The cast and creators of The CW’s “Arrow” appeared at PaleyFest over the weekend to discuss the hit show, which was recently renewed for a second season. Creators/executive producers Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg discussed character origins and teased upcoming events, including a potential visit to another DC Comics locale with stars Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Susanna Thompson and Katie Cassidy also in attendance.
During the panel, the topic of incorporating elements from the comic book DC Universe focused on an aspect often overlooked in fan discussions: geography. With the city of BlÃ¼dhaven already name-checked in an episode, Moderator and DC Entertainment CCO Geoff Johns, who recently saw the episode of “Arrow” he wrote air, took his cue from a question posted on Twitter and asked if fans could expect to see the town in the series. After a few contemplative glances, the producers admitted that Oliver would be making the trip, though “Nightwing will not be there,” quipped Kreisberg.
As for other DC burgs, “There’s always that hope. There’s two cities we’ll probably never go to,” Kerisberg said, suggesting Metropolis and Gotham will never be on the itinerary. “One of the fun things about the show is these Easter eggs. With the success that we’ve had and our production team with the way the show looks, there’s always the possibility that Oliver will travel the world even if we never leave Vancouver.”
Johns asked Berlanti why, of all the available DC characters, they chose to adapt Green Arrow to television. “He’s a crusader for social justice; many episodes of a TV series there,” was the answer. Berlanti said was also intrigued with the idea of doing an origin story over multiple years, something which usually only gets the first twenty minutes of a movie. Also, the street-level qualities of the character and his environment make Oliver Queen more “of our world.”
While the show’s concept had many things going for it, for Berlanti, it wasn’t really solid until he had a cast nailed down, led by Stephen Amell in the titular role. “You’re looking for a great actor who can do all the emotions. How much of the DNA of the original character does he possess?” With Amell, they knew immediately that the actor had the traits needed to embody Oliver Queen. “Then when the show goes to get advertised, you see him shirtless all over town,” he added to the laughter of the audience. “We did not see him without his shirt during the audition process.”
Amell readily stated his enjoyment while working on the island scenes. “When we began on the island, I was just hanging around in a cave like an idiot,” he joked. “I always knew that eventually, my spine would begin to form. I think we saw that in episode 14 when we spent more time on the island than the present day. It was really fun to start to see these shifts in the character.” Upcoming episodes will see Oliver’s situation on the island improve, a development actor suggests “means that they’re about to go really bad.”
The island flashbacks were inspired by Andy Diggle and Jock’s “Green Arrow: Year One,” a miniseries the producers credit with proving an extended Green Arrow origin story could work. “‘Year One’ suggested he became Green Arrow on the island,” Kreisberg said. They also credit Mike Grell’s “The Longbow Hunters” for its contemporary take on the character. Like that book, Oliver Queen does not go by a superhero name in the series.
Callbacks and DC Comics sources are not the primary concerns of actor David Ramsey, who plays John Diggle — a name inspired by the “Year One” writer. Instead, his chief interest comes at the end of every script. “I look at the back to see if I die,” he joked. The actor said he finds a certain amount of freedom in playing an original character, but credits Kreisberg and pilot director David Nutter for their clear vision for Diggle. “[They knew] who Diggle was and where he was going and when he’d find out [that Oliver was Arrow]. They had a clear-cut life for John Diggle,” he said. “I trust Andrew and Marc not to kill me.”
After a pause for the audience’s applause for Diggle’s continued existence, Guggenheim added, “Get ready for those rewrites.”
While Diggle learning Oliver’s secret was a revelation made and decided upon by the young hero, Tommy Merlyn’s recent discovery of his best friend’s dual identity was not part of the vigilante’s plan. “Tommy’s big problem is that I killed people. He saw me, in the pilot, kill three guys,” Amell said, explaining why this will prove to be a problem. “Tommy’s a good guy. He doesn’t want to reconcile that his friend could do that. For me, it’s terrible … my buffer to my family and to Laurel is now way too thin. He could just roll over in bed and say, ‘Oliver is the vigilante.'”
Inquiring about other recent revelations, Johns asked Cassidy about the return of Laurel’s mother and the possibility that her sister, missing since the boat accident that left Oliver stranded on the island, may still be alive. “I think the first reaction was the same reaction I had. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Complete shock,” she responded. “As a lawyer, she has a reaction to it, but then starts to rationalize it and think. Is she telling the truth? Does she have the right information?” She also mentioned upcoming episodes will see Laurel’s mother challenging her father.
Staying on the topic of mothers and parenting, Johns turned to Thompson, who views Moira Queen as the “Mother of Mystery.” While she was surprised by the role Moira played in the boat accident, she’s enjoying the way the character is developing across the season. “[It’s] really interesting: her parenting, her relationship with Laurel, this dynamic, hard relationship with Malcolm.”
That relationship includes her recent assassination attempt on Malcolm, which he in turn asked her to investigate. “I think she’s once again making another deal with this particular devil, hoping for the ultimate not to happen,” Thompson said, musing upon the situation. “She makes these little bargains with herself, all for her family.
“I wasn’t a comic book reader when I joined this — I just look at this as classical literature,” she added. “Big moments. Big, conflicting circumstances. It’s fun to play.”
Kreisberg said the writing staff views Malcolm Merlyn as an evil Bruce Wayne; the man who would kill for Ra’s Al Ghul rather than face off with his onetime mentor. At the same time, the casting of “Doctor Who” veteran John Barrowman in the role is no accident. His persona calls into question just how dark Malcolm can possibly be. According to the producer, “In any other show, John would be the hero.”
When Johns opened the floor to questions, Amell was asked a simple query: “How does the hood stay up when Ollie fights?”
“The hood genuinely does not come off,” he replied. “It sits. It gets really flushed at the back of my head and everyone once in a while, if I get into a problem, it will get too low. Our director of photography is always yelling, ‘Pull it back, I can’t get light into your eyes!’ It stays [on my head].” With a sheepish grin, he added, “I don’t know why, either.”
“Arrow” airs Wednesdays on the CW.