‘Arrow’ Season 5: Rick Gonzalez on Playing Wild Dog & Working with WWE Star Cody Rhodes

     October 12, 2016

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On The CW series Arrow, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) is coming to terms with the fact that he can’t fight for Star City on his own and, as a result, he has put together a new team of vigilantes. But because his new recruits don’t realize just what it really takes to be a vigilante, Green Arrow’s training methods prove to be a bit much for Curtis (Echo Kellum), Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez) and Evelyn Sharp (Madison McLaughlin) to handle.

During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Rick Gonzalez talked about how he learned he’d be playing Wild Dog, getting to wear an exact replica of the suit from the comics, bringing a new energy to the show, what Wild Dog thinks of Green Arrow, the importance of being part of a team, getting to work with WWE star Cody Rhodes (in Episode 503), and making the action scenes look good. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.

Collider: How did you come to this show? Did you go through an audition process, and did you even know what role you were going to be playing?

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Image via CW

RICK GONZALEZ: I auditioned for a character, and I had no idea I was auditioning for Wild Dog. I actually found out, once I got the job. I thought I had booked a completely different character. I don’t know what I thought I booked. I was like, “Great! I’m going to be on Arrow! Cool! I won’t be a superhero, but I’ll be some guy. That’s cool!” So, I had a conversation with Maya [Mani], the costume designer for the show who I had also worked with on Reaper, and we had a pleasant talk about seeing each other again after so many years. She said, “Congrats, coming onto the show! We’re going to fit you into this costume.” And I said, “Wait one second, what do you mean, costume?” She said, “Oh, you’re playing Wild Dog!” I was like, “What?! Send me a photo, please!” I Googled on my own and she emailed me a photo, and I was looking at the guy and thinking, “This is going to be so much fun!” It was a complete shock to me, and I was just excited. The 10-year-old in me that loves comic books and characters of this sort is excited about it. So, we just decided to go all-out and I’m ecstatic.

Do you feel that the suit he wears really matches who he is and his personality?

GONZALEZ: Yes, I absolutely think so! First of all, I think we nailed the way it looks. It’s an exact replica of what we see in the comic books, and that’s really cool. The fact that we could do that and get away with that is awesome. I’m looking forward to people seeing that.

Once you did find out who you were playing and you were able to actually tell people about it, who in your own life was most excited about you being a part of the DC universe on TV?

GONZALEZ: I was excited to work with the Green Arrow! Even my wife was excited. My wife is such a huge fan of the show. And then, in doing my research for the show and watching what Stephen Amell has done with the character, I was excited to work with him and to be a part of the world of Green Arrow. I’m looking forward to that.

How is the experience of being on set, on a show like this, that’s been successful enough to make it all the way to Season 5? You’re able to work with Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards, while you’re also forming a new team, so is it fun to have that merging of the new and old?

GONZALEZ: I think it is. I love the idea of us bringing in this energy to their well-oiled machine. I like the idea that we’re breaking up the energy. The energy of each recruit is very different. Wild Dog is not the easiest person to get along with. He definitely wants to create discord. He’s a pessimist and he’s stubborn, with a brooding, ominous energy. Ultimately, he does want to help people and do the right thing, he just feels he can do it in his own way. Being a part of this crew is fun, but at the same time, Wild Dog likes to do his own thing and create havoc. I’m not going to lie, that’s fun to play.

At least in the beginning of their training, we see this new team getting their asses kicked, quite a bit. Is he the type of guy where, the more he gets his ass kicked, the more determined he is to return the favor, or does he just want out?

GONZALEZ: Wild Dog definitely wants to return the favor. With Green Arrow, everything is black and white for him. There’s no denying the abilities of Green Arrow and everything that he’s accomplished. In the world of Star City, especially among the vigilantes out there, people know the abilities of Green Arrow, what he’s been able to save the city from, and the type of power that he possesses. There’s no denying that. That’s something that Wild Dog definitely takes into consideration. Green Arrow is somebody who’s formidable, and he’s probably one of the most formidable people on the planet. Of course, that’s knowledge, experience and a skill set that Wild Dog would like to absorb from him. But, does he like him and respect him? Not really. There’s not many people that Wild Dog respects. That’s the journey of Wild Dog, in terms of wanting to be somebody you can get along with. Him breaking down those walls inside of himself is what we’ll hopefully get to see this season.

Wild Dog is going to defy Green Arrow and go after a drug dealer on his own. What was it like for you to face off with WWE star Cody Rhodes? Was that, at all, intimidating?

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Image via The CW

GONZALEZ: It was not intimidating for Wild Dog, at all. I think Wild Dog looks forward to that. That was so much fun. Working with Cody was awesome! He killed his part. He came in as a pro, knew what he was doing, and new how he wanted to do it. He just had a certain swag and energy about what he wanted to do with his character. I certainly appreciated it, and I know that Stephen and the rest of the crew did, as well. I think it’s awesome that you’ll get to see Wild Dog go up against that type of strength. That’s going to be pretty fun. I think that also speaks to who Wild Dog is, the type of abilities that he has, his skill set, his mental strength, who he deems himself to be, and how strong he thinks he is. I can’t wait for people to see that episode. It’s going to be so much fun.

What do you think it will take for Wild Dog to understand the importance of a team, instead of just going off on your own?

GONZALEZ: It’s going to take some moments of truth to break through for him, in order for him to understand the importance of what this team is becoming and what the friendships are that have to be built. There’s a certain trust, and trust comes from building a rapport with others. I don’t think Wild Dog is incapable of that, but he’s someone with a past that weighs on him heavily, so it’s hard for him not to walk with his past, and the hurt and pain that’s inside of him. It makes it difficult for him to make the best decisions in relationships and friendships. And so, those are things that bring discord to the group and to his relationship with Green Arrow. Hopefully, we’ll see him start to figure out how he can be a better team member and a better Wild Dog, this season.

At the same time, what do you think it will take for Oliver to feel like this new team is ready and able to handle themselves in the field?

GONZALEZ: I’m pretty sure that, for Oliver, there’s never a perfect time to feel that the team is ready. It will be tough for him to even make that decision. The great thing about seeing the season unfold is that certain scenarios will make it impossible for anything to feel as though it’s the right time. You just have to jump into the fire, or just jump into the lake and swim and see what happens. Especially with this rag-tag group. It will be an interesting decision for Oliver to make, in terms of when is the right time and is this moment the right time, or should he wait and do it alone and allow them to be more seasoned in their training. Those are questions that I think are going to be answered fairly quickly this season.

What have you most enjoyed about the stunts, the fighting and the action sequences you’re getting to do, and what have been the biggest challenges in pulling those scenes off?

GONZALEZ: I’m 37 years old, and I take how I was in my 20s for granted. I’ve been acting for a really long time and, in my 20s, doing certain stunts was so easy. I look back on it now and I’m like, “If only!” So now, playing Wild Dog is pretty demanding and there are moments where I have to pick up certain things fairly quickly, but I’ve always been excited to do this type of stuff and to bring physicality to characters. For me, it was always important that, the more the audience can see the actor do most of what they’re doing, the more believable it is. That also speaks to seeing someone like Stephen Amell playing Green Arrow and physically showing us the prowess, so that we can see him actually do these things. That makes us fall in love with the character more and really believe the circumstances more. That suspending of disbelief is so important for the character.

And I feel like it’s the same for me. I want people to see Wild Dog do as much as he can, on screen. That way, you can see his physicality and his abilities come to life. This is a character who’s ex-military and who has a strong skill set, in terms of his military background, and his ability to do hand-to-hand combat and hold military grade weapons. He’s a very aggressive character who knows what he’s doing, but if we measure him against the Green Arrow, he has a lot to learn. Green Arrow is probably one of the greatest fighters on the planet, in that world, so he’s being taught by the best. Now, he’s going to be able to upgrade himself, so that’s something that we’ll see, and that’s important. I’m having a great time, and I’m going all out with this guy.

Arrow airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.

Television