Katie Cassidy may not have gotten a superhero alter ego on “Arrow” — yet — but she makes up for a lack of a double-life on the hit CW series in spades, portraying a character with multiple alternate personalities in “The Scribbler.”
The 27-year-old actress, who regularly stars as Oliver Queen’s on/off romantic interest Laurel Lance, went on a mission to demonstrate her diversity when she got her first look at the screenplay for the thriller based on the 2006 Image Comics graphic novel by Daniel Schaffer, who also penned the adaptation. Captivated by the heroine Suki, a dissociative woman undergoing an experimental technique known as the Siamese Burn to eliminate her multiple personalities one by one, until a rebellion erupts, Cassidy was determined to prove to the producers she was right for the role — or roles, in this case
In a conversation with Comic Book Resources, Cassidy reveals how she got into character(s) with some serious homework, including spending time with someone coping with a similar condition. We also discuss what’s ahead for Laurel on “Arrow’s” third season. (Think action — lots more action — and maybe even a superhero ID one of these days?)
CBR News: I can imagine that an actor like yourself was probably pretty excited to see a role like this, with all of its different aspects, presented to them. What was the initial attraction for you?
Katie Cassidy: I mean, it was just that. They actually didn’t come to me. I had gotten the script. My agent sent it to me, and I read it. I was just over the moon, obviously, about this character. As an actor, it’s an actor’s playground. I was very passionate about it, and as I was reading the words on the page, I could just hear her voice, and I really tapped into it, and I went after it. They had said to my agents and managers before meeting with me that they didn’t feel as though I was right for it. And I was like, “Okay, fair enough.” But I asked them to please just take a meeting with me. So I did a lot of preparation before going and sitting down with John [Suits, the director] and Gabe [Cowan, the producer].
I think people have this vision of me as being all glamorous and on the red carpet, and obviously, this [role] is not. I understand why they would originally say, “Well, she’s not right for it.” After doing script analysis, I decided that there were seven different characters — personalities — in the script for Suki, and I did backstory for each one of them. When I went in, I think that they were really impressed by the fact that I had already done all this work, and that I really understood it. Like, I really broke it down and figured out which scenes were which alter. I just went in there and gave it my all and I just said, trust me. I know this is a part I had never played before, or I haven’t played a part like this at all. [Laughs] But I was like, “I know I can do this, and I really want this!” And they were on board. I think after the table read, and certainly after day one of shooting, they completely trusted me and were like, “You got this,” and kind of let me do whatever I wanted.
As excited as you were to be able to get the opportunity, what scared you about it?
Playing a character like that, I feel like it’s very delicate, and I wanted to be as real and grounded as possible. As for what was scary, I think transitioning from one alter to another, that was a really interesting thing for me, and definitely doing those transitions, I didn’t want to be too over the top. I actually sat down with somebody who had multiple personality disorder, and I saw her transition. It was very fluid, almost like it didn’t happen, but it did. I wanted it to play as real as possible, so just having that aspect, to see it that way, was definitely — it was really important to me. At the same time, it was a little nerve-wracking.
Tell me more about meeting the person who deals with this condition. What were some of the other things that you learned that you were able to put in your performance?
Definitely, watching her transition. It was interesting, because her name was Natalie, but immediately, she transitioned into Natasha. Natasha is like her narrator, so Natasha’s just like a normal person, totally. I was asking her questions, but at the same time, I didn’t want to go too far. I also didn’t want to set off triggers for her to start transitioning into these other personalities — I guess she started with, like, 47 and then had 19. I actually saw her transition a few times while I was in the room. Again, it was very subtle, but it was like completely different people. I think that was probably the most interesting part about it. I was totally grateful that she let me sit down and like talk to her.
You barely look like yourself in this movie. Tell me about the physical transformation you went through.
That’s exactly — I feel like I accomplished what I wanted to. Because John and Gabe were like, “You’re not right for this.” I know that on a daily basis, no, I’m not Suki. I don’t look like her, but we can create her. And that’s what I do as an actor: We transform ourselves. I just had a very clear vision of what she looked like while I was reading it, and John, he let me do, again, whatever I wanted. I also wanted to get as close to the graphic novel as possible. But he even let me cut my own wig, and even her mannerisms, like the way she walks and the way she holds a pen — all these things that I really like paid attention to and focused on. It was so much fun, and it was great. Once I was in the wardrobe, it was that much easier as an actor to become that character. I mean, it was nuts, but it was so fun. It was awesome.
This project, like your day job on “Arrow,” sprung out of the comic book and graphic novel side of pop culture. What’s interesting for you to be working in projects that come from that genre?
Lluckily, we have people close to — [DC Entertainment chief creative officer] Geoff Johns for example, on “Arrow,” he works with us and he obviously fills us with as much information as possible. Our producers are huge comic book fans, so they know everything and they incorporate it in little Easter eggs within our show, and it just makes, obviously, the fans happy. I just tried to do that with Suki, because the writer of the graphic novel, Dan [Schaffer], he wrote the screenplay, and obviously, he’s going to write it in the same world and be linear to what the graphic novel is. Having him available and having access to him if I have questions or whatever was really beneficial for me.
As far as “Arrow” goes, the writers gave you some pretty intense, game-changing stuff last season. Can you tease us about what Laurel’s going to be contending with this season?
Well, now that she’s a part of Team Arrow, I think that allows me to be more involved in the A-story and the action. I’ve been working out a lot, and it’s huge. I mean, the season so far is fantastic, and it just keeps getting better. It’s action-packed, and it’s “expect the unexpected.” Crazy shit goes on. It’s great. It’s awesome.
Tell me about gearing up for the bigger action load, and getting yourself physically able to do that. What’s been fun or challenging about that?
I’ve always tried to stay in shape, and working out as a lifestyle, being healthy, is really important to me. But this is a completely different level. I have a boxing trainer and I’ve been boxing — and I love it! It’s so much fun; it’s like great therapy. Let off some steam. It’s just — I don’t know. It’s pretty intense, but I’m having a blast because I love it. I guess I’m a bit of an extremist in a way, so if I’m going to commit to something, I’m going to commit a hundred and ten percent. With the working out, it’s something that I enjoy and will keep doing. It just got a little bit more in-depth.
Overall, what do you love about Laurel, and what side of her are you looking forward to digging into and exploring more?
I love everything about her. I love how strong she is. I love how dedicated she is, how driven she is. Yeah, in Season Two, we saw her fall apart, and you see her come out the other end, she’s hit rock bottom. I think she was strong at the beginning, but she down-spiraled and went through all this shit that just made her that much stronger. I don’t know — I love getting to play her. It’s honestly like a dream job for me, and I’m having a blast. As far as what I’m looking forward to, I’m looking forward to being more involved in the A-story, in the action. I love that kind of stuff. It’s so much fun.
When the show began, I think we all thought Laurel was going to end up as some version of the Black Canary. Even though the show went down a different path last season with that character, do you still hold out hope that one day you might get a costume of your own?
Um, I certainly hope so. We’ll see what happens. It’s going to be definitely interesting.
As an actor, can you relate to these different personalities inside of you, or are you grounded enough in who you are that it’s really more about technique?
For me, the way that I work is creating backstory for a character. Obviously, you have to read something. I have to read a script, and I have to be excited about the character, want to play it, feel some sort of connection to the character. And then, through script analysis, I create backstory with as much detail as possible. So it’s not really technical, I think. I guess it’s more intellectual because, yeah, I won’t be able to go on set and say lines and dialogue if I haven’t done the back work. Because when you’re on set and you’re there in the moment, you should be able to forget about all the back work that you’ve done. The lines of dialogue should just come out naturally for you if you’ve done all the work. At least, that’s how I am. If something is written — and it’s happened a few times — we have great writers so we can call them and ask them. For example, on “Arrow,” I know Laurel so well, there were a few times where she will say something or be doing something that it’s just not sticking. That’s the only term I can use, because memorization, it’s not for me. It’s not about memorizing the lines. If the emotion is attached to it, and the writers have written well, it should just come out organically. Sometimes, I will get stuck, and I’ll be like, “This doesn’t feel right. She wouldn’t say this, or if she would say this, can we talk about how it can make sense to me so I’m not having this internal struggle?” And they’re great. They definitely do that, and they’re very helpful. As long as it makes sense to me in my own head and like when I’m in it, I’m good. Otherwise, if something’s not sticking, I always say something is either missing, or there are pieces of the puzzle that are missing. Or they wrote something, and they’re like, “Actually, you’re right. We didn’t mean to write that. That wasn’t for you.”
Now that this film’s out, are there any other projects that you have in the wings?
Well, our hiatus isn’t until April, so unfortunately, I don’t know what I will be doing in April because it’s a little early. Aside from that, I’m on “Arrow” — I live in Vancouver, and that’s all I do is shoot it. But I have a fashion blog that I work with called Tomboy KC with one of my close friends. We have a cool — well, we have some news that I can’t tell you yet, but some really exciting stuff is coming up for us. So on the side, when I have time, I work on that.
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