Tonight on Arrow, Seth Gabel brings high anxiety to Starling City as the CW drama’s version of the DC Comics baddie Count Vertigo — here envisioned as a psychotic drug-pusher whose primo product is called Vertigo. Gabel spoke with TVLine about how a Dark Knight nemesis informed his take on the first supervillain of Oliver Queen’s own making, and what he enjoyed most about his recent Fringe encore.
TVLINE | Under what circumstances do we first meet The Count?
When you first meet him, he is in his element, in the street, and he’s running his business, which he does so viciously, aggressively and sadistically.
TVLINE | Every villain has something he believes in. What is his rationale for doing what he does?
It’s pretty simple – he just loves money and power. He also loves the suffering of others, and that combination is a pretty deadly one.
TVLINE | [Exec producer] Andrew Kreisberg has said that the Count is the first supervillain of Oliver’s own making. What did he mean by that?
Well, Oliver ends up exacerbating the power that the Count has initiallyand increasing the danger that he faces with the Count being his adversary. The Count was doing his own thing on the street, having a good time. And then Oliver comes along and makes things personal [because of Thea], and that changes things. There are… repercussions.
TVLINE | Stephen Amell told me that Arrow becomes “impaired” in some way during this episode — and at a critical moment.
Yeah, [DC Comics’ Count Vertigo] had some tricks up his sleeve, and this character has something similar to that. It ends up affecting the Arrow in such a way that he’s not 100 percent.
TVLINE | What else does this guy have in his arsenal? Is he protected by a fleet of muscle-bound goons?
It’s obligatory that you have muscle-bound goons! [Laughs] Part of being a supervillain is you need a band of thugs protecting you, and the Count definitely has that. But he also has a lot of other things to play with…. You can only expect the unexpected from him.
TVLINE | Who would you say informed your performance? In one clip I saw, there seemed to be a trace of Heath Ledger’s Joker….
The character was initially pitched to me as being a lot like Heath Ledger’s Joker [in The Dark Knight], which was initially incredibly intimidating for me. And I didn’t want to be redundant. So while the character is definitely inspired by what he did, I tried to find my own version of that level of freedom, that intimate relationship to violence and psychosis.
TVLINE | Turning to Fringe: I take it you totally knew you were returning when we met up last month in Vancouver.
Yeah – they forced me to lie! They threaten you with litigation and stuff, and you can’t tell the truth to anyone!
TVLINE | How did you feel when you got that call to come back for the big finish?
It was an honor. I enjoyed every episode that I spent on that show, and to have them ask me back for the finale really felt like a validation of some kind. I felt honored that the Lincoln Lee character was a part of the legacy that was that show, and that he got a chance to complete his journey emotionally. And I was glad the audience got to enjoy the fact that he was married to Olivia on the Other Side, that he had a family and was doing really well. It was a win for me to get to experience that as an actor playing the character; hopefully it was a win for the audience to see that.
TVLINE | I liked the brief indication that he felt some remorse, or guilt, that he’d been Over There the whole time that our side was getting run roughshod by the Observers.
Yeah, there was a little bit of doubt – “Did I make the right choice? ” — because Lincoln sees that Olivia is suffering. He wonders, “Was I meant to stay in my own universe? Is it wrong that I’m over here enjoying myself and having a family when I could have been over there helping her and Peter? Maybe if I was over there, their child wouldn’t have died?” So there is a level of guilt. But at the end of the day, she gives him her blessing, saying that things seem like they’re supposed to be the way they are.
TVLINE | Both Lincoln and Olivia aged nicely – and there was that cute line, “Stop checking out my young ass.”
Yeah. [Laughs] That was really fun. I was glad we got to play that, and show that even though they were older, they still had some fire between them!