It’s no accident that the cast of The CW’s The Flash is diverse.
“You want to go to a place where you work everyday where you get to tell stories that look and feel like the audience in America that are watching,” said Flash executive producer Greg Berlanti Saturday during the network’s portion of PaleyFest Fall TV Previews.
Berlanti added that diversity was one of their goals for the show.
“We did intentionally set out to make sure the Wests [Det. Joe West is one of the main characters] were African American,” he said. “And they hadn’t been in the comic book.”
The executive producer was joined on stage at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills, Calif. by fellow Flash producer Andrew Kreisberg; Flash cast members Candice Patton and Jesse L. Martin; Jane the Virgin executive producers Jennie Snyder Urman and Ben Silverman; and Jane stars Gina Rodriguez and Jaime Camil.
The CW’s Jane the Virgin is also a diverse series, focusing on a Latin family.
Rodriguez, who plays the title role Jane, opened up about her experiences as a child.
“Growing up, I didn’t see myself on screen very often and I didn’t see myself,” said Rodriguez. “I didn’t see my body type and I didn’t see my skin color in positive roles and I didn’t see us as the heroes.”
Other highlights from the panel include:
—Jane producer and writer Urman said the family dynamic on the show is important. “The grounded smaller emotional moments are the moments at home and that is I think what gives us license to the other bigger places…It’s a place where we can look at how the culture translates from the first generation to the second generation americans.”
—Rodriguez said that Urman has kept her and other cast members in the dark about where there characters will end up. “When you’re at a table read where everybody is laughing and crying and looking at the writer and saying ‘What? What happens next?’,” said Rodriguez. “You know that you’re involved with not only the brilliance of Jennie’s mind and the [characters] that she created but a part of something that is just a roller coaster that if you can get into I just really believe people will get into as well.”
—Silverman addressed whether or not he thought Jane fits on The CW among the supernatural and comic book series that are popular on the network now. “It’s unique. But it’s in the tradition of groundbreaking television. Usually those are the shows that can define themselves. They don’t need to be defined by their environment necessarily.”
Rodriguez added: “I’ve always embraced being different. I had no choice. It was put on me whether I wanted it or not.”
—Rodriguez said that anyone can relate to Jane. “It is a story about a girl that’s going through this crazy world and the roller coaster she goes through it. And I think that people relate to the story because we watch art to see fictional reality and be able to reflect our daily reality. You’re going to be able to relate to someone. It doesn’t have to be Jane. There are many characters to relate to. And you don’t have to be Latina. You just have to have a heart and a mind and want to explore and adventure because I think this show’s for everyone. It just happens to be told by a little brown girl.”
—Berlanti revealed that as a kid loved Crisis of Infinite Earths, a comic book that featured the Flash saving the Universe, and that he drew from that comic as well as writer Geoff John’s reimagining of the character for The CW show.
—Patton said that when she got the role of Iris West she “really wanted to understand why people love The Flash.” So, she went to a comic book store and read up.
—Martin talked about playing Det. Joe West on The Flash, saying that he purposely hasn’t read up on the the Flash because he doesn’t want his character to know too much.
—Kreisberg stopped short of revealing any major plot points in The Flash. But he did leave a few breadcrumbs. He said the series hints that Harrison Wells has access to the future. He also revealed that Arrow character Felicity will appear in episode 4 of The Flash this season.
—Flash executive producers wanted the shows to appeal to more than just comic book nerds. “For me I always say that these shows have to work for both me and my wife,” said Kreisberg. “And my wife could give a rip about comic books. But she loves Arrow and she loves Flash. And she likes them because of the characters.”
The Flash premieres on Oct. 7 at 8/7c, while Jane the Virgin bows on Oct. 13 at 9/8c.