Move over, Green Arrow — there’s a new vigilante in town!
Over the first two episodes of Season 5, “Arrow” has introduced its audience to several new heroes, among them Rene Ramirez, aka Wild Dog. A stubborn man with a penchant for Jason-style hockey masks, Wild Dog quickly made it clear that he doesn’t take orders from anyone — even Star City’s resident Emerald Archer. But even an arrow to the leg won’t stop Wild Dog from trying to become a more effective hero under Green Arrow’s tutelage.
Speaking to CBR, Rick Gonzales clued fans in to Wild Dog’s current mindset as well as his “troubled” past. He also discussed Wild Dog’s relationship with the rest of Team Arrow, the character’s military background and more.
CBR: Before you landed the role on “Arrow,” were you at all familiar with the DC Comics character?
Gonzales: No, I wasn’t. I wasn’t familiar at all. When I auditioned for “Arrow,” I had no idea I was auditioning for Wild Dog. It was a completely different name. The scene — in hindsight, now that I look back on it — could absolutely be a scene my character could be in, but I had no idea who he was. So it was really vague, and it wasn’t until I spoke with my costume designer Maya [Mani]… who said, “I’ve got to put a mask on you and a costume.” And I’m like, “Wait a minute, what do you mean ‘mask?’ I thought I’m playing this guy.” And she’s like, “No, you’re playing Wild Dog!” And I’m like, “What?!” And then I jumped for joy! I got excited! I said, “Send me a photo! Wait! I’ll Google him, no worries.” I had no idea, and so obviously that was the moment I decided to look him up and see who this guy was and what they’re trying to do. I read about him and I’m like, “Okay, this is Jack Wheeler” and everything that he went through in the comic books and stuff like that. It was all a revelation to me once I found out.
In the comics, Wild Dog has a vendetta against the mob. Seeing as “Arrow” is making a return to street-level crime, does the show’s version of the character have a similar motivation?
Yeah… Certain aspects of Wild Dog in the comic books lend themselves to that energy of… a vigilante whose moral code… is not hurt by getting rid of bad guys. He will kill bad guys and who he deems a bad guy. I feel like that’s maybe the one place where Green Arrow and Wild Dog will connect and sort of agree. The darkness and the energy of Wild Dog lend themselves to the state the city is in. Now that we’ve gone past Season 4 and everything that’s happened, we pick up right in episode one and Green Arrow literally says to Wild Dog, “I thought I told you to stay off the streets,” puts an arrow in him, gets him off the street because Wild Dog doesn’t listen. He’s out there trying to kill as many bad guys as he can, and that lends itself to… someone who’s going to go all out and just get rid of them. Almost, in a way, he enjoys it, but I think what we’re trying to establish is a character who is troubled, to say the least.
Let’s go back to that scene where Green Arrow shot Wild Dog in the leg. How does that impact his relationship with his new mentor?
The world of Star City has a lot of vigilantes, and — in that world — it’s known that the Green Arrow saved the city and the world from Damien Darhk, who is someone who’s very powerful and magical. So — for a man to defeat him — it’s very powerful. You have to give props where it’s due. It’s kind of like, okay, yes, I respect him for that… but at the end of the day, I don’t. I still want to do things my way, and so — when Green Arrow is telling me to stay off the streets and I say, “It’s my city too” — it’s just to show that Wild Dog cares about his city.
Wild Dog cares about what he’s doing, but doing it his own way. He just doesn’t know how to go about it. Green Arrow’s way of getting him off the streets is to put that arrow in his leg… Literally, “This is the best way I could do it so I could save your life, because you could get yourself killed.” He gets him off the streets, but that’s not going to deter Rene Ramirez from staying off the streets. He’s going to do what he wants to do because that’s the character he is. He’s just somebody who just does what he wants, when he wants, how he wants. He’s been through so much that, for someone to put an arrow in him, it’s like, “Okay, I’ve been shot at, stabbed, I’ve been through everything. There’s nothing you could do. I’m going to do what I want.”
I think he understands that Green Arrow is somebody who, at the end of the day, is doing good out there. And he knows that friction is like, “You’re not going to stop me from saving this city.” He sees Green Arrow and his perspective; it’s not an act of aggression but more an act of, “I need you off the streets.” That is where we take the story and move it forward. How does this guy go from Point A, being shot in the leg, to now, in the bunker training with him? The best analogy I’ve given is Michael Jordan saying to you, “Do you want to come learn how to play basketball?” I don’t think there’s a person on the planet who’s going to say no.
That being the case, are we going to see anything about Wild Dog’s background as we move forward?
Yes, I think we will. I think, in terms of the relationships that he makes — in terms of the way he interacts with people on the show — we’ll start to get a glimpse into who he is, what he’s been through, and we’ll slowly start to let those layers peel back. Ultimately, we’re going to show the discord he naturally creates with everyone because of the way he thinks and the choices that he… makes, in terms of his relationships and decisions that he makes on the field. We’ll start to see who he really is and what makes him tick.
Does he get along with Green Arrow’s other new recruits?
No. Wild Dog doesn’t really get along with anyone. That’s just not his thing. He struggles to really get along with anyone. As far as the recruits go, if anything, Madison McLaughlin’s character Artemis — she feels more like a little sister to him, someone who’s still really green about everything. Wild Dog is someone who has some sort of background in military, somebody who has his own skill set, is formidable in his own right — obviously not at the level of Green Arrow — but he’s been through a lot, he has his own experiences, and so he walks into the group feeling that, knowing that there’s stuff that I bring to the table that you guys have never ever seen or understood, so there’s no real respect for the rest of the crew. He could not have respect for Curtis Holt, Echo Kellum’s character, because he knows that he’s so green. He’s learning everything! Even the respect he has for Green Arrow is not really that deep. I think he’s a very black-and-white person; he gives respect where it’s due, like, “You are the Green Arrow. You got rid of Damien Darhk. You have the skill set. I want to learn it from you and I want to move on.” And I think that‘s the discord that he’s going to create in the group. With someone like Curtis Holt, that’s a goofball to him! That’s not somebody who he can respect. This will all be unfolding this season. People will see that happen fairly quickly.
“Arrow” has always been a rather diverse series, but Wild Dog will be the show’s first major Latino hero. What does playing a significant role like this mean to you?
I think it’s great! I think that’s awesome. To me, I hope that it lends itself to an idea that maybe we could see more of that, you know? A more diverse-looking field of superheroes and vigilantes. I think it lends to the universe of characters… and how that can kind of mirror the real world and how there’s so much diversity in our world and how that can lend itself to the universe of DC and what that would look like… They would feel more realistic when we see it, because it lends itself to what we live in every day and I hope that maybe that’ll spark some more DC Latino characters and stuff. I’m looking forward to it! I think it’s fun; I think it’s great.
Starring Stephen Amell as the Emerald Archer, “Arrow” airs Wednesdays at 8 pm ET/PT on The CW. The series also stars Emily Bett Rickards, David Ramsey, John Barrowman, Willa Holland and more.
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