When “Arrow’s” Nyssa al Ghul gets her hands on Malcolm Merlyn, there’s gonna be hell to pay.
Following Ra’s al Ghul’s death at the hands of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), Merlyn (John Barrowman) robbed Nyssa (Katrina Law) of her birthright by claiming leadership over the League of Assassins. To add insult to injury, Thea and Laurel convinced Merlyn to use the Lazarus Pits to resurrect Laura’s sister, Sara Lance, who also happens to be Nyssa’s deceased lover. Knowing full well of the consequences in bringing someone back from the dead, an angry Nyssa destroyed the pit. Subsequently, Malcolm’s men dragged Nyssa away and her whereabouts have remained unknown. This week, the lifelong assassin returns — and she’s out for blood.
Ahead of tonight’s episode, “Unchained,” Law spoke with CBR News about her character’s new quest for vengeance. We discuss her relationship with Sara and Team Arrow, what she’d like to see in the future for the character, including her hopes for the introduction of Nyssa’s sister, Talia and whether she’s destined to lead the League of Assassins.
CBR News: The synopsis for “Unchained” says Nyssa “makes her move.” What exactly is that move, and what are some of the long term ramifications of those actions?
Katrina Law: The biggest move is, she finally gets out of the dungeon. Then, all of a sudden, Malcolm Merlyn is going to be in the fight of his life again. He knows she’s coming. It will be interesting for the audience to see what Nyssa has been planning this entire time and see how it comes to fruition.
Considering how much Nyssa despised her father, Ra’s al Ghul, why is it so important for her to assume his mantle as leader of the League of Assassins?
I think “despises” is a strong word. I think Nyssa has always been in fear of her father, and she’s always held a very strong reverence for him. When she was younger, she really did look up to him and aspired to be him. Although she was very intimidated by him, she still loved him. As the years went on, Nyssa may have just accepted that relationship. I think it was when she finally met Sara Lance, and that relationship started coming into fruition, that she started seeing a different view of the world. Until then, she never really had an outside influence that could sway her opinion more than her father.
When it comes to taking the position of Ra’s al Ghul, when you’ve been told something from the day you were born — that this is what you are, this is who you should be, and this is what you were meant to be — it’s hard to not believe that, especially when it comes from a parental figure. It’s a very easy thing to fall into. I do question, sometimes, whether or not she wonders why she wants it so bad. We’ll see in upcoming episodes if she gets it, and how she handles it.
Malcolm Merlyn, who took Ra’s al Ghul’s position, is also responsible for Sara’s death. How much does vengeance still weigh on Nyssa’s mind?
Pretty much up until this point, she’s been locked in a dungeon and plotting how to get out and how to kill Malcolm Merlyn. Vengeance is very much in the forefront of her mind and ambition. But there’s a beautiful and very interesting respect that Malcolm and Nyssa have for each other. Even though they are now sworn enemies and rivals — and Malcolm knows that Nyssa is very much in pursuit of the title, and that at any moment she could strike — because of their shared history, Nyssa won’t strike him when his back is turned. And he doesn’t try and kill her when she’s sleeping in the dungeon. Watching the next couple of episodes will be a lot of fun.
Nyssa witnessed the resurrection of Sara in the Lazarus Pit, but we haven’t seen them together since then. What kind of closure are you hoping for with that relationship?
It will be interesting when they do come together — if they ever come together. At this point, Nyssa has found a way to release Sara, not that she doesn’t love her. Even with the resurrection of Sara, Nyssa knows inherently it’s not going to be the same person. Even if it was the same person, she’s going to need her own time and space to figure out whatever effect the Lazarus Pit has taken on her.
I think having Sara brought back to life is bittersweet for Nyssa, because all of a sudden, the love of her life is back. However, she knows the possibly of getting back to what they had is slim to none. It’s not that she’s not willing to fight for it, but in her heart, she knows it won’t be the same.
Consequently, Nyssa destroyed the Lazarus Pit. Do you feel that was to strike back at Malcolm, or because it was the right thing to do?
It’s been a slow build. Everybody in the League of Assassins knows what the effects of the Lazarus Pit are, which is why they don’t use it on every assassin that is killed. We would have an undying army that would constantly come back. It’s used sparingly. It’s used for rituals only. The only person who can use it freely is her father. Over the years, the more that her father has used it, she’s seen him become a darker and darker man. The person that she feared when she was younger, she fears twice as much now because he’s been using the Lazarus Pit this entire time. It takes away a bit of your soul every time you use it.
I don’t think she was necessarily lashing out in anger. She found her moment, and she took it. Once the Lazarus Pit was used on the love of her life, she knows that once you do that, you essentially change that person for good. You’ve stolen the essence of that person and changed her soul. That was the final straw, knowing the way the League has gotten more and more twisted and wanting to take out Star City. It was just one big build-up.
Are most of your scenes opposite John Barrowman, or the rest of the “Arrow” cast?
I hardly have any scenes with John. I’m in pursuit of him. Barrowman is on my mind. Most of my scenes are about trying to get to him. You’ll see what she goes through to accomplish that. Nyssa does eventually reunite with Team Arrow in a very unexpected way. Again, it will be interesting to see how people react to her once she reunites with them.
Nyssa and Laurel once shared some light-hearted moments in the diner, while there’s been an ongoing tension with Oliver. What is her dynamic with them now?
Whenever Nyssa and Oliver meet up, Nyssa always seems to know where she stands. It depends if she agrees with your agenda or not, or, if your agenda matches her agenda. Nyssa is very confident going into the situation, but Oliver is like, “Oh, God. What’s it going to be this time?” There is always going to be an underlying tension and a bit of mystery.
Between Laurel and Nyssa, the two of those girls have such an amazing relationship. It’s complicated, based on loss, friendship, regrets and love. I do have a beautiful scene with Laurel. The two work wonderfully off of each other, but there’s so many layers to it. The way the writers crafted that scene is quite spectacular.
What else can you tease about “Unchained?” Will Nyssa get to see some action?
Oh, yes, Nyssa is in fight mode. I think I fight more than I speak. I can’t tell you any more than that, because it’s a spoiler.
The show hasn’t delved into Nyssa’s past, upbringing or how she met Sara, but her comic book counterpart has a sister, Talia. What would you like the writers to explore next?
I would definitely love to see the scene where I find Sara Lance on the beach and how I bring her back to our camp, how my father reacts to that and the whole evolution of our relationship, as well as her training, how she gained her fighting skills and the development of our love for each other. I would love to see that backstory.
I would also love for Talia to show up. They pretty much changed most of Nyssa’s storyline, but in the comics, Nyssa ends up killing her sister Talia about 50 times and keeps returning her to the Lazarus Pit to break and brainwash her. I don’t think the show would do that, but it would definitely be a fun relationship to watch unfold.
Hypothetically, if Nyssa took over the League of Assassins, what kind of leader would she make? How would Nyssa’s approach differ from Ra’s al Ghul or Malcolm Merlyn?
She would do things more out of heart than out of tradition. Nyssa would be a great leader. She would lead by example. Nyssa would take into consideration people’s feelings.
When Nyssa first appeared in “Heir to the Demon,” did you expect the character to still be around two seasons later? Did the producers indicate that was the plan?
They didn’t tell me there was an overall plan for the character. When I booked the role, I didn’t even know what character I was playing, that’s how much of a mystery it was. Thankfully, between how the writers and producers wrote her, plus the fan reaction, people just wanted to see more of her and what shenanigans she could get into with the “Arrow” crew.
She’s a really interesting character in the “Arrow” world. I don’t necessarily see her as a villain, nor do I see her as a superhero. She just has her own agenda, and it’s always interesting to see what her agenda is and whether or not it aligns with Team Arrow.
Nyssa could have been depicted as this soulless, cold-hearted warrior, but instead, she’s been imbued with genuine humanity. What have you enjoyed about the way she’s been fleshed out?
The beautiful thing about my first episode was, I got to work with Caity Lotz, who is a beautiful, amazing woman. Our director was Wendy Stanzler, and she really fought hard, while she was working with the two of us, to make sure we had a really well fleshed-out relationship that was believable and that was based out of love. I think if we had any director that was less than what Wendy brought to the table, the character would have fallen flat, and I don’t think you would have seen her again. But because of Wendy’s guidance and vision, she just made Nyssa this vulnerable warrior, which people can relate to more than a cold-hearted one.
Nyssa al Ghul returns to “Arrow” on tonight’s episode, “Unchained.” “Arrow” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.