"Arrow" EPs on Transition to 'Green Arrow' and Damien Darhk's Pure Evil

For the past three years, one of the biggest questions comic books fans have had surrounding DC Comics-based CW series "Arrow" was when -- if ever -- Oliver Queen (played by Stephen Amell) would start to actually call himself "Green Arrow," in keeping with the source material. That question was answered this past July at Comic-Con International when Amell appeared in character in Hall H, referring to his "Arrow" character as "the Green Arrow" -- and given the title of this week's season four premiere, "Green Arrow," viewers won't have to wait long to hear those words on the show.

Previously on the show, Queen's costumed vigilante was referred to as "the Hood" or simply "Arrow." Now, he's finally embracing the "Green Arrow" name -- which, along with elements like using a mask rather than face paint and introducing superpowered metahumans, have brought the show -- which started in fall 2012 in a fairly grounded place -- much closer to the world of the comics. Co-showrunner and series executive producer Marc Guggenheim told CBR News during a press event last week at CW headquarters that it felt like a natural choice to make the transition happen this season, which he's already stated will have something of a lighter tone.

"We were always very upfront about our intention that this was an origin story," Guggenheim said. "We were very deliberate in our choice of, 'He's not the Arrow, he's 'The Hood' at first,' then he becomes the Arrow, and eventually he was going to become the Green Arrow. We didn't have a specific season in mind as to when it would happen, but certainly, for us, it felt very organic to make this the season that [he becomes] Green Arrow."

"Green Arrow" is what the character has been called since his earliest days; first introduced 1941's "More Fun Comics" #73 by Mort Weisinger and George Papp. Yet for Guggenheim, despite the gradual incorporation of elements like the Green Arrow name and Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) taking on the Black Canary identity last season, it's not about doing things simply because they exist in comic books -- it has to be for a reason that makes sense for the show.

"There's just been a slow, organic incorporation of the comic book elements," Guggenheim told CBR. "We don't ever bring in the comic book elements just to bring in the comic book elements -- we don't sit here with a checklist.

"I think a lot of fans think we've got a checklist of the comic book tropes, like the chili, and the jokes, and the romance with Black Canary, and go, 'OK, we've got that, we've got that, we've got that,'" Guggenheim -- himself a successful comic book writer -- continued. "It's really just, we've got the comics in the back of our mind, we know where we're headed with the character -- the comic books are there as inspiration, but not as a to-do list."

Speaking of comic book-y elements: While the arrival of Barry Allen (the future "Flash," played by Grant Gustin) ushered in an age of superpowered activity in the "Arrow"-verse back in season two, this season's villain, Damien Darhk (played by Neal McDonough and based on a somewhat obscure comics character that debuted in 1999 from creators Devin Grayson and Mark Buckingham), very quickly exhibits impressive abilities that are birthed by mysticism -- not science. That makes for a different type of antagonist, as evidenced by McDonough's performance -- much more unabashedly sinister than the show's past major villains.

"We found ourselves writing more and more to him," Guggenheim told CBR. "The thing we said to him was, 'You're not only evil, but you enjoy being evil.' There's a real glimmer in his eye whenever he's putting the screws to somebody. It is something we haven't seen on the show before. That's one of the reasons why we wanted to go in this direction. In Malcolm, in Ra's, in Slade -- they all thought they were doing the right thing. They had their own nobility. Not so much with Damien. Damien really could give a fuck whether or not you think he's noble."

"He has no conscience whatsoever," co-showrunner and executive producer Wendy Mericle added.

Also unusual: Rather than going for a slow reveal of the season's major bad guy, McDonough is seen quickly in the season premiere, as hinted at by prior trailers released to promote the new episodes. Guggenheim said that while McDonough isn't in every episode, the writers have enjoyed getting him involved as much as possible.

"He's really enjoying having no conscience," Guggenheim said. "It's very freeing for him. There aren't a lot of actors who could pull that off, and make it compelling, and make it interesting to watch, each and every week -- the moment we saw Neal on screen, we just found ourselves in the writers' room going, 'Oh yeah, Damien's in this episode.'

"He's on the show a lot. It's not every week Team Arrow vs. Damien, because that would get really stupid and repetitive, but we found all these really interesting ways to keep the character of Damien involved in the drama of the show. That's really to the credit of Neal, and us knowing that there's really nothing we can write for him that he can't pull off."

"Arrow" season four starts 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 7, on The CW.

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