In fact, Oliver Queen isn’t technically a superhero at all. The series’ protagonist doesn’t have superpowers, his enemies don’t have supernatural abilities and his weapon is a bow and arrow. But that’s exactly the type of superhero story showrunners Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg and Greg Berlanti want to tell.
Comic Book Resources was invited to attend an “Arrow” press event at DC Comics’ Los Angeles headquarters where Guggenheim, Kreisberg, leading man Stephen Amell and DC Entertainment’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns were on hand to answer questions about the debut season of “Arrow.” One thing they all drove home repeatedly is that the show is grounded in reality to make it accessible to all audience members.
“We want everybody to like this show,” Kreisberg explained. “If you’ve never picked up a comic book, if you have no idea who the Green Arrow is, you have no idea what DC Comics is, you can watch this show, come into this show and really enjoy it. And yet, if you are a huge fan of the comics and Green Arrow, you see enough of the DNA in the comic books and enough of what makes the comic book special.”
OF course, this means the secondary characters need to be accessible as well. Chief among them is Jessica De Gouw’s Huntress, who is written as a darker version of Green Arrow, with a similar origin story. In fact, Amell said the first season of “Arrow” will be as much an origin story for Huntress as it is for his character. Kreisberg added that he believes De Gouw will be one of the show’s breakout stars.
“The whole reason for bringing the Huntress on — it isn’t so we can just throw in a new DC Comics character, even though she’s very cool. It’s really about having an emotional effect on Oliver,” Kreisberg explained. “When we meet him in that storyline, he’s lonely and he’s feeling a little lost, and then, in comes to his life this girl who’s the darker version of him who he thinks he can save.”
In addition to his female counterpart, there’s his sister Thea and mother, both of whom are part of the showrunners’ attempt to populate “Arrow” with characters close to Oliver. Instead of alienating the character upon his return to civilization after spending five years stranded on an island, the show’s producers are making certain their hero is constantly surrounded by people whom his decisions effect.
This extends to Arrow’s enemies, Kreisberg explained, saying Deadshot is tied to Oliver in a really interesting way, adding that the Royal Flush Gang will become entangled with Arrow later on in Season 1. They’ll have what Kreisberg described as a “very effective episode” where it becomes clear that they are a different breed of villain from what fans are used to from the comics.
“We’re really proud of that episode, because we think it’s one of the most successful attempts at alchemy that we performed, ” Kreisberg explained. “The Huntress was pretty much straight out of the book because she’s such a grounded character. The Royal Flush Gang are probably the most outlandish villains from the comics, but they turned out to be our most grounded villains, and the relationship that Oliver has with King [actor Currie Graham], the leader of the gang, we’re really proud of it.”
There has been a lot of mystery surrounding the “well-dressed man” “Torchwood” actor John Barrowman was cast as in “Arrow.” All four men grew coy when Barrowman’s name was brought up, Amell simply stating that the actor is a “force of nature” on set, while Guggenheim called him “magnetic.”
“This is a completely different character, and he’s just such a tremendously talented actor. It’s one of the things we’re most proud of with this show,” Kreisberg said. “We have this incredible cast of other actors who have done other things who we hope will make people realize that this isn’t just a standard superhero show, that we’re really trying to do something special.”
A new “Arrow” trailer is set to debut at this week’s New York Comic-Con that will “very definitively” show how the scope and production of “Arrow” has evolved beyond its pilot, which was screened at Comic-Con International in July. The new offering includes teases of the first eight episodes of season 1, which the “Arrow” team has recently completed filming.
Guggenheim explained that there was never a discussion of “Arrow” being made as a movie rather than a TV show, if only because he and Berlanti felt that the story would work best serialized. The creative team said they were excited about the opportunity to explore Oliver’s backstory through the flashback dynamic of the show.
“Arrow” is ultimately “two series in one,” with each episode telling parallel stories between Oliver’s time shipwrecked on the island and his time as a superhero vigilante in the present day. Episode 2 opens with Oliver setting foot on the island for the first time, underscoring the series’ intent for the flashbacks to continue through the entire series.
“Ideally, however long this series runs, the last flashback in the last episode of the series will be Oliver seeing the boat that rescued him in the pilot,” Kreisberg said.
The “whole DC Universe” is brought into that island, the showrunners explained, with the first season focusing on the deconstruction of Oliver Queen as a character. The stories told on the island will parallel the present day action as the series delves into social, ethical and political issues.
“I had really hoped that we’d take the character and we’d beat him down to nothing before he rises back up again, and that’s what we’re doing,” Amell said, citing episode 9 (airing Dec. 12, the last episode before the midseason break) as his favorite thus far. “That episode is everything that I want from this series. It’s what I had hoped that we would have. At the end of the episode, it’s just one of those things where there are just so many questions and there are so many balls in the air — I was so pumped!”
When developing “Arrow,” Guggenheim and Kreisberg drew influence from everything from “Battlestar Galactica” to Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy to DC Comics’ recent New 52 reboot, with Guggenheim emphasizing fans will see influences of the latter in the second half of this season. In episode 9 there is a heavy Asian influence, inspired by the work Ann Nocenti has done on the new “Green Arrow” comics. In her honor, the name “Nocenti” will be featured prominently in episode 2. Also among the nods to the show’s comic book roots, though “Arrow” is set in Starling City, the nickname of Starling will be “Star City” and the location will repeatedly be referred to as that throughout the series.
Instead of a title sequence, each episode of “Arrow” utilizes a title card that’s apparently so cool, Guggenheim couldn’t stop talking about it. The decision to go that route rather than the traditional opening sequence was largely inspired by their desire to make the series feel like a film instead of a TV show.
But it is a TV show, and because of that, each season will feel like a different arc. In fact, Kreisberg explained that every few episodes will feel like their own “chapter,” with episodes 1 through 5 being the first, 6 through 9 the second and so on. Of course, throughout the chapters, seeds will be planted that won’t pay off until the end of season 1, season 2 or even season 5, which is something Guggenheim and Kreisberg are really excited about.
There will be several villains introduced over the course of the first season — a “Bad,” a “Badder” and a “Baddest” — and Kreisberg was really thrilled to share the worst of them with “Arrow’s” audience. Fans will be “excited and surprised by their identity,” he said. And though Oliver is the “star of the show,” Johns emphasized “never say never” about the chance of seeing other DC characters one day come into the “Arrow” universe.
“Arrow” premieres on The CW on Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. ET/PT