On Season 5 of The CW series Arrow, we’ve been getting insight into Oliver Queen’s (Stephen Amell) past relationship and dealings with Talia al Ghul (Lexa Doig), daughter of Ra’s (Matt Nable) and sister to Nyssa (Katrina Law), who helped train and teach Oliver how to run a business by day and live as a vigilante by night. And now that things are heating up between the Green Arrow and Prometheus, it is Talia who can clue him in to Prometheus’ true identity, as she trained him, as well.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Lexa Doig talked about when and how she found out that she’d be playing Talia al Ghul on Arrow, how she approached finding the character, what Oliver means to Talia, being comfortable living in the grey area of and when she learned the true identity of Prometheus. She also talked about her unusual audition experience for the E! series The Arrangement, and how it feels to be experiencing an embarrassment of riches, in getting to play two such cool characters. Be aware that there are spoilers discussed.
Collider: How did you come to be a part of Arrow, and at what point, along the way, did you learn that you would be playing Talia al Ghul?
LEXA DOIG: I found out after I’d been cast. The funny thing is that I didn’t audition for Arrow. My agent called me on a Wednesday to say, “Hey, do you want to do a few episodes of Arrow?” And I said, “Yeah, I’d love to!” She said, “Okay, we gotta make this happen fast, if it’s gonna happen because the character plays on Friday.” I said, “Yeah, I’m in, but can I see a character breakdown or some sides?,” because I knew that Arrow is very protective. So, she emailed me a character breakdown and some sides for a character named Lindsay, who seemed to be somebody who trained Arrow. There wasn’t much about her. So, I said, “Sure, looks like fun!” And then, the deal was done and I got a call from the costume designer, who I’d worked win on Continuum, and she said, “We need you to come in for a fitting tomorrow because this shoots on Friday. I’ll get the production office to send you a memo about where to park.” So, I got emailed a memo about parking, and across the top it said, “Re: Talia al Ghul wardrobe fitting.” I thought it might be a mistake. I went running downstairs to my husband and said, “Dude, I think I’m playing Talia al Ghul! I might be!” And he was like, “That’s so cool!” So, when I showed up to the wardrobe fitting the next day, I was like, “Am I playing who I think I’m playing?” And the costume designer was like, “Oh, Talia? Yeah!” I was like, “Nobody told me this!” It wasn’t released until the last minute, and I was all giggly after that. My biggest goal, because they seem to be doing Funko Pop! figurines for everyone these days, is for Talia to have one. That will establish me as genuinely cool, in the eyes of my children.
Once you knew you were taking on Talia al Ghul, how did you want to approach her? Did you want to delve into any of the comics or movies, or did you want to stay away from all of that and make her your own?
DOIG: A bit of both, actually. You want to honor the source material, to some degree, but you can’t honor it more than the writers do. The writers obviously take their own license and creativity with their storylines and characters. Talia al Ghul is someone who’s mostly involved with Batman and hist storyline. The danger, as an actor, is to get too attached to the idea of something that doesn’t end up coming to fruition. My bible, for lack of a better term, is the scripts that I’m given. I informed myself about the background of this character and how she fits into the DC Universe, but the most helpful stuff was going back and watching some of the stuff with Ra’s and Nyssa because that’s the universe that my character was going to inhabit. But even for those storylines, Nyssa al Ghul is very different from Nyssa Raatko. I’ve gotta admit, I haven’t actually seen The Dark Knight Rises and Marion Cotillard’s portrayal of the character. I just went with what was being asked of me, in the script, and what I knew about her family. What was said about her in the script was also very helpful.
Because she’s been pretty mysterious, as we learn more about Talia, do you think that increases the chances that we might someday see her and Nyssa cross paths?
DOIG: I have no idea! That’s a writers’ question. But I would love to see her and Nyssa cross paths. I think that would be a really interesting dynamic to explore and see play out on screen.
You’ve said that you think a face to face encounter between Talia and Nyssa would be very violent. Of the two of them, who do you think might win that fight?
DOIG: I think it would probably be a fairly even draw. I don’t know a ton about Nyssa, but I will say that I don’t think Talia is above using slightly more nefarious means to win a fight. She’s not necessarily the most honorable of fighters.
What do you think Oliver means to Talia, and what does Talia mean to Oliver?
DOIG: The second part of that question is probably better answered by Stephen [Amell]. As far as what Oliver is to Talia, I don’t know exactly what her motivations were for helping him, in the first place, other than she had something planned and he helped her. I don’t know if he was aware of that, or not. At the end of the day, Talia is very much about, why should I do what I can get others to do for me? For whatever reason, she sees, in Oliver, some similarities with herself and an ability to use him. This was a decision that I made, that wasn’t necessarily scripted but that made sense to me, because she was never mentioned in any of the previous dealings with the al Ghul family, which is a bit of a glaring omission when you finally do bring the character in, but she parted ways with them and said, “Okay, I’m gonna go do my own thing, guys,” to her family. To me, that meant living in the real world, and not just in the periphery and shadows, as an assassin. She’s just as likely to run a major corporation that funs all of her shadowy activities. That’s not unlike what she’s teaching Oliver to do, living in the shadows and in the light, with an alter-ego that partitions the more extreme aspects of himself, so that he can be Arrow, but he can also exist as Oliver Queen. It’s not really portrayed that way. You don’t see Talia sitting in a boardroom, orchestrating a hostile take-over, but to me, that’s what she’s doing, off camera.