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CARLOS VALDES Good vibrations

For the last four seasons Carlos Valdes has been playing fan favourite Cisco Ramon on The Flash. Both as the voice of geeky technical support in Barry Allen’s ear, and later as the costumed hero Vibe, Cisco has helped The Flash face the colourful rogue’s gallery of super villains that plague DC comics’ Central City. With his appearance at Supanova this weekend (June 22-24) DAVID O’CONNELL spoke to Valdes, to find out a little bit more about the man behind the mask.

Given Cisco doesn’t really become Vibe until a couple of seasons into The Flash, when did you realise you were playing a superhero?

I actually thought I was reading for a pedestrian civilian character when l auditioned, because that’s how he was described; that’s how he read on the page. It’s not until I went to L.A. to do my final round of auditions that I was handed a comic book called Vibe. I turned to the first page, and he’s a superhero narrating the story, and the first words are “My name is Cisco Ramon”. It was a bombshell moment! I’d done my first rounds of auditions and at that moment I had to come to terms with the fact that I was reading for a character that would become a superhero.

Do you think that the initial establishment of Cisco as just a regular human before becoming a superhero helped you grow into the character?

Totally. I’d been watching Arrow to prepare for the sort of tone I’d be working with. What I loved about that show is that it gave viewers an opportunity to track the characters’ development as civilians before they become heroes. It gives the story an extra dimension, when something extreme happens they identify more with the character. I think luckily for me Cisco represents the target audience; the geek fanboy. For many viewers they can put themselves in his shoes.

Has that been part of the reason for Cisco’s popularity, that he’ll often deliver those geek references?

For sure. Even when I was auditioning, and I met the creators and executive producer, l got the feeling that they really like to write for this character. And the more I worked on the show, the more I understood why. They see themselves in this character, they like to write for him. I was in the writers’ room today, and I took a tour of their offices—and these guys are crazy. The have all sorts of geek pop culture references on the walls, action figures everywhere, cutouts—these guys are nuts. I thought I had a lot of similarities with Cisco, and that gave me an advantage, but then I met the writers!

How was landing a superhero show as your first TV experience? Have you had to learn any skills you didn’t expect?

The whole experience was out of left field for me. I’d been trained in theatre mainly, so l spent years learning the hierarchy and the terminology, but working in front of the camera was an entirely new skill set.

Given the multiple timelines and alternative worlds in The Flash, you’ve ended up playing a number of different versions of the character. Is there one version that you’ve particularly enjoyed doing?

I’ve had fun doing them all. I’ve played an evil Cisco, I’ve played an older Cisco, I’ve played a rich Cisco— and I’ve loved playing each of them equally. But if I had to pick one I guess it’d be Reverb (the evil Cisco). It was my first opportunity to play an alternative version and I had this canvas in front of me…and that is really exciting, to flip what you’ve been playing. I hope there’s more, as it is a luxury to play alternate characters, and I’m certain Tom (Tom Cavanagh who plays the multiple versions of Dr Wells, scattered throughout the series) does a bit.

Obviously, part of the reason for this interview is Supanova. How have you found the convention circuit?

I am an actor first, so my expectations for what I take on are modest. I generally just focus on doing the work. The fanbases for these kind of shows are so rabid, and l mean that in the most complimentary way possible. These guys are so devoted, and not shy in explaining their love of a character and a show. So it’s been a bit of a surprise to me. Every time you walk out on those convention floors it’s a circus! My instinct is to be a little overwhelmed by it, I’m just elated that people are moved by the show in positive ways. The best part is getting to meet them at conventions and hear their story.

Any particular moment in the past four seasons that has been particularly memorable for you?

When we did the first set of crossovers (Arrow and Flash), CW hosted a screening for the fans, and a bunch of the actors were there for a Q and A. That was a monumental moment for me, just to sit in the theatre and hear those reactions in real time. That was the first time I got a feel for how much these fans love the show.

Congratulations on this season, for achieving something on my personal bucket list. What was it like being threatened by Danny Trejo?

(Laughs) There’s not a whole lot of acting I have to do when Danny Trejo threatens me. The guy has a menacing look about him. Which actually makes him a great actor, because he’s the nicest guy.

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