His name is Eobard Thawne, and he's the fastest man alive (after Barry Allen, that is).
Actually, behind the scenes, his name is Eli Stone" and "The Carrie Diaries."
Now Letscher's deep in the thick of his, ahem, flashiest role to date: Reprising his role as Barry Allen's cunning, equally super-fast and still enigmatically motivated nemesis from the future, the Reverse-Flash from the first season of "The Flash," the actor will be racing between several of The CW's superhero series -- especially "Legends of Tomorrow" -- throughout the course of the 2016-2017 TV season as a member of the villainous Legion of Doom.
The actor slowed his pace down long enough to join Moviefone for a revealing conversation about Eobard Thawne's future in TV's DC Universe, and how it may lead to revealing significantly more about his own past.
Moviefone: Let's start with what it's been like for you to step into the superhero culture that's dominating our pop entertainment these days. You've done a lot of good work for a lot of years, but it must be an interesting phenomenon to step into this very heightened moment in time.
Matt Letscher: Yeah, it's nice to be part of something that's kind of part of the zeitgeist right now. But it's not coming from nowhere. It's coming from a long history, a rich canon of stories -- and stories that mean a lot to a lot of people. So to be part of that, and be part of it in a way like the CW is doing it right now, with the DC Universe, to be part of it in a way where you have basically four shows that, not only are co-existing, but that are relating to each other at the same time, I don't think we've ever seen anything like that before.
So it's really unusual. I mean, I'm hired as a series regular for a season, but I could be on any single one of those shows based on how my contract is structured. So that's really weird. I mean, for an actor, that's really cool.
Yeah, it's very inventive, and in keeping with the comic book traditional approach. Being this sort of vital puzzle piece for all the shows this season, what's that been like for you so far? How did they approach you with this notion, and what's the execution been like thus far?
Well, I'm mainly going to be on "Legends." When I was approached, it was, "We'd like you to be a regular on 'Legends of Tomorrow.' You'll be one of the main baddies along with a couple other guys we're going to call The Legion of Doom." And they told me what that whole storyline was going to look like -- and then they said, "We also want you to pop in on 'Flash' a couple times and reserve you for a few other episodes."
I mean, it's one of those things where it's a little bit open-ended. They want to keep their options open. But mainly, I'm on "Legends," and I'm there to help execute the story for its second season.
Which has got to be fun, in that you get to shake it up with a whole new group of actors.
Your entry into the DC Universe was through your association with Greg and his team. Did you have any other particular connective tissue to comic book material? Or was this a whole new world for you?
It's pretty much a whole new world for me. I mean, I was a very casual comic book observer as a kid. I'm probably better suited for "Riverdale" than maybe "The Flash." But yeah. This was primarily because of my relationship with Greg and Andrew. Having worked on "Eli Stone," they thought I'd be a good fit for the Reverse-Flash reveal in Season 1. And it's just been going well since it started, so I think they thought, "Well, this would be a good year to bring him in and really be able to use him a little bit more." So yeah, primarily through them.
They're so well-versed in the world, Greg, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg. These guys really know what they're talking about. They know it inside and out. So anytime I have a question, it's very easy to go to the encyclopedia of Kreisberg or Guggenheim and find out what's going on.
What do you like about this evil, evil man?
I like that there are, I feel, two sides to him, and there's also a mystery. I feel like there's a duality in him in that he started out loving Barry and wanting to be Barry, be the Flash, and then it grew into this intense dissociative hatred of Barry so that he wanted to basically annihilate him, remove him from existence. I do feel like those two sides are always in play.
Basically, Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash, cannot fully exist without the Flash, as much as he wants to destroy him. So that dichotomy really intrigues me. And then there's also this mystery behind it, like what is it that triggered it all? Is it simply that this guy was born a sociopath, or a psychopath I should say, and he just became this way? Or was there some sort of inciting incident for him that sort of tripped this behavior? That's still something of a mystery to me, and I think to many people. But maybe we'll find out sometime.
Given that very Flash-centric context that he comes from, we've just now started to see him show up in "Legends." What can you say about how he is without the Flash in his gunsights right now? How does being in a storyline removed from the Flash affect him?
It's interesting: He's maybe a bit less emotionally involved, a little more removed. I do feel like his storyline on "Legends" is very much related to what has happened to him thus far on "The Flash." It's an extension of that. So he's not a different person in any way, but there is a little more room for humor, probably.
There's also the relationship with the other Legion of Doom guys, and anytime you get a bunch of super villains in a room together, things usually don't go that great in the long run. So that's kind of fun to explore, too.
When you get a bunch of actors playing super villains in a room together, what happens?
They, like a pack of dogs, try and sniff out who the alpha male is, over time. And usually one emerges briefly, and then the others try to overtake him. So there's no real sense of trust, and yet they all know who their common enemy is, and they know they need to depend on each other for survival.
So it's always fraught with mistrust, but at the same time, they're all on the same page. There's a lot of room for humor too. I mean, Damien Darhk and Merlyn, they're funny guys. So I feel like the whole "Legends of Tomorrow" season is opened up a lot more humor on the show. It just feels a little rowdier, a little more adventurous, a little funnier.
Does he make any particular enemies amongst the Legends to kind of be a Flash surrogate for his hatred?
It wasn't a Legend, actually, that he took down, but it was [Hourman] Rex Tyler. I'm trying to think if there's anybody in particular so far. No -- not yet. Darhk and Merlin are much more tied to some of the Legends, like White Canary, based on what they've experienced together on "Arrow." So there's some much more personal vendettas.
I think, with Eobard Thawne, while they figure out who he is, there's a much greater sense of mystery around him and what he's trying to do. Why he's doing what he's doing. Because they don't have the same kind of experience with him that they do with the other villains. So it's a good thing.
In not nearly as many scenes as your actual character has shared with Barry Allen -- given that Tom Cavanaugh was essentially playing a version of your character prior to your reveal – you've personally shared scenes with Grant Gustin that have had a really effective, combustable chemistry. Because that hero-villain relationship is always so crucial, what's been the thrill of finding that with Grant?
Well, I go back to this idea that Eobard, in some recess of his psyche, loves and admires Barry as much as he despises and loathes Barry. That he's at war with himself a little bit about this relationship, even if it's on a subconscious level. And that one can't fully exist without the other. There's sort of two sides to the same coin.
And then, just outside of the world, Grant is just a really, really excellent actor, and an utter professional. I mean, it's no surprise that he has good chemistry with a lot of people in the show. I mean, he's just a great actor. He takes every scene very seriously, prepares as well as anybody I've ever worked with. When you see somebody who's that committed to their job and to discovering the truth about what's going on on any given day, it makes you want to work that much harder to find it. So I feel like working with an actor of his caliber inspires better work out of me.
Did you and Tom Cavanaugh do anything to kind of create a little continuity in your performances as the Reverse-Flash?
Not a lot. He was helpful, the first couple of episodes I did, because I had not been watching the show, and I got a call with the offer. So then I had to catch up. And I kind of watched what he had been doing, but then there's also this backstory stuff that he knew that I didn't know. Stuff with the suit, with Gideon, with how things had been working on set thus far. So I tried to take some very subtle things from his performance, just cadence and stuff like that.
Tom's very, very specific in terms of his delivery. I tried to incorporate a little bit of that, but not worry about it too much, because, ultimately, in the end, it's two different people. I can't pretend I'm going to be able to recreate what Tom Cavanaugh did with the character. So yeah. He was really helpful early on, and then we just kind of took it and ran with it from there.
You've had such a long and diverse career, and you haven't been overly burdened by celebrity to kind of limit your choices. What has this phase of your career meant in the bigger picture of things?
Well, it's nice to be part of something that is in the zeitgeist and is doing it in a way that's kind of never been done before. It's nice to be playing a character that means something very specific to a large number of people. You rarely get that opportunity as an actor. Usually that's something you have to build over time, and in this case, we're stepping right into something.
I've got kids, and they watch these shows. It's nice to be a part of something that they actually want to watch, that I'm in, or that they can watch, you know? That's meaningful for me as a father. So I'd say that probably covers it right now. As an actor, you're always going to be unemployed again. You're always going to be looking for the next thing. It's just nice not to have to worry about that for a little while.
Have you found yourself more recognizable in the grocery store? Are more fans kind of picking up on you when they see you out and about?
Not especially! That's something that always comes and goes. I've been on shows where I've been highly recognizable, and that's happened a lot, and others more so. I tend to be that kind of actor that everybody thinks is someone they went to school with, you know? They'll stop me at the restaurant or coffee shop and go, "Have we met before? Where did you grow up?" It's that kind of thing, which I'm perfectly happy with. That's just the right amount of celebrity.
But I think, as far as Eobard Thawne goes, there are fans, they do notice. They're really respectful, and they're passionate about their stories. So those are the kind of people I love having recognize me.
Every actor has to deal with costume at some point or another. With this particular one, how much does the Reverse-Flash suit help your performance, and does it at all get in the way of your performance?
That's a great question, because I think -- because it's a tricky costume. It's complicated. It takes some time to get into it, and it's restricting a little bit physically, and I think most people think that it's a problem.
But it also, because of the way it's built, it adds muscle to your body, it adds a kind of structure to your body, and I think it really helps. It helps with this metahuman presence that you're trying to give off. This extra, super strong whatever it is -- presence. It makes me feel more powerful, and I feel like that translates to the performance. It's unusual that you get wardrobe that directly helps you that much.