After keeping the storytelling devices of Season 7 a secret, and with Oliver (Stephen Amell) still in prison with no easy way out and no real way to protect his family, The CW series Arrow has set up quite a few interesting threads that it will unravel. And while Oliver is just trying to survive on a day-to-day basis, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), Diggle (David Ramsey), Curtis (Echo Kellum), Dinah (Juliana Harkavy) and Rene (Rick Gonzalez) are left having to redefine what being a hero means to them.
Following a screening of the episode at the offices of The CW, Collider (along with a handful of media outlets) participated in a Q&A with executive producer Beth Schwartz, who discussed some of the mind-blowing reveals. During the interview, she talked about how the storylines will parallel this season, the moments where the viewers can put the pieces together, sticking to more grounded storytelling, the prison friendship between Oliver and Stanley (Brendan Fletcher), Felicity’s decision, the future of Olicity, the Big Bad, and whether the old team might ever get back together. Be aware that there are some major spoilers discussed.
Question: Is this future storyline going to parallel the season, like the flashbacks used to?
BETH SCHWARTZ: Yeah. Ever since the flashbacks went away and we didn’t know how long the show was gonna go on for, we always knew, after Season 5, that there wouldn’t be flashbacks, so we had talked about doing flash-forwards, years ago. So, we’re gonna keep it all season.
In general terms, what can you say about the flash-forward storyline and the story that you’re telling there?
SCHWARTZ: I can’t say much, but I think you guys will love it. I hope.
Who is the actor that plays older William?
SCHWARTZ: Ben Lewis. I’m so excited to announce him because his so great. He’s a really good actor.
What can you say about who William is, as an adult, personality wise?
SCHWARTZ: He’s very smart. He’s very smart still.
Exactly how many years in the future are we seeing?
SCHWARTZ: It’s 20 years. I think it’s 2040.
Are we going to see Colton Haynes in the present-day storylines, or just the future?
SCHWARTZ: You’ll have to keep watching.
With these flash-forwards, are we going to find out about what happened to Thea?
SCHWARTZ: It’s possible. I don’t know.
Are we going to get to see all of the other characters aged up, or are they going to be played by different actors?
SCHWARTZ: You’re gonna see some of our characters, yes.
Flash-forwards are a great tool used on a lot of shows in the past, most notably Lost. Are you taking inspiration from any previous incarnations of flash-forwards on other shows?
SCHWARTZ: Definitely. I love all shows that do that, like Westworld and even This is Us, which I’m a big fan of, but I feel that we have our own unique way of doing our flash-forward story. I love that kind of storytelling, where you are putting the pieces together. That’s what I love about the premiere. All of the pieces are there and, at the end, you’re like, “What the fuck?!” Hopefully, there will be a lot of those kinds of moments this season.
Is this a fixed future that we’re seeing, or is there the possibility that they can change things?
SCHWARTZ: This is not connected to Legends. This is our own future. They don’t know what happens in the future. Legends is like that and The Flash is like that, but on Arrow, they don’t know. This is very much for the audience. They don’t know what’s happening to them, in the future. It’s better that they don’t know.
Is there a concerted effort to stay away from sci-fi elements, this year?
SCHWARTZ: Yeah. We’re sticking to the more grounded storytelling.
How hard was it to keep so much of this a secret, all summer?
SCHWARTZ: So hard! Obviously, my largest concern was this getting out because I just wanted our fans to have the reaction that you guys had. If people found this out, it just wouldn’t be as fun. At least for me, as a viewer, I would not have liked that.
Oliver is not having a good time in jail. Is there a point where he turns a corner, or does he find someone that he can actually trust in there?
SCHWARTZ: His relationships in prison, especially with him and Stanley, that’s my favorite relationship of the season, so far. He’s just a phenomenal actor, and he’s the voice of hope for the city because he’s the Green Arrow’s biggest fan. You’ll get some of that inside prison, but everyone else hates him. He’s a little bit of the light for Oliver in prison, which is a really fun dynamic. Things don’t get easier for Oliver, but he learns a lot while he’s there, which is really cool.
Will Vinnie Jones and Cody Runnels be sticking around for a bit?
It seems like Oliver is going to be in prison for awhile. Are you finding it challenging to come up with creative ways to get him in scenes with the regular cast, outside of having them come to visit him and talking through the glass?
SCHWARTZ: I love the prison story. It’s one of my favorite things this season because it’s so different from anything that we’ve done before. It allows his character to be with other people. We wanted to keep him separate because the reality of being in prison is that you’re not with your family. His storylines are with the characters in the prison, and not as much with everyone else, so they are pretty separate.
With the choice that Oliver makes by the end of the episode, what is his attitude like, moving forward?
SCHWARTZ: He’s different than we have ever seen him. He was not the hero. He was just laying low and thinking that was the best way for him to be in prison. And then, obviously, when his family gets attacked, he can’t not be the Green Arrow, even if he’s in prison. So, he’s gonna continue to struggle with what does that look like, being the Green Arrow while you’re behind bars. It’s not easy.
Felicity made a similar decision, to stay and fight. What is her journey going to be?
SCHWARTZ: Her storyline is one of my favorites, this season. We played her pretty parallel to Oliver, where she’s hiding and not being herself. She’s in protective custody, but when someone attacks her family, she can’t ignore that, so she has to fight back. She’s gonna figure out, how do I fight back without my husband, who happens to be the Green Arrow? That will be her challenge, in the first half of the season.
Is the pink hair going to stay, all season?
SCHWARTZ: No, but I love it so much.
Oliver was a little terrified at the idea of Felicity not being in Witness Protection anymore. Is that going to continue to be a struggle for him?