EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: The Flash’s Andy Mientus On Pied Piper’s Massive Season 9 Arc
The Flash season 9 is getting deeper into its Red Death saga and tonight’s episode, “Rogues of War” take things to the next level. As the episode title says, the Rogues are on the rise, bigger than previous seasons as multiple characters are factoring into the final season. One of them is Pied Piper, who was one of the first Rogues who joined the Arrowverse drama all the way back in season 1.
After having appeared numerous times in The CW series, Andy Mientus is officially back and we are getting a lot more of Pied Piper than we have previously. Tonight’s episode sees Hartley engaging with numerous characters as Barry tries to get to the bottom of the new mystery big bad.
The Flash Podcast’s Andy Behbakht recently sat down with Mientus to talk about Pied Piper’s massive The Flash season 9 arc as the show gets ready to finish its run on The CW. Throughout the interview, Mientus reflects on his Arrowverse journey of getting to bring Hartley back multiple times, and this time take part of his biggest storyline yet. The interview is also available in video format, which can be found here.
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TFP: Were you excited to be finally come back for several episodes? Usually we see Pied Piper for one episode, and then he goes away, but this time you got to stick around and be part of this storyline.
Andy Mientus: In short, yes! [laughs] On a really basic level, all actors like to work and like to work on projects as big and storied, and, and viewed as this. But personally, I just love this guy, this character, more than maybe any other I’ve ever played. I love the group of people at The Flash, which has changed over the years. Somehow they maintain a standard of really good people throughout the cast and crew. So it’s a fun set to be on, every shoot is a new adventure. I feel every time I’ve been back, I’ve been doing something that I’ve never done before, whether it’s like blowing up cars, or hand-to-hand combat, or speaking French. It’s always a new adventure and I’ve been really fortunate over the years to pop back up here and there.
When I heard that this was going to be the last season, I held a little candle of flame in my heart of like, ‘I would love to come back and finish it out.’ Even just for one or even a cameo, something to put a period on that sentence. But there are lots and lots of characters and I knew that there were lots of loose ends to tie up in the narrative. I wasn’t holding my breath and so then when I got a call about an availability check – just to see where I was at – and luckily I was and said ‘Okay, it’s happening maybe.’ I got cautiously really optimistic that I would have one [episode ] and then when I heard that it was going to be more than one, it was really super gratifying. I’ve always loved the character, but I know that he’s also something of a cult fan-favorite. So I’m happy for all those folks that have wanted more Piper all along. It’s very flattering to be one of the guest stars coming back for this final season, which is amazing, but I’m very proud to be one of them.
TFP: Well, I’m so happy that you get to do that. Because I’m a comic book nerd, Hartley has always had various interactions with Barry and Team Flash, but this time we actually get to see you with so many other Rogues,. It gets to a point where we get to see all of them togeher – I am guessing shooting all of that much have been a lot of fun.
Andy Mientus: Yeah, and that was one of those moments, that specific scene you’re talking about with the Rogues facing off – I have many moments like this [when] working on this show where you are looking around and you’re like, ‘How did I get here? Who did I trick into letting me do this?’ You’re wearing a superhero costume, my gloves are lit up and we’re in some crazy location. You are toe-to-toe with someone else in a superhero costume and Grant [Gustin] is standing over there chuckling; it’s so surreal and fun. I feel like a little kid when I get those moments. Yeah I got the opportunity to work with several actors that were new to me and some that I’ve known for years but haven’t really worked with. For example, Candice [Patton] and I finally got some scenes together, after all this time where we had been socially and friendly through the culture around the show,. But I don’t think we’ve ever really worked together before, so that was really fun to be able to check in with some of those folks before the end. To then meet my Rogues with Damion [Poitier, who plays Goldface,] Max [Adler, who plays The Hotness,] and Jon [Cor, who plays Chillblaine,] we had a blast working on these episodes.
TFP: I always love how Hartley is the one who says whatever is on his mind – how much fun do you have getting to play the brutally-honest one on the team?
Andy Mientus: It’s always super fun to have the kind of dialogue that Hartley gets to have. They write him really well and I remember one of the things that really attracted me to the part when I was auditioning [was] in one of my audition scenes, there was that first scene, where I’m being [brought] in handcuffs to Star Labs. I make a joke about The Flash being in leather, and how being led by a man [who is] in head-to-toe in leathers, is a fantasy of mine. I was like, ‘Oh, this is really Gay!’ We’re not just going to learn that he’s Gay as part of a sad plot, but like his actual humor, wit and sarcasm feels very authentic to me, to our community.
So I was like, Oh, they’re really doing this’ and I really think that’s cool in a show like this. So that’s fun, just on that level. But also, it’s really – as an actor – a really good motor in the scene. Because I feel like Hartley’s whole thing is that he’s a genius. He’s the smartest person in most rooms, usually smarter than Barry, even. They’re both scientists but Hartley has tat little bit of intellectual edge. That’s why he butted heads with Cisco so much, because they’re both the kind of who’s the smartest, who has the best ideas. But Hartley using that intellect is really direct, he’s really effective. He has no time to suffer fools or beat around the bush. He’s like, ‘We have to do this and do this now. I know the right way, anyone who questions that way, is just wasting our time and will make me angry.’ He gets frustrated with people that are not up to his level, because he knows what’s best. So when you’re playing a scene with that knowledge, it’s a really good motor to keep you driving forward while everyone else is trying to consider what’s the right thing to do. What is the best thing to do, and Hartley will go, ‘This is the best thing to do and this is the way we have to do it. Let’s hurry up and do it.’ It’s fun to throw out these snarky one liners, but it also really tells me something about the way he operates. He’s so direct and sharp and fierce.
TFP: Speaking of the Gay representation – I’ve always looked for more Queer rep on the show as I’m bisexual. For example, I sobbed a little bit with Hartley and Roderick’s kiss, as I felt, ‘We should have this many seasons ago.’ But I get the TV landscape landscape is what it is. Knowing that you’re the one that gets to carry that on your shoulders throughout the whole series, is that a huge responsibility for you as an actor?
Andy Mientus: I don’t think of it so much as responsibility because I only have the words that they give me to say, and the actions that are written in the script to do right. So I have very little control over what that representation is, looks like or feels like to the viewer. I do feel a great deal of openness from Eric [Wallace,] the showrunner, the writers and everyone on set, where if there was anything that was bumping for me where I thought, ‘Oh this doesn’t feel quite accurate, or it feels a little whatever,’ that I would have full ability to say that. It really is that kind of set where you can have that dialogue, and it’s not scary. Now, that said on this show, I think the writers are very clever and very sensitive, because I never had any moment like that. Everything always felt really great to me, which is a really nice way to come to work. So I don’t feel so much the responsibility, but I do feel like the weight of that honor of this is not just representation on a show in a genre that one might think isn’t going to have that kind of representation. But the fact that Piper has been conically out since the 90s. This is a bigger piece of Queer representation history than even my involvement in this adaptation of the source material.
To get to play Piper at all is to pick up a mantle that is huge and risky when they started it in the comics. I feel that and it’s a cool thing that I can have in my cap forever. I feel like they should put it on my tombstone – not that I want to be buried, I want to be cremated – but it’s something I’m very proud of. I feel more the responsibility not so much of handling the Gay representation but being a good, fun, likeable, hateable and interesting Pied Piper for the people that have loved him since then before. This is an iconic character that means so much to some people and obviously the show is its own entity and takes its own artistic licenses with these characters. Right now I’m the only live action Piper there is and so you want to do right by by the people that created him and by the people that have loved him far longer than I have even known about him. To hear, on the whole that the fan feedback has been really good on me and on Piper, really warms my heart.
TFP: Have you in between seasons gone back to the comics and looked at various things, hoping ‘Oh, mabe one day I get to do this with my Piper on the show!’ How much engagement do you have with the comics side of Piper?
Andy Mientus: I had the most engagement with it at the beginning, because when I was cast, some folks at DC sent over a bunch of stuff for me to look at. They had put post-it notes in pages of various lomnibuses and volumes to get a sense of him, see the art and get started. There are some plot points that I always thought would have been really fun and cool to get into. But of course the show needs to do what it needs to do and all of us in the guest cast, the supporting cast, is working in service of the larger vision. In my head, there’s always been a parallel Piper story that have been happening concurrently. Then I pop into The Flash’s show every now and again to do what I’m going to do. But I do like to imagine that other stuff that’s going on in the background.
TFP: We have you for a couple more weeks – would you say that by the time we finish this arc, we get a closure for Pied Piper, or might we see you later in season 9?
Andy Mientus: Hmm…I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say. But I felt very satisfied by the last scene that I shot and I think there’s – in thinking of his larger arc throughout the series and throughout all nine seasons – I think beginning in 9×02, where I make my reappearance, you are beginning to see what I think of as the macro ending of his story. Which is that for when we first meet him, he was abandoned and betrayed by this father figure in Harrison Wells, which has set him down this villainous path.
A lot of which manifest in him trying to prove that he is a genius, is effective [but] can be scary to people that he perceives as having crossed him. So for the entire series, I feel like in these little glimpses that we get of him, you see him trying to prove himself trying to be respected and trying to show everyone that he does have the best idea and is a force to be reckoned with, even though he’s little, has glasses and is Gay, which is not someone that people might be intimidated by. He can be really scary and really intimidating. When Barry comes to him for help, they come up with a plan of what to do and Barry kind of acquiescence to going with Piper’s ideas, that is so gratifying for him.
[He is] this guy that he has been trying to be better than for the better part of 10 years, because his father-like-figure Harrison Wells seem to this guy more. It’s like this sibling rivalry that’s been going on. Finally, Barry really sees and respects Hartley or at least Hartley is finally aware of that even if Barry has respected him all along. So that I think is the most satisfying bit of closure beyond what the actual last scene we get of Piper is – I think it’s a satisfying ending and then once that’s happened, you get a little bit of time where you get to see Piper loosen up a little bit and not be quite so fierce the way he has been but a little looser, a little more funny. [Hartley] do things that are a little more selfless, which I’ve really loved getting to play with
TFP: By the time you wrapped, did you get to keep any of Piper’s stuff, like the coat, the gauntlets or any of it?
Andy Mientus: No, but when I auditioned for the part, a few days prior, I was doing a show on Broadway at the time. I had rubbed my eye the wrong way and I ended up in the emergency room that night with a corneal abrasion. Then my audition Pied Piper on The Flash [was coming up] and I had to fly to Los Angeles from New York days later. So I couldn’t put my contacts in, so I had to wear my glasses to the audition, which are those glasses. I auditioned, I got it and they liked my glasses so much, they ended up buying several exact copies of my personal glasses to be Piper’s glasses. We moved away from it in later seasons, but I have, of course, my still personal pair of glasses, which are the Hartley glasses, so maybe I’ll put them in a glass case or something for future generations to study. I don’t know, but I have those at least.
TFP: A new DC Universe is coming to life and I really would love to keep seeing you more in the DC realm. Have you been paying attention to all the things that James Gunn and Peter Safran are talking about and is that something you would like to take part of?
Andy Mientus: I mean, yes, if you’re listening, yes! [laughs] it’s a loud yes. I think it’s so great that DC keeps finding new ways to tackle these stories and what is the best way to tell these stories [while] keeping themselves open to a broad vision as opposed to being like ‘This is the universe we’re creating, we’re going to stick to it no matter what.’ They’re like really listening to fans and listening to feedback and trying new stuff. I really love the variety of tones that we’ve gotten from DC properties across all media and I would love to do Piper like in a video game, or in animation. I would love to do Piper in something really like serious and grounded like Joker. I think there’s a million different lenses to look at this character with and if they ever call, I will come running because I love this character and this world.
TFP: Like a Pied Piper movie in the tone of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker? I would die for that.
Andy Mientus: There’s a lot there! There are a lot of Piper stories that we didn’t get to [with the show] from the source material. Who knows? Again, I’ve learned not to hope for things or wish for things, but yeah, since you asked, [laughs] if anyone else is listening, I’m in!
TFP: For my final question how does Hartley react to someone like Red Death? Because he’s already used to one speedster, but not someone like Red Death.
Andy Mientus: Hartley at least puts on a front of being really confident and really brave, which is one of the things I love most about him is that despite his stature, his glasses, hist past, he is tough as nails. I think he’s one of the toughest characters you get to meet in The Flash. Red Death, as this arc progresses, is the scariest thing that he has encountered yet. So from my point of view – it was cool to get to finally like crack that hard shell open a little bit. You get to see him really scared and really the stakes get very high and very dire. To see Piper have to make some tough choices and standby those calls is really just some good old drama. Red Death gets super super scary and I’m excited for people to go on that ride with us.
TFP: As long as Hartley and Roderick are fine by the end – because man, when I fought they killed Roderick off in 9×02, I went ‘Please tell me they did not just do that!’
Andy Mientus: [laughs] Yeah, me and Joel [Semande] who plays Roderick, we were laughing so hard about like, ‘Man, we got to wrap him in bubble wrap, he just keeps getting into trouble around him’ Hartley, God I love him, but he’s getting his boyfriend into some serious trouble to protect them!
TFP: What do you have coming up that you can tease people about?
Andy Mientus: I can’t really say anything about anything upcoming other than this run of of episodes on my acting side, but people may not know that I am also an author of fiction. I’ve published four books of fiction for Young Adults through Abrams publishing available where all books are sold. This past fall, I published a Young Adult story called Fraternity that has similar spooky Gay representation and supernatural qualities so I think fans of Pied Piper might really like that book. So it’s called Fraternity and you can find it anywhere books are sold written by yours truly.
TFP: Well Andy, thank you so much for your time and thank you for what you’ve done with his character. Again, for someone who got to pop up here and there, I think you are one of the fews that got to do so much and have a lot of layers, making Hartley one of the rich characters of the series. Hopefully once Todd Phillips is finished with his Joker stuff, he may think ‘What’s the next character I can take to the big-screen and do something really big with?’ and he’ll hopefully think of Pied Piper.
Andy Mientus: Write your Senators, write your congress! [laughs] Thanks you so much for taking the time with me and having me on. Al of you out there listening, I hope you enjoy the season!
“Rogues of War” — (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET) (TV-PG, V) (HDTV)
ON THE MOVE – Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris (Candice Patton) start to put together the pieces of what’s happening in Central City and believe they know what the Rogues are after. Team Flash works together and recruits some unlikely allies to help, and the plan does not go as Team Flash expects. Meanwhile, Allegra (Kayla Compton) does her best to avoid having a conversation with Chester (Brandon McKnight). Brenton Spencer directed the episode with story by Sam Chalsen and written by Jeff Hersch & Jess Carson (#903). Original airdate 2/22/2023.