From Stage to Superhero: The Flash’s Grant Gustin Has Always Been on the Fast Track

CW star talks about his dancing, his costume and (shh) his Superman tattoo

It's the biggest show on the CW and on track to become the network's most-watched series ever. The Flash, it appears, really can outrun everything.

As with any prime-time property, especially one on the vanguard of a comics-driven movement reshaping the television landscape, it is essential to get the right guy to play the lead. The network found an unlikely—but ideal—superhero in Grant Gustin, whose most recent major role had him playing a conniving villain, the backstabbing Sebastian Smythe, on Fox's Glee. In The Flash, the six-foot-plus, 24-year-old theater veteran plays a crime-fighter who hasn't quite grown into his mask yet. It agrees with him.

You started out dancing before you played a superhero who runs, right?

Yeah, kind of from an early age I just did what I loved to do, which, at 8 years old, became tap dancing.

Why was that?

Because of Gene Kelly and Singin' in the Rain, specifically, and Donald O'Connor. I mean, I watched that movie hundreds of times probably, and I had played soccer and baseball growing up and was starting to lose interest. My mom said she would watch me watch that movie and others like it over and over again and eventually just kind of made me take an all-boys tap class, because she knew deep down that I would love it. And I resisted, and of course ended up loving it. I joined a community theater, and from 10 to high school, I probably did 30-some musicals.

You did theater professionally after that, correct?

I lasted two years at Elon University before I auditioned for the Broadway tour of West Side Story on my spring break. It, like, lined up perfectly with my spring break. Had a call-back the last week of school, during exams, and was able to get away, and found out I got it when I was doing summer stock theater that summer. I met my manager, Robert Stein, when I was performing at the Pantages [in Los Angeles], and he told me that he thought that I would do really well in L.A. and he wanted to start working with me. I just submitted tapes from the road, ended up having a call-back for Glee. Got Glee, one thing led to another, and now I'm the Flash.

Wait, back up. You were in the last production of West Side Story? The one that Arthur Laurents, the original writer-director, mounted right before he died?

Yes. Really it was the last production that he cast and he was involved with the Broadway production and everything, but we were the tour. We were the last company of anything that he had his hands on. He was there in Detroit with us when we were teching the show, and he was in a lot of the final rehearsals in New York at 42nd Street Studios. I was able to shake his hand, and I talked to him for a few minutes at one of my first auditions and that was about the only interaction I had with him. But yeah, he was involved with our show and it was pretty special.

Do you ever miss the theater?

All the time. But I know that I will absolutely be back in the theater—I would imagine many, many, many times over the course of my career, so I'm just kind of enjoying what I'm doing right now, because I never expected this.

So, this being your first big break, what do you want your career to look like?

I'd love to kind of go the Joseph Gordon-Levitt route, and do a lot of really good independent films that I love, and I'd love to get back to the theater in the next couple of years, if possible, just when we're on a hiatus. Those are kind of the two things I want to check off my list next, I guess.

You're kind of in an action-movie zone now on The Flash. How much of the stunt work do you do yourself?