On Season 5 of The CW series Arrow, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) is on his own when it comes to protecting the citizens of Star City on the streets, as Green Arrow. Although Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) is guiding him from the bunker, Oliver has his hands more than full with both criminals and a slew of new and very inexperienced vigilantes, which pushes him to consider training a new team of superheroes, including Curtis (Echo Kellum), Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez) and Evelyn Sharp (Madison McLaughlin).
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Echo Kellum talked about how exciting it is to be a series regular in Season 5, what a dream come true this experience is, how silly the cast gets when they’re together, the dynamic of this new team, the evolving bond between Curtis and Felicity, why Curtis respects Oliver so much, and just how epic and mind-blowing the cross-over/100th episode will be. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.
Collider: I’ve watched the Arrow premiere and seen the sizzle reel of what’s to come, so I’m aware that Curtis will be getting his ass kicked quite a bit. Hopefully, he’ll get to a point where he can return the favor!
ECHO KELLUM: I’m hoping for the same thing! But it’s that journey, right? You can’t start off just coming at the streets. Arrow likes to play things pretty real, and he does have to earn his stripes. I think that will make it even better, once he finally gets into his groove and gets to the point where he’s really out there and is a vital, integral part of the team, not just because he’s smart, but because of what he can do in the field. I’m really looking forward to that, too.
When we spoke last season, you said that your four closest friends are all comic book nerds and that they were very excited for you to be a part of this show. How much more excited are they, now that you’re getting into the alter-ego side of the character and you’re getting to be a part of the cross-overs?
KELLUM: First of all, they’re all so thrilled. We go to cons together. We talk every day, so when a new trailer dropped, they were like, “Oh, my god!” But some of them are very much like, “I don’t wanna hear nothin’ about the new season! Don’t spoil it, man! I don’t wanna talk about it!” They are so geeked out, but they’re such fans of the show that they try to separate it, especially when we talk. They don’t want to get into it, but it’s great.
When and how did you find out that you were going to be a series regular for Season 5, and how did you react? Did you have a pretty good idea that was coming?
KELLUM: The thing is that you hope, especially when you come onto a show that’s already humming along and doing great. You hope that you become an important part of the piece, and you hope that the fans appreciate this new person that’s coming in. When I found out that they wanted to make me a series regular, it was a dream come true. It really touched my heart that they felt that I could really bring something to the table for something that’s already so great. I was extremely humbled, grateful and ecstatic that I could be a real vocal part of the show. I got to go to Comic-Con and represent the show in a big and integral way, which is so phenomenal. It’s surreal. I’m eternally grateful that [Greg] Berlanti, [Marc] Guggenheim, Wendy [Mericle], and everybody had faith in me, and that the people at The CW had faith in me. It’s a real dream come true.
When you signed on to play this character, you must have had hope that you’d get to the point of Mr. Terrific and that you’d get to suit up because who doesn’t want to suit up on a superhero show?
KELLUM: Heck, yeah!
How anxious were you, until you got the script with that first scene of him in training and headed down that path?
KELLUM: I was very vocal, last year, about wanting to suit up. There was a moment where I went, “Holy crap, I really get to be a superhero!” It was just very dope! I have a son who’s 11, and he watches all of the superhero movies, but he doesn’t watch the TV shows, so to him, it’s not a big deal. But now, his friends have started coming up to him and going, “Your dad is Mr. Terrific, man!” And he’s like, “Dad, my friends are saying they’re your biggest fan!” So now, he’s having an awakening to it, too. It’s really crazy! I can’t believe I get to do it. It’s phenomenal that I get to be a superhero.
You’ve also previously told me about what a great first day you had on set because everyone was so welcoming. What’s it like to be a part of Team Arrow now, when the new actors come in, this season?
KELLUM: I’m like this tool that connects the new to the older, even though I’m still very fresh, myself. For me, especially when I work with Rick [Gonzalez] or Joe [Dinicol] or Madison [McLaughlin], I definitely try to replicate that feeling that I was blessed to have felt. It was just this warm welcoming of, “Hey, man, you’re part of the family! Welcome! You’re adding something to the show. That’s awesome!” We have all clicked and gelled so seamlessly that it’s a pretty amazing thing to watch, especially when I’ve heard some stories. You hear Hollywood stories about set blow-ups. It’s a really cool thing to see this other part where people are genuinely there for each other and extremely professional, and then are just silly as all heck. I come from UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) and comedy, so that’s what I’m all about. It’s so much fun! But then, we bring it in those scenes, and we’re prepared and ready to go there for each other. It’s a really great feeling to help replicate some of that stuff for [the new actors].
How does Curtis get along with Wild Dog and Evelyn Sharp? Can the three of them bond over getting their asses kicked by Oliver (Stephen Amell), or are they very clearly different people?
KELLUM: They are different, but they all want the same thing, and that’s a safer Star City. I think they all just want to be a part of helping that legacy that Green Arrow is out there protecting. That’s what’s going to make them bond. Even though they’re very different, they still care for each other, but they’ll also call each other out, when need be, or they’ll get digs in. One of the funniest early moments I had on the show was when Madison, Rick and I were all in a scene together, and Arrow is in the scene, but he’s taking care of something, so we’re all sitting there talking. We didn’t have any dialogue, but we were all sitting there talking, in character. And then, Rick looks at us, as Wild Dog, and he’s like, “Y’all know we’re on a TV show, right?!” It was so in character! Madison and I were like, “What are you talking about?! Wild Dog, chill out!” It was so fun. That type of stuff set the precedent for how much fun we’re having. We had a ton of fun last year, but it’s awesome just to kick with them like that.
You recently said that you’d gotten to read the Arrow cross-over/100th episode script, and you seemed very excited about that. Without giving anything away, what adjectives would you use to describe it, and how many times do you think viewers’ minds will be blown?
KELLUM: I’ll answer the latter part first. Probably a billion times! There is so much amazing stuff happening in it. They released who we’re fighting in it, and when I got to that part, I was like, “Are you kidding me?!” I’m a big Todd McFarlane fan, too, and I was like, “We’re going against The Dominators?!” It’s going to be so epic and so crazy! I don’t know what other adjectives to say, outside of that. It’s mind-blowing! I can’t wait for people to see it!
How do you feel the relationship between Curtis and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) has grown? Do you think that their bond got a lot deeper, once he realized exactly what she was up to?
KELLUM: Absolutely! They have always been kindred spirits, since the first day they met. Going through such a traumatic thing, like almost having the world destroyed in nuclear war is something that’s probably going to bring you close together, especially when you both had a part in saving humanity, in that sense. They definitely bonded more, over that. They’re as close as ever. I think she confides in him. They’re real friends with each other and call each other out. I think that relationship is awesome and so great. They connect on a lot of levels. Even though sometimes they don’t necessarily put it in there, Emily and I know that relationship and we’ll play up a couple of things, here and there, just to make sure people can see the quirky, weird stuff that we do together. It’s a really fun and deep relationship.
Now that he’s gotten to know him and seen him in action, how would you say Curtis most respects Oliver?
KELLUM: He really looks up to Oliver. He has such admiration for him. He knows that what Oliver is doing is tough. Curtis knows it’s not a walk in the park, easy job, and he realizes the sacrifices that Oliver makes. It just makes him look up to Oliver, so much. Curtis, in his own way, will try to emulate some of Oliver’s bad-assness when he’s out in the field. He just looks up to him a lot.
Curtis is also probably the least cynical person on Team Arrow, at this point. Does it discourage him or make him lose any of his enthusiasm, at all, to go through this training and realize just how difficult all of this might be, or does it make him try that much harder?
KELLUM: The thing about Curtis is that he has a determination like no other. When he runs into a hurdle, his goal is to figure out how to get over the hurdle. That comes with being this really smart, tough person. He just tries to figure things out. So, I think he’ll definitely have ups and downs and be discouraged, but he will be discouraged for two seconds, and then fight back from that, immediately, to try to get out of that funk and get back on the path that he knows he needs to be on.
Arrow airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.