photos by YONI GOLDBERG
When The CW’s latest hit, The Flash, premiered to record ratings last October, fans were instantly transfixed by the ongoing exploits – both heroic and romantic – of the show’s titular hero, assistant-forensic-investigator-turned-fastest-man-alive, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin). But while Allen and the rest of the Central City gang have no doubt faced quite a roller coaster of a season thus far, it’s difficult to find anyone who’s been through the ringer more than Ronnie Raymond.
Of course, nobody knows this better than Robbie Amell, the hopelessly handsome and – damn him – equally talented actor who plays Raymond…but fortunately, he was somewhat prepared. “Greg Berlanti (a creator, writer, and producer of the show, along with Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns) is a friend, so he brought me in and told me that the character was going to start off very normal and that everything was eventually going to collapse around him.”
And if you’ve followed the criminally enjoyable drama, you know that he isn’t kidding. In fact, in just three episodes last fall, Amell and the writers were able to establish one of the most buzzed about arcs of The Flash’s first season: Raymond’s transformation from affable S.T.A.R. Labs employee and happily engaged fiancé of Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) to schizophrenic metahuman Firestorm after he is practically incinerated in a nuclear explosion at the lab. But believe it or not, that’s not even the kicker, as Amell explains. “The truly nice thing is [that] this the first time that the character has ever been brought to life onscreen, so the writers and I have really been able to put our own spin on it.”
For the initiated and – Amell readily admits to being one prior to getting this part – fan-favorite, Firestorm (created by Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom at DC Comics in 1978) is actually an amalgam of two personalities, fused together during the explosion. One, of course, is the affable Ronnie Raymond, but also in there is Nobel-Prize-winning physicist, Dr. Martin Stein (played by veteran actor and fellow Canuck, Victor Garber). For Amell, this offers an opportunity not only to work with an actor whom he truly admires, but also to do something that few performers have ever had the chance to do: to create a character in tandem.
“Our next episode (which airs this month) finds these two minds fighting for control of one body, and it’s not until one of them really takes over that the character can think clearly,” Amell reveals. “Part of that is me doing a bit of a Victor Garber impression – or his mind in my body – but the nice thing was I’d worked with Victor a couple years ago [on the 2013 TV movie The Hunters] and he’s a friend, so there wasn’t quite as much pressure as there could have been. I was even comfortable enough with him that I figured, If he hates [my impression], then he’ll just make fun of me, and we can still be buddies.”
According to the actor, fans can expect a “more well-spoken enunciated version of Ronnie” in episodes to come, but also a lot more inevitably juicy tension. “There’s the danger of splitting Martin and Robbie, because if you split us, we may never be able to get back together, or we might die. So you’ve got two minds going back and forth; one of them wants to be with his wife (that would be Martin), one of them wants to be with his fiancée (that would be Robbie), and then both of them want to try and save the world, so it will be a fun dynamic.”
As will the ongoing relationship between Raymond and Snow, which Amell describes as an “uphill battle.” But have no fear; the actor promises that it won’t be all doom and gloom for his character. “I like the fact that the world that Flash has doesn’t have to be super-serious and dark, even though the stakes are always so high. The writers really keep it lighthearted when they can without being cheesy, and you’ll get to see a little more of Ronnie’s lighthearted side in episodes to come.”
He’s hesitant to reveal too much, as doing so might jeopardize the hard work of a cast, crew, and network that have become particularly near and dear to him. “The Tomorrow People (also created by Greg Berlanti for The CW and starring Amell, but canceled after just one season) was definitely a highlight of my career and of my life. I went back to do my first episode of The Flash, which was episode 3, and it was about 80% of The Tomorrow People crew up in Vancouver, so it was like coming home.”
Another set that would probably be quite comfortable for him is that of Berlanti’s other CW-based DC Comic crusader, Arrow (played by fellow heartthrob and Robbie’s own cousin, Stephen Amell). But while the huge success of the The Flash/Arrow crossover event in January has had the Internet buzzing with rumors that Firestorm specifically might be making an appearance in Starling City, according to Robbie, nothing is confirmed.
“I would say I can’t tell you anything,” he says. “But I really have nothing. I keep asking Greg about it, and I know that Stephen is too, but the Arrowand Flash crossovers are so huge and so time consuming that when you get that crossover going, it’s tough to implement another superhero besides the two of them. And the other thing is Arrow is a little more grounded in reality, and Firestorm is definitely not; I’m on fire almost anytime I’m doing anything action-wise.” Yet dedicated fans need not abandon all hope. Amell explains that “our producers and writers are so unbelievably creative that it wouldn’t surprise me if, [in] the next episode, they had something for me.”
Until then, you can catch the busy star in two very different upcoming films: the Mean Girls-esque teen comedy, The DUFF, opposite Allison Janney, Mae Whitman, and Bella Thorne (“It’s a really special movie. I grew up with Hughes comedies and I feel like we actually have a modern take on a Hughes film”), as well as Max, a family drama from Remember The Titans director, Boaz Yakin. It costars Lauren Graham and Thomas Haden Church, and centers around a service dog that returns home after active duty in Afghanistan (“I can’t say enough about these men and women who serve. I have so much respect for them, and these incredible dogs that work alongside them”).
But if you still feel like you just can’t get enough of Robbie Amell… welcome to the club.
photography YONI GOLDBERG www.yonigoldbergstudio.com
styling WARREN ALFIE BAKER www.warrenalfiebaker.com
grooming CARISSA FERRERI with TRACEY MATTINGLY using BAXTER OF CALIFORNIA
photo assistant GRIFFIN POCOCK
Production Bello media Group | words by BRAD LIBERTI