On The CW series Arrow, things are reaching a very dangerous, very critical level for Team Arrow, when it comes to stopping Cayden James (Michael Emerson) and his team of villains. With Oliver (Stephen Amell) not knowing who he can trust anymore, he and Dinah (Juliana Harkavy) have a major disagreement when it comes to how to handle things with Vigilante (Johann Urb).
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Johann Urb talked about how little he knew about Vigilante when he signed on, whether he thinks of the character more as Vincent or Vigilante, the great connection he has with Juliana Harkavy, how nervous he was about getting to work in the Arrow Cave with Team Arrow, being in awe of Michael Emerson, how much the full costume and prosthetics help him get into character, and why this role is a dream come true.
Collider: We’ve recently learned that there’s so much more going on with Vigilante than we could have imagined. When you signed on to play this character, how much were you told about him and what his journey would be?
JOHANN URB: I wasn’t told a ton. There were definitely reveals, as I got the scripts. Obviously, the character is really rich in history from the comic books, so I looked into that. Even though the story is slightly different, the essence is the same and that was really helpful in understanding who this guy is and why he does what he does. But it’s been more of a mystery that’s continually revealed, and it’s been really fun to play that, giving myself room to be able to make these turns, whether he’s a good guy or a bad guy, or what his motives are. That’s very human, or perhaps meta-human. Certain things can open you and inspire you, and for Vincent and Vigilante, coming back from the dark side, where he was lost for a little while, has been through Dinah’s love and that connection. That’s been really beautiful to explore.
When you think about and play the character, do you think of him as Vigilante or do you think of him as Vincent?
URB: Vincent and Vigilante. It depends on the aspect of what we’re focused on. If we go to the part of ourselves that is rage and revenge and retribution, or what triggers us or moves us. I oscillate because the character oscillates between those two place. When we have love in our life, our life is very different than when we shut ourselves off from love. One of the major driving forces when people do bad things or go to the dark side is that they’re not connected to that part of themselves. That basic rule of life certainly applies to Vincent and Vigilante.
Do you see him as a vigilante, do you see him as a villain, do you see him as someone who’s playing everyone, or does he just have his own game plan?
URB: From my perspective, he’s had his own game plan for a long time and he’s really driven by it, but that’s because he didn’t have a lot of connection. Now that he has more connection in his life, he’s softening, in the sense that you can talk to him and get through to him. There’s room for new ideas and negotiation and going about things differently. That’s the power of connection. That’s how I see it.
What was it like to be able to do scenes in the Arrow Cave with Team Arrow, especially with all of the tension between them? What was it like to get to work with so much of the cast, in those moments?
URB: Honestly, the first time I worked with all of them, in this episode that’s about to air, I was definitely nervous. Being a fan of the show and seeing these guys, and then you’re in character and in the room with everyone, even though everyone is beyond nice, beyond friendly and so welcoming and kind, I have to say that I definitely fumbled, a couple of times, because I was sweating pretty hard. Hopefully, it played out well. That nervousness can be helpful, but I was definitely extra sweaty. It was definitely a trip to be in there with those guys, with everybody in their outfits. It was surreal, in the best possible way.
What do you most enjoy about playing that dynamic with Juliana Harkavy and what she brings to that role?
URB: First of all, I have to say that Juliana is just a magnificent human being. I’ve gotten to work with her the most, out of everybody, and our rapport and connection has been beautiful. We’ve become really good friends and really enjoy working together, and I think that really plays on screen. As we discover ourselves as human beings and get to know each other, it’s beautiful to see how that’s played out in the storyline. In this coming episode, you really see a lot more of our history. It’s nice that it didn’t happen right away. We got to get to know each other, before going back in time to show a little bit about how we first met and what the transition was that got them to where they are today. She’s just been an absolute dream to work with. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to be Dinah Drake.
What’s it like for you to have someone like Michael Emerson, as Cayden James, to play off of?
URB: It’s beautiful and humbling and incredible. He’s just one of those actors where I sometimes catch myself watching him and have to go, “Oh, it’s my line!” He’s so interesting, so still and so specific, and he’s the nicest person, as well. To see him playing evil so well without having to do much, I’m in awe of him.
If you’re going to be on a superhero show, you want a cool costume to wear, and you also get to have the make-up/prosthetics and the contact in your eye. How much does being in all of that really help get you into the character?
URB: It’s very, very helpful. For me, having the scar, and then also having the contact because you can’t see very well out of that eye, it really does help. A lot of it is shot in really low lighting, which adds a sense of danger. You just feel different. You go in much deeper, or at least I go deeper into that role, because of it. For me, it’s very, very helpful.
Before being cast on Arrow, had you been hoping to throw your own hat into the ring with one of these comic book/superhero stories? Is that something you’d been actively pursuing, or was this all a surprise to you?
URB: It’s definitely been a dream come true for me to play this character, especially because he’s not one-sided. He’s not just a good guy. I love the grey area. I love that there’s room to fluctuate and to not know and to swing with the pendulum from one side to the next. There’s so much richness in that. So, to play a character that walks the line and lives in the grey area, as an actor, is really, really wonderful. It’s a wonderful exercise and a wonderful way to discover even more about humanity and self and what the character has to offer.
Arrow airs on Thursday nights on The CW.