The CW as we know it wouldn't exist without David Rapaport, the man responsible for casting all of your favorite teen soaps. In addition to discovering a young Penn Badgley in the hunt for Gossip Girl's bleeding heart, Dan Humphrey, David has found the lead casts for all of Archie Horror's television series, 90210, and DC Comics' Arrowverse. David spilled the beans about how he found Television's Mightiest Heroes on more than one occasion, and some of his behind-the-scenes casting secrets are nothing short of shocking.
We couldn't imagine anyone other than Stephen Amell playing Arrow's titular hero, and apparently, David Rapaport agrees. The casting director told both Buzzfeed and Entertainment Weekly that Stephen was the first actor he thought of after reading the script for Arrow's pilot episode, and they didn't have to bring many others in after seeing Stephen's audition. David even brought Stephen's picture into the first meeting for Arrow, and from the moment his coworkers responded positively to the actor, David knew that there was no one else for the role of Oliver Queen.
Grant Gustin was almost cast as a *very* different role in the Arrowverse's early days. David had Grant read for the role of Thea Queen's boyfriend early on during season one of Arrow, and the CD told Buzzfeed he's thought about how "screwed" they would have been if Grant had been cast in a different role on the series before The Flash show had even been conceived. Grant was the first person to audition for the role of Barry Allen, according to Entertainment Weekly, and his read opposite Arrow's Emily Bett Rickards sealed the deal because of their "amazing chemistry."
Longtime teen TV fans will remember that Arrow's version of Oliver Queen wasn't the first time the Green Arrow had been featured on a CW television series. Writer Mark Guggenheim explained at a press conference that network producers chose not to feature Smallville's take on the character, played by Justin Hartley, so their new series could forge its own path as a different take on the beloved DC Comics character. Justin portrayed Oliver Queen on Smallville's final four seasons, but the This Is Us actor is doing just fine since he's hung up his bow and arrow for good.
Another interesting tidbit hiding in David Rapaport's Entertainment Weekly journey through his casting successes is the similarities between Grant and Stephen's journey to the Arrowverse. Both actors were first cast by David in successful auditions for 90210. Grant played a recurring character on season five, Campbell Price, the privileged leader of a secret society, while Stephen guest starred as Jim Mcdohpy the year before, Jane's long-lost husband who had been presumed dead. Stephen's 90210 role showed his dark and mysterious side, fitting for the Green Arrow's arc, while Grant was brought in because his real-life personality was so different from the bad-boy pricks he'd played in the past.
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It's not uncommon for producers to use unattainable, superstar actors and actresses as examples of what they're looking for when casting a specific character. For Supergirl's leading lady, Kara Zor-El, David was told to find someone who could echo Jennifer Lawrence's goofy relatability. David tells Entertainment Weekly that Melissa Benoist had read for both Arrow and an MTV pilot he had cast, and he felt that she encapsulated Jennifer Lawrence's ~super~ qualities that producers were seeking.
David has been reading Lili Reinhart since she was fourteen, and the young actress was brought in for Thea Queen on Arrow and Supergirl's titular heroine before landing the role of Betty Cooper, according to Entertainment Weekly and a Riverdale fan account on Twitter. David describes Lili as someone with "a lot going on underneath," making her perfect for the dark and edgy worlds of both Starling City and the Town With Pep.
Although Grant was the first person brought in to read for Barry Allen, that doesn't mean it was a cut-and-dry process. David shares with Mandy that The Flash took twice as long to cast as a typical pilot, and the team searched for seven to ten weeks for the right actor to play Barry before realizing Grant had been right from the start. They had been looking for the hero since before the pilot was even picked up because Barry was slated to appear as a guest star on Arrow, giving them a long time frame to really agonize over the decision.
Arrow was greenlit during the golden age of supernatural television, when The Vampire Diaries was one of The CW's biggest hits. Because the teen soap had found success by marketing its primary love triangle so aggressively, Arrow was cast and conceived as a three-hander with Stephen, Kate Cassidy, and Colin Donnell as the leading trifecta. That all changed when the first solo shirtless poster of Stephen was released, and it quickly became clear that the series was about the Green Arrow himself, forever changing the tone of the series, David told Buzzfeed.
Emily Bett Rickards is an Arrow fan favorite, but the character of Felicity Smoak was first conceived as a guest starring spot. David said Felicity could have been a one-line role on the show, but because she "popped," the Powers That Be decided to continue using the character, Buzzfeed reports. Felicity became an all-important character on the series as an integral part of Team Arrow and, of course, as Oliver Queen's primary love interest. It's funny how things have a way of working themselves out.
Yet another fun fact from David Rapaport's Buzzfeed profile, David Ramsey's Diggle was the last character to be cast for Arrow's pilot. His role on the first episode was tiny as a last minute addition to the episode, with only one page of dialogue for his studio test. He was tested the same day as his first audition and was only of only five actors to read for the role because the creative team didn't realize the character would become such an important supporting character, due in no small part to David Ramsey's performance.
It seems like the best of the best young actresses were brought in for Thea Queen, the Green Arrow's troublemaking little sister. In addition to Lili Reinhart, future Supergirl star Melissa Benoist was one of "a bunch of people" who read for Thea, but the team kept coming back to Willa Holland, who eventually won the role. It took a little convincing from David to get Willa to agree to an audition, Buzzfeed explained, but knowing the character was likely on track to become a superhero by the end was a helpful bargaining chip.
If at first, you don't succeed, wait to see if the casting director changes his mind. The role of Sara Lance was recast after Arrow's pilot, and originally, Black Canary was just another failed audition for David Rapaport by Caity Lotz. After seeing Caity on Mad Men, David brought the actress in for 90210, which she didn't book before he saw her for Sara's second iteration. They actually passed on Caity and kept looking, but David trusted his gut and decided to return to his initial instincts, bringing Caity back for a second try. Now, the network has built an entire spin-off around her.
Broadway stars Andy Mientus and Jeremy Jordan were both brought in to read for Barry Allen as David Rapaport and company delayed the inevitable (aka Grant Gustin's casting). Both actors ended up on the Arrowverse in different roles, with Andy as the villainous Pied Piper on The Flash and Jeremy as a series regular on Supergirl. Jeremy actually downgraded his Supergirl role to an occasionally recurring character in order to spend more time with his wife and move on in his career, so it's definitely for the best that he wasn't the right fit for Barry. The Flash couldn't really stick around without the fastest man in the universe.
A testament to David's spot-on instincts, Candice Patton was one of the first actresses seen for The Flash's Iris West, but David remembers they were too early in the process to make an official decision. That's how former child star Keke Palmer ended up testing for the role, but producers decided she felt too young for the role next to Grant, the character's romantic interest. Eventually, Candice and one other actress, presumably not Keke, were brought back for another chemistry read, and Candice immediately won the part.
Legends of Tomorrow's Hawkgirl, Ciara Renée, was also brought in for Iris West, but based on context clues from Buzzfeed, it sounds like she was a little too green for the role. Before booking Hawkgirl, Ciara had only appeared on television twice before, once in 2012 on Crime Stoppers Case Files: South Florida and again in 2014 on Law & Order: SVU (alongside every other actor on the planet). Because well-known actors like Victor Garber were already attached to Legends of Tomorrow, which had a high-profile thanks to the success of the Arrowverse's other series, producers were more open to discovering new talent.
The Flash's pilot casting might have taken longer than most, but Danielle Panabaker booked the role of Caitlin Snow within a week. Speaking on a TVfest panel in February 2018, Danielle recalled that her audition for the series took about four days, beginning with a read for David Rapaport, pilot director David Nutter, and a handful of others on a Tuesday, went to the studio Thursday, tested on Friday, and received a call from Greg Berlanti that same Friday confirming she had gotten the part.
It's hard to overestimate the work that David Rapaport has done for diversity on television, especially in the realm of LGBTQ+ representation, with Advocate highlighting the out CD's contributions to LGBTQ visibility on the small screen. He cast Supergirl's Nicole Maines as the first transgender superhero on TV, Ruby Rose as a lesbian Batwoman, Andy Mientus as a Flash villain, and Matt Bomber on Doom Patrol, but even before his work on The CW, David cast the first gay superhero to headline a television show when Russell Tovey voiced The Ray on Freedom Fighters: The Ray.
It's ironic that Keke Palmer was removed from contention for The Flash for looking too young next to Grant Gustin when Grant himself was almost taken out of the running for Barry Allen for that same reason. Producer Greg Berlanti told The Hollywood Reporter that Grant wasn't *his* obvious choice for The Flash because he was so much younger than the character had been in past iterations, but his heart and spirit ended up overshadowing the age difference. It's hard to imagine an older, wiser Barry Allen making his way through Central City, that's for sure.
David Rapaport has spoken about how Stephen Amell's first shirtless promo poster was game-changing for the first CW superhero series, but Greg Berlanti revealed to Vulture that no one knew Stephen was *that* ripped. It's almost comforting that no one during the audition process asked Stephen to take off his shirt, even though he now spends most of the series topless. When the former Rent-a-Goalie started getting in shape for the role, he would send the team videos of his training, which led them to realize they'd cast a real-life Superman.
Shadowhunters' Katherine McNamara's first role following the Freeform hit was the recurring Star City street fighter Maya, who was introduced on Arrow's seventh season. The scrappy thief was a perfect role for the Maze Runner actress, who's seen her fair share of dark, teen-oriented action, and TVLine got their hands on Maya's first (unofficial) casting notice, which described the character as "Buffy the Superhero Slayer." Now *that* is a crossover event we would love to see. Sarah Michelle Gellar, where you at?