The CW’s highly anticipated new drama series Arrow tells the story of billionaire playboy Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), who has returned home to Starling City after being missing and presumed dead for five years, following a violent shipwreck. His devoted mother Moira (Susanna Thompson), much-beloved sister Thea (Willa Holland) and best friend Tommy (Colin Donnell) welcome him home, while his former girlfriend, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), is not so happy. Now, along with reconnecting to those closest to him, Oliver has secretly created the persona of the vigilante Arrow, to right wrongs and restore the city to its former glory.
During this recent exclusive interview with Collider, show star Stephen Amell talked about how he won the role, the challenge of taking on such an iconic character, what it’s been like to already get such positive feedback from fans, how quickly the chemistry happened with the cast, how the Queen family dynamic will evolve, how quickly fans will get to see some of the other DC characters making appearances, and the level of physical training he has to do for the show. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
STEPHEN AMELL: The challenge was part of the attraction for me, as an actor. As far as the role being intimidating, that’s stuff that people who can look at the big picture of the series can think about, and that the people who can look at how people are going to consume it can think about. I can’t think past the day because I’m in almost every scene. They are kicking my ass, right now. I don’t have the luxury of any long-term thinking, at all. I felt pressure to get the pilot picked up, and then I felt pressure to make Episode 2 awesome because I thought the pilot was awesome.
What was it like to take the show to Comic-Con and already get feedback from fans?
AMELL: I did this Hollywood Reporter thing where Jennifer Carpenter from Dexter was like, “You’ll go to Comic-Con and it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the business or how many seasons you’ve done, it will give you whatever fuel you need for long days and arduous outdoor shoots. You’ll know that that response is waiting for you, at the end of it.”
How did you come to this show? Were you just making the rounds for pilot season, or did you specifically pursue this role?
AMELL: I had five years in the business in Canada, and then I came down to the States in February of 2010. I had a good pilot season. I started getting guest star work. I started to get bigger stuff. I shot Hung for HBO, which took me out of pilot season for 2011. I was there one day, and then I got cast in Hung. I auditioned for Once Upon A Time and was going to test for it, but then I was on Hung. So, when Hung got canceled, I did Private Practice. I was having a really great year. It was the best year of my career, by far. So, when Hung got canceled, I was available for pilot season, and Arrow was the first thing I auditioned for. It wasn’t the first script that came to me, but it was my first audition. My friends were laughing at me because the unofficial start of pilot season is February 1st, and February 1st is the day I got cast. They were joking and were like, “So, how was your pilot season? Was it good? It took you until noon to get cast, you jerk!” It was funny.
AMELL: No. I did not chemistry read with anybody that ended up in the cast. I had a chemistry read with a couple of prospective people for Colin Donnell’s character Tommy, but that was it.
Did it just click pretty instantly then?
AMELL: Yeah. When I shot Private Practice, Amy Brenneman made a point of really befriending me before we started shooting. The first scene we had to shoot was this really intimate scene where two people have sparks fly, for the first time. I was really taken with how she connected with me, person to person, before we tried to connect, actor to actor. So, I made a real point to do that. It helps that everyone in the cast is a super human being. Colin and I hit it off, and that stuff pops on screen. And Katie and I hit it off, and Willa [Holland] and I hit it off. I think that you can see that, so it’s important to me. If you have to put your hand on somebody’s shoulder, if you’ve done it before, it makes it easier to do. Sometimes it’s imperceptible, but I think it’s what takes things from good to great, or from 2D to 3D.
With this being a different version of the character, especially after what people have just seen of him on Smallville, what can you say about who Oliver Queen is, when this show starts?
AMELL: What we’re going to start to see, in the first season, is that Oliver’s biggest threat is himself. He’s coming back from the island with post-traumatic stress disorder. He has to have that, based on what he saw on the island. We’re presenting a damaged individual. He’s somebody who is, for lack of a better word, a ticking time bomb. We get to see him do super things, but we’re also going to get to see him fall, every once in awhile, and see him fail. I hope that really human element will connect people to him.
How difficult is it for him to return as such a changed man?
AMELL: It weighs on him to have to present himself differently. It would be easy, if he could come back and say, at the first family dinner, “Hey guys, FYI, I have a list of people in the criminal underworld that I’m going to obliterate, and I’m not a skilled archer and this huge list of other things.” That would be easier than presenting himself as the person that he was before, especially because the person that he was before was a jerk. He was an entitled jerk.
How will the relationship between Oliver and his mother (Susanna Thompson) and sister (Willa Holland) evolve?
AMELL: I think his mother is happy that he’s back, but the Queen’s didn’t become billionaires without having a few skeletons in the closet. Whatever their kingdom has become, Oliver coming back is a threat to it. I think that it would be wrong to assume that his mother is evil, but it would be correct to assume that she has motivations that she’s not explaining, as of yet. As for Thea, she idolized Oliver before he left, but he was a 22-year-old jerk. She has morphed into that person at 17, and he can’t just come back and say, “Don’t be like that,” because it’s the only thing that she’s ever known. In the pilot, she says that she basically had to fend for herself, and she thinks that she’s done a pretty good job. So, who am I, at this point, to come back and say, “You can’t live like that.”
Just how long is this list of people Oliver Queen will be going after?
AMELL: That’s a good question. I don’t know.
Will he be adding names, along the way, so that you don’t finish the list before the series is over?
AMELL: Of course! We see that almost immediately. We see that in Episode 3. If you just had a finite list, you’d be like, “Oh, I’ve got one more guy on the list. Can’t find him!” We’re not married to any type of storytelling technique. He doesn’t have to cross out a name on the list in Act 5 of every episode, but I would assume that it’s a pretty long list.
AMELL: Yeah. There’s a clear lineage with Katie’s character, Willa’s character and Colin’s character. We showed the Deathstroke mask. I would assume we will see Deathstroke, either on the island or otherwise. In Episode 2, we have China White. In Episode 3, we have Deadshot. The guys that are writing the show are huge comic book fans and they’ve just been waiting to pull from the DC universe, so we’re going to do that, all the time.
Just how crazy is the physical training you have to do?
AMELL: The biggest thing is going to be up-keep. It’s good, though. I get to steal time at the gym. I only need 40 minutes, though, and then I do stuff on set. I’m doing so much active stuff on set.
Is it fun to get to add the skill of shooting a bow and arrow to your resume?
AMELL: Yeah, 100%. I want to shoot the show for awhile, and then go into archery competitions and see how good I can get. The bow that I’m using is theoretically the bow that I made on the island. I’ve used some of the newer bows and they’re awesome. You have to relax when you’re shooting an arrow. You can’t be tense. And that just helps, in your day-to-day life.
Arrow is on Wednesday nights on The CW.