More than two months after The Flash star Hartley Sawyer (Ralph Dibney aka Elongated Man) was fired from The CW's long-running Arrowverse series after a number of tweets from Sawyer's past came to light that contained misogynist, homophobic, and racist language, executive producer Eric Wallace is speaking exclusively with EW about the matter and how it impacts the series moving forward. First, the obvious question: is this the last we'll see of Ralph Dibney aka Elongated Man? Wallace admits that the character will be taking "a bit of a rest for a while," don't assume that means he's gone for good. While Wallace chalks up the ability to bring him back as "the beauty of comic book stories and superhero stories," we can't help but feel like his stretching abilities will come into play if/when a new actor is cast:
"The beauty of comic book stories and superhero stories are the conventions that heroes come and go, but they never fade away and they never disappear entirely. So we're going to treat it like we would if we were writing a comic book graphic novel. We're giving the Elongated Man a bit of a rest for awhile. But we will leave the door open," Wallace revealed. "Who knows what the future could bring. It is unknown. But I'm not saying by any means that it's the end of the character, in fact, quite the opposite. We just don't know when he will return, or in what form he will return. And that's the beauty of comic book stories. It keeps it fresh."
In fact, it sounds like that's exactly how Wallace and the creative team will still be able to have Elongated Man involved at the beginning of the seventh season (a must considering the role he plays in one of the major sixth season cliffhangers) without needing Sawyer: "In order to wrap that up, which we're going to do at the top of season 7, Ralph has to be part of that. Now thank goodness, Ralph is a guy who can change faces and his appearance in many ways. Without giving any spoilers away, there are a couple of ways that we can have Elongated Man still appear in at least one episode this season to wrap that storyline up, that gets us what we need and still allows fans to say goodbye to the character, at least for the indefinite future."
Wallace didn't hold back during the interview, also revealing that not having Elongated Man around did impact a major Season 7 storyline: "There was a whole storyline that involved Ralph with another character, in particular, going off on a two-hander journey — a season-long [arc] that would have involved a whole bunch of twists and turns that would have played into the season's big bad, which I don't want to spoil. And yeah, we can't do that anymore," Wallace explained. But what's Ralph's loss will be another character's gain: "We pulled the Elongated Man out of this particular storyline, and the storyline became so much stronger because now it's focused on the other character, [who] I don't want to reveal because it's a surprise. For that other character, it became a much more of an emotional journey. And this other character I'm referring to is one of our series regulars, so it's going to be very exciting. That particular character now gets to go somewhere that we never imagined they would until many seasons down the line, but we just pulled that up. So I think it's going to be really fun. And it was a good way to, like I said, make an awkward situation into a great opportunity that ends up making Team Flash as a whole, stronger."
But anyone who's afraid that this means Sue's (Natalie Dreyfuss) story is over, Wallace wants you to know that you can put those fears aside. "You're going to see Sue more than once this year even without the Elongated Man — on her own, making appearances, and helping Team Flash in an unexpected way. And it's just going to be hilarious because she was so much fun," he said. Calling it "one of the easiest decisions I've ever had to make as a showrunner," Wallace wasted little time reassuring Dreyfuss that she would still be part of Team Flash: "I called up Natalie [Dreyfuss] and said, 'Don't worry, you're still going to be part of this season. We'll find a way.' Now, when I told her that, to be honest, I wasn't quite sure [how]. But I am happy to report we found a way."
In fact, having Ralph out of the picture, for the time being, gives the writers a chance to do with Sue what Arrowverse writers have been doing with familiar characters over the years: make Sue her own character with her own story. "Now we can expand her character and give her more backstory and more growth in ways that we hadn't initially planned. [It's] really exciting to see how she's going to interact more with Team Flash once her name has been cleared — because we are going to clear her name obviously. But then what's the reason for her to come back to Central City? And that's going to be a bit of her story this season," explained Wallace. Now that "Sue's possibilities are wide open," Wallace teased that Sue will be in "a particular storyline that she's going to help us out with, [specifically] with one of our villains this season that we would have never gotten to had not the circumstances changed. So it is going to be, I think, fun and unexpected for the audience, as much as it was for us to write."