Following her debut in the early third season episode “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak,” the mother of Team Arrow’s tech darling is on her way back to Starling City. Actress Charlotte Ross, who made such a favorable impression on the fans that she sparked an active Internet lobby that hopes to see her bring a little love and light into the life of beleaguered cop Quentin Lance, returns on tonight’s episode.
Whether romance buds between the two parents of vigilantes remains to be seen, but Ross — a television veteran ranging from her multi-Emmy nominated stint on the daytime drama “Days of Our Lives” to her three-year stint on the groundbreaking cop show “NYPD Blue” to recent appearances on “Glee” and “Nashville” — spoke candidly with CBR News about Donna’s return, those rumors of romance and the time a semi-nude scene got ABC and Disney sued by the FCC.
CBR News: What bring Mama Smoak back to Starling City?
Charlotte Ross: Well, you know, Donna doesn’t wait for an invitation. [Laughs] We know that she sometimes just shows up when she feels like it. It’s probably safe to say that there’s a lot going on in Starling City and it’s all over the news. Donna’s at the blackjack table and probably instinctually knows that she’s got to come to town.
When I was last in town, my daughter had no love life and I really wanted to change that! [Laughs] What’s interesting is, when I come to town this time, a lot has changed. Donna has a lot of opinions on everything and wants to, of course, be there for her daughter in general when she’s going through anything and everything — and she also has some opinions about what she should do, you know?
Through some recent tweets and teases in the press from the regular cast, we’ve gotten a sense that there’s maybe a chance for some romance — possibly with Detective Lance?
I have to say, the fans on this show are so extraordinary, I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m just so grateful for their support, and they’re just amazing. And they have sensed — well, obviously Paul [Blackthorne] has openly admitted that he hasn’t had sex on the show for several years, so that seed was planted. But the fans kind of thought “Gosh, wouldn’t it be great if they got together?” and they created, as you said, the #SmoakinLance thing. And, of course, Paul and I were giggling and we did a little selfie.
And, y’know, I think it would be so much fun. I think that his character has been through so much, and he’s so serious, he needs to have some fun and some laughs. I think their personalities are so different — they’re so strong, in different ways, and have been through so much heartache as well, in different ways. And I think that, instinctually, I just get a good feeling that I think it could be a really fun thing to play. I think the fans are kind of dead on that way.
I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen, but it’s safe to say that Greg [Berlanti], Andrew [Kreisberg] and Marc [Guggenheim] and the network, they hear the fans, they see what they’re saying and that really is taken into consideration, I think. I’m kind of hopeful that I have a little date with the detective. I really do.
The second time around on the show, what was fun about working with Emily and building out your character even more?
I’ve adored Emily from the day I met her. I think we have a natural chemistry, I feel kind of innately protective and motherly toward her in real life — I mean, we talk about our own personal love lives and what’s going on there together, and then we go on set and we talk about it as our characters. She’s beautiful on the outside, and even more beautiful on the inside. It’s just such a joy to work with her. We giggle all the time, and just relish having scenes together. We just can’t wait to do things.
So how is it different this time? It’s different now because now we’ve worked together a bit, and we kind of know how our chemistry works and can kind of play with it more. It’s just such a fun dichotomy that she’s so linear-smart M.I.T., and I’m so kind of out there and boisterous and wear my heart on my sleeve. We kind of balance each other out that way. I mean, [Donna] would probably like to be around her more. I was a single mom for a long time with her, and I’m really trying to rekindle our relationship that kind of fell out as she got older — that’s what Donna’s trying to do now.
You’ve been both a regular cast member and a guest star on many different kinds of TV series. What’s been the fun of being on this particular show, for you?
Well, a couple things: Number one, at this stage of my career, I really want to play something that’s really well-written. I want to work, but I do pass on a lot, to be honest with you — I don’t want to work just to work. I really want to play a great character, and they’ve written this character that’s so multidimensional. She’s so seemingly over-the-top, but she’s also so grounded in reality. She’s so vulnerable, and she’s so strong, and she’s so funny — I mean, they really wrote the rainbow for this character. That is something that I just jumped on.
Number two, I think I walked into the perfect storm because Emily is so beloved, [the fans] really want to see where she came from and who her mom is, so that was another thing I loved. And of course the third thing I loved was, “How much do you like the people that you work with?” It’s just so important to me now, and I can’t stress to you enough how amazing the cast and crew is. They’re all so professional, they work so hard but they’re also so fun — it’s just a real, true family over there, and I enjoy it so much.
The icing on the cake is these fans. I’ve been on some shows like “Glee” where I’ve seen a lot of tweeting and vocal opinions online, but this is just on another level. The love and support they’ve sent my way is something that I can’t thank them enough for. I have so much abundant gratitude for it, I’m shocked every day and I want to say thank you to each and every one of them — I wish I could! And their passion for the show and their passion for Felicity and all the characters on the show, and the welcoming they’ve given me is something I’ve never seen before. Out of all my series — leads and guest-starring and whatever — I’ve never seen anything else like it. It’s really fun to be a part of it, and I’m still kind of in awe by it. I’m just so grateful that they’ve been so loving and so supportive. I’m just lucky!
You mentioned good writing, and you certainly had that on “NYPD Blue,” which I would say set the stage for this Golden Age of TV that we’re experiencing right now. What was it like for you to be a part of something that was really changing the rules about how television was made and how we all watched television?
That’s a really good point. “NYPD Blue” was groundbreaking in a lot of ways. It was one of the longest-running television series of all time, and of course Dennis [Franz] was just so extraordinary — and also, I showed my ass on that show [Laughs]. A 10 p.m. show. I don’t know if you know, but in a quick little one-liner — it ended up airing at 2 p.m. in the Midwest, and the FCC successfully sued ABC and Disney, saying my ass was indecent.
It wasn’t about my ass — it was about pushing the boundaries of network television because all the cable shows could show that all the time. But then it got overturned, went to the Federal Appeals Court and then it went to the Supreme Court, and people were holding pickets of my ass — which is much better now, so it was very frustrating! [Laughs] But it wasn’t about my ass — it was about standards and practices and how we were losing so much audience and how can you compete as a network show.
To think how many years ago “NYPD Blue” started pushing the envelope, in terms of language and nudity and storylines and everything, it’s really quite extraordinary. [Executive Producer Steven] Bochco and Bill Clark are real visionaries that way. That I was a part of that was really cool and really exciting — it was a lot of years of my life, it was intense and it was also great training and it was a lot of fun. I learned a lot. I’m just proud to have been part of a show that was so high quality on so many levels.
Is it still fun to still be playing sexy characters and scenes, like the one you’re playing now?
Well, first of all I played a teenager for 20 years and I used to think, “Ugh — am I ever not going to play a teenager?” I’ve always played 10-15 years younger than my age. And then I played an ingenue for a long time. Now, I love being the boss, and I seem to be playing a lot of MILFs! Those kind of roles seem to be coming up, and listen, I’m honored. I’m a fitness fanatic, so I work out two to three hours a day. I try to give advice to women about what to eat and how to work out and that kind of thing, so I love being the mom — and if it’s a mom that has to wear a Herve Leger dress that’s the size of my fingernail, then yeah! It’s great, it’s fun — look how fun my role is! I’m having a great time.
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