Stephen Amell Talks Team Arrow's Dissolution, Russian Flashbacks & Oliver's Facial Hair

When "Arrow" Season 5 opens, Oliver (Stephen Amell) will not only be mourning the death of Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) and struggling with the break-up of Team Arrow, he'll be grappling with the exit of both Diggle (David Ramsey) and Thea (Willa Holland. In their absence, Oliver will be faced with two jobs to tackle on his own: being Mayor of Star City, and patrolling its streets as Green Arrow, without the back-up he's grown accustomed to. And while he's become experienced at the latter, the former is something he's not quite figured out.

"Oliver is a garbage mayor," Amell told the press, including CBR, at Comic-Con International in San Diego. "He's doing a really bad job. There's a critical point early in the year with Thea, because Thea is basically holding all the water as Mayor, because there is no Team Arrow. Oliver is out there [fighting] on his own, and being out there on his own means that there's really no time for him to be the Mayor."

When Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) broaches the subject of recruiting a new team of heroes, Oliver is against the idea, saying the new vigilantes are not worth his time. "He thinks they are garbage. He doesn't think they are ready. He doesn't want to use them. Felicity wants a new team, Oliver wants the old team. Oliver wants Dig and Thea to come back. A lot of the early part of this season is Oliver wrestling with the idea of whether or not they are ever going to [come back.]"

With Oliver and Felicity working together as the only remaining members of Team Arrow, their relationship is going to be strained, but professional. "[Oliver and Felicity] are very much partners, and I've enjoyed our scenes," Amell said. "We have a heated disagreement in the first episode of the year, and I really like the way that it played. I wasn't trying to be gentle, I had my opinion, she had hers, we hashed it out, and went from there. I think they're in a really good place."

"Arrow" stunt director James Bamford, who has worked on the show since day one, is directing the first two episodes of the season. An experienced stunt choreographer, Bamford previously directed episodes 4.07 "Brotherhood" and 4.14 "Code of Silence." Asked what it was like kicking off the season with Bamford at the helm, Amell said, "I can't tell you anything about the stunt scenes, but what I can say is that I think it's incredibly important for any show, at any point in time, not necessarily to reinvent itself, but to reinvigorate itself. That typically tends to be when you find someone who, from a creative perspective, really breathes new life into the show. That, to me, is James Bamford. He's directing our first two episodes. If this show is going to keep going past Season 5 and have a second leg, it will be in large part because of him."

Another change coming to "Arrow" as it enters its fifth season arrives in the form of Oliver's flashbacks. Namely, their location, which will shift dramatically from past seasons to Oliver's time in Russia. "Oliver is on the hunt for the individual that he promised he would take care of for Taiana, and I'm excited. I'm really enjoying it so far." Oliver has mentioned Russia a few times throughout the series, most obviously in Season 1 when he called in a favor from Alexi Leonov, and when he was made a "Bratva" captain in Season 2 by Anatoly Knyazev. Oliver's journey to Russia, a glimpse of which could be seen in the SDCC sizzle reel, will likely lead him not only to Taiana's brother, but to the Russian "Bratva" mob as well. According to "Arrow" EP Wendy Mericle, Oliver's time with Russian mob in the flashbacks will perfectly tie into the main story they are telling in Season 5, which is the current state of the mob in Star City.

Perhaps most important, of course, is the never-ending question of when Oliver will sport the facial hair of his comic book counterpart. "Sometimes on the show -- like we do in the first episode this year -- we flash back to something that happened in our first four seasons, so what would I do with a goatee, then? This is the reality about episodic television. I would like the goatee at some point, but I'm not wearing a fake beard. It's a 183-day shoot, the fake beard is itchy. The truth is, the few days that I spent on 'Legends of Tomorrow' were literally the longest days I have ever had on set. The beard itched. It was bad."

"Arrow" returns to The CW on Wednesday, October 5.

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