The Flash: Patrick Sabongui talks Captain Singh, representation and season 5

Patrick Sabongui discusses his role as Captain Singh on CW’s The Flash.

Patrick Sabongui has been a vital cast member for The Flash since its pilot episode. He plays Captain David Singh, Barry and Joe’s supervisor at the Central City Police Department. His character has received a strong emotional response from fans due to his portrayal as a man who is gay, a person of color and a police captain.

I had a chance to chat with Patrick and he’s beyond humbled at the response he’s received from the fans. I mentioned Captain Singh’s status as a gay man on a primetime superhero drama and Patrick replied, “I’d also like to add that he’s a person of color. So he represents a severely underrepresented segment of the population. And to me right now, as artists, I don’t think there is a more important responsibility that we have but to represent our population and to represent our world in all of its glorious diversity. And I know there’s an effort in that direction and there’s movement in that direction. But keep in mind, we’re going into Season 5 now of The Flash and the conversation in Hollywood is still going on about diversity and representation. And we did it right from episode 1 of Season 1 of The Flash.

“So I was honored to be a part of that movement so early on and I take that responsibility seriously and I think there should be more. There should be a lot more diverse characters. People of different sexual orientations, different cultural backgrounds, different abilities in mainstream TV. I’m just glad to be part of that conversation of that movement”.

Once The Flash started airing, fans tracked Patrick down online and he was awed by their responses. “I always knew it was important. I always knew that just the existence of Captain Singh was making an impact. And then when the episodes started to air and people started to find me on social media, I would get every now and then these direct messages from kids, and I get moods when I think about this, but like kids in the Midwest or kids in the Deep South sharing with me their stories of discrimination and saying ‘I live in this really small town and I don’t feel the same as everyone else but I could never tell anybody. So seeing Captain Singh, you know the strong character in my favorite show, makes me feel that I’m normal. Makes me feel that I’m okay’ and I’m like, that is so real to me.”

“Some kid entrenched in this community that doesn’t accept him or her can see themselves represented in Captain Singh either because of being a visible minority or because of his sexual orientation and feeling like they identify. That could have untold effect in that child’s life. That is real, more real to me than any contract or any ratings or any other kind of success. That is affecting somebody’s life that may not have found that they feel okay in their identity until you know maybe I can contribute to it. So it’s one of the highlights of my career, honestly being able to be part of people’s experience that way”, Patrick said.

Patrick hasn’t gotten a chance to see the fans at any conventions, but he’s hoping that changes soon. “I can’t wait to get out and meet the fans. I’ve haven’t made it out to any conventions yet but maybe this year. I’m hoping to get an opportunity to meet some of the fans face to face and to thank them for their support”, he said.

We also spoke about how he got the role. “I auditioned for it old school style. I got an e-mail from my agent just kind of the same way every audition starts, and I had been a comic book fan when I was a kid. I didn’t necessarily remember the Captain Singh character but I had my share of Flash comic books back in the day”, Patrick told me.

When Patrick looked into the Captain Singh character, he immediately noticed his resemblance. “I got the e-mail I kind of researched the character and I got excited right away because my daughter was actually sitting next to me when I was Googling Captain David Singh of The Flash. And we started scrolling through these images and my daughter who was probably six or seven at the time said ‘Daddy is that you, but how come your hair is too long’. So in scrolling through the images she recognized me in the character before I even had it. And so right from that moment I was like this is kind of perfect for me and I was super excited about it”, Patrick said.

“I was excited about the project and what the character stood for and who he was and how diverse he was. And then I looked up the director David Nutter and I got even more excited. David Nutter is a legend. He’s this incredible director. He had directed episodes of Game of Thrones. At that point he directed the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones that everybody remembers. So I just got really excited really fast about the audition”, Patrick continued.

I asked Patrick what his favorite Captain Singh moments were. “The first one that jumps to mind is the episode where they reveal that Captain Singh is openly gay and the way we just kind of nonchalantly did it. I think I was putting mayo on a burger or something, and the line is something totally offhanded like ‘yeah when my husband makes me eat healthy at home, so here’s the only place I can eat what I want’. Just how normal we made that moment. And people lost their minds on social media or just people in general would be like ‘oh my god I love how you guys drop that. You didn’t make a big scandalous ordeal out of it’ like real life. It’s the real world man. Not everything stops when you’ve got to discuss your diversity. It’s just that in life. That’s who we are and everybody around us has to accept that. You don’t have to apologize for being quote ‘different’ than the status quo. You just are. I love that about Singh man he doesn’t give a s**t what people think. He’s a self actualized man doing what he has to do. He’s got a job to do, take your job seriously, he’s successful. He’s a powerful figure and he makes no apologies for anybody. So that was one of my highlights”, Patrick told me.

Another favorite moment of his was when we got to see Singh display some heroics.
“There’s a moment, I think it’s in season 2 or 3 where Weather Wizard comes into the police station and he’s kind of blasting lightning bolts, and Joe, played by Jesse Martin, kind of gets frozen in his tracks and Captain Singh dives to his rescue and pushes him out of the way and takes the blast to save his friend. That’s another highlight of mine for sure”, Patrick said.

I brought up how we rarely get to see Singh get out of the police station, and asked if there were any characters he’d like to see him interact with. “I’ve had fleeting moments with Tom Cavanagh, who plays the Wells characters. I think we crossed paths once. I’ve had a couple of moments with Carlos, who plays Cisco. I always love working with him. But you know, I haven’t had any scenes with the Pied Piper yet, played by Andy Mientus. That’s something I’m kind of looking forward to. It’s definitely on the bucket list. I’ve been dropping these hints as much for the writers as I am for the fans. I’m like let’s go let’s do it. I want to dive into that story. So many people are waiting for it. I’d love to see where that goes”, Patrick said.

He then talked about some of his favorite guest stars. “Definitely Mark Hamill was a huge highlight. What a humble and lovely and fun guy to work with. He’s got such a huge reputation and following. He comes on set and he’s just a fan. He lights up and he’s just fun. I loved working with him. Danielle Nicolet, now she’s a regular on the show, for the first couple episodes that she came out she was just kind of in and out and I’ve loved working with her. We were like fast friends right away. She’s wonderful. And the Weather Wizard himself, Liam McIntyre, he’s awesome. You know Spartacus and all that glorious background but again an absolute pro and just such a cool guy to work with. I had a feeling once the show came out and it was well received, it made it a bit easier to lock down some cool guest stars because people come to the show, I mean even Kevin Smith, directors come to the show and they’re ‘like oh my god I’m such a fan of the show, I can’t believe I’m here’ and they’re excited to be a part of it. So that’s what’s even cooler”, Patrick said.

Our discussion then came to Singh’s relationship with Barry. During season 4 of The Flash, Captain Singh’s relationship with Barry came under strain due the fallout of Barry’s murder trial and temporary expulsion from the CCPD. Patrick explained, “We definitely do have to address how it was left last season because it wasn’t a good deal for Barry at the CCPD. I don’t think it’s ever changed for Singh. I know he gives Barry a hard time. People are always saying ‘damn you really hate Barry’ and I don’t think he has any animosity towards Barry whatsoever. I think it’s a tough love. I know he did dress him down sometimes but it’s out of tough love. I think he expects more from Barry and he wants Barry to succeed. Barry’s a bit flaky in the real world especially if you don’t know the context of why he’s being flaky. I think their relationship continues down that path. Singh wants the best for Barry. He wants Barry to do better, he wants him to succeed. In my own understanding of the previous situation, Captain Singh knew Henry Allen and came up with Joe. So when that whole thing went down with Barry’s dad, the whole department probably rallied around Barry and Joe and tried to like take care of this kid. And so by extension I think Captain Singh’s trying to take care of Barry. But Barry keeps messing up. So I think what we’re going to see this season is them trying to just continue down that path. Just trying to create opportunities for Barry to succeed. And if he can just straighten up and fly right it would make it easier for Singh. I don’t think he’s going to go easy on him. He never has, but they do have some reconciling to do this season”.

I brought up that it would be easier if Barry actually showed up for work, to which Patrick replied, “Right! Just show up on time man! I keep getting a hard time from the fans about ‘how come Captain Singh doesn’t know that Barry is the Flash yet? Worst detective ever’. And I don’t know man, I don’t know what to tell you fans. Barry’s good at hiding it from the captain”.

That brought the conversation to a much discussed point in Flash fandom. Captain Singh is currently the last regular supporting character who doesn’t know Barry Allen’s secret identity. Should he know? Does he already know? What are the ethical implications? Patrick had some ideas.

If Captain Singh knew or knows or finds out, it’s going to make things very difficult for him at the CCPD. Whether he knows or not or finds out I don’t know that he would come out and tell everybody that he knows because there’s like libability issues. He’s got this responsibility to the police department and he does represent law and order in Central City and the Flash operates outside of that. As a fan of the show, I would love Captain Singh to find out and then be in the Cortex with the gang and be like ‘alright gang let’s figure it out, let’s stop this meta and I’ll mobilize some CCPD troops to back you up’. I would love to see that but I don’t think that’s Captain Singh’s way”, he said.

I asked him if he was excited for what was coming up in season 5. “I’m excited for our new cast members and our new speedsters and the new relationship dynamics that we’re going to discover. Some cool new villains. I’m excited for the fans to see what Arman Kevorkian and the effects team have in store because of the effects just are mind-blowing and they get better and better every season. So now in season 5, we’re just going to elevate everything to the next level. There’s just going to be more Flash in classic Flash style, but it’s going to be bigger and better and more exciting”, Patrick said.

What are your favorite Captain Singh moments? Should he learn that Barry Allen is the Flash? How do you think his relationship with Barry will heal in season 5?
The Flash returns to the CW on Tuesday, Oct. 9.