frame befitting his background as a Broadway performer and dancer.
Gustin’s youthful Barry also happens to be somewhat younger than usual adaptations of the character – already a married man.
His January 1990 birthday puts his age at 24 years old when the pilot premiered in October 2014. Notably, similarly dark-haired and slender Ezra Miller began playing Barry Allen for feature films two years after Gustin. Miller was also approximately 24 years of age in the year that his first appearance was released.
In comparison, Gustin’s earlier counterpart John Wesley Shipp was 35, over a decade older, when he began playing the character in 1990.
Regardless of whether Gustin resembles the drawings in decades old comic books, he has very clearly made the role of Barry Allen his own.
Throughout the show’s six seasons, Gustin has put his stamp on an iconic character and become a defining hero for a generation of kids and young people.
Recently, on Michael Rosenbaum’s podcast Inside of You, Gustin has admitted that one scene has affected him deeply on an emotional level; the season one finale, when present-day Barry Allen witnesses his mother Nora’s death after deciding not to save her in order to preserve the timeline.
Gustin revealed: “A specific moment I’ll never forget was the season 1 finale. To this day this may be the best scene I’ve shot on the show, where Barry goes back, he thinks to save his mom from getting killed by the Reverse Flash, and then stops because he realizes he has to let it happen.”
Furthermore, he added: “Barry’s an adult and she has the moment of recognition and knows that it’s him, doesn’t understand why but accepts that it is. I’ll never forget shooting that scene or the subsequent hours at home after where I couldn’t shake it. I was in the shower still hysterically crying like my mom had died in front of me for real. As an actor it was something I still draw from.”
For an actor to have such a strong emotional connection to their character is a remarkable thing and helps to make the performance more authentic.
From the pilot to now, Gustin has defied the critics and proven that he was, in fact, the right choice to play this part and has the acting chops to carry the series.
It’s been an incredible journey thus far – one which will continue with the recently confirmed season seven.
The Flash airs at 8/7c on The CW.