Though they fight super villains and wear costumes, the members of Team Arrow have always been grounded in reality. They may be lean, mean, human fighting machines, but Diggle, Felicity, Speedy and the rest of the crew have continually relied on tech and an arsenal of weapons to give them their edge over crime. However, they’ve never met anyone quite like their recent recruit, Ragman.
When Felicity redirected a missile towards Havenrock in “Arrow’s” fourth season, Rory Regan’s father wrapped him in ancient rags from the time of Devarim. Somehow, those rags protected him from the explosion and fire, and a few months later, Rory emerged as the supernatural vigilante Ragman, seeking revenge against the company responsible for manufacturing the missile. His enhanced strength, durability and mystical ability to manipulate the rags that comprise his costume made him a formidable foe for Green Arrow, and now make him an invaluable ally. However, exactly how the rags saved him and whether their thirst for vengeance has truly been quenched remains to be seen.
Ahead of “Arrow’s” winter finale, actor Joe Dinicol spoke with CBR about the origins of the supernatural character he brings to life every week. We discuss Ragman’s unique costume, Evelyn’s betrayal and what could happen if he ever loses control.
CBR: Before we dive fully into your “Arrow” work, I want to talk about another costumed vigilante. You’re a big Batman fan. What is it about the Caped Crusader that speaks to you, and how does that help you with your work as Ragman?
Joe Dinicol: It’s the most interesting journey to me. It’s not unlike the Ragman’s journey, other than he has these rags with magical properties. To me, the idea of someone making something out of themself by sheer force of will, stamina and fortitude is endlessly fascinating from a character standpoint. From the outside, it’s interesting to look at people with magical abilities and cool to watch. But, as an actor, the psyche of Batman – we’re very fascinated with what compels a person do things.
Batman is endlessly interesting because he’s someone who will constantly battle with his reasons and ability to do what he’s doing. What are the moral implications and how do those change? The longer you do it, the more people you bring in and make complacent to what you’re doing, which is something that comes up with the new team as they see Oliver and learn what he’s done in the past. That becomes an interesting dialogue and moral hurdle to get over. Mostly, as an actor, and a fan of character-based stuff, I just find it the most intriguing.
Ragman’s supernatural abilities have not been clearly defined. What exactly are they?
There are some different opinions in the comic books, and it’s something that’s going to come out gradually [on “Arrow”]. What’s sort of fun for us is they are also largely a mystery to Rory. This was something at an inflection point in his life. Those rags were passed down at a moment’s notice from his father to protect him from this [missile] blast. Rory was left with no one to fully explain them to him. There’s some stuff coming up where we’ll hint at the dynamic between him and his father as they were being passed down, but they are largely a mystery to him. There’s differing opinions in the comic books about them being the souls that have been trapped. The specifics of the powers are the fun stuff to discover as we go.
How did Ragman’s unique costume evolve from your first fitting?
My first fitting was basically what you see. Other than making the pants a little stretchier so I can do things in them, that concept was fully realized. In genre, you really worry about things like special effects, costume and action scenes because they are insanely hard to do well. They do all of those things well on “Arrow.” Certainly, when I first saw the mask, I thought we’d be fine. I have a couple of the comic books and I was like, “How are they going to do this? What is TV’s Ragman going to look like?” The more fantastical characters are hard to ground in reality. I got there and I was blown away. The costume was cool and gritty. I could also see the magical meta- element of the costume coming to life. It didn’t seem like a big jump for those tendrils to be flying around. It didn’t like a big stretch based on what the costume looked like, so I was very thrilled.
Then to see the special effects on the rags, which was the biggest worry – that it would kind of silly with these tentacles coming out of the costume – but it looks so good. I’m constantly blown away visually by the show because they do these episodes in eight days and they are so big. There are people working around the clock figuring out how to do them. I watched the premiere of “Westworld” last night and I was like, “We’re in an era where the big canvas is on TV now.” To see all that stuff, especially with the special effects of Ragman, I was super-thrilled by the finished product.
One of Ragman’s distinct features is his creepy, distorted voice. How do you achieve that? Are you locked in an ADR (automated dialogue replacement) booth for hours?
Yeah, fortunately one of my better skills as an actor is ADR. I always joke that I’m not much of an actor, but I’m great at dubbing my performance. It’s interesting that the voice is evolving, too. We played around with different voices, and then they would layer other voices over top of it. We’ve actually started playing with a new way to do it, which I think sounds a lot better. It involves a little more work for me, but because I know my own rhythms, it synchs up a little better. It’s a fun thing to play with because you want it to sound right. To be able to balance that with Ragman is a difficult line because the properties of the rags do something to him. They are draining. They are a driving force as much as his own will. They sort of have a life of their own. To find the balance of how to make him sound like a very different person, but still be him, is a fun thing as an actor. It’s an evolving process.
Ragman was initially a solo act. What does it mean for him to be part of Team Arrow?
I’m a big fan of his introduction because his whole family was wiped out. He’s at this inflection point. That’s the most interesting time to meet someone. When he meets Oliver/Green Arrow, Rory is offered a choice. He can go one of two ways. He can let the darkness and tragedy consume him. Or, he can take a step forward and reach out and be a part of a team and find a new family. It’s what he desperately needs. It’s the most important thing to happen to him since the death of his parents, is to have a new family. It’s interesting how serious he takes it and how slowly he takes it. This gives him purpose and a home.
Ragman and the newbies appeared to be a close-knit group. How does Rory process Evelyn’s [Artemis] betrayal?
We’re all pretty shocked by it. For the newbies, we’re each other’s touchstones. Rick Gonzalez and I have become really close off camera, simply by nature of us being the two new guys. We’re the only ones who know what that’s like right now on set. Of course, Madison McLaughlin as well. It really rocks them.
I also think it has a galvanizing effect in that it also brings us together in a lot of ways. It’s a big, devastating thing because it means that Prometheus potentially knows who we all are. What’s great is it really ups the stakes. It makes things much more dangerous for us, not just as vigilantes, but as human beings. It really puts things on lockdown and puts the search for Prometheus and the need for us to take him down a million times higher. It has a great effect on the dynamic of the group because we all have to band together. All of a sudden, we’re in the same boat where this villain knows who we are. It makes for a cool dynamic.
What can viewers expect from Rory when “Arrow” returns in January?
You’ll see him engaging a lot more. Felicity revealing what her part was in Havenrock had an interesting effect on their relationship. Because she told Rory, and he forgives her, they then share this bond, and they were able to get past this thing. They have this respect and genuine likeness for each other. There’s some cool stuff between them working together, which is fun for me because Emily is just a dream actor. She’s so good and fun and playful. You’ll see him coming out of his shell a little bit and exuding a bit more personality. You’ll find out more about his Jewish faith as the season goes on. That becomes a nice element that he offers to the team.
In the comic books, the rags house fallen souls, and their quest for vengeance has occasionally taken over Rory. What kinds of conversations have you and the producers had about that bloodlust, or the strength and stamina required to keep it in check?
We talked briefly about that in the beginning. What I like about him, and one of the reasons he’s a quieter character, is I like to think not only does Rory have a healthy prayer life, but he probably meditates. One of the reasons he’s a lower energy, or a more-centered character, is that’s something he has to do to make sure he can control the rags. My interpretation is that his overall energy and focus is constantly in tune with that and not letting them get away from him.
Oliver has to be amped up and have the vengeance to do the things he does. Rory does it because the rags do a lot of the work for him. His job is actually the opposite. It’s not to get amped up and seek vengeance, but to keep a moral compass and center, and let the rags do what they can do. He has to be a calm conduit for them
Bruce Banner has temper problems – and we know what happens when he gets angry…
That makes for a cool area to potentially go. In his first episode, Rory is distraught and devastated. That character is much different than when he’s given a home and a family and a reason to keep himself in check. That’s an interesting area to dip into.
Starring Stephen Amell as the Emerald Archer, “Arrow” airs Wednesdays at 8 pm ET/PT on The CW. The series also stars Emily Bett Rickards, David Ramsey, John Barrowman, Willa Holland and more.
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