Arrow Exclusive Interview: John Barrowman Talks Being an Anti Hero, The Dark Archer & The Epic Season Finale

What does it take to be a good “Bad Guy”?

Perharps the best person to ask is the one that plays one of the better good “bad guys” on TV and of course we are talking about none other than Arrow series star John Barrowman who plays Malcolm Merlyn aka The Dark Archer, the mastermind behind all the mysterious plotting on the show.

TV Equals had the immense pleasure and honor to chat with the face of Bo Mr Barrowman about his character on Arrow, the duality of Merlyn and more.

Check out what he had to say below and don’t miss him in the upcoming episodes of Arrow which airs on Sundays at 8pm on the CW.

With the season finale coming up, what can you tease about what’s going to happen for Malcolm?

John Barrowman: Well, I can’t really tease and tell you anything because we’re sworn to secrecy. What I can tell you is the season finale is going to be epic. We’re in the middle of shooting it right now. We actually finish on Saturday [April 20], and Saturday’s filming should take us probably most of the evening and most of the night into the wee hours of the morning. So, yeah, it’s an epic undertaking. All the episodes are big episodes, but this one is just huge. It is absolutely massive.

There’s a ruthless side to Malcolm and also a compassionate side, especially with his son. How do you see him?

John Barrowman: Well, the way that you described him is the way I’ve wanted people to see him. When I was asked to play Malcolm, I wanted to make sure was that I didn’t play that kind of stereotypical bad guy where…I always use the same expression, that kind of Mu-hu-ha-ha-ha evil guy. Those kind of bad characters you don’t really feel anything for.

So I said to them, ‘We’ve got have something. I’d like him to be likeable,’ and then there’s a dilemma with the audience because he’s a bad guy, but they really kind of like him. They don’t like how he’s going about things, but they understand why he is doing it. So in a way he’s almost like an anti-hero or a very, very, very troubled hero who is actually going out for the same things that Oliver is going out, but doing it in a different way, which is not as acceptable. The way you described him is exactly the way I wanted him to be taken and portrayed, and obviously that’s worked.

What part of portraying the Dark Archer is you and what part of is stunt doubling ?

John Barrowman: Oh, it’s all me. All me. [laughs] Of course I’m not going to give away the secrets. No, there are parts of it that are me, and there are parts of it that are a stunt person. For insurance reasons I’m not allowed to do certain stunt work, but as you know from ‘Torchwood’ and ‘Doctor Who,’ I have gun training and I’ve worked with things like that. The archery stuff, we’ve been shown how to do it archery properly in order to make it look correct.

There’s a sequence where I burst through a wall to beat the crap out of Oliver. I actually did the bursting through the wall. So there’s bits…and I always say to them, ‘I really want to do certain things and put me in where you can put me in,’ but the heavy stuff, obviously, it has to be a stuntman and that’s purely for insurance reasons.

That makes sense. We don’t want you to get hurt.

John Barrowman: But you tell everybody that I do it [laughs].

I will. Let’s talk about what drives Malcolm. You said that he’s driven to change things. Will that be explored more towards the end of the season?

John Barrowman: Well, you have found out during the course of the series, and what’s been already said somewhat. His wife was murdered in the glades and his family were very instrumental in the beginning, along with the Queen family who tried to rebuild the city, but when his wife was murdered, he lost, through the grief…this is my underlying stuff, but for him, he lost his focus. Consequently, he went off and wandered into the east, and ended up on an island called Nanda Parbat, and this is what’s being explained in the finale of where he trained, how he trained and why he became the Dark Archer.

So it’s all based around love. It’s all based around loss, grief, his kind of drive. But his drive of his power and his wealth were the only ways in which he could subsidize and control and help pay for his plan and his big kind of Svengali outlook on what he’s going to do to the city. So therefore his drive to be successful was huge, and that’s why when Tommy, his son, who’s a little bit lazy and a party boy, he gets pissed off about it. I think deep down inside, if he knew who Oliver really was, he really would want Oliver as the son.

Oh!? Twist.

John Barrowman: That’s John Barrowman’s theory.

That’s a good theory.

John Barrowman: Yeah, but you’ll just have to watch the finale.

You have an active and dedicated fan base. What message do you have for them as they head into this epic and huge finale?

John Barrowman: First of all, thank you, and they know that. My fans, because they’ve followed me, because they’ve made each project a success that I’m in for me and also for the others involved, they’ve given me the life that I’ve always dreamt about.

As a little boy, when I’d play with my GI Joes and my Micronauts and my Marvel superhero figures and the DC figures, I used to dream of being these types of characters. So they’re giving me the life I’ve always wanted, but they again can expect from Malcolm a human emotion and a human struggle that they can actually identify with. It sounds like I’m tooting my own horn, but in a way no one else can explain how I go in and how I go about it. But that’s exactly what I want to give them. I want them to look at him and feel that they can connect with him. That then makes him, again, although he’s a bad guy, acceptable to them.

Also, to be honest with you, some of them would just follow me anywhere I go. If I jumped in a river they’d jump in a river with me, which I absolutely love [laughs]. So they can expect everything that they know I will give them. I always put a bit of myself into the character, and I think that’s what they really like.

Do you have any other upcoming projects you can talk about?

John Barrowman: All I can say, as much as I can talk about it, I’m going into ‘Scandal’ on ABC. I’m doing that, which I’ve actually already filmed, and afterwards I’m waiting to hear on a couple of other projects that I cannot talk about.

I’m pursuing about doing another album, and I’m going to be flying back to the UK because I have my skin care line, my men’s skin care line and we’re launching the women’s side of the…I call it the beauty line. We’re starting with hair and stuff with women and working our way down the body. With the men, we went right to the face. So I have all those kinds of things, and I’ve got a car business in the UK.

I’ve got other things that I do. It’s not all about being on television. Oh, and also, my sister with the books. We’re working on our third book, the children’s book, together. We’re having the screenplay written because the TV rights have been bought and my production company and another company are going to be doing hopefully the TV show for that soon.

If you could guest star on any TV show, your pick of the litter, which one would it be?

John Barrowman: Oh my gosh, that’s stumped me. Oh! It’s got to be between two, but I’ll go with the one that I’ve watched the most of. ‘Walking Dead.’ Then again, second in line would be ‘Game of Thrones.’

(Top photo credit: Simon Harris – Other Photos credit: CW)