In what has become typical Arrow fashion, the action for Season 3 of The CW hit series is big and the personal drama is even bigger. Team Arrow is facing new villains and new heartache, all while trying to recover from the death of one of their own. In Episode 6, entitled “Guilty,” a body is found strung up in the Wildcat gym and Ted Grant (J.R. Ramirez) is the main suspect, leading Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Laurel (Katie Cassidy) to argue over Ted’s innocence.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor J.R. Ramirez (who also plays Julio on the Starz drama series Power) talked about not knowing exactly what role he’d be playing until he got hired, who Ted Grant (aka Wildcat) really is, why he loves having people under-estimate him, the similarities he sees in Laurel, how much fun he has working with Katie Cassidy, how big this next episode is for his character, having a run-in with the Arrow, and how grateful he is to have the challenge of developing and exploring two very different characters on two different shows. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
J.R. RAMIREZ: Ted has a massive background in the comic world. He’s a guy that has gone through a lot in his life. He’s seen a lot of darkness and a lot of struggles. One of the things that I love the most about him is his passion for being able to take everything that he’s learned and give back. He opened this gym to help these kids and take them off the street. He really is a good guy, no matter how tough his exterior is. Right now, he’s happy that Laurel has come in to work with him. He’s just making sure that he takes it slow and day be day, and make sure that she uses all this anger and pain that she has and put it into boxing. She has to make it about fighting and not about revenge ‘cause that never ends very well. I feel like Ted can relate to her a lot.
When they first meet, Laurel assumes that Ted is just a dumb fighter. Is he someone who likes having people under-estimate him?
RAMIREZ: Oh, he loves it. He’s under-estimated quite a bit, but needless to say, he can hold his own. Ted has a nice little witty sense of humor about him, and it definitely fuels him for people to think that.
What do you think it was that drew Ted to Laurel? What does he see in her that inspired him to train her?
RAMIREZ: When she finally opened up to him, he realized that he saw a lot of himself in her. That was something that he could obviously relate to, and he knows what steps to take with her. He’s just being very cautious and taking things slow, so that she doesn’t take it to an extreme, put on a costume, and go out there and hurt herself. To become a good fighter, it takes a long time. It takes a lot of years, and he wants to make sure that he shows her the ropes and that he takes the right precautions with her, teaches her the proper techniques, and makes it about the fighting and not revenge. But, he sees so much of himself in her that it fuels him to train her.
Even though these fights are choreographed and you’re not really fighting each other, what’s it been like to get into the ring with Katie Cassidy?
RAMIREZ: I’m scared for my life! No. She’s a tough cookie, man. She loves what she does. She’s been training really, really hard at it. I boxed a lot, as a kid, so it’s something that comes second nature to me. I’d been boxing for five years before getting the show, so it was fun to put the gloves on and get into it with her. But, I wasn’t expecting her to be as good as she is. She just loves it. Any second she gets to get in the ring, she’s in there. Forget the stunt double. Her energy and passion for the role is something that drives me and makes me want to get in there and make sure that I’m on my toes because, if I’m not, that glove will be coming right in my face. She’s great, man. She was awesome to work with.
How did you come to Arrow? Did you know what role you were actually auditioning for, or were you auditioning for a fake character?
RAMIREZ: Yeah. I forget the guy’s name, but it was a completely different character. He was just this boxing guy who trains Laurel and had a nice little arc in the storyline this season. I was just excited to be a part of a show that’s so successful and has such a huge fan base. But once I got it, I got a call from everybody over at Arrow, explaining to me that the guy’s name is Ted Grant, aka Wildcat, and he’s a big superhero. To be honest with you, I didn’t really read a lot of DC comics, as a kid, but I was obsessed with Batman, and still am. Once I realized how big this guy is and how much of an impact he has on these big DC characters, I literally became a kid in a candy store. I was so excited. That just added a whole other level to being able to do this job.
The cast and crew of Arrow had been working together and bonding for two seasons, before you showed up. What was your first day on set like, and what was the first scene that you shot?
RAMIREZ: The first scene I shot was with Katie, and she was amazing. Before I even showed up, she had already emailed me and said, “Hey, here’s my number. If you want to talk about anything with the character, or if you’re in town before we start working, let’s get together and get to know each other.” She’s so sweet and loves her work, and that just made it so easy for me to get in there. I can honestly say that I wasn’t nervous, this time around. Sometimes you have nerves, as an actor, walking onto such a big set. But the cast and crew is so open and sweet, and you can tell that they love what they’re doing and they’re so happy to be a part of something like this. It just made it to easy to go in there and say, “All right, let’s play. Let’s have a good time.”
What can you say about this next episode and how your character is involved?
RAMIREZ: You’ll definitely get to see a bit more background of who Ted Grant is, in this episode. I’m really excited about this episode, to be honest with you. You’ll get to see Ted go through some stuff, for sure. He gets tested quite a bit. He gets accused of something that he did not do, and it’s a serious charge. Stuff just starts showing up in his gym, and he’s trying to figure out what’s going on and who’s doing it. He’s got a really nice little back-and-forth power struggle with Arrow that I think the fans are going to really enjoy. It’s going to show them the possibility of where he can go, in the future. None of us know, but I’m hoping that everyone loves him enough to suit me up and let me get in there and play with the team.
Ted Grant has a bit of a run-in with Arrow in this episode, which means that you’re not on the other end of the barrel of a gun, but are instead on the other end of a bow with an arrow pointed at you.
RAMIREZ: Yeah, I don’t know which one’s better!
How will that meeting between them go, and what was it like to shoot those scenes with the Arrow?
RAMIREZ: Stephen [Amell] is amazing. He’s one of the most talented actors that I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and right off the bat, we had great chemistry. We have a lot in common, actually, so it was really fun to go in there and have that kind of stand-off, man-to-man. It was really fun, being able to stand up to him. You’ve gotta give him respect. It’s his show. It was just so much fun to go in there and play off of someone who was so willing to collaborate with me and explore. There’s some good stuff in there, for sure. I feel like we both end up getting to the point where it ends somewhere different from where it started. It’s not that we both need each other, but we don’t feel the same about each other, at the end, as we do in the beginning. It’s a nice little storyline.
RAMIREZ: I think he’s just used to it. This is a whole other level of stuff, though. I don’t think he’s ever been accused of killing anyone, like this. He’s a little bit out of his element, so it’s going to be fun to see where he goes and how he handles it all.
As an actor, how have you enjoyed dividing your time between doing a show like Arrow and doing a show like Power? Do you find that they both stretch you very differently, as an actor?
RAMIREZ: I’ve been waiting my whole career for something like this. It’s a pleasure. It’s so much fun to be able to go back and forth between characters that are very different. I was talking to my mother about it, the other day. I just count my blessings. I’m so grateful, and very prepared and ready to take on the challenge.
Arrow airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.