The Flash season 8 has been an emotional rollercoaster, from the Armageddon 5-part event to the deadly Deathstorm saga, as Team Flash lost one of their own. With 6 episodes remaining, a huge arc that is about to get a more significant spotlight is Iris West-Allen’s time-sickness, which was first set up in The Flash season 7. Following the end of last week’s episode, “Funeral for a Friend,” Iris has once again disappeared, which will now lead into tonight’s episode 15, “Into the Still Force.”
As we’re heading into the end of The Flash season 8, “Into the Still Force” is serving both as an Interlude installment but it also plays off as a start to the next graphic novel. For this episode, showrunner Eric Wallace had the opportunity to jump into the director’s seat, making “Into the Still Force” the first time directing since his days on Teen Wolf.
Making his latest return to The Flash Podcast, host Andy Behbakht had the chance to chat with Eric once again, as he got to take on a different role on this particular episode of The Flash. This first part of our exclusive interview with Eric is a spoiler-free preview of “Into the Still Force,” as he talks about the challenges and experience in directing an episode of a series that you also happen to be the showrunner on. Part 2 will be coming out tonight after the airing of “Into the Still Force” in all of our regular formats, which will be full-on spoilers, including teases for the rest of season 8 and a few tidbits for season 9.
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The Flash Podcast: First off, congrats on finishing season 8; thankfully not the last one! And of course, congratulations on directing your first Flash episode! Walk me through how this came about, after all these years being the showrunner?
Eric Wallace: It’s funny, I actually planned to direct in season 7. Of course, I planned a lot of things in season 7, before COVID happened. We ended on a cliffhanger in season 6,. We had to redo the opening to season 7; we had to redo a lot of things, because we didn’t know how many episodes we would have. I think I was originally scheduled to direct somewhere in the middle of season 7. But the new challenges of working in a COVID environment were so intense and not great for everyone – not just myself, but for the cast crew, studio, and network, with everybody adjusting to a new world.
It became very obvious that it would be better for me to focus on running a show in this strange new world that we were in. I said ‘No problem, I’ll just bump it over to season 8, fingers crossed,’ you kind of have to have your fingers crossed at that point, but we got the pickup for season 8. Then as I started to put it together story-wise, knowing in advance that Armageddon was coming,[I thought], ‘I need to be there and be present more in a producing and writing capacity,’ because those are such huge episodes. But once that was done, then [the conversation became] ‘Alright, where do I want to kind of land in the directing order?’ I felt the best place to do it was with the Interludes.
This is our fourth set of Interludes, and I wanted the experience as a director of getting a The Flash episode, just like any ordinary episodic director would. I deliberately chose not to direct one I had written. I do passes on all the scripts anyways; it’s kind of a moot point. But I wanted Lauren Barnett and Christina Walker – who were the two writers [of 8.15], who did terrific writing on the episode – to have all of the full autonomy that I tried to give all the writers once I gave them the idea and they run with it. I wanted them to have a really good experience in creating the episode. I wanted to approach it just as a director.
How can I visualize this strange story going into the Still Force as best as possible and still support all the things that need to be supported? Because it’s story first, character first, emotions first, and then make it look kind of strange and fun. That’s kind of how it came about, and I was originally slated to do 8.14, “Funeral for a Friend,” and I was quite looking forward to it. [laughs] Then of course, as life happens, it became very obvious the way the schedule was lining up, it would not be to my benefit as a showrunner to do 8.14. That left the weird 8.15 episode, so I said ‘Fine. I’ll take it.’ I like them all so why not take this one? And you’ve seen the results.
The Flash Podcast: You weren’t kidding the last time we talked; this one was really weird!. We got a taste of the Forces last year, but I think this is the first time we have an episode where we go deeper into that. You’re talking about having to run all these things while being on set. When directing this episode, was it easy to just turn off the showrunner mind and just think of it as a director? Or were there times where you had to have both hats on while directing the episode, to make sure it works from both angles?
Eric Wallace: It’s a great question, and it’s a central question that I think someone in my position directing would deal with. But to be honest with you, I tried to just be a director. In prep, I had to wear both hats quite a lot. Because the director in me would want a fancier shot here, or I’d like a bigger camera package. Then I would put on my showrunner hat and go ‘No, no, you can’t have that.’ [laughs] Sometimes you have to be your own best critic, which was very, very funny at times. The crew thought it was very amusing.
[Sometimes they went] ‘Are we talking to the showrunner or the director?’ and I said ‘Mainly the showrunner.’ But once we’re on set and actually in it, I wanted everybody to be comfortable and really feel like it wasn’t their boss who was here for a couple of weeks of prep and a couple of weeks of shooting. It was a director here that really cared about the show. Once the process started, it was very much just making director decisions. I think I tried to limit showrunning decisions to 20 minutes at lunch! [laughs] To see how many phone calls you have, how many emails have stacked up, and you talk to folks to see ‘Does the showrunner need to weigh in on anything else? I’m going back to set, and then you won’t hear from me for 5-6 hours, so will you get it taken care of?’ Then you go back to that mode, so that’s kind of how it works.
The Flash Podcast: You’re talking about making this show during these strange times with COVID; what lessons did you take away from that you will now apply to if you direct an episode in season 9 or on another show in the future? What did it prepare you for that you didn’t have from when you directed Teen Wolf, which thankfully wasn’t made during a pandemic.
Eric Wallace: A couple, actually. Shooting in a COVID world and under the pandemic, it’s safety first. No matter how much you want to cheer, ‘Oh that shot was fantastic!’ or ‘Hey, Grant, that performance was really great,’ because Grant [Gustin] is really terrific in this episode, having to carry a lot of strange, very existential moments as folks will see in this episode. We had this moment towards the end of act 5 – I won’t give away too many spoilers for those who haven’t seen it – but there’s a very existential moment, and he’s doing his thing. He has this big long speech where he has to see things that the audience can’t see. He has to bring them to life through just dialogue.
Christina and Lauren did such a fantastic job with the writing. I think we did two takes, which was all that was really necessary. The first was kind of a warm-up to get everybody familiar, and in the second one, he just nailed it. The crew and I, we all burst into applause. At that moment, you want to tear off your mask, jump up, cheer, shout and hug everyone. You can’t do that in a COVID pandemic, you have to keep your mask on. Safety first, and you have to go [does the way a voice sound like behind a mask] ‘Really great job, fantastic!’
The Flash Podcast: I can see all of that in my head, because I’m still wearing a mask wherever I go. Hearing what someone says can be challenging, for sure.
Eric Wallace: Yeah, it’s strange. The other weird thing was you realize how much communication happens between facial expressions. When you don’t have those facial expressions as a director – I can’t pull down the mask as I’m giving a note on a performance – you don’t want things to be misunderstood, which can happen when half of your face is covered up to here. If you’re on location, and it’s in the rain or in the cold – as sometimes happens in Vancouver – not only is your face covered, but you might be wearing a hat down to here, a scarf maybe. Much of the way you might normally communicate with the actors, the crew, or with Brenton Spencer, my wonderful DP, or the camera folks, Nick and Francoise – they’re all just fantastic folks.
You have to be aware of that, and sometimes you have to maybe raise your voice a little bit. But you don’t want that to be misconstrued as, ‘Oh, the boss is yelling at us,’ because that’s not what you’re trying to do. It might be a windy day, and half your face is covered when you’re just trying to communicate. It’s quite strange. I got even more of an admiration for the cast, the crew, and specifically our directors who come in and have been working under these incredibly difficult situations.
Catch The Flash season 8, episode 15, “Into the Still Force,” tonight at 8/7c on The CW – be sure to return back to The Flash Podcast right after the episode has aired, as we will have PART 2 up of our interview with Eric Wallace, where he breakdown “Into the Still Force,” while teasing the rest of Season 8 AND also a few tidbits about Season 9!
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