On The CW series Arrow, the episode entitled “Green Arrow & The Canaries” works to both further the legacy of some of the characters in the Arrow-verse while also setting up new possibilities for the future, as a backdoor pilot for a spin-off series. Set in the year 2040 in Star City, Mia Queen (Katherine McNamara) has everything she could have ever wanted, so when Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and Dinah (Juliana Harkavy) suddenly show up in her life again, she’s faced with the choice of carrying on in her perfect world, or stepping into the shoes of the Green Arrow, suiting up, and saving the city.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Katherine McNamara talked about the journey she’s taken with this character since starting on Arrow, what excites her about dissecting Mia, continuing the legacy of the Green Arrow, what episode director Tara Miele brought to the spin-off pilot, where Mia is at in 2040 Star City, the responsibility and joy of being a hero, and the Mia-Laurel-Dinah dynamic. She also talked about the four-year anniversary of the premiere Shadowhunters, and how much she’s grown since then.
Collider: You’ve gone on quite a journey now with Mia, over the course of your time on Arrow. What do you love most about her, as a character, and the journey that you’ve taken with her, from starting the show, to doing the crossover, to now doing this episode as a pilot for Green Arrow and the Canaries, to seeing where she could go in the future? What do you love most about where you’ve gotten to go with her?
KATHERINE McNAMARA: What I love most about Mia is that she has this lovely bouncing back and forth between her strength and her vulnerability. She definitely has both sides because she is so fiercely loyal to the people that she loves and so committed to all of her relationships, whether or not she will admit it, depending on the version of Mia that we’re looking at. But it brings so many different colors and so many different elements to things. It allows for a lot of growth and a lot of conflict. As an actor, that’s all I can really ask for.
Is she a character that you immediately felt attached to, or have you become more attached to her?
McNAMARA: She was someone that I was really excited to dissect, in a sense. She does have such a hard shell, but there’s so much to mine out of her character, given her parents and how deep their characters’ relationship is. And then, with old Mia’s past and new Mia’s past, and having them both play, at the same time, it really gives so much to do and so many opportunities for different colors and directions, and different interactions with characters.
You’ve previously told me that there was always this idea of a possible spin-off, but that you try not to get too excited about things until they’re actually real. So, when you found out about this episode and that it would be a set-up for a possible spin-off, what was your reaction to what it would be and to where the character would go?
McNAMARA: I was excited to get to continue Mia’s story and to continue Oliver’s legacy, in a sense. Especially after having been through the crossover, it really made me feel such a part of the world, and I really got to see it from so many different perspectives, going from set to set and interacting with all of the other characters. It makes it exciting to carry it forward and see where it can go, especially given all that it informs. It’s been a really interesting journey and a really fun collaboration with (episode writers) Marc [Guggenheim] and Beth [Schwartz] and Oscar [Balderrama] and Jill [Blankship], and the whole creative team, to figure out this dual reality and memories, and this new 2040, and what that means for Mia. It’s been a real joy to work with everyone on that.
Along the way, had there ever been any other possible spin-off ideas discussed with you, or was this script the first time that a real idea was brought to you?
McNAMARA: It did change quite a bit. There were a lot of different iterations and a lot of changes that happened, throughout the process, but that’s why the team is so great. They’ve been doing this for so long. Even just shooting the episode between the crossover and the series finale of Arrow, we could not have accomplished this without the Arrow family, from the writers to the production team up in Vancouver, to everyone in the cast and crew. Every single person has done this for so long, with such expertise, that they really came together to create something special, and I’m so grateful for that.
Can you talk about working with the director of this episode, Tara Miele, and what brought to the episode?
McNAMARA: She was so wonderful. She really brought this sense of excitement and passion, and also understanding. She’s worked in the Arrow-verse quite a bit, and we had a lot of discussions about balancing the different versions of Mia. For me, the most fun of this set-up is the fact that there are two almost conflicting versions of the character because she has two realities in her head that are both valid, both of which she has an emotional attachment to. It’s really interesting to see those interplay with each other and to find those moments to see which version of Mia will come into play.
The description of the episode says that this Mia in 2040 has everything she could have ever wanted. What does that mean? Who is this Mia and what is she doing, when we meet her in this episode?
McNAMARA: Well, in this episode, we see me graduating college and reaching some milestones in her life that forced her to make choices, and to really take a look at her life, and have to make a decision, as to what direction she wants to take, what she wants to do, and the kind of person she wants to be. And what we see as a woman who is the same smart, cunning, cutting, strong character that we’ve come to know and love, but with perspective that she really hasn’t known much tragedy or much sadness in her life. What that brings is a very happy young woman who maybe doesn’t have a passion yet. She doesn’t have that thing that brings her that spark. Having the information that we have as an audience, we all know what that passion is going to be.
It also seems like this episode is going to be a bit of an origin story of sorts, for her transformation into the Green Arrow. Why does she hesitate, when it comes to taking that on, and what does it take to push her to be willing to step into that role?
McNAMARA: Having grown up as the daughter of the Green Arrow, she’s seen all of the amazing things that her father accomplished, in both realities. It was never something that she thought of herself as, until she got all of these memories that, and once she remembered not only the responsibility and the joy of being a hero, she also remembers the sacrifice and the loss and the trauma that comes with it, and how, more than anything, the first and last time she wore the Green Arrow suit that her father gave her, she lost him and she couldn’t save him. In her eyes, she failed. She does not feel as though she’s worthy to take on that mantle, or that she’s ready, in any sense. She wanted more time with her father. She needed more time, to not only get to know him, but to learn what it means to be a hero, in that sense. Especially now that she hasn’t trained in awhile and doesn’t necessarily remember everything that she was doing before, she’s very hesitant to take that up. It’s a huge hurdle that she has to overcome. But ultimately it’s the responsibility of being a hero and the mantle that her father left her with that pushes her to take that risk.
I love that, in the photos for the episode, we get to see the trio of Mia, Laurel and Dinah in their crime fighting costumes, but at the same time, we also see them in some very stylish outfits, which gives off a very Charlie’s Angels vibe. What is the dynamic like between the three of you guys, in this episode?
McNAMARA: At this point, it’s certainly tempestuous, at best, given that Mia, in her mind, has what’s a pretty perfect life, and then these two women show up and throw a complete monkey wrench into all of her plans and all of her relationships. Everything that she thought her life was going to be is suddenly upturned. Everything changes far too quickly for her to keep up with. Mia and Laurel, and Mia and Dinah have definitely had differences of opinion in the past, and that doesn’t change.
What have you enjoyed most about getting to work with Katie Cassidy and Juliana Harkavy, and what is your relationship dynamic like with them, in comparison to the way the characters act with each other?
McNAMARA: Oh, it’s so much fun. They’re so wonderful. It’s great to get to have these three different characters that can interact. Mia is very much her own entity, as the Green Arrow, but the Green Arrow always has her team, so getting to interact with those two is always so much fun.
You also just celebrated the four-year anniversary of the premiere Shadowhunters. How different do you feel now, as an actress and as a woman?
McNAMARA: I’ve thought a lot about that, over the last year, and I really feel like a completely different person. I was 19, when I started Shadowhunters, and I’ll be 25 this year. It’s definitely been a long journey, with a lot of amazing memories, a lot of laughs, a lot of tears, and a lot of growth, in every sense, both as a person and as an artist. I’m so grateful for all of the experiences and all of the joy, and everything that it’s brought, from the fandom, to the cast and crew, to the friendships that I have now, to everything that we’ve all been through together. It’s something that I really, really cherish, and that I’ll always have with me.
Arrow airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.