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Home Interviews The Flash: Thomas Pound on writing for the hit CW series – Exclusive Interview

The Flash: Thomas Pound on writing for the hit CW series – Exclusive Interview

by Conor O'Brien
The Flash

Thomas Pound chatted with Courageous Nerd about his experience writing for The Flash – a staple of the Arrowverse superhero franchise on The CW, as well as his earlier career.

Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to do this.

Thomas Pound (TP): Thank you for having me.

What inspired you to pursue a career in screenwriting?

TP: Initially, I grew up a massive TV and Film snob. I was always that guy in a group of friends who after we saw whatever movie would be like: “Yeah, it was good, but you know what they should have done?” It just annoyed everybody in my circle, until I think eventually one day a friend of mine said: “You know what, go write that version”, as a joke. It was honestly kind of a light switch moment of going: “Oh yeah, I should.”

Then as a teenager, I just became obsessed with screenplays, reading as many as I could and learning about structure and the process. It pushed me down a path to eventually go to Vancouver Film School to educate myself on how these things are made, practically, by the people on the ground. The salt of the Earth, nuts and bolts of it.

That really gave me a deeper appreciation into pursuing the storytelling and really thinking of it as a real, tangible thing that is made by people, which I still carry with me to this day.

You’ve been a writer on The Flash since the fourth season. How familiar were you with the show before being hired?

TP: Oh, I was very familiar. It was one of those shows, back when it premiered… I grew up a big comic book fan, I have a Superman tattoo. DC is my ‘jam’. Anything superheroes, I’ve always been obsessed with. Arrow came out and I was a fan of that show. I remember when Flash came out, I was working in Vancouver on a Canadian series at the time. Seeing the promos, it had a different flavour that immediately appealed to me. I love the gritty, darker vigilante tone that Arrow introduced to TV, which was so perfect for that character.

Then, to see this lighter, hopeful, optimistic tone that Flash looked like it was going to bring to TV, it got my attention: “They’re not trying to be anything that the character isn’t, from the books.” Honestly, it was watching the pilot the night it premiered, I was hooked then. It was appointment viewing for me, in an age where it’s all streaming. It was one of the shows – and when Supergirl came around, those were the shows where it was appointment viewing for all first three seasons, for me.

The ‘Big Bad’ of that season was The Thinker (Clifford DeVoe), in a change of pace for the show. Compared to villains before and after, what do you think made The Thinker stand out?

TP: The Thinker was much more of an intellectual villain. The basic concept when I joined the show and the writing team was: “We’re going to have the Fastest Man Alive against The Fastest Mind Alive.” That right away got me extremely creatively excited for all the possibilities of something that The Flash/Barry Allen has not really encountered before. It felt fresh and new.

I had the privilege of writing the origin of The Thinker, episode 7 of Season 4. Having the chance to really dig deeper into this person – “Who’s this person, as a human?” And telling such a tragic story of a debilitating illness. He does this to himself, to get these abilities, to save himself. It just takes over and he becomes all mind, no heart. To me, those are the kind of very core stories of what the difference is between the hero and the villain. It was really fascinating for me to explore a type of villain who is almost the complete opposite of Barry and would offer so many new challenges even I hadn’t seen as a fan.

The Flash has many different, vibrant characters. Do you have a favourite one to write for?

TP: You know, with seven seasons of a show and your main character is your pillar of strength, it can be very challenging come Season 7 to tell new stories and push his internal and personal conflict in new ways. You can’t completely undo the character, you can’t get rid of the core traits and values which define who he is. That’s what the show is. Some shows do that, but those are far more serialised and it’s kind of the point of them – like, a Walter White kind of thing. With that, I have heard – not any writers on our show – I have heard in the past that the least interesting character is the main character.

For me, I take that as a personal challenge of: “No, the show’s called The Flash. So, he needs to be the most interesting character.” Is it harder to do for us? Absolutely. You find then that the box we’re working with is just getting smaller and so we have to work harder. Hopefully, in working harder, we discover really interesting things that haven’t been explored yet. So, Barry is still my favourite character to really think about and really just try to find the new perspectives and experiences he hasn’t quite faced yet.

How would you describe The Flash‘s writers’ room or a general writers’ room for anyone hoping to work in TV?

TP: I remember the first time I sat in a Writers’ Room, the first job I ever had as a writer and joining that circle. I had no idea what that room was going to be, either. It’s basically a large… or small, depending on which show you’re on – room of likeminded creatives sitting around a table, talking about these characters, just playing make believe. I remember being in the Writers’ Room on my first show and certainly on Flash, just feeling like I was home. These are my people.

The process generally is we would all come in – on Flash, there’s 10 or 12 of us, depending on the time of year. We will sit down and the whole room is covered in white boards. On any given whiteboard is usually a different episode where we’re at.

I’ll take you through what an episode from scratch would be: We would come in and just start talking about blue-sky ideas. Okay, we’re going to do episode 15. Well, we know because we spent the early part of the season talking with our showrunner about what the big, overarching story is. We know we need to do this one thing, but that’s not necessarily the whole episode. We start talking about: “Where’s Barry emotionally?” What happened last week, in his life? Where does he need to go by the end of this episode, or two episodes from now?

What can we explore with him and a particular relationship – maybe it’s Barry and Iris, or Barry and Cisco. What can we do with him, to take [Barry] on an emotional journey that is engaging, something exciting? Something we would want to see as fans, write as writers? And hopefully, that Grant [Gustin] would want to play as a performer. We’ll spend quite a bit of time, days even, talking about all the different versions. What you find in a Writers’ Room, at least in this one… I’m a firm believer of: “Don’t go to the whiteboard too soon.” I didn’t even coin that myself, I think I read Joss Whedon say that. You don’t go too soon because you need to let the ideas organically grow and the story present itself.

With a group of creatives in a Writers’ Room, as you get talking, people latch onto an idea or story that we can start wrapping our heads around. It becomes almost like an improv game in a way,

The Flash often mixes and matches writers together when writing episodes. Have you enjoyed that process?

TP: Oh, absolutely. In a non-COVID year, our order would be around 20 episodes – Season 4 was 23, then we went down to 22. Looks like it’s going to be a little less for 7, but that’s out of our control. Because the schedule is so intense as far as how long it takes to write these scripts, you need two writers on each script. It’s just in order to churn out a finished draft, go through the notes process with the studio and network, where they will weigh in with their thoughts. You do your tweaks, then prep and shoot it.

There’s only, as far as my time on the show, been one true writing team. They came into the show as a writing team, they’re a writing team on the show. Jon Butler and Gabe Garza, now EPs on the show. Everybody else is really kind of mixed and matched per episode. It’s not something that I had ever done prior to joining Flash. It was just the way that this show worked and honestly, it’s an amazing way to truly collaborate with your colleague, another writer on the show, to tell a singular vision. I really enjoy: “Okay, we’ve figured out what the story is, now we’re going to split and decide who will write each half, between the two of us.”

One of my favourite things is, after x amount of days actually writing is we merge the script to read through the story as a whole. Read these scenes, be excited and surprised. It’s really kind of the only part now that I’m part of the show where it makes me feel like that guy who was appointment viewing as it aired every week. I know the scene’s going to happen, but I don’t know what it’s going to feel like, what surprising or funny thing these characters are going to say. That’s been a real joy, to collaborate with a number of my colleagues.

Are you able to enjoy episodes that you didn’t write as an audience member, or are you too close to the creative process?

TP: It’s funny, there comes a point in the year, about half-way, episode 10 or 11, where we’re filming episode, prepping an episode, an episode is currently being written, an episode is being ‘broken’ or figured out by the writing team. Depending on what your position is – for example, I just wrote episode 11, so I was out of the Writers’ Room for some time. By the time I get back, finish my script and join the Writers’ Room again, they’ve already broken a couple of episodes. I’ll read what I need to be caught up and contribute to the room. Now, I get a full script written by my colleagues in the email that I don’t really… I know what the gist of it is, but I don’t know more than what you read as a paragraph or blurb – “This is what Barry goes through this week…”

Those are really the moments where I get excited: “Oh yeah, I don’t know much about this episode at all and now I get to read it as a fan.”

In late 2019 and early 2020, The Flash was part of the landmark Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event. How would you describe being on a show associated with such a historic television event?

TP: I felt like I had front-row seats to the greatest all-star game of all time. I didn’t write that episode, so I wasn’t part of the Writers’ Room for it, but Sterling Gates and Lauren Certo were the writers who did do it, they would come back to our Writers’ Room – they would have a separate room for whoever the writers were on each show. All of those writers would get together and they would work out the big story together, which sounds so awesome. Sterling and Lauren would come back and give us an update of what was going on. It’s fun to be on this side of it now. As I talked about, they would come in and say: “Oh my God, we’re doing Crisis on Infinite Earths! We’re going to have the 90s Flash come back and this is going to happen. We’re going to have Burt Ward, we’re trying to get Tom Welling. Oh my God, we got Tom Welling!”

It was huge and it just kept coming. I remember conversations were happening, “we might have a Lucifer cameo”, which blew my mind. One day, it was my favourite day: I was breaking an episode when Jon and Gabe, the EPs, came into this separate room I was in and asked: “Did you talk to Eric?”, our showrunner. I said no, they said: “Go into the main room, he’s talking to some of the other writers.”

Some had heard the news, some hadn’t. It’s fun now to be able to talk about it, I couldn’t talk about it for a long time. I go into the Writers’ Room, Eric closes the door and he tells us about Ezra Miller coming in and doing his cameo. That was probably one of the coolest fan moments I’ve ever had on the show. I think I did a backflip – or something crazy and overly dramatic. Again, I feel this just hearing the information, I can’t wait to watch and hear the fans’ reaction.

One of your episodes, License to Elongate, was directed by Danielle Panabaker, who plays Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost. How different was working with Danielle from that creative standpoint?

TP: Oh, it was one of the largest thrills of my entire time on the show. I mean, Danielle and I have worked together as writer-producer and performer and she’s always brought her A-game there. I had no doubt that she was going to do it again, with this episode. She is so incredibly collaborative, so prepared. From the early onset, she was watching all these James Bond movies. She, myself and Jeff Hersh (the co-writer of that episode), we were all talking about our references. What things we wanted to pay homage to, but at the same time, the things we wanted to be unique to Barry and Ralph.

I went up to Vancouver to be on set with Danielle. To really watch this other side of her abilities come out and really flourish was so inspiring. Especially because she’s in a really unique position where she’s directing her castmates. I learned so much, just from watching her and how she communicated with the actors and crew about what she was looking for and how to guide the performers in the direction they needed to go. Collaborate with her about tweaking some scenes to make it resonate a little stronger. So, that experience was a real joy. We had so much fun on that episode, so many good times. It really also has changed how I communicate with all of our cast.

Outside of The Flash, what would you say is your proudest career achievement?

TP: It would still have to be the very first writing job I ever got. I wrote on a show called Motive in Canada for CTV. Prior to then, it was just like a lot of people have experienced, are experiencing and will experience, the hustle. I moved from Vancouver to Toronto, which is kind of where you need to be in my experience, if you want to break into Canadian TV right now. I spent years hustling and writing spec pilots of my own nonstop. Trying to get feedback, trying to become a better writer.

Trying to meet with anybody who would have a cup of coffee with me, to just learn about what is the best way in. What do you think of this script? Writing on web series for free, just for fun. Building relationships over time, to the point where the opportunity on Motive came up. Sending in a script of mine that I was very proud of and having it resonate with the showrunners at the time. Being offered to come and really start my career. That’s when really everything changed for me, personally. As far as, that was the goal, that was why I moved my life across the country, away from friends and family. I knew two people in Toronto. To pursue something, really persevere through the very hard times with that singular goal. So, that would probably be the proudest moment, prior to The Flash.

As for a question only a Flash fan would understand, do you have a favourite Wells?

TP: I absolutely do, and it still surprising that he’s my favourite. Sherloque has been my absolute favourite. I was so surprised at the beginning of Season 5, when Tom [Cavanagh] brought his Sherloque to life. Honestly, at first blush, I had no idea what to make of it. I was going: “Okay, this is a character we’re going to live with for quite a while”.

Then, as we told more stories, and as we utilised him in more emotional ways, I found myself constantly thinking about that character, how he is such a wonderful, unique personality. It really kind of shakes up the show, in a great way. We didn’t write this by the way, Tom did it on his own, the ongoing joke of correcting people when they said his name. My wife is French-Canadian, so Tom and I would talk about that. Even I don’t really know whether I ever pronounced the name correctly. It was always a fun thing, to watch the dailies or cuts and see what Tom was going to do, because it was always unique. So yeah, that certainly was a Wells that I probably enjoyed the most.

If people wanted to find out more about your work or you personally, where could they look?

TP: IMDB has a full list of everything that I’ve worked on – a number of great Canadian series, many of which are still going. I’m not very much on social media, so I would say looking over at IMDB if you’re looking for more work that I’ve done, that would probably be the best place.

Lastly, what are you most looking forward to in 2021?

TP: From a professional standpoint, I’m really excited with the season that we’re making right now. Season 7 won’t come out until, I believe February. I’m extremely proud of a number of the episodes and stories that we’re doing. I think it’s unexpected, it’s brave. So, I’m excited to keep telling those stories and watching the fan reaction.

Personally, I’m just excited for the world to get healthier.

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