Danielle Panabaker Discusses Directing ‘The Flash’

On tonight’s new episode of The Flash, Danielle Panabaker will play triple duty as Dr. Caitlin Snow, Killer Frost, and as director of the episode. This will be Panabaker’s third time in the director’s chair after making her directorial debut in season five. I got a chance to speak with the actress/director recently about getting back behind the camera post-COVID and what it’s like to be the last remaining member of the original S.T.A.R. Labs team.

Photo: The CW

First of all, congratulations on directing The Flash once again. But before I talk to you about that, I just wanted to ask you what is it like coming back post-pandemic, being back on set, and getting to see people again after a year off from the real world.

PANABAKER: I mean, you know, it was interesting, it was really, really interesting. It’s sort of collided with my maternity leave. And our show only had about six months off. They stopped filming in March, and we were back filming again in September, so it wasn’t a huge break and, you know, as we were gearing up to go back to work, there had just been a second or third wave of COVID, and things were getting worse in Vancouver, and, you know I had a baby at home so it was a pretty anxious time for me personally. I think for a lot of us, our cast in particular, I think was pretty COVID-conscious and there was a lot of concern going back to set but, you know, I will say that everyone really came together and did their best to be as safe as possible and that really started from the top down. The studio really had great COVID protocols in place, and our writers did a really good job of accommodating. You’ll notice that there’s, generally, not a ton of people in each scene. It’s only a few people to minimize the exposure, and there was a lot more of separated storylines so people were more in pods, you know, again, to minimize exposure if there was a potential outbreak. So, it was scary because as actors, we’re asked to go to work and take our mask off, but they did a great job keeping us as safe as possible.

Season 7 itself is is such a transitional year because of COVID, because season 6 was kind of interrupted, so you had to kind of accommodate for that at the beginning of the season. Of course, you’re also the last person standing from the original S.T.A.R. Labs Team Flash with Tom and now Carlos leaving. What has it been like, that transition seeing them leave and you know, the the cortex is still full since you have so many other folks who have stepped up to the plate, but having Cisco and Wells not be behind the podium. What has that been like for this transition year?

I mean, devastating. Maybe I’m taking that a little too personally. I mean, you know, this has been an incredible journey, this show. It’s such a unique and remarkable experience — we hit 150 in season 7, and, you know, the few of us who have been here from the beginning and just seen, you know the show and this universe take on a life of its own were incredibly, incredibly lucky. I knew quite frankly that both of them would be departing. I had actually said goodbye to Tom in season 6 when I was pregnant right before I left to go on my maternity leave.

There was that Instagram he sent out last year everyone was speculating about I remember.

Yeah, so I’d said goodbye to him. So, you know, on one hand, it was so nice for me to be able to come back and to share a few scenes with him and do a couple episodes before he departed. but, you know, I also know Tom and his family, and want to support them in doing what’s best for their family and I understand why they would make that choice so you know. His presence was certainly missed, and you know Carlos is well I’ve known for quite some time that he would be leaving the show. And that one. You know he’s been my partner in crime we’ve done so much together I feel like some of our storylines were so intertwined, particularly in the early seasons that I, you know, I will miss him desperately I think they’ve done, I think Eric and the writers have done a great job of bringing in Chester and Allegra, and, you know, in particular this season have really allowed them to flourish and come into their own. But, you know, no one can replace. Sure, Carlos and Tom.

Well let’s let’s talk about directing! This is your third time behind the lens. How have you grown as a director since, I believe was in season five you did your first stint as a director?

The first episode I directed was in season five. I you know I enjoy every experience I will say this year because of COVID and all the restrictions and everything you have to take into consideration we also were, I mean, historically we’ve done 14 hour camera days. And now, because of COVID we were doing 10 or 11 hour camera days so you’re limited on what you can do in that sense, and how much time you have if something’s not working, you know, typically you’d have a little bit more time to finesse it and try and make it happen. Whereas now because they’re pulling the plug. Sometimes you have to make compromises I mean that’s, to be honest with a lot of what directing is is you know using prepare. In my experience, you spend days if not weeks preparing, and then you get there on the day and inevitably, nothing goes exactly as planned. So, you know COVID was a new wrinkle, absolutely. But this I had a lot of fun with this one I think. I think one of my biggest strengths as a director is getting to work with actors. So, this episode. In particular, I was really lucky to get to do, and grateful to get to do this big Allegra storyline, to really support Kayla (Compton), in as many ways as possible.

Photo: The CW

And just, you know, as you said with COVID kind of being this extra layer. If you were to like think back to last year when you direct to you know his every year you get the one episode you get to direct and just knowing the kind of difficulty, you know, index getting turned up, like what do you feel like it’s just help you grow as a director and do you think that this experience kind of like, like you said, using the all the restrictions just just help you flourish and will add to, When you’re directing again next season for apps and you don’t have all of these restrictions, you have all these like tools in your toolkit now.

Absolutely, I think all challenges make us grow and change and, you know, isn’t that the point is to grow and change and become a different and hopefully better person and I think that applies to my skills as a director as well so you know I think I’m getting more used to just rolling with the punches as different challenges arise on set and thinking creatively and, you know, this season in particular, it was really fun to get to lean on all the different technicians and to say to them, you know, how can we make this the best it can be given the parameters, we’re working with. So, hopefully, yes it will help me. As I continue to direct, hopefully on other shows.

And I guess. Lastly, you know, you mentioned the early seasons. If you were to like flashback, no pun intended 149 episodes or so, can you just what has the journey of Caitlin Snow been like for you as you’ve experienced it like can you. Could you have imagined. You know, I guess you knew that you know one day you would turn into Killer Frost I don’t think you knew you would be playing two different characters, like literally having to like split screen when you’re when you’re doing the role like how is the evolution of Kaitlyn slash frost been for these last seven years,

you’re correct and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be playing two completely different characters in scenes together on a regular basis. You know, I mean I, I don’t know that there is anything to say except, you know, enjoying these moments I’m not a person who I don’t carry my phone around I don’t take a lot of photos I don’t take a lot of selfies so you know I try and really be present in the moment and I think it is the memories, you know, of the time spent with the people that I will cherish most of all, and I think, you know, we’ve been pretty good about enjoying them in the moment, too.

Photo: The CW

Yeah, well, I’m very happy for you. I’m glad to see you thrive and excel on the show, and congratulations on directing again and and all the success, and you know, continued success in this and other endeavors in your career.

Thank you. I really appreciate it. Hopefully, hopefully we’ll chat again soon.