‘The Flash’ Will Be First To Feature An Openly Gay Supervillain Onscreen

CW’S The Flash continues to break new ground by confirming the first onscreen appearance of an openly gay supervillain – The Pied Piper – to be played by Andy Mientus. The casting comes at a time when the lack of diversity in the genre of TV and cinematic superhero adaptations has become the subject of much debate, with audiences often citing the fact that each project to date has generally been dominated by white heterosexual men – both in front of and behind the camera.

The two superhero market leaders – Marvel and DC – have finally begun to address the issue in cinema by scheduling movies with female and non-white lead characters. In television, Marvel will soon unveil its female-led TV show, Agent Carter. For DC, though, the introduction of The Pied Piper is a great indicator of progress in terms of diversity onscreen, anywhere.

The actor tasked with bringing the role to life for the first time – Andy Mientus – is best known for his stage work, but did feature in the short-lived show Smash. Currently appearing in Les Miserables on Broadway, he spoke to Variety about the opportunity now before him.

“With the gay thing, I feel like I’m representing a whole community. People are excited to see this character, so it is a lot of pressure. But I’m glad they are introducing the character to the show. It’s a huge step forward, and I’m thrilled to help make that happen. It’s awesome.”

The villainous character is otherwise known as Hartley Rathaway – a man obsessed with sound, having been born deaf and then “cured” by scientists. He uses various tools that employ sonic technology, including a flute that can hypnotise anyone that hears it – placing them under his control and even rendering him invisible when necessary. While he previously auditioned for the central role of The Flash – now played by Grant Gustin – Andy Mientus will debut his version of The Pied Piper in the CW show on January 27, 2015.

He joins a growing roster of formidable guest stars – a list made all the more impressive by the fact that, in terms of broadcast, audiences have only seen nine episodes of the show’s debut season so far. In addition to the core cast of Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Tom Cavanagh and Jesse L. Martin, The Flash boasts episodes that feature Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell, Clancy Brown, Robert Knepper, William Sadler, Victor Garber, Amanda Pays and Morena Baccarin – in addition to its mid-season Arrow cross-over success.

Apart from delivering one of the most popular villains of The Flash source material – The Pied Piper – to the screen, nods to the passionate fan-base of the comic book character have included going to great lengths to reference the 1990 TV show of the same name. The actor that filled the costume in that series was John Wesley Shipp, who now plays the character’s father. Amanda Pays reprises the role of Dr. Tina McGee, and Mark Hamill is confirmed to return as The Trickster – a role he originated in that earlier version.

In terms of ratings, The Flash is hot on the heels of its Tuesday night competition – Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D on ABC. A sample from December 2nd shows a rating score of 1.4 for The Flash, against a score of 1.8 for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Critics are beginning to cite the difference in limitations between the two shows when drawing comparisons, with Variety in particular reporting that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D seems to be once again held back by its need to be a “cog in the larger Marvel universe”, while The Flash is able to fully embrace its nature as an actual superhero show.

The Flash airs on CW, on Tuesdays at 8 pm.

[Image via Google]