Joe West is getting a pretty big holiday gift this year on The Flash.
Earlier this season, Iris (Candice Patton) uncovered the real reason why her mother Francine (Vanessa Williams) returned to town: She’s dying… oh, and she has a kid she never told Joe (Jesse L. Martin) about. Her son is none other than Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale), a.k.a the future speedster known as Kid Flash.
“It’s pretty devastating for Joe, because this is an 18-year-old secret that his wife just kept from him, and the fact this boy grew up without a father really rubs Joe the wrong way,” Martin tells EW. “It’s something that he feels immediately guilty about.”
Though Iris kept this pretty major secret from Joe, the detective is far from angry — especially after lying to his daughter about Barry’s (Grant Gustin) identity last season. “He almost immediately forgives Iris for lying about that.” Martin says. “The reveal is way more important. His mind goes directly to that: Will I be able to have a relationship with this kid, and if so what kind of relationship am I going to have if I haven’t been in his life since he grew up?”
Joe is even able to forgive Francine rather quickly, which leads to their relationship being in an “awesome” place, says Martin. “He could be really upset that she didn’t tell him, but this news comes up, and for whatever reason, Joe feels like he needs to forgive as opposed to being angry about it.”
But how will Wally feel about Joe trying to be his father? Below, new cast member Lonsdale has a surprising answer. Plus: The actor runs EW through his audition process, Wally’s reaction to Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and the lead-up to becoming Kid Flash.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your audition process like?
KEIYNAN LONSDALE: It was really cool. I had auditioned for Legends of Tomorrow originally for the Firestorm character. Then maybe about a week later, my team called me, “You’re not going forward for Legends, but they want you to come in and audition for this show called The Flash. Have you heard of it?” I was like, “Yes, I’ve heard of The Flash! I love The Flash!” They said it was for a character called Wally West, who eventually becomes a speedster. I did a few audition rounds. I met Andrew [Kreisberg] and Greg [Berlanti], the producers, and it was an awesome experience. I then did my final audition with Candice, but at that point, I didn’t know how Wally would be related to Joe or Iris. It was kept under wraps. I just went with it. It was so long ago. I feel like it was in May that I was auditioning. To finally be on set and be the character now is awesome.
Had you read the comics before or have you been playing catch-up?
I’ve been doing catch-up now, more so when I was auditioning. Even before I knew that I had the part, I started ordering some of the comic books, because I was like, “You know what? Even if I don’t get the job, I still like this show, and I really like The Flash, so I’ll keep the comics anyway.” Luckily it worked out, because I have a few now. DC sent me a bunch of [cool old school Wally West comics]. It’s awesome, because I get to learn about Wally through the scripts, and then through the little cartoons and also through the comic books. It’s a bunch of different Wally Wests that I get to grab from.
While growing up, did you dream of being a superhero someday?
I’m sure like a lot of other kids, I spent a lot of hours creating superhero powers for myself in the laundry room, and running and jumping all over the place. I love cartoons and love superheroes. I didn’t know too much about The Flash until the series, which I can’t believe now. He’s become a super huge mainstream character. It’s pretty cool that I get to live out my childhood fantasies. I wasn’t expecting it. You don’t really think that that kind of thing can happen.
What can you tell us about Wally West?
Where we meet Wally and how we’re introduced to him, he’s just a regular guy. He’s not Kid Flash just yet. I don’t know when that’s going to happen. He is also into drag racing, which makes the family dynamic kind of funny when your dad is a detective. It’s pretty cool. He’s fairly protective of himself and what it is that he does. It’s difficult having to be introduced into a new family; really, a family with really strong personalities. Iris is a really strong person and she’s determined and has protected herself. When Wally is maybe getting into trouble, she is very concerned and does what she needs to do to help him out. It’s that kind of thing: Does Wally want to be helped at all by anyone, family or not? That’s where he’s at. He’s got his defenses built up pretty high.
When he arrives, does Joe know who he is at that point?
I can’t say too much about the reaction. Overall, fans will enjoy it. It’s going to let out a different side of Joe, Iris and Barry as well. They all have to deal with this new family member, just like Wally does. It’s going to be interesting to watch those struggles. It’s not easy. It’s not an easy transition. As much as Joe is a great guy and a great father, he’s going to have to struggle with how he can be a father to a kid that maybe doesn’t need that. That’s where Wally’s at, and Wally doesn’t make it easy at all for anyone.
What has life been like for Wally growing up without a father? Is there some resentment there?
I wouldn’t say resentment, but he’s just had his mom. For me, I can relate to that as well. I just grew up with my mom. I met my dad maybe when I was 10. For me, I was obsessed with the idea of meeting my father, so I had huge expectations. I wanted so much for that relationship. With Wally, he’s not 10, he’s old enough to go, “You know what? I’ve been OK. My mom and I have been OK.” It’s going to be cool to see him figure out what he wants, because he’s old enough to make the decision of whether he wants to have a father in his life or not. He hasn’t had Joe there. It’s not a resentment, but it’s not all flowers either.
But does his mom’s illness take the choice away a little bit?
With Francine being sick, that does mean that naturally you would want family around, but if I was going through that, I don’t know if I would feel more comfortable with strangers around. That actually makes it more difficult to accept them. If everything was going right, if everyone was happy and Francine wasn’t sick, it may be still hard, but it may be an easier transition. But because she is sick, there’s that to deal with. You don’t want a bunch of strangers in your life when something so personal is affecting you. That’s something that Wally really struggles with.
Knowing what we do about the comics, what does Wally’s relationship with Barry look like?
It is funny, in my opinion. Wally is trying to find his place within this family, but his place is already kind of taken, in his eyes at least, by Barry. He isn’t the biggest fan of Barry in the beginning. Obviously we know in the future and in the comics at least that they’re going to be running side by side, but at this point, it’s a funny sibling rivalry from Wally’s end, at least. Barry’s such a great guy. He’s such a funny, nice human that it makes the dynamic pretty entertaining.
Wally doesn’t have his powers, but what does that journey toward getting them and his introduction into the world of metahumans look like?
I don’t know what it’s going to be like when he does get his powers. I haven’t been made aware yet of when or how that will happen. It will be interesting to see how he’s introduced to everything and in what way, in terms of metahumans and S.T.A.R. Labs. Wally is also a fairly chilled out guy. Even though he’s just a regular kid, the world still knows about Central City being quite a crazy place. People know about The Flash, so he knows that The Flash exists, but doesn’t know who The Flash is, obviously. He understands that this is the world that he’s in, but he’s not the science guy. He’s not heavily involved in any of that stuff. He probably would prefer for things to be quite normal at this point, but he lives in a crazy world.
Will he be interacting with the S.T.A.R. Labs team at all?
In the future, I’m sure that’s what’s going to happen. But at this point, I have no idea.
Between being in Allegiant, The Finest Hours, The Flash and creating your new EP, you’ve had a busy year. How are you balancing everything?
I guess in reality, for me at least, things always feel a lot slower than it may be on the outside. I’m constantly trying to fill up my time. I’m constantly trying to do new things. The EP is an example. While I was filming another independent film, I was editing my music video for one of the songs and making sure everything was right. That’s how I function, if I don’t have a lot to do and have multiple projects going on, I kind of freak out. That’s my flaw, I guess. It’s what keeps me pushing forward. Hopefully I get to do that for the rest of my career and the rest of my life. I just want to continue to do multiple projects, make music, act and do everything that I love doing, just because it makes me happy.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.