After being fired from The CW’s bow back in May and zipping through the air (including a trip to Comic-Con) all summer long, Arrow lands on your TV this Wednesday at 8/7c, with Stephen Amell personifying the crimefighting vigilante aka buff billionaire Oliver Queen.
The set-up for this iteration of the DC Comics character: After being stranded on a remote isle for five years after an ill-fated yachting trip that killed his father, Oliver returns to Starling City as someone who still presents himself as a large-living cad but by dark of night wages war on those who wrong others. TVLine spoke with Amell about what has honed Arrow into a “crime drama” like no other.
TVLINE | In your own words, describe what Oliver was like before the boat trip, and what he’s like when he comes back. Juxtapose those two men.
He was oblivious and totally insulated – he’s never had to fight for anything — and then he goes to the island and gets beat down to nothing, to his bare form.
TVLINE | Beat down by the elements…? The isolation…?
By the elements, by the things that are waiting for him on the island, which we’ll explore…. I mean, it’s safe to say he was not alone there, if only based on the tattoos. He certainly couldn’t tattoo the dragon onto his own back.
TVLINE | Will we explore that island existence via flashbacks?
Absolutely. We go back to the island in the second episode and we see his first hours there. It’s shot a bit differently than the pilot; it’s more guerilla-style, because we just don’t have as much time [to block, light and shoot], but it’s awesome. So he goes from oblivious and insulated to painfully aware of everything that goes on in the world, and how it affects people close to him.
TVLINE | He also comes back with a list of people that his father was in business with, most of whom are probably bad sorts. Is he going to be chiseling way at that list each week? Is that the formula, or will we deviate from that?
I do think we’re going to deviate, in the same way we don’t have to go to the island every episode. Or, theoretically, we could spend an entire episode on the island. The producers will call this a “crime drama,” but that doesn’t mean there needs to be a new heavy every week. In the pilot, everything was sort of opened and then shut; in the second episode, we open a couple of things, we shut most of them, but we also leave some open. So he will be crossing names off the list, but that’s not the fifth act every week.
TVLINE | There will also be some larger-than-life villains, right? China White (guest star Kelly Hu), for starters….
We will have “supervillains,” but you should see China White and that outfit [in Episode 2]. Much like the Arrow costume, it’s grounded in reality. You wouldn’t necessarily see her on the street and go, “Hey, there’s a supervillain.” Now when she brings out her knives, that may change your perception a bit. [Laughs]
TVLINE | In addition to China White, the DC Comics character Deadshot will show up, in Episode 3. How do he and Oliver cross paths?
They’re both after bad people, and while Oliver has a code that doesn’t include “no killing,” justice is always the objective. Deadshot doesn’t have a code, and that rubs Oliver the wrong way.
TVLINE | Turning to Laurel Lance (played by Katie Cassidy): Is it intended irony that Oliver is now the kind of guy she probably always wanted….
He is now her dream guy.
TVLINE | …but he can’t be that dream guy for her.
Right. He is everything she has always wanted him to be, except that the person he is constantly showing her now is the worst version of himself, to try and push her away. But what keeps happening is, in spite of himself, he shows her the good things. Or maybe she doesn’t buy into the bad things?
TVLINE | Laurel’s kid sister was with Oliver on the yacht, and was among those who died. Were he and Laurel on a Ross-and-Rachel-like break at the time, or was it outright cheating?
[Laughs] I don’t know what the official backstory is, but in my head, Laurel probably called him on his s—t and he went, “You know what? Not only are you not going to do that, but I’m going to woo your sister and take her on a trip.” In his head, that probably would have brought Laurel closer to him, because he was a narcissist — “She’ll chase after me” and all that. We were probably dealing with a 20-year-old Laurel who hadn’t gone to law school yet and who was probably a little more impressionable, but when he comes back, the tricks that might have worked on her before don’t work now. She’s seen too much of the world.
TVLINE | How would you describe Oliver’s relationship with his mother (Once & Again‘s Susanna Thompson)? He’s quite chilly to her….
As far as he’s concerned, it’s pretty much what it always was. It’s chilly because that’s the type of parents they’d been. They were preoccupied with lording over an empire of billions, so I don’t know how much time they had for Oliver and [his kid sister] Thea growing up. Based on the type of person they let Oliver become — DUIs, attacking paparazzi, all these run-ins with the law….
TVLINE | Not good parenting.
No, I don’t think so. I don’t think that Robert and Moira Queen were exactly the Wayne parents from the [Christopher] Nolan Batman [films], where the father was such a virtuous, wonderful guy. They were mixed up in some bad stuff.
TVLINE | Oliver and Arrow are obviously quite formidable people. What would you say is the greatest threat to what Oliver is doing here?
He has post-traumatic stress disorder, so the greatest threat to him is himself, at this point. If he doesn’t lean on somebody for help… he’s going to self-destruct.
TVLINE | Could that “somebody” be legal activist Laurel Lance?
It could be…. It could also be [Laurel's father] Detective Lance, who’s an ally (played by Dresden Files‘ Paul Blackthorne). The relationship that we are going to explore sooner rather than later, which we didn’t get to do a ton of in the pilot, is with Diggle, Oliver’s bodyguard (Dexter‘s David Ramsey) He is not a patsy; he is a formidable character, and we delve into that relationship immediately in Episode 2.
Exclusive Video: Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy Preview The CW’s Arrow