SDCC: "Arrow" Welcomes Black Canary, New Direction for Oliver

The cast and crew of the hit CW series "Arrow" took to the stage at Comic-Con International in San Diego with a special preview of the show's new season, discussed its changing status quo -- and star Stephen Amell's abs.

While the sizzle reel showed that fans can expect more of the fights, explosions and family drama established in season one, it also revealed a new, major plotline in a big way: Black Canary. "One of the things we're doing is telling the beginning of the Black Canary story," executive producer Andrew Kreisberg explained. As was the case with Green Arrow and Deathstroke, Black Canary may not be the person fans assume. Instead, he called her "the beginning of the story."

The Canary reveal represents a taste of what Kreisberg called "The City of Heroes" -- an idea so important, it's the title of the season two premiere. Picking up five months after the explosive first season finale, Oliver has made a decision not to be a mere, vigilante, crossing names off a list. "It's now that the city needs a symbol of hope," Kreisberg said.

Titular star Stephen Amell explained that this change of approach is motivated by the death of Oliver's best friend, Tommy Merlyn. "No one was sadder than I was," he said. "Everything that happens is meant to honor Tommy and it's inspired by Tommy going forward." The star also clarified that Oliver hopes to be a better man than the person Tommy believed him to be.

Another moment glimpsed in the sizzle reel is the appearance of Detective Lance in a beat cop uniform. Kreisberg explained that Lance has been demoted for his association with the vigilante -- bad for Lance's career, perhaps, but, "he's in a good place emotionally. The politics of the station house were to much for him." Freed of that role, Lance can help people and joins the ranks of heroes flocking to Starling City.

Colton Haynes, late of MTV's "Teen Wolf," is another hopeful hero in the form of Roy Harper. Asked about the transition from lizard monster to possible sidekick, the actor replied, "[It's] less time in prosthetic make-up and I'm not allergic to red hoodies. It's been nice." But while he said the cast welcomed him with open arms, Roy may not receive such warmth from Oliver -- especially as he starts out as a "punk boyfriend" to Oliver's sister Thea. At the same time, "Roy wants it to happen. In a way, season two could be 'the island' for Roy. He has to go through a gauntlet of things and he isn't as bad ass as he thinks he is."

When it was suggested that Roy and Oliver could spar to settle their differences, Haynes responded with "I hope so."

"Best of luck, pal," Amell quipped in return.

Though the producers would not confirm if "the beginning of Black Canary" is tied to Laurel, Katie Cassidy did say her character gets to kick some butt in season two. In addition to fighting, she is still dealing with Tommy's death. "She's done her mourning and is trying to move forward, but she loves Tommy and that will stay with her," the actress said. Prodded to discuss a possible romance with Oliver, she replied with a simple "I don't know."

The five-month jump finds John Diggle in a quandary as Oliver's name is now associated with mass murder. Actor David Ramsey finds the conflict fascinating, but believes Dig can still work with his friend. "Where capital punishment lays and how [Oliver] is a death dealer and how Diggle deals with that" forms much of what the actor finds compelling in the scripts.

Asked if Dig might become a superhero himself, Kreisberg deflected by mentioning that the character will soon be appearing in DC's "Green Arrow" comic book. "We made [him] for the show, and now he's part of the greater Green Arrow legacy. Now you can't imagine the character without his best friend/bodyguard/driver," he said with a certain amount of pride.

One of the surprises of season one was the breakout character Felicity Smoak. Meant to have had a small, one-off appearance, she quickly became a fan favorite. "She was never a small character to me," said actress Emily Bett Rickards. "She was stuck behind this screen and Ollie shows up with bullet holes in the laptop and she figures it out." Fans in the audience expressed both their love for the character and the hope that she finds some loving for herself. Now aware of "shipping," Rickards gave the fans a few naming conventions like "Delicity" and "Figgle." On the topic of an actual Diggle/Felicity relationship, she said, "They have an old soul kind of connection."

Moderator Damian Holbrook pondered if any characters on the casualty list might return, which was the cue for John Barrowman, who played Malcolm Merlyn in season one, to appear on stage, soaking in the thunderous applause of the audience. "I've been out on the floor shopping," Barrowman said, presenting Amell with a gift. "I found a 1989 [Green Arrow] action figure from Argentina. It was all I could find."

Amell responded, "I'm sorry that I stabbed you."

Reflecting on his experience during season one, Barrowman said, "I love being part of this family." Pointing to Amell, he added, "It was joyous to watch this young man in the middle become the leader of the pack and see him get on his feet and become a true hero." A visibly blushing Amell was immediately teased accordingly.

Kreisberg asked the fans, "Do you want Malcolm to come back?" to an enthusiastic audience response.

"Dead people can't come back to life, can they?" asked executive producer Greg Berlanti.

"There are ways," Kreisberg shot back.

"I can think of a few," Barrowman added.

He chuckled when asked point blank if he was interested in coming back to "Arrow," saying, "If I'm being invited back, it's more the 50th anniversary of 'Doctor Who' has ever done."

Executive producer Marc Guggenheim offered a list of new and returning DC Comics characters. Teen Titans character Sebastian Blood comes to Starling City in the form of "True Blood's" Kevin Alejandro. Deadshot will return, and his Suicide Squad teammate Bronze Tiger will also appear, played by Michael Jai White. Summer Glau joins the show as Isabel Rochev, a character pulled straight from the "Green Arrow" comics. She presents a threat to Oliver's public face as her character attempts to take control of Queen Consolidated. She and Amell have already shot scenes, and Kreisberg called it "very cool."

Kreisberg also teased that there are "one or two other things we're working the deals out on." He said those announcements would be made in the next few weeks.

Before opening the floor to questions, Holbrook asked the actors to give him their one-word reactions to the first script of the year. Haynes offered "Epic," while Amell said "Trees." He then added, "When you see the episode, it'll make perfect sense."

Cassidy called it "Unexpected" while Rickards said "Daring."

Ramsey's reaction: "Me?"

"Not read it," quipped Barrowman.

During a brief fan Q&A, Jonah, a young boy in Two-Face makeup who made Comic-Con his Make-a-Wish Foundation wish, asked how Oliver will make that final push into becoming Green Arrow. "Nothing on the show happens overnight," Amell said, though he did suggest Tommy's end will be a factor.

Amell was asked by another fan if acting in scenes or the physical preparation was more difficult on a day-to-day basis. The actor offered a third option with his answer of "the scars," explaining that in the beginning, Oliver's complex network of scars and wounds took up a great deal of his morning. "They've got it down to 75 minutes to color them and seal them," he explained.

"How long does it take to put on the abs?" Guggenheim asked.

The actor quickly responded, "After hiatus? Thirty days."

The final question gave Guggenheim the perfect opportunity to tease the season premiere. Asked whether Slade would be a villain or anti-hero when he finally becomes Deathstroke, he simply responded, "The opening moments will give you a big hint."

"Arrow" returns to The CW on October 9th. Season One comes to DVD and Blu-ray on September 17.

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