Arrow hits the airwaves on The CW tonight (Oct. 10) and brings the DC comics universe back to the network, shortly after the end of the hit series Smallville. This time around, Arrow, otherwise known as Oliver Queen is played by Stephen Amell. I got a chance to chat with Amell, the head of DC Entertainment Geoff Johns and writers/producers Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg about the which characters we’ll see (The Royal Flush Gang, guys!), shooting the bow without arrows and how much backstory we’re going to see. I’ve seen the pilot and it’s pretty darn fantastic. I’m totally ready to jump back into the DC Universe.
Guggenheim explained that the show is dealing less with cosmic superheroes and villains and more with grounded characters. “For us as writers and creators and fans,” he said, “what was most exciting for us was to take some of these lesser known characters and put the Arrow spin on them. For the most part, characters who are going to make the transition from the comics to the show are ones that are very grounded in reality … for people like Deadshot and the Huntress, they have very grounded backstories. Very emotional backstories. Because, you know, the heart of the show, it’s a drama. You take away all of the trappings of uniforms and arrows and super villains and whatnot, it’s really about people. For somebody like Deadshot, he’s a really scary villain … for the Huntress they have a very similar backstory. Both of their crusades were born out of pain and loss.” They described the Huntress as a darker version of Oliver and someone he thinks he can save.”
Fans of DC’s character relaunches, called the New 52 can expect to see it’s influence, in addition to the storyline from Mike Grell’s run, “The Longbow Hunters.” “One of the things we’ve really enjoyed from the New 52 is Anne Nocenti’s run wit the heavy Asian influence,” Kreisberg explained. “I’m trying not to spoil anything, but I think you’ll see that seep into the show in the later part of the season, starting in Episode 9.” Oh, and Starling City where the characters live? It will very often be referred to as “the star city” as a nod to the comics.
The producers said that there will be a ton of flashbacks and that we’ll go deep into what happened ot Oliver on the island. “There is really two series in one,” said Guggenheim. “There’s the flashback story. At the end of the pilot, you see Oliver reach the island. Episode 2 picks up with him setting foot on the island for the first time. Ideally, however long the series runs, the last flashback in the last episode of the series will be Oliver seeing the boat that rescued him in the pilot.”
Not familiar with the characters? Johns explained that the show is really for everyone. “I think it’s for graphic novel fans as much as it is for non-graphic novel fans,” he said. “You’re learning a lot more about how he became the Oliver Queen he is now from his experience on the island. Although in the comic books it’s delved into a few times. This is really putting it in a whole new light. And the whole DC universe is really brought into this island.” Amell added, “We’re in the stage of the deconstruction of Oliver on the island. It’s pretty gnarly.”
” I think it’s for graphic novel fans as much as it is for non-graphic novel fans.”
Amell says that it was his hope that they’d go dark on the island. “I’d hoped that we’d take the character and beat him into nothing before he rises back up again. And that’s what we’re doing.” The producers explained that unlike many superheroes who have one traumatic event as their backstory, Oliver had to live through five years of it. Amell joked, “Based on the hair and makeup, I’m pretty sure that by the end I’ll wish I’d just been bitten by a spider.”
He also explained that his archery coach spent most of her time teaching him form, because he’s rarely shooting actual arrows. It’s not exactly safe. “You can put blanks in a gun, right?” he says. “But even if you have a rubber-tipped arrow and you fire it at anyone with any significant draw weight, it will penetrate that person’s skin.”
As far as other DC characters, we know we’re going to see the Royal Flush Gang, though they’ll be modified from their comic book counterparts. “You’ll see with the Royal Flush Gang the dynamic of the family and the iconography of the playing cards, without the supernatural element,” says Kreisberg. “And I think we’ve come up with a really clever way to portray them … in Episode 6, I’m really proud of that episode. We think it’s one of the most successful attempts at alchemy we’ve performed.” Johns added, “And Ace is much more interesting than an android.” (Which is what he is in the comics.)
I asked about Speedy, his sidekick in the comic book. In the pilot, we learn that Oliver’s sister Thea (Willa Holland) has that nickname. (In the comics as well as the show, her drug use is part of that.) So, will his sister end up fighting crime along side him? Maybe not. There are definitely changes here, including the fact that Oliver has a sister at all. And a mother. Guggenheim said that they wanted to populate the universe with people that meant something to Oliver. “As for the nickname Speedy, look. Part of the fun for us is dropping Easter eggs and teasing you guys and teasing ourselves. As Geoff says, never say never. A lot of seeds that have been planted in the pilot, we have plans for that won’t grow to fruition until year 5 in some cases.” Johns added, “I’d also say that just because of the nickname Speedy, doesn’t mean it’s going to be what you expect.”