The Elongated Man has come to The Flash.
During Tuesday’s episode, Hartley Sawyer makes his debut as Ralph Dibny, a.k.a. the Elongated Man, a fast-talking private investigator with skills that rival those of Batman. As teased before the season began, after he discovers he has the power to stretch his body to any shape or form, Dibny uses his new abilities to help Team Flash solve one of Central City’s greatest mysteries.
But Barry (Grant Gustin) is not particularly happy to see Ralph again, as the former CCPD officer is his nemesis. Worse: He’s among the new metahumans created by Barry’s exit from the Speed Force. As some eagled-eyed fans have noticed, Ralph’s photo was pinned alongside the other bus metahumans, so Team Flash will be hunting him down, suspecting he’s gone evil like the first two they’ve come across. EW sat down with Sawyer on set to get the scoop on his new character.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell us about Ralph Dibny as a person, because the cast has teased that he’s sketchy and skeezy so far.
HARLEY SAWYER: Well, that’s all true, that’s all very true, but my perspective on it is a little different. Now, that’s all very true. Ralph was a cop and worked with Barry and was a very, very good cop and due to something that I don’t want to reveal because it will be in the episode, he’s no longer a cop when you meet him and he’s working as a private investigator. He’s really let himself go, so he’s just not really in a good place. Barry and everybody in the whole S.T.A.R. Labs team find out that he was on this bus. Barry knows him from years ago and Barry and I do not get along at all, so they go to meet Ralph and find out that Ralph has put on some weight and Ralph is not who he used to be. He’s very much down on his luck and working as a skeezy PI spying on people, but he has a connection to the mayor, which comes into play in that episode where the mayor has hired him to do some work. It plays into the whole story that’s coming up and it’s great because it’s an opportunity for Ralph and Barry to really butt heads again. They do not like each other at all. But he’s not a bad guy. He’s a good cop and he’s got a good heart. He needs some help bringing that back.
Because of their history, what does Barry and Ralph’s relationship look like now?
Well, Barry ruined his life basically. He was Barry’s superior officer. When they first meet, and still in these episodes that we’re doing now, there’s a lot of resentment there. There’s a lot of issues there and it gives a lot of opportunity for comedy too, but also gives a lot of opportunity for character building. There’s also obviously some blame there going around with this metahuman stuff. When he becomes a metahuman, it’s kind of like it all started with Barry Allen, so he’s the cause of all that in a way.
Tell us about the Elongated Man’s powers. What can he do?
What can’t he do? What he’s discovering is that he can do [anything]. It’s a real shock when he first discovers it, but it’s like Laffy Taffy, like a Gumby sort of thing, stretching every which way and being able to move, particularly his limbs, it gives him the ability to just move in all these really, really creative ways and he’s learning how to do that in these episodes.
How does he handle that the first time it happens?
Not well. Not well at all. It’s a shock and it’s horrifying for him and it leads to a lot of comedy, but it’s absolutely terrifying when his legs are just all the way through the lab and he stretches down the building and all that stuff, so he’s literally getting hung off of a building by these two thugs and he just begins to stretch and stretch and stretch and he stretches all the way down. They hung me upside down in a harness and everything, so it’s all been great. And that was kind of horrifying in its own way.
What is that like to act those powers on set? Is it a little awkward?
It is, but it’s also really fun for me because it’s super-physical. Everything he does with the powers is very, very physical. It’s a lot of playing like, “Okay, you’re grabbing onto this and it’s a moving vehicle and it’s pulling you,” so it becomes a lot of physical play of the body and almost like — not like Charlie Chaplin — but I’m trying to think of something that’s super physically based, that’s very slap-sticky and very fun to have this pulling you and then it’s like a rubber band coming back, it snaps back like that. So it’s all in the body playing it that way, but it’s a lot of fun.
Had you read the comics featuring Elongated Man or did you go back and catch up?
I knew a little bit about him. I did know that Dibny and The Flash really worked together a lot in the comics. I didn’t know a ton about him, but I knew some of his story that he had a wife in the comics, and that they actually had this really good marriage and she obviously has not come into play at this point, but I knew he was a great detective too, and that really appealed to me too, like this really physical character with his comedy stuff, but he was also a good cop, he was a good detective. So I did do some reading about that and went back to a couple of comics, talked to Andrew [Kreisberg] and Todd [Helbing] and everybody about a little bit of that too.
What was your audition process like for this? Were you doing any of that physical stuff?
Not in the audition. There wasn’t any physical stuff in the audition. It was very much just a scene where I was this private investigator in the office. I knew that it was Elongated Man, but he was just talking with this client, this woman comes in, she’s upset about her missing daughter. I’m like, “Oh, no.” I know the daughter and then ultimately he’s just hitting on her and just turning it around and just really like skeezy stuff, but it was a lot of fun. It was fun to do for the producers and for [casting director] David Rapaport and everybody. It was very Chris Pratt, very Ryan Reynolds sort of banter and this jackass sort of stuff, but really fun.
The Flash airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.