For a newcomer to “Arrow,” Caity Lotz has already had an eventful season. Her character, Sara Lance, has been established as the show’s version of DC Comics hero Black Canary, down to fighting crime alongside Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) as a costumed vigilante. She’s also featured heavily in the show’s flashback sequences, given that she, like Oliver, was stranded on Lian Yu — before becoming a member of Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Assassins.
This week’s episode, “Heir to the Demon,” introduces Ra’s daughter and high-ranking League of Assassins member, Nyssa al Ghul, played by “Spartacus” vet Katrina Law. Nyssa has a significant history with Sara — as strongly hinted at in promos for the episode — and “Heir to the Demon” contains both insights into Sara’s past, along with hints of her future.
CBR News spoke with Lotz about her “Arrow” experience thus far, playing a prominent female superhero, working with Katrina Law and concurrently playing the same character in two decidedly different points in life.
CBR News: Caity, you’re now a few months into your “Arrow” experience, which for multiple reasons has to be unique from a typical acting gig. How have you enjoyed the ride so far?
Caity Lotz: I’ve had a blast. I love working on this show. The whole cast and crew, everybody’s so cool. We have so much fun on set. I love doing the action stuff, and we always get to do all these crazy stunts. Yesterday, I was watching what they were shooting — people flying in the air, all these crazy stunts. It’s really cool, everything you get to see. And I love my character, so it’s really fun, all the stuff I get to do as Sara.
From a broader, pop cultural perspective, there’s always talk about an underrepresentation of female superhero characters, both in movies and TV and in comic books themselves — given that, how does it feel for you to be playing, in a very visible role, a costumed female vigilante who’s presented as a peer to the male main character?
It’s really cool. I love it, and I love that I get the opportunity to play such an awesome character, and someone who’s so strong — and that they like writing her that way, and they’re not trying to make her weak; make her into a damsel in distress. They’re really letting the character be strong. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s exciting to be a part of that, and hopefully there will be more of that.
Obviously, the show has diverged in a lot of major ways from the original comic book Black Canary, but throughout this process, have you looked at all at the source material, and maybe picked up any insight?
DC sent me comics — some of the “Birds of Prey” and “Green Arrow and Black Canary” comics — which I checked out for fun. This world is a little different; it’s not just taking the comics and literally putting them on screen. Most of my inspiration I draw from my life, and the writing — how I feel she would be in those situations.
I think it’s great. I know some of the fans want things to stay literal to the comic books, but I think it’s pretty fun that the writers are giving a fresh new take on it. If you let it have a life of its own rather than trying to dictate everything, if you let the show and the characters live and breathe, they do create their own stories, just naturally.
A major element of “Arrow” is the dual timeline, showing the current day events and the flashbacks, which you’ve been heavily involved in this season. What kind of challenge is that for an actor, playing the same character in two different positions in life?
Sometimes I find it hard when I’m playing Sara on the island, because I still kind of have present-day Sara lingering in my head a little bit. I want to give her that strength. I feel bad for Sara on the island, because she doesn’t have that strength yet. As the character is making decisions, and the reactions, she’s insecure, and she’s scared. I think that’s hard, because sometimes I just want her to be badass already — be like, “Nope, sorry! Screw you guys, this is what’s happening.”
Even within the present-day “Arrow” storyline, there’s a balance between the big action and fighting scenes, and the more grounded family drama — in this week’s episode, there are a lot of emotional scenes between Sara and her family members. Is it fairly natural for you to switch between those two types of acting?
Yeah, it is. Sometimes it can get hard when you’re playing a strong character. You want to protect that strength of the character, and sometimes that can make you want to be unemotional, or not open. I think that’s a trap that you have to really be conscious not to fall into. Knowing that your character still has its strength, even when you give it that humanity, and the emotion, and the weakness. You have to feel it, but then you have to hide it. If you just have it too much out, then you do kind of lose that strength. But if you don’t have it at all, then you don’t feel for the character. It’s got to be there, but you’ve got to be fighting with that emotion.
“Heir to the Demon” is the episode introducing Katrina Law as Nyssa al Ghul, a character who has a past with Sara. How’d you enjoy working with her, and getting to do fight scenes with a fellow League of Assassins member?
Katrina’s awesome. She’s such a cool chick. I really enjoyed working with her. We had a blast together. We talked a lot about the history of our two characters; it’s fun digging into all of that.
The fight stuff, of course, was really fun. I remember when we were shooting that episode — it was the coldest night ever in Vancouver. We went outside, and it was like negative-7 degrees. We battled through that together.
When it gets really cold, still, in my head, I’m like, “They’re going to cancel shooting. There’s no way! They can’t expect us to stand out in the cold.” But, nope, we do it. [Native Canadian] Stephen [Amell]’s always like, “Come on, California blood. You better get used to it.”
This season has gradually revealed more about your character, with a whole lot of that in this week’s episode. How have you enjoyed seeing Sara progress over the course of the season?
I love it. It’s fun, because you just get more and more information about the character. There’s more and more twists and turns, and things you weren’t expecting. It’s a lot of fun, because you never know what to expect.
Is there anything you can tease that viewers should look out for with your character in the near future?
This next episode is really going to show us what’s planned for Sara’s future. We’re really going to get to find out what’s going to happen with Sara, and it’s not going to leave it too open-ended. We actually get some good information on that.
“Arrow” airs 8 p.m. Wednesdays on The CW.