Curtis Holt (the terrifically fun Echo Kellum), aka the future Mr. Terrific, is already a great addition to The CW series Arrow, as a friend, confidant and equally intelligent sounding board for Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards). They’re both always thinking about how to help the residents of Star City and have a belief in the good of humanity that many of those around them have become far more cynical about.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, ultra-charming actor Echo Kellum talked about his audition process, when he learned the actual role he’d be playing on the show, how they keep him totally in the dark about his Mr. Terrific transition, that his four closest friends are so excited about his role on Arrow, what his first day on set was like, the dynamic duo of Curtis and Felicity, and what Curtis thinks of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell).
Collider: How did you come to this show, in this role? Who did they tell you that you were auditioning for, and at what point did they tell you who the character really would be?
ECHO KELLUM: They definitely didn’t tell me who it was. It was some code name. I came in an auditioned for David Rapaport, and then they called me back in the next day to audition for the producers, Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle, and whatnot. And in that audition, they filled me in that, “BTW, this is Mr. Terrific,” and I was like, “What?!” It was very cool. So, I left and then they called and said, “We think you’re the one,” and I was like, “Holy crap! That’s really awesome!”
Without giving away the details, when you signed on for the role, did they give you any idea how long you might be playing Curtis Holt before he makes that transition to Mr. Terrific?
KELLUM: Yeah, so I’ll be dead by Episode 3. I’m just kidding. They said this season, I’ll definitely be involved. They didn’t really tell me how many episodes, but just a good amount. I honestly have no idea when he will become Mr. Terrific, but that’s exciting to me. I find out when the fans find out what’s happening, which is a really cool place to be at. I’m a big fan of the show, so it keeps it really interesting and surprising for me, being a part of the show now. It’s cool that they keep people in the dark, a little bit. But they’ve talked about how it could potentially happen this season, or it could potentially happen next season. I’m just thankful to have anything to do with this show, and am especially thankful that this character is just so fun to play and that I get to play off of the lovely Emily Bett Rickards.
With as popular as comic book and superhero movies and TV shows are now, who in your life is most excited that you’re a part of the DC universe, playing this character on Arrow?
KELLUM: Honestly, my four closest friends that I’ve known since I was nine years old are the most excited because we’re all huge comic book nerds. And if I had to give an MVP to that crew, it would be one of my best friends, whose name is Reese. He’s a self-proclaimed king of anime, comic books and video games. He called me up a couple of days ago and was like, “Hey, man, I saw your premiere. Your acting has gotten a lot better.” The fact that they’re like, “You’re doing a great job on this show,” and it’s a show that they love without me being a part of it, is really cool and means the world to me. But Reese takes the cake, as the most proud.
No matter how good your friends are at cosplay, you will always have them beat, being on the actual show.
KELLUM: Yeah, it’s so true! I can cosplay the heck out of them, but with real play.
What was your first day on set like? Was it totally surreal, was it intimidating, or was it just too much damn fun?
KELLUM: It was honestly all of the above. Going onto a hit show, you always hear the horror stories about people who are like, “Don’t look at me in the eye.” I was like, “Oh, man, I hope these people are nice.” And you’re also like, “I hope I can bring something to this really amazing show that’s been on the air and that’s doing great.” So, there was the intimidation factor. And then, I got on set and it was just the most fun. Emily was so funny, nice, warm, welcoming, sweet and great. You could tell that from the top down to the bottom, and from the executives at The CW to the grip guys, everyone is just so nice, so professional and just has fun. It really makes going to work so easy, and it doesn’t feel like work, except for all the crazy dialogue I have. It’s just so much fun being on that set. It’s a breath of fresh air.
When you play the smartest guy in the room, you get to sound really good, but you also have to remember all of that dialogue.
KELLUM: Oh, my god! Literally, I have dreams about my dialogue and getting it right. It’s fun, but it’s challenging. But, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
What can you say about what’s to come for Curtis, in the immediate future?
KELLUM: What’s really cool, in the next episode, is that you’ll see Curtis and Felicity get into some issues with a meta-human that tracks them down and tries to kill them. You get to see Felicity become a bad-ass and save the day, and you also get to see Curtis help Felicity deal with something that’s been an internal issue going on with her. He tries to help her solve it and motivates her to get past this issue.
How would you describe the relationship between Curtis and Felicity? Do you see him as more of a confidant for her, or do you see them more as equals, as far as what they’re capable of doing?
KELLUM: I see them more as the latter. Even though she can confide in him, and he’ll do that with her, as well, they also have a mutual respect for each other’s brains and their desire to help people. And they’ll get involved with each other’s personal lives. There’s a little funny moment that people saw in the trailer with Oliver and Curtis, where he puts his hands up to Oliver’s chin to see if he could be [Green Arrow]. I think their relationship is going to be one where they just become very close because they realize that they have a lot of the same qualities.
As a fan of the show, how much fun has it been for you to get to share scenes with Stephen Amell?
KELLUM: Very, very amazing! And he’s such a good guy, too. He’s just so nice. He’s the captain of the ship, but he’s just as easy to talk to as anybody and he’s funny. It’s just been really cool to work with him. It definitely feel surreal sometimes, and watching the second episode that my character premiered in was a trip. I cried when Moira died. I’m invested in this show, but now I’m in it. It still affects me. It’s an interesting place to be at.
Everyone has an opinion of Oliver Queen. What does Curtis think of him?
KELLUM: I’ll tell you this, Curtis definitely thinks Felicity has good taste in men.
Arrow airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.