WORDS BY PHIL LIMPRASERTWONG
Hartley Sawyer, best known for his current role as Ralph Dibny aka Elongated Man on The Flash tugged at everyone’s heart strings last season when fans thought he had died after getting possessed by the season’s big bad.
His role was bumped up to a series regular in Season 5 where he now plays an essential part of Team Flash.
Get to know more about the actor in our exclusive interview with never before seen photos as he discusses acting, inspirations and new details about what’s in store for his character, Ralph.
Hi, Hartley! Tell us a little about your story. Who is Hartley Sawyer?
A very lucky guy. Grew up on a farm in New York. I’ve made every mistake in the book. And by sheer grace, here I am. Very lucky.
How did acting start for you?
I signed up for a play on a whim as a freshman in high school. I was very shy. I looked at it as some kind of challenge, I think, because I was terrified to do it. To be honest, I also had the thought in my mind that it might help me meet girls. Again, I was painfully shy and very introverted. I always absolutely loved movies – it was my escape growing up. From Batman: The Animated Series to Terminator 2, Braveheart and everything in between. The summer I got the Indiana Jones trilogy on VHS (yes, VHS folks), I watched the entire trilogy thirty six times. I didn’t stop watching after that – just stopped counting.
When it comes to acting, what is your favorite part about playing someone else?
I’ve had an extremely active imagination my entire life. Besides volunteering for something you believe in and being a dad and guardian to my dogs, acting is the best job in the entire world. You get to do some of the coolest stuff and work with a team to make it all happen. The escape of playing the part of someone else has always been a big benefit for me. It’s nice when things are dramatic, or fun, or high stakes and it isn’t like the real world – there’s no consequences when it’s make believe.
Are you a lot like your character Ralph Dibny?
In some ways, yes. Like Ralph, I want to do the right thing and make the world a better place. I’ll protect my tribe and my family with everything I have and everything I am. Like Ralph, I make a lot of mistakes but always get up and aim to do better. Ralph won’t ever give up, and neither will I. But at home, my close friends and family know me in a way that would really surprise a lot of fans.
What’s it like working with your castmates on The Flash? What do you guys bond over when you’re not working?
It’s a joy. It’s a great group of people – every single one of them. I learn and grow every episode, every week. I’m surrounded by very bright and talented people. I grow simply by being around that. We all have busy lives, significant others, families – so when we aren’t working a lot of our focus is on that. But in spending time together, I’ve bonded with my castmates over similar life experiences, the challenges of being away from your family while working; things like that. Some of us have walked similar journeys at various times – and I’ve found a mutual understanding in some of my castmates that I would never have guessed I would find. Life surprises you, in the best of ways.
What is the most memorable or craziest thing that you experienced on set?
It occurs to me that the very first time I saw Grant in the full Flash costume last year, I paused for a moment. Internally, I was eight years old again in an instant. I was looking at a superhero. I remember thinking: “that’s why we do this.” Ninety years old or three years old, that feeling is something so special and timeless. It’s like seeing Santa Claus. That was special for me.
Everyone in Team Flash is either in or has been in some type of relationship. Can we expect to see a little romance for Ralph this season?
Most definitely. We’ve talked about that quite a bit from the beginning with Ralph. We talked about the timing of when to do that. It’s coming…
What’s your dream role or project?
It’s a big spectrum. Westerns, to Christmas movies, to something like John Wick. I’ll know it when I read it.
What keeps you inspired?
I have a responsibility to my dogs to create the best life for them that I can. They’re both rescues, so there was a time in their lives where they were in real danger of being euthanized in the animal shelter system. Bringing them into my life inspired me to grow up, to evolve, and to be a caretaker – and through doing that for them, I learned so much about how to properly take care of myself. The fans inspire me as well – particularly the young fans. I remember well being a young boy and watching actors I liked or characters doing things on the screen and how inspiring that was for me. Comics were a huge part of my life growing up, and those stories and characters inspired me to take the risk to go out there and swing for the fences in terms of chasing my dreams.
If you were a book, what type of book would you be?
A cross between a coloring book and an encyclopedia with a graphic novel cover.
If you had the chance to help any specific charity / organization, which one would it be and why?
I love animals. Genuinely and deeply. I spend as much time as I can volunteering in the LA Animal Shelter system. We need to improve the situation we have here in Los Angeles. We can create a much better quality of sheltering for dogs and all companion animals when they don’t have homes and are in the shelters than the approach we have right now. I’m based out of the South LA shelter, and it’s overflowing with dogs – and that hasn’t really changed in the past few years I have been there. We need more community outreach, more education, more low cost or free spay and neuter, particularly in low income areas. I also haven’t had meat in five years and have been vegan for a few years now. I don’t need to take an animal’s life, or pay someone to do so, to be healthy and strong. If any living being can feel pain or suffering, I don’t want to contribute to that. I will always be a voice for the truly voiceless. I’m a big fan of nature, too. Folks need to get out of their houses and go see the world. Do some camping and hiking. America’s National Park system is the one of the most magnificent things in the world.
See Hartley as the lovable Ralph Dibny aka Elongated Man on The Flash!