Fans of The CW’s Arrow were not disappointed at the 30th Annual PaleyFest in Los Angeles. Series creators and executive producers Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg, along with cast members Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, Susanna Thompson, and David Ramsey took the stage after showing a “sizzle reel” of what’s coming before the season finale, discuss their experiences thus far, and their thoughts on the show’s place in the Green Arrow mythos. Without spoiling too much, yet another person learns Oliver Queen’s secret identity.
Why Stephen Amell is a perfect Oliver Queen. Casting the lead of a new show based on an established character in other TV shows and comic books could have been daunting. Instead, it was surprisingly easy. Berlanti recounted that he was told by his staff to check out Stephen soon after the casting process started. “Stephen was brilliant,” he said. It was important in the process that they found someone who could play multiple characters, such as island Oliver and city Oliver. They also wanted to make sure that the actor felt like Oliver Queen. Making the adorable Stephen Amell blush, Berlanti joked, “We did not see him without his shirt during the audition process.” In fact, Berlanti explained that when he saw some of the early footage come in, he didn’t realize he was watching Amell and thought, “The stunt guy is really ripped.”
Maintaining Arrow’s place in the Green Arrow canon. Kreisberg explained that they drew a lot of inspiration for the look of Arrow from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, “It was a touchstone for the character.” Looking past the action/adventure nature of the show, the writers also drew on family saga TV shows such as Brothers and Sisters and Revenge. Kreisberg also explained that at various points, the writers have written for the Green Arrow comic book character, so this was also comfortable ground for them. Guggenheim described two of the comic book influences as Mike Grell’s Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters published by DC Comics in 1987, and Andy Diggle’s Green Arrow: Year One miniseries published by DC Comics and featuring Oliver’s time on the island. One of the things Kreisberg enjoyed most from Diggle’s iteration of the story was that it was the first time Oliver wasn’t alone on the island.
How Stephen Amell relates to his billionaire vigilante alter ego. “I am a big sucker for the island,” Amell confessed. “I love the island stuff. When we began on the island, I was just laying around in the cave like an idiot.” Not getting discouraged Amell “knew that eventually at a certain point my spine would begin to form so to speak. I think we saw that in episode 14.” We are definitely going to be seeing more of the island, and in episode 17, Amell warned, “[T]hings are pretty good for Oliver relatively speaking. Which means things are going to go very bad.”
As to how Amell approaches the island version of himself, he plays it “without ego. [Oliver] is as far outside his element as humanly possible. We haven’t seen Oliver before the island, yet. But, clearly this was a guy who had never worked a day in his life. He is faced with real danger.” This aspect is more challenging for Amell and he admitted, “I love playing that character especially now that he is starting to get teeth just a little bit.”
Enriching the story with interesting villains. The consensus is that Oliver is definitely going to regret saving the Dark Archer. When constructing Malcolm, Kreisberg thought of him as an evil Bruce Wayne – the Bruce Wayne from Nolan’s film who kills at Ra’s al Ghul’s direction rather than refusing. Nevertheless, he also felt “the villain has to have sympathy.” Dark Arrow and Oliver want to change the city, but “Malcolm thinks Oliver is going about it a little slowly.” As for villains on the island, DC writer Jeff Johns added the scene where Deathstroke’s mask is on the island in the pilot. “It told the comic book fans that we weren’t screwing around,” explained Kreisberg. How much more we see of Deathstroke will depend on the actor Manu Bennett’s availability. Guggenheim added that they will be adding an “unexpected third element to the relationship.”
The benefits of adding new characters. Ramsey’s character John Diggle has become a fan favorite, though he never makes an appearance in the comic books. Does this lack of a hook to the Green Arrow world scare Ramsey? “Every time I get a script,” he laughed, “I gotta look at the back and see if I die.” Otherwise, Ramsey finds the lack of a previous Diggle to be fun. He admitted, “I trust Andrew and Mark not to kill me.”
What about the return of Laurel’s sister, Sara? Whenever a body doesn’t wash up on shore after a boating accident, there is always a chance the person will pop up alive at some point. Berlanti explained that they wanted to get to the issue of whether Sara is alive this season. But Cassidy worried, “As if Laurel doesn’t have it hard enough!” After she learned that Sara may be alive, Cassidy had a hard time wrapping her head around it after everything Laurel has gone through. The return of her mother, Dinah, disrupts life even more. “Her mother kind of challenges her father and the dynamic within the family,” said Cassidy. She also suspects that her mother has more information than we currently know.
On being the world’s scariest mother. Susanna Thompson had to create a backstory in her mind to justify why Moria Queen does the things she does. She drew from classical literature’s big moments and conflicting circumstances as her inspiration for the character. She also shared, “I have something that I wrote down that I keep with me, ‘Moira Queen – mother of mystery.’” At the end of the day, she believes Moira is all about family, even if that takes “kidnapping her son so that somebody else doesn’t kidnap her son.
As far as things to look forward to, Kreisberg promised of episode 18: “[Y]our mouths are going to drop.”
(Photo Credit: Kevin Parry for Paley Center for Media)