A diverse crowd filled with women and men, cosplayers and congoers packed the Anaheim Convention Center’s arena floor during WonderCon 2013 for the CW’s “Arrow” panel as the cast and crew of the hit superhero drama chatted about Oliver Queen and star Stephen Amell’s lack of sleep thanks to the series’ intense shooting schedule.
“You can’t make the show smaller, you can only go bigger!” Amell told the cheering crowd as he entered.
Among other bits of news and trivia, the audience learned that “Arrow” had the highest-rated series premiere on the CW since “The Vampire Diaries” in 2009. Giving the room a sneak peek at what’s coming up for the show, the reel showed the characters speaking about the rising crime problems in the Glades, Tommy and Oliver arguing over Laurel, a lot of gunfights and a mysterious doctor menacingly heading towards Oliver with a scalpel in hand.
Attending the panel were cast members Paul Blackthorne (Detective Lance), Willa Holland (Thea), Amell (Oliver Queen), Collin Donnell (Tommy Merlyn) and series executive producer — and co-writer of DC Comics’ digital-first “Arrow” comic — Marc Guggenheim. Moderator Damian Holbrook began by jokingly inquiring as to why billionaire Oliver couldn’t afford UnderArmour.
“We’re not getting paid product placement,” joked Guggenheim.
Thoguh Holbrook mentioned feeling chemistry between Thea and Tommy, Holland and Donnell told the audience that romance-wise, Thea might actually be making eyes at Roy Harper. Holland feels her character is finally beginning to make it on her own in a positive way, or at least, she’s not screwing up as badly as she had before.
“I have been telling the writers that I am ready and willing…to pick up an arrow! I want to kick some ass!” Holland said laughing when asked if Thea was going to follow in her bother’s vigilante footsteps.
“We’re going to have something you’re going to like in the season finale,” Guggenheim told her, chuckling as he gestured to the actors, “They don’t know what’s coming. Tommy has a cool moment with a gun!”
Holbrook then read a recent tweet from John Barrowman praising the script for episode twenty-two. “Speaking as one of the only surviving members of the Star City police department,” Blackthorne joked that despite the vigilante striking exactly as Oliver came back, “I never really worked that one out!”
As far as how the show writers structure the series, Guggenheim said the writer’s room was filled with various boards that help them piece together the flashbacks, mythology and world.
“We have a Season One board that’s like a grid which tracks all the bad guys, the major relationship moments, the major mythology moments…we have a board that is titled ‘Things We Want To See’…and we have a board that charts out the mythology as far as what the undertaking is,” Guggenheim said. “All those answers, by the way, are coming in the final three episodes of the season.”
Asked about the casting of genre-famous actors like “Doctor Who’s” John Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn and Alex Kingston as Dinah Lance, Guggenheim laughed.
“I feel like, if I have need to get applause, [I say] John Barrowman,” Guggenheim said, laughing again as the room exploded into cheers. “It’s about getting the best actors and its true a lot of genre shows have the same philosophy”
Amell told the room he got the role after sending videos of himself getting into shape. “We were like, oh my God — he can do these things?” Guggenheim said as Amell laughed. “We’d be crazy to not put that in the show.”
“I would pitch the Steve Amell/Oliver Queen fitness tape,” Guggenheim joked. “Season Six!”
As for Amell’s fighting skills, the actor admitted that he had to learn to slow his actions in order for them to read on camera, working against the adrenaline rush from his stunts, which would normally push him to move faster than is safe.
Looking to the Island flashbacks, Guggenheim explained that from day one, there has been a five-year plan for revealing what happened on the Island. “We planned out the big tent pole moments, the big jaw dropping moments for the first five years,” Guggenheim said, confessing that they have sped up events like the introduction of Roy Harper. He pointed to things like the shadow archer as evidence of the writers planting seeds in early episodes.
“If you watch the pilot, you see the tattoo that’s on the back of that shoulder. In episode fourteen, that ties into the shadow’s tattoo.”
Going to questions submitted via Twitter, Amell said he handles as many of his own stunts as possible, “And more than [producer] Greg Berlanti knows,” he added with a grin.
“What about motorcycle stuff?”
“No comment,” Amell deadpanned as the audience laughed.
Talking about how many people Oliver murdered on the show, the crowd laughed when Amell said he didn’t think Oliver was in danger of turning into a serial killer.
“We’ll have to see how ‘Hannibal’ goes,” he joked.
Speaking on list Oliver’s father gave him, “That’s creating a lot of damage, but the list isn’t going to be around forever,” Amell said, adding that he feels the show will eventually head to Oliver being motivated by more than just revenge.
Speaking about a possible romance with Felicity (played by Emily Brett Rickards) sparking out of their intense training scene, Amell quipped, “That’s what you do at the Arrow cave. We have sexually-charged training sequences!”
“You should see me and Diggle!” he added with a wink.
Guggenheim explained that Felicity has always had a crush on Oliver, but she’ll have to “take a number” when it comes to Oliver’s romantic attention as he is still wrapped up with the Laurel/Tommy love triangle. As for the family aspects of the show, Guggenheim named believes that’s one of the main reasons the series succeeds.
“The show was always designed to be a Shakespearean drama with different families, different generations,” he said, telling the audience that Oliver and Tommy’s relationships with their fathers are coming to a head in the season finale.
Holland chimed in, saying she believes finding out who Oliver was would add “a whole new layer of resentment for Oliver. She was in the dark! He didn’t tell her!” The show writers also want Thea to stand on her own, according to Guggenheim, and not stay in Oliver’s shadow forever.
While Tommy’s father is ostensibly the show’s villain, Holbrook pointed out that of all the fathers seen in “Arrow,” Barrowman’s Merlyn is actually the best of the bunch.
“When he cut Tommy off, he was taking it a bad way but it was done with the best intentions…it turned Tommy into a man, a standalone character you can rely on,” Donnell agreed.
Asked for stories about the worst injuries on set, Guggenheim audibly prayed that Amell would not reveal the serious injury he got from doing a prohibited stunt. However, Blackthorne gleefully fingered Amell as the one who caused the worst on-set stunt problem.
“You broke that guy’s nose!” Blackthorne said.
“In fairness to me–” Amell tried to explain before Donnell interrupted with, “His face was in the way?”
“The guy had a big freaking nose!” Amell laughed. “I felt really bad, this was five episodes into the show!”
Amell said afterwards “Arrow” stunt coordinator J.J. Makaro told him, “‘Until you’ve punched a stunt guy in the face, you’re not really one of us!’ It was an accident! I bought him a six pack of beer, and life went on.”
Blackthorne tried to speak about his character’s relationship with his wife Dinah, but the moment the name “Alex Kingston” left his lips, he had to pause and wait for fans to stop cheering.
Looking at the digital “Arrow” comic, Amell said that he liked the series because it gave him extra informationabout his character. When he has questions about scenes in the show he often turns to the comic to fill in the storyline.
“Why is there a paunch on this guy?” Blackthorne interrupted, asking Guggenheim about his character’s comic book alter ego, adding that he wasn’t that much younger than his “Arrow” character and, “If you’re going to sell the 50s thing, put in gray hairs and get rid of the paunch!”
Guggenheim comforted the actor, promising to do something about the hair. The paunch? “Maybe.”
Looking at the DCU’s Green Arrow as opposed to “Arrow’s” take on the character, Guggenheim said the writers took a lot of inspiration from Mike Grell’s “Longbow Hunters” in terms of tone and, “Of course, ‘Green Arrow: Year One,’ but the truth is, everything is grist for the mill. We’ll steal from anywhere!”
Before they opened the floor to questions, Guggenheim then said episode twenty-one is the first time they flashed back to a point not on the island but right before the boat trip that put Oliver there, and will have a part for Walter, played by Colin Salmon.
A fan dressed as the Ghostbusters’ Stay Puft Marshmallow Man expressed his surprise that Blackthorne was British, then asked what villains were coming up.
“Deadshot comes back in a very big way,” Guggenheim answered. “And A.R.G.U.S.”
Amell admitted that outside of “The Death Of Superman,” Lobo and “Spawn,” his geekdom was confined to WWE wrestling. However, after being on the show and going to so many comic book conventions, “It’s impossible to not become a comic book fan.”
A female fan who was an archer asked about Amell’s archery training. Praising his trainer Patricia Gonsalves, Amell said she began his training by showing him a video of every common archery mistake Hollywood movies and TV shows make. “She warned me that I would come under the wrath of archery enthusiasts if I didn’t do it correctly, especially if I fired the bow and flipped my hand back. That’s a no-no!” Amell laughed.
“I don’t get to fire an arrow as much as I like,” he added, explaining he actually messed up a take of a scene where he’s learning how to shoot on the island by accidentally hitting the bullseye first time out.
Asked if Roy will lose an arm to reflect the pre-New 52 version of his character, Guggenheim replied, “Not in Season One.” He also confessed there was no organic way to get Kingston and Barrowman in the same room for a scene together in Season One, adding, “That board of Things We Want To See? it’s on the board.”
A trained Broadway actor, Donnell laughed when asked about whether the he would sing in any upcoming episodes. “We joked that we’d do karaoke and Laurel would break the speakers with her high pitched voice,” Guggenheim said.
Blushing, Donnell sang a song about Oliver Queen. “We know that he/turns out to be/the vigilante/we’ve all wanted to see!”
Another fan asked if the TV show would ever see Oliver Queen develop into progressive, politically liberal character from the comics.
“Green Arrow has a long history of being that voice of the underdog and dealing with issues of racism and bigotry… We’re looking for opportunities to honor that in the show,” Guggenheim ansered.
A female Roy fan asked if he’d claim the name Speedy or if plans are for him to go straight to Arsenal. Guggenheim revealed that there was a deleted scene where “Thea, calls him Speedy — and he goes, ‘That’s a lame nickname.'”
As for Thea possibly becoming the new Speedy, Guggenheim said there was a scene he regretted taking out when viewers first see Thea doing drugs. “She takes off her shelf a junior archery championship trophy — and uses it to crush up pills.”
A fan with a bow and arrow bowed as the panelists applauded her, then asked if fans would see more of Tommy’s mom.
“She’s dead,” Donnell joked.
“You’ll actually hear Rebecca’s voice before the season is out,” Guggenheim said, adding that viewers will learn more about her clinic in the Glades.
The last audience member to the microphone praised the Flash reference from last week’s episode and asked if fans would eventually see the rest of the Justice League.
“You’ll see much more of that. It’s such a fun thing for the entire writing staff. As far as other Justice Leaguers, not in Season One,” Guggenheim answered, adding that he wouldn’t expect to see Superman ever showing up as they were looking to bring in characters that could fit in the realistic “Arrow” world.
“There’s one Justice Leaguer we talk about a great deal,” Guggenheim said, explaining that the show had blown its budget to make the first season finale huge.
“I’ll spoil something,” the producer said to wrap the panel. “For those people who have been waiting for the rematch of a lifetime between Arrow and Dark Archer from episode nine, your wishes are going to be granted in ways you can’t even expect.”