On the next episode of The CW series Arrow, entitled “A Matter of Trust,” the Green Arrow’s (Stephen Amell) new vigilante team wants to hit the streets, but Oliver Queen doesn’t feel they’re ready yet. So, when Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez) defies orders to go after a drug dealer named Derek Sampson (former WWE superstar Cody Rhodes), it forces the Green Arrow to go head-to-head with him, in order to save his teammate.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, Cody Rhodes talked about how giddy he is over his Arrow appearance, why he wanted to be a part of the show, being a life-long comic book fan, who Derek Sampson is and why he’s terrorizing Star City, naming the fictional drug Stardust after his WWE persona, and why he looks up to Stephen Amell. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.
Collider: It’s so exciting that you’re on this week’s Arrow!
CODY RHODES: I’m jazzed about it, man! I’m giddy over it!
How did you playing this character on this episode come about? Had you been talking about the possibility of guest starring on the show, and then the timing just worked out right?
RHODES: I showed up at Stephen’s house at four in the morning. No. After 10 years of WWE, in a somewhat dramatic fashion, it just didn’t feel right, so I stepped out of my contract and, after 10 years of that schedule, I had all this time. I’ve always wanted to do a cross-promotion from the original interaction we’d had, but it just seemed like time had gone by and we’d moved on. It was just a matter of finding the proper channels. The last thing I wanted to do was go, “Hey, I’m friends with Stephen. Let me in.” So, I found the proper channels, and he got wind of me finding the proper channels, so maybe he did help. And then, I went and read for various roles for Season 5, and those roles that I read for weren’t Derek Sampson. But what I hope came across in the room, with Marc Guggenheim, Greg Berlanti, and these wonderful producers and team, gave them the confidence to build me up in Episode 3, and it looks like it did.
Are you personally a fan of comic books and superhero movies and TV shows? Does this fulfill a dream for you, in that sense?
RHODES: I’m a life-long fan. A lot of the work I did with WWE had very strong comic book ties that were more than just a wink at the audience. There was a period of time when I had a clear protective face mask and a hood over my head that correlated with Doctor Doom. And then, there was a WrestleMania where I specifically had my cape designed with these big wire elements, so it was like Mister Sinister. I feel like too many people get away, these days, with saying, “Yeah, I’m a comic book fan!,” and they’re lying about it. If you ask me what I like about Green Arrow, I can tell you that I read Longbow Hunters years ago and that it’s my favorite Green Arrow. You can ask Stephen. I feel like sometimes he gets annoyed ‘cause I’m like, “Oh, this is my favorite thing that Oliver ever did.” I’ve been a life-long fan, so it definitely checks that box.
Who is Derek Sampson and why is he terrorizing Star City, at this point in time?
RHODES: Derek Sampson is a drug dealer. Star City finds itself with a lot of escalation in crime. All of these heroic elements in Star City, and everything the Green Arrow has done, brings out the worst in folks. I think about Vertigo and how that hit the streets, and then this situation where the drug Stardust, that Derek Sampson is pedaling, has hit the streets. I know a lot of people are aware that this season is back to the streets and we’re lifting the veil on who’s out there on the streets, and Derek Sampson is one of those individuals. How Derek Sampson begins the episode versus how we end the episode is really cool. He’s imbued with an ability. It’s almost an origin story, but a small one.
If you’re going to be on a superhero show, you want to have some sort of ability.
RHODES: Yeah, you really do! Without getting too ahead of myself, I will say that it’s not the best ability. If you’re a foolhardy, braggadocios male figure who wants to charge forward in every fight, it has its pros and its cons, that’s for sure.
Whose idea was it to have the nod to your WWE persona with the name of the drug being Stardust?
RHODES: I believe it was Marc Guggenheim. Actually, I think everybody agreed that there would be some sort of a wink to the audience who enjoyed the initial interaction with Stardust and the Arrow at WWE’s SummerSlam. It concerned me a little bit because there are tons of Arrow fans who do not like wrestling, or maybe they’re not aware of it and they don’t intend to be aware of it. So, the last thing I wanted to do was make it so obvious that it was, “Here’s the dumb wrestler who gives a dumb wrestler performance. Bye dumb wrestler!” But when I saw it all together, it’s just simply a good wink at the audience and, in a way, it bridges the experience from the wrestling that Stephen and I did to being on set. When I did the character of Stardust, for me to play the character, I had to give myself something in my mind for why, in eight years of being Cody Rhodes and myself, I would want to be Stardust. I always thought of it as some sort of drug or brainwashing, so it’s perfect. I think it bridges the experiences.
I recently spoke to Rick Gonzalez (who plays Wild Dog) about working with you and he said you really killed this role and that you had a certain energy about what you wanted to do with this character. How did you prepare for this and were there things you specifically wanted to bring to this character?
RHODES: I’m so happy to hear that Rick Gonzalez said nice things about me. A couple mornings on the way to the side were hour-long drives and all we talked about was fast food ‘cause he were both on a diet. Stephen is ripped, so everybody has gotta be ripped, so we couldn’t eat anything we wanted. So, all we had were these food orgy discussions. But to prepare, it was easier to plug into being a villain because that’s what I’m used to. I didn’t want to be over the top, especially coming from wrestling where everything is over the top. I wanted to provide some nuance to it. It might look over the top, but I wanted to actually be connected to it. I had a really brief experience in L.A. – and I’m not going to pretend that it was long – when I was a teenager and I attended the Howard Fine Acting Studio. Howard Fine is an amazing teacher, and he’s always stayed in touch with me. Even with wrestling, he’s helped me, and he was the first person I mentioned this to. Even if the character is something that seems ridiculous on paper, there’s a human element to everything. Otherwise, we don’t connect with it. So, even in these brief scenes, that was the goal with everyone. I can look like an absolute zombie drug dealer/killer, but I wanted to add some humanity to it.
What do you, personally, think of Stephen Amell and everything he does with this show, and what does your character think of Oliver Queen and the Green Arrow?
RHODES: Personally, I look up to Stephen not just for what he’s done on the show, but he has these thriving business, and then he does so much work with charity. He and I raised $300,000 for a hospice in Toronto, called Emily’s House. That’s the greatest gift. Being able to take even the slightest recognition, whether it’s a big time movie star or the bottom in, and use it to turn someone else’s life around is the point of doing it. As a business man, Stephen is a hell of a model. As far as the character he plays, Derek Sampson and him are the last two people who would ever have a drink together. Oliver Queen is very entitled and privileged, and he’s the worst type of silver spoon because he actually worked hard, in terms of when he was on the island and with the training. He’s earned it. So, this drug dealer just hates Major Queen.
You’re physically intimidating and pretty much everyone on this show is a bad-ass, but were there any funny bloopers or screw-ups during your time at Arrow, especially during the action sequences, that we might see later on a Blu-ray?
RHODES: I don’t think there were any bloopers. I know that, on the first day, they assumed that I could do stunts because I’m from pro wrestling, and I just beat the hell out of the stuntman that I was with. I just wanted to go full-blown because I’m used to live TV, and I don’t think he was too happy about that. But James Bamford and the stunt team really helped me refine it, afterwards. There was this really great moment where Stephen, in full Green Arrow garb, is up on this thing and he’s got the hood and you can barely see his eyes. They called, “Cut!,” and somebody made a suggestion to him about something in the performance, and it got silent for what felt like 20 minutes while he just brooded up there. He had the bow and the quiver and everything, and I was physically unable to move, so I was thinking, “Somebody is going to get me up, at some point.” And then, in the most Canadian accent I’d ever heard, he just went, “Okay!,” and everybody had a big sigh of relief. It was a very funny moment, just ‘cause he demands such respect on the set, in the Green Arrow garb. The show begins and ends with him. He is the Green Arrow. He demands such a respect, but he was so open to changing and trying different things with me. It was a lot of fun.
Obviously, you know what you’re doing when it comes to wrestling and performing, in that sense, but when you’re the new guy on set, as an actor, is that intimidating, at all, or are you the kind of person who thrives in new situations?
RHODES: It’s case by case. I got to set a few days early, and they let me come watch and learn the vernacular and language ‘cause that was all brand new to me. I would have been completely lost. I wanted to do that for myself, so that I felt competent. A lot of the cast has been together for a long time. The cast is very diverse, in terms of how they approach various scenes, and maybe the diversity they have just let me slide in under the radar. Everyone was so friendly. I’m fairly certain Paul Blackthorne did not fully understand me and Stephen’s initial reaction and may not get the cross-over element of it because I got a lot of odd looks, but everyone was so nice and so welcoming. I think that’s what makes this show get bigger and bigger and keep growing. It’s not just the status quo. They stretch and tackle different elements of Star City, its politics and the world.
Arrow airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.