Hard Targets: 10 Perfectly Cast Arrowverse Characters (And 10 That Miss The Mark)

The Arrowverse began life in 2012 with one show about a costumed vigilante fighting to clean up his city (with the aid of his bodyguard and a nerdgirl computer expert). In the ensuing six years, it has grown exponentially to include three more shows, two animated webseries and crossover events that have production budgets that would eclipse many Hollywood movies. It has been a true success story for DC Entertainment and for The CW, and shows no signs of slowing down. Now, given that there are four core shows in the Arrowverse and three of them broadcast at least 22 episodes a season (with Legends Of Tomorrow having a slightly smaller order of 16 episodes per season), there have been a huge amount of characters that have made appearances in the shows over the years. Each show has its own core cast of heroes, supporting characters and major antagonists, as well as the countless villains-of-the-week that have appeared.

We'd argue that, by and large, the Arrowverse shows are very well cast and they have found some truly brilliant actors to fill some superb roles. But no one's batting average is perfect and there have also been plenty of actors who have shown up in The Flash, or in Arrow, or in Supergirl and have stunk up the joint. Whether it's through their own failings or through poor character writing or direction, we've seen some genuinely woeful casting choices. This list is going to look at the casting of 20 of the (many) Arrowverse characters. We're going to spotlight 10 we believe were perfectly cast, as well as 10 we believe they messed up on!

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Grant Gustin as The Flash
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Grant Gustin as The Flash

Grant Gustin's casting as Barry Allen in the second season of Arrow was instrumental in the growth of the Arrowverse. If audiences hadn't immediately warmed to his portrayal of the semi-nerdy but sincere forensic analyst, his proposed spin-off show could've been in jeopardy. Luckily, he exuded likeability from the beginning and The Flash became the breakout hit that allowed the Arrowverse to go from strength to strength.

While Gustin mightn't be an entirely comic book accurate Barry Allen, he is perfect for the show's incarnation of the character. He is an inherently heroic man trying to do good in the world, which Gustin sells, but he also makes us believe the moments where Barry shows poor judgement and makes rash decisions based on emotion.


We're going to lay the blame for this one at the feet of the Arrow writers as much as actress Katie Cassidy (Supernatural). Right from the very first season of Arrow, Laurel Lance was an easy character to dislike. A lawyer and love interest for Oliver Queen, she was constantly kept in the dark about his nighttime vigilante adventures, and when she was repositioned as an opposing force to him in season two she became even more annoying to viewers.

By the time she became the (inexplicably skilled) vigilante Black Canary in season three, viewers were already much more fond of her sister Sara Lance's version of the hero, so Laurel came off as a poor copy. Cassidy, for her part, was also never able to imbue Laurel with any real charisma or dynamism.


Sara Lance as White Canary

Speaking of Sara Lance, we had to include Caity Lotz' performance as Laurel's sister: the skilled superhero, bi ladykiller and field leader of the Legends. A character created specifically for Arrow, Sara was played by a different actress in the pilot. Believed to have perished, she then reappeared in the form of Lotz (Mad Men) in season two as the vigilante known as The Canary.

Sara had been trained by the League Of Assassins and was everything Laurel wasn't: cool, a formidable fighter and a true equal to Oliver Queen. Lotz had both dance and fight training prior to being cast and it showed in action scenes. Fans immediately loved the character and were ecstatic when she was included in Legends Of Tomorrow, using a new codename: White Canary.


Hawkman and Hawkgirl

Given the amount of colorfully costumed heroes and villains in the Arrowverse currently, it's almost impossible to imagine that Arrow started out only six years ago as a purposely grounded, street-level show. Costumes were all toned down in fear of audiences thinking they looked silly. Yet, fast forward just three short years and producers had stopped worrying about this.

Hence, Ciara Renee and Falk Hentschel were saddled with the worst costumes imaginable. Their storyline (which involved ancient villain Vandal Savage and reincarnation and lovers destined to be with each other for centuries) was also hated by viewers. Fans rejected Hawkgirl and Hawkman outright and they were subsequently dropped from Legends Of Tomorrow season two!


Melissa Benoist's supergirl

Melissa Benoist's performance as Kara Zor-El/Supergirl has been one of the highlights of the Arrowverse. Even when the show was on CBS for its first season and went through some growing pains, Benoist was always charming, warm, funny, tough and loveable. Arguably one of the most talented actors working on any of the Arrowverse shows, she has shown her versatility by playing daring roles such as the widow  in Patriot's Day and the wife of the main character in the miniseries Waco.

Both characters are a million miles away from Supergirl but she is 100% convincing. Likewise, viewers have never once had any reason to doubt her performance as the Kryptonian superhero.


Supergirl James Olsen

While Melissa Benoist has been perfect as Supergirl from day one, that is certainly not the case with her initial love interest: Mehcad Brooks' James Olsen. A character so poorly written and miscast that he has been agitating fans for years, James is the worst. While the idea of casting against type for the character of Jimmy Olsen was a noble one, in practice it has led to a confusing character who acts very little like Jimmy from the comics and often finds himself surplus to requirements in the show's stories.

This led to the writers combining him with the Guardian, an obscure(ish) DC hero, but fans liked this version even less. Brooks does his best with subpar material, but it feels like no one will ever quite know what to do with James Olsen.



Cisco Ramon is, by and large, an absolute delight to watch on The Flash. A stock character type (geeky science guy who tricks out the hero with cool tech), he could've easily been excruciatingly cringeworthy to watch but actor Carlos Valdes somehow managed to make Cisco loveable from his very first appearance. Cisco was one of the main vehicles for comic relief for a long time on the show and consistently managed to nail his comic timing.

He feels believable at all times, whether he's delivering technobabble exposition or making a pop-culture reference that makes the other characters roll their eyes (and fans knowingly smile). Valdes has also excelled in playing dramatic material as the show has progressed; his scenes with Killer Frost are dynamite.


Tom Felton as The Flash's Julian Dorn

Tom Felton's time on The Flash was weird. Known throughout the world for his role as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, Felton's casting as Julian Albert was met with interest. He became an integral part of season three when his character was inserted in Barry Allen's life due to some timey wimey nonsense after Barry accidentally created the Flashpoint timeline.

He was a rival forensic scientist who was revealed to be an unwitting disciple of big bad Savitar. He then became an ally to Team Flash in the back half of the season, despite Felton making him an inherently unlikeable, weaselly and ill-tempered screen presence. He then didn't return for season four and the only explanation given was that Julian had moved to London!



New Zealand-born actor Manu Bennett's casting as Slade Wilson in season one of Arrow was brilliant. He appeared in the Lian Yu island flashbacks as Oliver Queen's mentor and friend, but fans with any amount of DC Comics knowledge knew Wilson would become the villainous assassin Deathstroke at some point.

Bennett gave off a tough, no-nonsense aura as Slade, but he was also dignified. When Slade became the main villain of season two, he gave the Arrowverse its first genuinely classic adversary. His vengeful attack on Oliver and everyone he loved was exciting to watch and Bennett cut a physically imposing figure in the Deathstroke costume. Fans were therefore ecstatic when Slade made a big return in a major season six storyline.


Matt Nable as Ra's al Ghul in "Arrow"

In the wake of a triumphant season two, Arrow started season three with lots of promise. Fans were excited that the show was going to tackle the iconic Batman villain Ra's Al Ghul and his League Of Assassins and the table was set for an awesome season. In the end, season three was generally pretty good, but it's impossible to deny that they dropped the ball by casting Matt Nable as Ra's.

He had all the proper accoutrements, including a palatial lair in Nanda Parbat and access to a life-rejuvenating Lazarus Pit, but Nable just faded into the background in most of his scenes. Showing a complete lack of screen presence, he simply couldn't command the correct amount of gravitas and failed to convey the quietly menacing undercurrent that Ra's should possess.


Victor Garber's Martin Stein on Legends of Tomorrow

Veteran Canadian actor Victor Garber brought a sense of thespian class to the Arrowverse over the course of his tenure on The Flash and Legends Of Tomorrow. An actor with a storied screen history, including roles in Titanic, Sicario, Argo and JJ Abrams' Alias, he played Professor Martin Stein perfectly. Stein was initially fairly unlikeable, an arrogant and self-centred scientist who placed his work above his family but Garber still made him compelling to watch.

Then, during his time as one half of Firestorm with Jefferson Jackson, Garber was able to portray a man grappling with opening himself up to another person and embracing his heroic destiny. His attempts to make amends with his wife and time-remnant daughter were also very poignant.


Arrow Mister Terrific Curtis Holt feature

Arrow's version of Mr Terrific is Curtis Holt, a technological genius and inventor who we first meet working at Palmer Technologies under Felicity Smoak. He eventually creates his T-spheres and joins Team Arrow in their vigilante adventures. As the first openly gay superhero in network TV history, Curtis is an important character for LGBTQ representation.

Audiences met Curtis' husband Paul and watched as their marriage fell apart due to Curtis' vigilante activities. But, while the character is undoubtedly of historical importance, Echo Kellum's performance can leave a lot to be desired. A comedian by trade, Kellum's scenes too often rely on lame geeky humour and he feels lightweight, especially during dramatic and action-oriented scenes.


harrison wells

To date, Tom Cavanagh has played 12 different versions of Harrison Wells on The Flash. Admittedly, nine of them were little more than extended joke cameos, but they exploited his brilliant comic timing and zany energy perfectly. His three main Wells' (Eobard Thawne posing as Earth-1's Wells, Harry Wells of Earth-2 and H.R. Wells of Earth-19) are all solid gold performances that showcase the extent of Cavanagh's talents.

As Thawne/Wells he is threatening and cruel, whereas Harry Wells is a jerk with a heart of gold. H.R. Wells is the version most often played for laughs, but Cavanagh was skilled enough to show us the wounded man with an inferiority complex beneath all the bravado. All in all, Tom Cavanagh is one of the MVP's of the Arrowverse.


The Arrowverse has often had a strange relationship with Warner Brothers/DC Comics' movie division. Certain characters were off-limits to them if the movie people had plans involving said characters. But, when Suicide Squad was readying for release in 2016, two characters that had already been in Arrow had to be written off due to their usage in the movie: Deadshot and Amanda Waller.

This must have been a very bitter pill to swallow for the Arrowverse creative team and the actors in question, but to be honest, Cynthia Addai-Robinson's casting as Waller never sat well with many fans. Deemed to be too young, too thin and lacking the authoritarian edge Waller should have, she never managed to make a memorable impression in her appearances.


J'onn J'onzz, aka Martian Manhunter, has always had a dedicated cult fanbase despite never being one of the DC Universe's true A-list characters. Before Supergirl, he had appeared in live-action television shows twice: Phil Morris' grounded version in Smallville and David Ogden Stiers' diabolical version in the failed 1997 Justice League Of America TV pilot.

So, when it was revealed that British actor David Harewood was actually playing J'onn in Supergirl, and not Hank Henshaw, fans were excited. This depiction is undoubtedly the best so far, with excellent CGI bringing his martian form to life and Harewood bringing all of his acting class to the role. J'onn is commanding and tough, but also distinguished, noble and highly empathetic.


Katee Sackhoff is beloved by genre fans for her role as the kickass Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace in Battlestar Galactica, but we reckon you'd have a tough time pinpointing many fans of her turn in The Flash as Amunet Black/Blacksmith. Chewing the scenery with gusto and speaking in a truly forgettable British accent, it was obvious from the start that Sackhoff was having fun playing an over-the-top comic book supervillain.

But, we'd argue that she went so far over-the-top that she became cartoonish and it hurt any sense of threat or credibility that Amunet should have projected. She appeared in six episodes of season four and, while it's possible she might make a return to the show, please excuse us for hoping she stays away! Sorry Starbuck.


In a sad piece of news for fans of The Flash, it was recently announced that Jesse L. Martin would be taking a medical leave of absence from the show due to a back injury he sustained during the hiatus between season four and five. Fans had noticed his character, Detective Joe West, had been seated in all of his scenes in the first few season five episodes and the news only confirmed suspicion that something was wrong.

Every single viewer will wish him a speedy recovery, as Martin has consistently been the emotional anchor of the show as Barry's father figure. He is always a reliably calming, warm and paternal screen presence. Undoubtedly one of the Arrowverse's best casting decisions, The Flash will not be the same without him.


Jesse Quick CW Seed

Violett Beane's role on The Flash as Jesse Wells, daughter of Earth-2's Harry Wells, was spread out over season's two and three of the show. Initially introduced when she was captured by Zoom, which forced Harry to travel to Earth-1 to enlist the help of Team Flash in rescuing her, Jesse was never an overly interesting character.

When she then donned her own speedster costume and became Jesse Quick, fans never quite bought into her as a superhero. Perhaps Beane was a victim of a period in the Arrowverse in which it seemed like every supporting character on every show was developing superpowers and becoming a costumed hero, despite having little to no training, but the actress still never managed to shine enough to win fans over.


Wentworth Miller's Captain Cold

Wentworth Miller appeared in 36 episodes of The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow as Leonard Snart/Captain Cold, before bowing out of the role in late 2017. Initially introduced as a villain, it was obvious from the start that Snart had his own personal moral code and was a thief, but not a criminal lunatic like so many other villains.

He then re-teamed with his Prison Break co-star Dominic Purcell, who played Mick Rory/Heatwave on the show. They became antiheroes and members of the Legends team and Snart particularly found a place in fan's hearts. Adopting a very particular speech pattern and laconic delivery, his interpretation of the famous rogue has even helped the character become more popular than ever before in the comics.


Roy Harper Red Hood and the Outlaws

Colton Haynes' Roy Harper was a series regular during season's two and three of Arrow, having made a handful of introductory appearances in season one. A character with a storied history in the comics, Roy's treatment on the show was all over the place. Haynes isn't a bad actor; in fact, he was one of the best things about the first two seasons of Teen Wolf.

But he struggled to overcome the inconsistent writing which always seemed to put Roy's stories in fast forward, leaving the audience with narrative whiplash. He went from a street tough to a vigilante in training, then a brainwashed superpowered criminal to Oliver Queen's replacement far too quickly. His return in 2018 was handled better, so maybe Haynes can distinguish himself in the role this time.

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