There's nothing super about Stephen Amell.
That is to say, he doesn't have X-ray vision, super strength or the ability to fly, and yet on Wednesday night, he'll have the power to captivate an audience of comic book aficionados and salivating fangirls alike when he debuts as the star of Arrow — and for The CW, that's one hell of a superpower.
Like Smallville's Tom Welling before him, the 31-year-old Canadian actor is about to fill some large shoes by bringing one of DC Comics' Justice League members to life. For Amell, it's the Green Arrow, a superhero without the super.
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Amell plays Oliver Queen, a wealthy playboy who survives a boating accident that leaves him stranded on a deserted island for five years. While there, he hones his archery skills to survive, birthing his alter ego, Arrow. Upon his return, he'll have his work cut out for him as he attempts to clean up Starling City (yes, it's not called Star City) and right his family's wrongs.
In that same vein, Amell has his work cut out for him, following in the footsteps of Justin Hartley, who recently portrayed the Green Arrow on Smallville. But Amell insists that there will be few, if any, similarities to that other CW superhero series. Below, Amell shares his thoughts on taking on the role and what's in store for DC Comics fans and newbies alike:
How much pressure do you feel taking on such an iconic role, especially one that was on television so recently?
Amell: I don't feel pressure at all. I felt pressure one time during the pilot when we were doing hair and makeup tests. It's like the first day of school for everybody and all the departments came in. I had been on the set at the production office for a few weeks getting ready and I remember driving into the studio and it felt like there were 12,000 cars there. In my head, I'm just thinking, "All of these people are here for the pilot. They all want it to go to series. I'm in every scene. If I do a bad job, it's not going to go." So I felt pressure then, but as it relates to the character, no. I like where we are with the show. I'd be nervous if I didn't think the show was good, but I think it's really good and I think we're giving people what they want.
Had you read any of the comics to prepare?
Amell: I didn't read any before because the pilot script was all-encompassing and I trusted [executive producers] David Nutter, Andrew Kresiberg and Marc Guggenheim implicitly. Then, I read everything.
Did you ever have childhood dreams of someday playing a superhero?
Amell: No, I wanted to — and continue to want to — play villains. When I realized they were relaunching Superman, but they already cast Michael Shannon as General Zod, I was apoplectic. That's my dream role. If they reboot Batman, I'd love to play the Riddler. I love villains. The cool thing about Oliver is that he wants justice and he wants people with power to handle it responsibly, but he also has an ultimate goal of cleaning up Starling City and he's not afraid of collateral damage. Oliver is not a villain by any means, but he's certainly not squeaky-clean, and that's really enticing for me.
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What's your take on Oliver Queen/Green Arrow?
Amell: My take, as it relates to our show, is that we're dealing with an Oliver Queen who is vengeful, but he's also damaged. He has post-traumatic stress disorder. He must, based on what he saw on the island and what he saw before he got to the island. We are dealing with somebody that I wouldn't call entirely stable. That adds an element of danger to our show that people will enjoy.
Superman and Batman both have that code not to kill.
Amell: Oliver has a no guns rule.
But he has no code about killing people?
Amell: Nope. I find this interesting because there's a lot of death and destruction on The Vampire Diaries, but we're talking about vampires, werewolves and witches, so it's almost as though people have agreed that it's OK to kill these people because they're fictional anyway. But on our show, in the pilot, the guy says to me, "You don't have to do this," but I say, "No, I do have to, because the end goal is more important than you are." That's a cool element to this show. That keeps it grounded in reality.
People will obviously draw comparisons to Smallville. How is the series different?
Amell: In totality. Nobody has superpowers on our show. We try to do everything that we can without wires. All the fights, we do them. When I fall on rocks in the second episode, I'm falling on rocks. It hurts. It's a comic book show, yup. It's on The CW, for sure. But I think people will stop drawing the comparisons beyond length of time that it's on the air and viewership because they're extremely different shows.
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How do you keep Oliver/Arrow grounded?
Amell: You just have to remove ego from it. One of my favorite performances that I saw was Clive Owen in Children of Men, and I remember reading a New York Times review about that and they said, "Mr. Owen played the part without ego." Oliver is able to do some amazing things physically, mentally, even emotionally, so I can't be afraid to make him vulnerable. I can't make him afraid to fail. If somebody bests him, it's fun to see him rise up and try to defeat that person later. Hopefully that happens.
If you're under the impression as a viewer that Green Arrow can never be defeated, then where are the stakes? We need that element of danger. One of people's favorite parts of Game of Thrones is that they killed the Ned Stark character. Wow, he died! Everybody is in play. Anything can happen! We want people to think, on our show, anything can happen.
What other characters from the DC canon are you hoping to see?
Amell: I would love to see Deathstroke. We hint at him. I would like to see Ra's al Ghul actually. There's some connection with the Merlyn (Colin Donnell) character because Merlyn, in the comics, was a member of the League of Shadows. That would be awesome. Batman! Why not? Batman could exist in our world, for sure.
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And of course, you'll have Black Canary at some point. How will the relationship between Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and Oliver develop?
Amell: As the director of our pilot always said, the opposite of love is not hate, it's apathy. Laurel hates Oliver. She's not indifferent to him. He loves her. He's just afraid of what could happen to her if people that were out to get Arrow found out about his feelings toward her. I'd be amazed if there weren't a few more chapters in the Oliver-Laurel love book.
He calls his little sister Thea (Willa Holland) "Speedy" in the pilot. Would you love to have her as a sidekick?
Amell: I'd be interested to see what they do. If you're to ground it in reality, we wouldn't have Willa — who is a wonderful actress, but not the largest individual in the world — flying around and beating up guys three times her size, but there are definitely things she could do as Speedy to aid Arrow if they choose to go in that direction. Right now, Willa's character is a long way from Speedy. We see in the second and third episode, there's a real strain between her and Oliver. It's one thing for him to come back and hug her hello; it's another thing for them to adjust. She went from age 12 to age 17. That's a formidable change in a young woman's life. Their relationship is a long way from being sound, let alone for him to invite her into his secret identity and to eventually use her as a sidekick or an accomplice.
Which characters from the DC mythology would you like to see on Arrow? Hit the comments with your thoughts!
Arrow premieres Wednesday at 8/7c on The CW. Will you be watching?