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Crystal Reed Talks Swamp Thing, Gotham, And More - Exclusive Interview

Crystal Reed knows a thing or two about high-profile roles in genre series: Her major breakthrough came in 2011 when she played Allison Argent on the hit MTV supernatural drama Teen Wolf, a role she continued to play for the next three years as the show developed a devoted fanbase. Reed followed that success with another major genre project, the DC Comics-inspired series Gotham, which she joined in the fourth season as crime family scion Sofia Falcone. After Gotham, another DC Comics-inspired project came calling, and Reed stepped into an iconic role with a deep comic book history. 

On the DC Universe streaming series Swamp Thing, now airing on the CW, Reed is Abby Arcane, a character originally developed by Swamp Thing creators Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson all the way back in 1973. Reed's version of the character is a CDC doctor who returns to her hometown to investigate a mysterious illness spreading there, and finds herself confronting both her own dark past and the fresh horrors wrought by mutations in the local swamp — mutations that eventually give birth to Swamp Thing. In a chat with Looper, Reed discussed how she developed her complex role on this complex series, working with Swamp Thing himself, her time on Gotham, and much more.

Acting with Swamp Thing

How does it feel that Swamp Thing is going to kind of get a brand new audience because of the CW?

It feels incredible. I feel elated and grateful and was really shocked at the news initially. I think though what I've learned from this time and this experience of Swamp Thing is that I should just expect the unexpected when it comes to these types of things. And I was just pleasantly surprised that we are going to get a whole new audience and a whole new opportunity to hopefully move people and share what I believe to be was a really great collaboration and creative endeavor that the cast and crew and I just had together. So I really am just kind of humbled by it all.

What are you hoping people are going to get out of the show now?

I hope that people... I think hope actually is a fantastic word. It's one of the things that I loved the most about my character and the theme of the show, which is that although sometimes things feel quite daunting and scary and very terrifying, there's always that hope there. And I think that if that is something that we can give to people during this time period, then that would make me supremely happy. Because everyone's watching TV right now, and I think the state of the world calls for some hope. And I believe that we've done that in a really kind of thrilling, exciting, gory, fun way that lets the characters still shine through. So I hope we might give some hope.

Yeah, it's a show about transformation — and sometimes not necessarily the transformation that you want — and then finding a way to sort of cope with that.

Yeah. And I think it's sort of meta. I played a CDC doctor who's investigating a virus that's killing everyone. And no one foresaw what was going to happen in the world and with the coronavirus. And I think looking back on it now, it's just, it's so timely that it sort of took a virus to bring back a show about a virus. 

You're playing opposite two different performers that are in essence the same man — they both are Alec Holland. How did you approach that relationship working with those two actors that are basically the same guy in developing that relationship?

Well, Derek [Mears, who plays Swamp Thing] and Andy [Bean, who plays Alec Holland] did a lot of work together to try and find some common through line that they could both inject into their performances, and that was really helpful for me. But I think what I would always lean on is when I was acting with Derek and he was in full Swamp Thing costume, I would remember the relationship that Abby and Alec had at the beginning, and that was what I would draw on.

But that being said, I can't ignore the fact that they are different actors, and they do have different energies. I felt differently around both of them, but Derek did such a fantastic job of transcending the costume that for me, it was quite easy to connect with him. Not always the easiest, but I felt like we did a really great job of finding those character moments together and his tenderness and his vulnerabilities through layers and layers and layers of costume was really always shocking to me. I'm grateful for him.

Would you have enjoyed playing Swamp Thing, do you think? How good would you have been at Swamp Thing?

Well, how would I have been? I wouldn't have been Derek Mears. Let's just say that, but I would have absolutely enjoyed playing Swamp Thing. There's something that is so freeing about being in a costume. I remember one of my very, very first roles in theater school, I played a 90-year-old woman in this play, and I couldn't figure her out at all. And I developed this sort of walk, and she had scoliosis and all this stuff. But I couldn't figure it out until I put the costume on. And there was still something missing.

So, what I did is I put a huge, very pokey rock in my shoe, and it was painful as f***. And every time I walked, it hurt, and it changed the way I walked and indicated my character, and all those things came together. And it was the most fun I've had playing someone in costume for a long time. Acting is play, and it's joy. And it gives me the opportunity to use my imagination and really become childlike. And I suppose the reason I want to be in a costume is that it would allow me to transcend what I feel like I look like on the outside and just be free all day. So yes, I'm dying to be in prosthetics.

Gotham, Swamp Thing, and other DC ambitions

Speaking of costume work, is there a quintessential costume that they put you in when you played Sofia Falcone [in Gotham] that made you go, "I know who this is"?

Yes, there was. It's a Saint Laurent suit, actually. She wears it in the first episode she's in, and it was a men's suit. And I remember being in fitting, and I was like, "Everything feels quite feminine." Not that she's not feminine, but she is a mob boss, and she runs s***. So nothing was giving me that sense of power in the moment.

So [costume designer John Glaser] pulled out this suit, and we fit this men's suit to me and made it mine. And there was something about wearing that knowing that it was the opposite sex of mine, but I made it my own and used it to my advantage that felt to me like "This is f***ing Sofia Falcone, and no one is going to stop me." And I felt so powerful. And I think that was interesting. That was before all the #MeToo stuff and this beautiful wave of feminism we're seeing right now. And it was great to be able to almost reclaim power by taking something that was traditionally masculine and putting it on a woman who can use it in that way. So yeah, I love it. The costumes in that show were just spectacular.

If Sofia Falcone showed up to Marais [where Swamp Thing takes place], would Marais be hers within 24 hours?

Oh my goodness. Yes, it definitely would. Yeah. I think she'd probably use her sexuality to get some things and her charm and her charisma. But you know what would be really fun is to see Sofia Falcone on a show that wasn't network so that we could really dig in and see her get super gritty. In fact, I'm calling for a spinoff. I [would] love my own Sofia Falcone show where she completely dominates and takes over. That would be fantastic.

Is there another DC character that you would play since you are a part of the DC family? Clearly, the people that are making these shows have an interest in the talent you're bringing to their work and the characters that exist. Is there somebody else now that you look at and you say "I guess I would play that one. I'm staking my claim"?

Am I allowed to because I have played two already?

Listen, if men are allowed to play 20 different comic book characters, you, Crystal Reed, are also allowed to do the same. I promise.

You know who I think would be really fun is Two-Face. He sort of felt Sofia-like, but yeah. And then, I do have a strong desire to play... I don't think I could ever touch the Joker, but Batman would be really amazing as a woman. Well, I mean, it would be Batwoman I suppose. I don't think I'm giving you any cool answers that are going to suffice for the DC comic fan.

Swamp Thing originally had 13 episodes and went down to 10. What, if anything, is the thing that you wish that people had a chance to see that they won't from the 10 episodes? What was the storyline that got dropped?

I don't know, actually. I've only seen the pilot, the CW's version of the pilot, so I'm not exactly sure what's been dropped. But one of the things that I love the most about the show is that it feels really cinematic. And we have these really beautiful, gorgeous, wide establishing shots, and the characters get to breathe. And I think a lot of times with network shows, what happens is that the editing happens quickly, so it's, cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, and these conversations that are short and snappy. And that really wasn't our show, not at all. There's a lot of room for them to breathe. And I feel like that's how we fell in love with everyone on the show. So I do hope that kind of air and space and artistic expansion, I hope that's left in the show. I really do, because I feel like that created Marais and the story and the feeling and the essence of Swamp Thing.

Swamp Thing is now airing weekly on the CW.