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Why The Flash Cast Looks So Familiar

More than two decades after the first live-action "The Flash" series ended its broadcast run, Warner Bros. Television gave the beloved DC hero another shot at television, with a new adaptation set within the universe of the CW's Stephen Amell-led series "Arrow." In 2014, the network officially picked up the project from executive producers Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Geoff Johns, following enthusiastic fan responses to Grant Gustin's Barry Allen debut during Season 2 of "Arrow." "The Flash" premiered to positive reviews, and has since been an instrumental force in the network's expanding Arrowverse.

As one of the CW's longest-running dramas, "The Flash" has assembled quite a commendable main cast and guest star lineup over the years, consisting of actors that were featured in popular TV shows and movies, up-and-coming stars, and even some screen veterans with impressive musical backgrounds. Here's why the cast of "The Flash" might look familiar to you.

Grant Gustin

When Grant Gustin first appeared as Barry Allen in Season 2 of "Arrow," viewers were introduced to a clumsy crime scene investigator from Central City. As he went on to star in his own solo Arrowverse series, DC fans quickly grew accustomed to his portrayal of the Flash. Gustin is known for the emotional depth he brings to the hero, something executive producer Greg Berlanti saw during the audition process. "From the second Grant came in on his own, we kind of knew that he was Barry and not because he looked obviously like Barry from the comic book, 'cause he kinda didn't," Berlanti recalled in a featurette. "But [because] he had the heart you know, and Grant had the acting chops to carry this role."

Even though "The Flash" is the biggest role of his career to date, this wasn't actually the first show that put Gustin on everyone's radar. Before becoming the scarlet speedster, he first had his big break in 2011 when he was cast for a recurring part in the third season of Fox's popular musical dramedy "Glee." He portrayed Sebastian Smythe, the new captain of the Dalton Academy Warblers who was described as a "promiscuous and scheming male version of Naya Rivera's Santana," per TVLine. Even if he only appeared in a few episodes, his antagonistic portrayal of Sebastian was memorable due to the charm, wit, and confidence Gustin brought to the character.

His most notable musical performances from "Glee" were probably his covers of "I Want You Back" and "Smooth Criminal" with Rivera. The latter single even debuted at Number 10 on the Billboard Digital Songs chart. Despite switching his Warbler blazer out for a protective red suit, Gustin was still able to show off his musical prowess during a crossover episode in Season 3, when he and fellow "Glee" alum Melissa Benoist's Kara Danvers got stuck in a musical dream world. 

Tom Cavanagh

Out of all the villains that Barry Allen confronted in "The Flash," Eobard Thawne aka Reverse Flash is surely the most wicked of them all. Playing the hero's ultimate nemesis is Tom Cavanagh, a major component of the series throughout Seasons 1 to 8. In addition to playing a villain, Cavanagh is also known for his multiple portrayals of STAR Labs director Harrison Wells. He also directed multiple episodes of the series, including its milestone 100th episode titled "What's Past Is Prologue."

Cavanagh started his TV career in the '90s, when he had various roles in TV dramas such as "Secret Service," "Sherlock Holmes Returns," "The Sentinel," "Northern Lights," and "Providence." His big break came when he was tapped to lead the own comedy-drama series "Ed," which aired for four seasons from 2000-2004. For his performance as Ed Stevens in the comedy, Cavanagh earned his first Golden Globe nomination for Best Television Actor – Musical or Comedy. The show didn't last long, but his decades-long friendship with castmate and future "Modern Family" alum Julie Bowen is still going strong as ever.

Candice Patton

"Comic book fans are very opinionated [and] very vocal," Candice Patton recalled of her casting as Iris West during a panel with Popsugar. "So it was very scary stepping into that role when I started the show."

Despite some online harassment, Patton gracefully persevered and made the character her own because she knew the gravity and the importance of her portrayal to young girls of color. "People are always going to fight against change," she told the Washington Post. "But I think I've kind of solidified the role, and it doesn't bother me anymore. Generations after this will remember Iris West as Black, whether that's me, or someone else playing [the role] in the film. It's a great thing."

Similar to Iris West's commitment to journalism, Patton also shares the same dedication to her craft. After her freshman year at Southern Methodist University, she entered a nationwide audition contest for the opportunity to star in multiple episodes of the long-running daytime drama "The Young and the Restless." Out of ten finalists from different universities, she prevailed to the top by becoming one of the two winners of the "Soap Star Screen Test," leading her to land her first-ever acting gig in the role of Robin, which she played on "Y&R" over a handful of episodes from 2004-'05. In addition to playing Iris across multiple Arrowverse series, Patton's also guested on a long list of shows that includes "Entourage," "Heroes," and "Grey's Anatomy."

Carlos Valdes

When "The Flash" debuted, Carlos Valdes was likely the most unfamiliar member of the main cast — and for good reason, as he was making his television debut. Before that, his focus was theater, which began at University of Michigan, where he joined the theater group Starkid Productions, which was co-founded by future Golden Globe winner Darren Criss. After college, he was cast in the Broadway musical "Once" from 2013-2014, where he got to show off his skills as a multi-instrumentalist.

Valdes' dependable and quick-witted performance as Cisco Ramon instantly made him a fan favorite, and Cisco's friendship with Barry was one of the show's highlights. That's why, when his exit during Season 7 was announced, fans were definitely surprised. "The idea [of leaving] was always there, but I don't think I felt comfortable acting on it until much later," the actor told Entertainment Weekly. He confirmed that prioritizing his mental health was a major factor in his decision to exit the superhero series. "These are highly controversial choices that people are making and it's always really rewarding to see when fans respond positively to those kinds of moves because it gives me hope in humanity and that people understand that mental health is an important priority."

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Danielle Panabaker

For millennial viewers, Danielle Panabaker is probably the most familiar member of the main cast due to her history as a Disney star, which began with the 2004 Disney Channel original film "Stuck in the Suburbs." The following year, she continued working with the House of Mouse through the popular superhero comedy film "Sky High." Before landing the role of Caitlin Snow on "The Flash," Panabaker made appearances on a number of hit shows such as "The Guardian," "Grey's Anatomy," "Law & Order: LA," "Bones," "Mad Men," and "Justified." Her time in the Arrowverse series also gave her the opportunity to explore what it's like behind the camera, as she made her directorial debut with Season 5, Episode 18, "Godspeed." (She's since gone on to direct additional episodes of the show.)

Panabaker revealed that it was co-star Tom Cavanagh who inspired her to take on directing. "I think I've always paid attention [to directing] in a really particular way ... I don't think I knew it was in me until I watched Tom Cavanagh direct in Season 3," she told The Mary Sue. "I watched him do it, and I was really inspired and started asking questions and seeing if I could make it happen, and here we are."

Jesse L. Martin

Jesse L. Martin is one of the few cast members of "The Flash" who had an established Broadway career before signing on to the show. His most notable work is undoubtedly the acclaimed rock musical "Rent." The Tony-winning show was written and composed by the late Jonathan Larson, whom Martin met when they were both waiting tables.

"The place was open 24 hours, and Jonathan trained me when I had to work overnight," Martin recalled in an interview with Playbill. "He told me he was a composer. By the end of the week, I quit; I got a job on 'New York Undercover.'" After several months, they met again in the "Rent" auditions, where he was cast as Tom Collins, a character he played for a long time in the musical's Off-Broadway, Broadway, and West End runs.

In addition to his decades-long career on the stage, Martin also found success in television when he joined the cast of "Law & Order" in 1999. Before becoming Detective Joe West of the Central City Police Department in "The Flash," he was first known to TV viewers as Detective Ed Green for nine seasons on the long-running drama.

Danielle Nicolet

Danielle Nicolet portrays district attorney Cecile Horton — who, like Jesse L. Martin's Joe West, serves as a guiding figure to Barry and Iris. As the seasons progress, her character develops metahuman abilities, which leads to her becoming a member of Team Flash. "I've been so fortunate in my character in that she tends to have a bit of an evolution with each season," Nicolet told Nerds of Color. "She's sort of Harrison Wells-lite in that, you know, one way or another, she didn't have powers and then she got them, and they've been kind of consistently growing and morphing with each season."

Nicolet is no stranger to the superhero genre; she also worked with Marvel on a few projects from 2011 to 2013. Far different from her role in "The Flash," Nicolet lent her voice to legendary Marvel hero Storm in the X-Men-centered third installment of "Marvel Anime," a series of four anime shows. After that, she voice acted in three video games — "Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth," "Marvel Heroes," and "Lego Marvel Super Heroes" — once again voicing Storm as well as other Marvel heroes such as Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Maria Hill, and Gamora.

John Wesley Shipp

Before Grant Gustin and Ezra Miller, John Wesley Shipp's name was synonymous with the Flash. The actor's history with the hero began when he was tapped for the leading role in the original live-action "The Flash" series, which aired for only one season from 1990-1991. During an appearance on "Smallville" alum Michael Rosenbaum's "Inside of You" podcast, Shipp argued that the "The Flash" was canceled because it was ahead of its time, specifically in terms of the audience's perception of superheroes in the '90s compared to now. He added that the show's high budget, including $100,000 worth of Flash suits, played a big part in its downfall.

In 2010, Shipp had the opportunity to voice Reverse-Flash aka Professor Zoom in the animated series "Batman: The Brave and the Bold." Four years later, Shipp entered the Arrowverse and was cast as Henry Allen, a character he played for two seasons before the creative team found a way to get him into the red and gold suit again. Portraying two different versions of the scarlet speedster in the form of Jay Garrick and an older version of Barry Allen, Shipp has been a frequent guest star throughout the series and has also appeared as the hero in other Arrowverse shows like "Supergirl" and "Stargirl."

Other than being known as a superhero, Shipp also gained recognition for his work on a number of soap operas during the '80s, winning two Daytime Emmy Awards for his roles on "As the World Turns" and "Santa Barbara." He is also known for his performance as Mitch Leery, Dawson's father on the teen drama "Dawson's Creek."

Jessica Parker Kennedy

To avid viewers of DC shows, Jessica Parker Kennedy might look familiar through her appearances on the earlier popular superhero drama "Smallville." On the Tom Welling-led series, Kennedy played Bette Sans Souci aka supervillain Plastique, who appeared in three episodes of Season 8. In terms of personality and metahuman abilities, this character is very different from the Nora West-Allen that she plays on "The Flash." The only similar thing about them is that Kennedy's versions of Plastique and Nora are both deviations from the comic book. For the supervillain, her powers were slightly changed in "Smallville," while Nora of "The Flash" was inspired by DC hero XS, who is Barry Allen's granddaughter in the comics.

Before becoming a time-traveling superhero, Kennedy also starred in the short-lived fantasy teen drama "The Secret Circle." She also had a few supporting roles on TV shows like "The Troop," "90210," "Black Sails," and "Colony," as well as appearances in TV films including 2008's teen musical comedy "Another Cinderella Story," which featured Selena Gomez.

Tom Felton

For "The Flash" viewers who have grown up watching the "Harry Potter" films, Tom Felton's casting as Julian Albert in the third season came as a surprise and a welcome addition, with Felton even thanking fans for their positive responses when it was announced in 2016. First introduced as Barry's fellow CSI at the Central City Police Department, Julian Albert evolved into Dr. Alchemy — and later a member of Team Flash. Despite being one of the highlights in the third season, Felton's character didn't carry over into the next season, leaving fans wondering about the real reason Felton left "The Flash."

Felton's portrayal of Julian Albert isn't totally dissimilar to Draco Malfoy, the character he played in the "Harry Potter" movies — both characters found goodness within them after being introduced as an antagonist. Besides "Harry Potter" and "The Flash," Felton has also been featured in several other projects such as "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," "Risen," "Message from the King," "Freed," and "A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting."

Keiynan Lonsdale

Wally West aka Kid Flash is definitely a DC fan favorite, and it was a no-brainer for "The Flash" to bring the character into the Arrowverse during Season 2. The honor of being the first ever live-action Kid Flash goes to the multi-talented Keiynan Lonsdale, who according to executive producer Andrew Kreisberg (via IGN) "embodied all the heart and courage of the hero." Lonsdale's version of the character slightly deviates from the comics, as he was introduced as Iris West's brother instead of her cousin. After his third year as a series regular, Lonsdale decided to leave "The Flash" to pursue other projects and shift his focus to growing his music career.

Before joining "The Flash," Lonsdale landed his first major film project as part of the Shailene Woodley-led "Divergent" film series, playing Dauntless-born initiate Uriah Pedrad in the last two films of the dystopian trilogy. Lonsdale is also known for starring as Bram in the coming-of-age dramedy "Love, Simon."

Robbie Amell

For the first two seasons of "The Flash," Robbie Amell played Ronnie Raymond, Caitlin Snow's fiancé who, at the beginning of the series, was thought to have died during the explosion of the particle accelerator at STAR Labs. However, just as in the comics, Ronnie really merged with Victor Garber's Martin Stein, transforming them into the hero called Firestorm. In Season 1, Robbie got the chance to work with his real-life cousin and Arrowverse leader Stephen Amell, who played Oliver Queen aka the Green Arrow. Although never a series regular, he has reappeared frequently throughout the show.

Robbie Amell has been steadily growing his career with notable appearances in films like "Picture This," The DUFF," the "Babysitter" films, "Code 8," and "Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City," as well as TV shows such as "Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous," "The Tomorrow People," and "Upload." He is also familiar to longtime Nickelodeon fans as he was previously one of the main cast members in the teen sitcom "True Jackson, VP," playing the love interest to Keke Palmer's title character over three seasons from 2008-2011.

Victor Garber

For the first four seasons of "The Flash," Victor Garber played nuclear physicist Dr. Martin Stein, who became half of Firestorm after accidentally merging with Robbie Amell's Ronnie Raymond in a particle accelerator explosion. Despite leaving the series in 2017, Garber is still one of the few Arrowverse characters who have made an appearance in all of its shows.

Prior to "The Flash," Garber had been in the business for several decades. Apart from his Emmy-nominated role in the action thriller series "Alias," the acclaimed actor's most recognizable role arguably came in James Cameron's epic romantic drama "Titanic," in which he portrayed Thomas Andrews, inspired by the actual designer of the infamous "unsinkable" ship.

Despite having a hard time shooting the expensive Oscar-winning disaster film due to its long night shoots, Garber has only but respect and admiration towards Cameron's dedication towards filmmaking. "He's arguably one of the greatest directors we've ever known," he told The Globe and Mail. "He expects everyone to be as committed as he is. Coming from the stage, my background is to be prepared and to just be always attentive to what the director requires and wants. So I had a great time with him."

Chris Klein

In Season 5, "Flash" viewers were introduced to a brand new villain in the form of Chris Klein's Cicada, the metahuman serial killer who aims to destroy super-powered individuals with his lightning dagger. For Klein, Cicada is definitely a departure — he's one of the original cast members of the long-running "American Pie" film franchise and he appeared in the 2005 film "Just Friends," one of Ryan Reynolds' earliest and most underrated romantic comedies.

Klein got his big break when director Alexander Payne scouted him for a role in the 1999 black comedy film "Election," which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. After his run on "The Flash," Klein went on to star in Netflix's romantic drama "Sweet Magnolias," which released its second season in 2022.