‘Arrow’: Juliana Harkavy on Preparing Physically and Mentally to Play Black Canary

     March 1, 2017

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On The CW series Arrow, former undercover detective turned meta-human, Dinah Drake (Juliana Harkavy), is not only finding her place in life again, after suffering a great tragedy that made her hellbent on revenge, but she’s also finding her place as the Black Canary among Team Arrow. As a very focused, driven and bad-ass fighter, in her own right, her strength is proving to be a great asset, in the fight to keep Star City safe.

During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actress Juliana Harkavy talked about what her audition process was like, how her experience on The Walking Dead helped prepare her (and even led to the first time she tuned in to Arrow), how the physical prep also prepared her mentally, picking up the Black Canary mantle, how nervous she was on her first day, putting on the mask the first time, who Dinah feels closest to, what’s still to come for her character, and who she’d like to do a cross-over scene with.

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Image via The CW

Collider: What was the audition process like, for this role? Did you have any idea exactly what character you were auditioning to play?

JULIANA HARKAVY: They actually didn’t tell me much until I had already booked it. And then, I got this phone call that was like, “Okay, sit down . . .” When I got the sides, it just described her as a tough vigilante, and it showed her in the field fighting, and then having a vulnerable moment. I was only able to see that she was a very dynamic and strong character. That was really all I knew. It was only after that, that I got the news.

Since you didn’t really know exactly who you’d be playing, did you just have a secret desire to be on a superhero show?

HARKAVY: You know, the way that she was written really drew me in. There was something about the way it was written that felt different than most of the auditions I get. It just seemed more thought out and felt more in-depth. I was really drawn to her and I felt for her, right away. And the fact that it was a superhero show was awesome! But, it was just Dinah. Something about her calls to me, and I think that we all felt that, during the audition process.

The Walking Dead was a stepping stone for you, as far as the size and scale of the project and the fan attention, to doing something more long-term, like Arrow. Do you feel that your time on that show, even though it was just two episodes, helped prepare you for this experience on Arrow?

HARKAVY: That’s a great question. Yeah, absolutely! It was the first thing I’d done that had such a huge following. It’s also a comic book, so it put me in that world, for the first time. It absolutely was great preparation. It was the perfect little dose. I did two episodes of The Walking Dead, and it was enough to have time to get in there and really get the meat of it, but also then move on and take that experience and bring it into the next one. It was a great stepping stone.

Had you been a fan of Arrow, prior to being cast, or were you not too aware of the meaning of taking on a character like this, who would be stepping in for a character who wasn’t there anymore?

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Image via The CW

HARKAVY: Funny enough, the first time I watched Arrow was because Audrey Marie Anderson, who plays Lyla, was in my episodes of The Walking Dead with me. She was talking about Arrow and it sounded cool, and I wanted to see her on it. That was the first time I had ever been introduced to the show, which is such a funny coincidence. So, I knew the show and had watched some of it, but not enough to really understand how big this was when I got it, especially the part, itself. I was a bit familiar, but I didn’t realize the scale, right away.

Do you feel grateful for that, so you didn’t go into the audition with that in your head?

HARKAVY: Oh, god, yes! Absolutely! I’m such a nervous auditioner that, if I had known, I probably wouldn’t have been able to remember anything. It was really nice of the producers to do the actors a favor by not saying anything ‘cause it just allowed me to be free and be the character without thinking, “I am this thing that’s bigger than just being a human.” You want their humanness to come through. So, I’m glad I didn’t know.

What sort of prep did you do, before jumping into this, and what helped you the most, in how you wanted to play this character?

HARKAVY: A lot of the prep was physical, which is different than how I’ve approached any other role. She is a superhero. She is incredibly strong and a fighter. In training physically, I found my zen, on a mental and spiritual level, as well. She’s a fighter, but she’s very focused and driven. So, just by building up my physical strength, I’ve been able to get inside of her.

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