Grant Gustin is approaching 7 seasons of playing Barry Allen on The Flash. Here, we look back on Gustin’s journey as the Scarlet Speedster in the “Arrowverse” to date.
Whether you and believe it or not, former Glee guest star Grant Gustin has been playing The Flash for almost a decade. In 2013, aged 23, Gustin debuted on Arrow as intelligent, quirky forensic scientist Barry Allen, not yet having gained his powers of super speed.
At the time of Gustin’s casting as Barry, Deadline reported that he would appear in three episodes of Arrow, before being spun off into his own series. The original plan was for Gustin’s third Arrow episode to be a ‘backdoor pilot’ – still technically an episode of the Stephen Amell-led series, only setting up Barry’s world and the cast of characters who would inhabit it.
Considering Grant Gustin’s background as a musical theatre performer as well as the fact that the actor does not resemble Barry’s print blonde, muscly likeness, not everyone was on board with this decision at the beginning. As a comic book character, the Barry Allen Flash first appeared in 1956, predating Gustin’s inheritance of the role by almost sixty years.
One disgruntled TVLine commenter wrote: “Wow I’m disappointed. Not really sure who I was thinking would fit this role, but he seems like a terrible choice. Doesn’t have the look, the swag, etc. He was very predictable and rather annoying in Glee”. Another added: “Such a horrible actor! And a 23 year old (who looks about 19) as a forensic scientist. Gotta love the CW consistency.”
As ardent fans of the series will know, Gustin instead led a standalone Flash pilot, rather than having The Flash’s official introduction take place on Arrow. The CW assembled a cast including Jesse L. Martin, Tom Cavanagh, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker and more as fellow regulars opposite Gustin in Season 1.
As already mentioned, Grant Gustin definitely had critics when he was cast as The Flash. However, there’s no denying the actor has proved how suited he is for the part. In a 2014 interview, Gustin revealed how his dance background helped with the role of Barry/Flash: “I don’t run like any type of athlete. I stopped doing any organized sports at 10 and started dancing. I’m athletic but in a dancer way.”
Perhaps compared to the expectations of comic book fans, The CW’s iteration is more of a coming-of-age story. As Gustin was in his early twenties at the beginning, Barry would have to be similarly-aged. Rather than jump into a veteran Flash’s story, saving lives in Central City, the audience got to become more invested in Gustin’s Barry by seeing him from the very start of his superhero journey.
There’s also the fact that Gustin, as much as detractors didn’t want to admit it, is a talented actor. Time and time again, Barry Allen has been put through emotional torment – losing family and friends, being betrayed by supposed allies, broken by various traumas. Gustin has risen to the challenge on each occasion, allowing the audience to really feel what Barry is going through in one of these moments.
Another benefit of The Flash is Grant Gustin’s strong chemistry with effectively all the other core cast members. He’s had deep, emotional scenes with both Candice Patton (Iris) and Jesse L. Martin (Joe) as well as tense stand-offs opposite Tom Cavanagh (Eobard Thawne/Reverse-Flash). Gustin has also conveyed a strong friendship bond alongside Carlos Valdes as Cisco and Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin, admittedly primarily in Season 1.
Gustin is six years younger than Jessica Parker Kennedy, who played Barry and Iris’ future daughter Nora West-Allen in Seasons 4 and 5. Despite this, Gustin-as-Barry managed to create a strong, loving, believable father-daughter bond with Kennedy, which made Nora’s ultimate fate – no spoilers – all the more hard to watch.
All in all, Grant Gustin’s journey as Barry Allen/The Flash has been nothing short of fast-paced – and it’s showing no signs of slowing down just yet.
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