NOC Interview: Showrunner Eric Wallace Discusses the Return of ‘The Flash’

“Armageddon,” the five-part special event that will see Barry Allen/The Flash, and his wife Iris and their friends face a threat unlike any they’ve faced before, one that will put them even more strenuously through the wringer. But they have help with heroes coming to their aid from across the Arrowverse! But will that be enough?

In anticipation of the special five-part Season 8 premiere event debuting next week, we were fortunate enough to be joined by showrunner Eric Wallace on what exactly fans should expect for Barry and Iris’s continuing journey as a couple and separately, the new threat they’re going to face, and what it’s like showrunning a show as riveting as The Flash.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Thank you so, so much for joining The Nerds of Color today! So the first question I have for you is what is it like to show run a show like The Flash which seems to have so many moving parts, whether it’s going at superspeed or at regular speed?

WALLACE: What a question! We could talk for an hour about this one question but I will say showrunning The Flash is like making a Marvel movie every week. Or like making a DC or comic book movie every week, with half the time and half the budget, and all the emotion, and everything else. So if you’re asking me how to run the show, I would say it’s the most fun I’ve ever had at a job. But it is by far the most challenging thing that I’ve ever had to do in this industry, because of how big the show is. The scale. Sometimes I think when the audience tunes in, they don’t realize that we have more visual effects shown in one episode of our show than some shows have in an entire season. And getting that coordination, and sometimes failing, is so incredible. It’s quite a gargantuan task. I feel like sometimes, honestly, I feel like a general, a benevolent general kind of leading the army, you know, into battle at first and making sure nobody making sure there are no casualties. A peaceful war at that and the reward of that is great. Because it’s incredibly difficult and it’s been even harder during COVID, trying to make sure everyone’s safe but also still maintaining the same part human spectacle, same excitement on all levels. It’s quite a challenge on a weekly basis, I would say on an hourly basis.

Absolutely. That’s very evident while watching the show. So, for the last few seasons, we’ve seen Barry and Iris go through an incredible amount, but they’ve re-committed themselves to each other and their love, particularly with renewing their vows at the end of last season. So will we get to see them have more moments this upcoming season to breathe and reflect upon everything they’ve been through? Especially Iris?

Yes and no. Yes, in fact, in “Armageddon” part one, right out of the gate, we meet them where some time has passed and we find them relaxing and enjoying time as a couple. It’s wonderful. But the title of the story is “Armageddon,” and because drama demands that conflict happens and unfortunately for Barry and Iris, “Armageddon” is the story of Barry’s worst day and what that means for his marriage. So boy, are they about to go through and in these five episodes but I am happy to support I do like to caveat, though don’t worry, they’re not breaking. Nobody’s dying! It’s all going to be fine. It’s gonna be a wild ride again, of course.

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Well, thank you for that reassurance. I appreciate it. So more about Iris. Will we get to see her build up more of the Central City Citizen in Season 8, and maybe recruit some more journalist staff?

Yeah. You’re going to see Iris on a whole new level. I’ll leave it at that. I don’t want to give away any spoilers. But we’re going to see Iris in season eight at the top of her game. And it’s so exciting and I’ve been waiting three years to get to where we finally get to this season with Iris. That Pulitzer is right in reach now, and it’s so exciting and I think the Iris West-Allen fans are in for just a delight.

I’m very excited to watch it. So what would you say is the theme of Barry’s continuing journey this upcoming season because he has also been through a lot. So many losses, and so many ups and downs. What can you say is his theme this upcoming season?

Well, I can’t tell you that because that would spoil literally what happens in episode one! But that’s very interesting. I think that’s a great question. Thank you for that. Episode one of “Armageddon” has to do two things. It has to be part one of “Armageddon” and set up the Despero story arc right and all the fighting and the villainy and the things that are going to happen in the very first episode. So it has to do that. That’s half of part one. But part one of “Armageddon” also has to set up the entire season 8. That’s why episode one is so challenging. We had to pack quite a bit into it and what you get into half that’s about setting up the season is you will learn exactly what the theme of the entire season is. I think it’s been a second scene of the episode literally. And the question will be what it means and we were very explicit about it. And there was a scene between Barry and Caitlin of all people very early in part one I won’t spoil it, but we will be laid out literally Barry’s theme and the journey is and then in the second half of part one, you see how it actually ties into the appearance of Despero and why there’s a fight going on and why Armageddon is impending.

So on that alien threat in “Armageddon,” what makes it different from all the other threats Barry and his team have faced?

It’s very simple. This is the most intimate cosmic battle ever presented, I think in the entire Arrowverse. We couldn’t do a crossover. I want to remind folks, “Armageddon” is not a crossover. It’s a five-part special event. What that means is in crossovers, they all are centered around three people — Barry, Kara, and Oliver, and they were kind of scattered over all five existing Arrowverse shows. Batwoman was about to join us too! This is not a crossover. This is a five-part Flash storyline that’s slightly bigger, that steeps into Barry’s emotions. This is really Barry’s worst day and we’re getting deeper into his journey and how it affects Iris and how it affects their marriage together. While ironically you’ve got a space alien, with cosmic repercussions of what’s happening and the whole world could literally be destroyed! But the way we’re telling it… I use the example of the film Cloverfield film that I love very much. There was this big monster attacking the city the whole time, but it was really told in a small intimate way as a search for a couple to reignite. That I think is the analogy that I want folks to kind of understand is the approach that we had to take for “Armageddon,” because with the COVID pandemic still upon us, we can’t do the amount of extremes we would usually do. We can’t have a scene with 20 Superheroes all in the same scene standing next to each other. It’s a space, you have to socially distance. There’s no math and all these sorts of things. So what we have to do is find a different way to tell a positive story. That meant we had to go inward, not outward. So I think this is one of Barry’s most personal crises yet.

Wow. As though he hasn’t had enough of those already. But I’m sorry. Yeah, I love Barry. I just want to make sure he’s okay. But I guess if that happened, there would be no Flash TV show.

That’s right. Don’t worry! Again, nobody’s dying in “Armageddon.” Barry and Iris are going to be fine! I don’t want you to worry, it’s going to be okay. It’s going to get close! Because that’s part of the drama. It’s going to look pretty dire there around Part Four! [Laughs]

I appreciate the reassurance! So “Armageddon” is going to have some fantastic guest stars from all across the Arrowverse including Batwoman, the Atom, Black Lightning, and Sentinel, and others so what can you tease for fans about what interactions they should be most excited for?

A couple of things. One is, I won’t tell you what episode it happened in, but two characters that I personally and I think the audience to have been waiting to meet finally, in this universe, finally they’re going to meet and interact with each other and be part of a story, and that is Iris and Batwoman. Finally, these two powerful Black women are going to come together at last and have a real moment. And I can’t tell you how excited I am. I will also say that when we were kind of looking at what guest stars to put into the show, there were two guest stars who before I made any other decisions were absolutely integral to the story that we’re trying to tell because of the way they relate to Barry and Iris’ emotional journey. “Armageddon,” again, it’s cosmic, but we have to tell it from a deep interior place and visualize it that way. So it’s a very kind of emotional story. And those two characters were Black Lightning and Batwoman. They were the first two people I knew I had to get on this job in order for this story to work, and I’m happy to report it all worked out. Even better than I imagined. The scenes between Grant and Cress, which we saw a little bit of in “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” Now, they go to the next level, and they’re just fantastic together. and again, I won’t tell you when Javicia and Candice got together but their friends off-camera and that chemistry translated to the screen and it’s magic. That’s all I can say. It’s magic.

Again, I’m so excited. So I actually have just one last question. At the end of last season, fans were pretty surprised to see Eobard Thawne, aka Reverse-Flash, return helping Barry take down all the Godspeeds. So will he be more of a presence this season to build up to a showdown with Barry and what might be different about his motivations this time besides his typical absolute hatred of Barry?

[Laughs] Well, that’s a huge spoiler. I can’t reveal that! Let me say that we all know a final confrontation between Flash and Reverse-Flash has been brewing since Season One. We’re going to get a little closer down that road because if you recall, at the end of last season, the Flash got faster, and that did not make Eobard very happy at all. The question is what’s Eobard going to do about it? Right? And how does that fit in with Despero’s agenda? That what I got to leave you with because I don’t want to ruin “Armageddon.” It’s wild. It’s wild stuff.

The Flash — “Armageddon, Part 2” — Pictured (L-R): Grant Gustin as The Flash and Tony Curran as Despero — Photo: Colin Bentley/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Well, with everything you’ve told me, I think it’s just gonna make everyone so much more excited than they already were. Thank you so so much for being with The Nerds of Color today. We’re all very excited!

Thank you so much. And I also want to add — thank you for what you do. I’m very familiar with your website. Very important work you’re doing. Your voice is one that needs to be heard. I thank you because we’re in this together. We might be on different sides, I might be inside, creating the content, but your lens through which you view the world, a lens of color, equity, inclusion, and all those wonderful things. It doesn’t matter how well I do my job if you aren’t there to amplify so I want to say thanks.

That is extraordinarily kind of you sir. Thank you so much. We deeply appreciate it and the work that you do!

The Flash returns with “Armageddon: Part 1” on Tuesday, November 16 at 8pm, airing and streaming on The CW.

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