In a recent interview Arrow’s Stephen Amell sat down to talk about the ever popular, ‘#Olicity‘ as well as the very highly anticipated Arrow / Flash Crossover event that is coming to the CW Next month. So check out the interview below, and be sure and join in the conversation AFTER THE JUMP!
BY ERIC GOLDMAN
There are a ton of comic book and superhero shows popping up on TV these days, but Arrow – now in Season 4 — is one of the series that was integral in leading the way for this current boom. This coming weekend, on November 21st and 22nd, Arrow star Stephen Amell will be a part of the Heroes & Villains Fan Fest in San Jose, CA, a convention he helped bring together. The guest list includes several of Amell’s Arrow costars, including Willa Holland, David Ramsey, Katie Cassidy, John Barrowman, Paul Blackthorne, Caity Lotz and Neal McDonough, plus the The Flash’s Danielle Panabaker and Robbie Amell, Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter), Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy) and more.
I spoke to Amell about Fan Fest and the appeal of conventions and fan interaction for him. We also spoke about Arrow’s current season, the addition of magic via new villain Damien Dahrk, Oliver and Felicity’s recent status as an actual couple and the obstacles they face and the upcoming big Arrow/Flash crossover, which also includes several characters from the new spinoff, Legends of Tomorrow.
IGN TV: You’ve got Heroes & Villains Fan Fest coming up. You do a fair amount of convention appearances. Is it safe to say you enjoy the fan interactions they give you?
Stephen Amell: You know, I do. It’s sort of part and parcel with what I try to do on my Facebook page. I am constantly amazed by the number of people that I meet and they bring up something specific that they posted on my page and I’ve responded to. To go from knowing these people in something that is a community but is still cyberspace, to actually seeing them in person is really cool. These things… San Diego Comic-Con being a prime example, that thing is a corporate machine now. A few years ago I went to something called Walker Stalker Con for, I guess the technical term would be the “zombie genre,” but in actuality it was revolving almost entirely around the popularity of The Walking Dead. So the gentleman that organized that, James Frazier, I’d met him before. So he and I got on the phone, and I had the thought that The Walking Dead — though it is incredibly popular, transcendently popular — is just one show. I looked at the landscape, and I was like, “Well, in terms of superhero shows on television and just the concepts of heroes and villains in general, just in terms of comic book properties, there are like seven comic book properties on the air right now, and growing all the time.” So from my perspective, I just thought there was a gap in the market where we could do a show that was very specific to this genre. And because we didn’t have responsibility to do an overarching theme and we could be a bit more specific, we could create an experience that people would really enjoy.
IGN: As you mentioned, there are all these other comic book shows. Even looking at the schedule for who’s going to be at this convention, there are some of your castmates and people from The Flash and Legends, and then there are people like Hayley Atwell from other shows altogether. Is it fun for you guys when you see each other at these events?
Amell: Oh yeah! I mean, I have comic con-specific relationships, where I only generally see them when I’m at these conventions – Hayley Atwell being one of them. I’ve met her a few times; I met her in Calgary and one other spot. I knew Arthur Darvill, who’s going to be on Legends, from a convention before I even knew he was going to be on the show. Ironically, I think I’ve had an opportunity to talk with a couple of people who I’ve gotten to know through conventions, and they’ve ended up being part of our universe. So it’s a nice networking opportunity, but really, everything begins and ends with the fans. And we thought we could create something that was going to be a unique fan experience and totally catered around the idea of, at least in the beginning, the comic book genre on TV.
IGN: And it just keeps growing, that world. There’s so much coming.
Amell: Yeah, and we picked San Jose for a variety of reasons. Principally, because I knew the first show would be primarily populated with the cast of Arrow, Legends and Flash. So we wanted to pick a spot to make sure that if all of us have to work on Friday, we’ll all be able to get there on Saturday. Same for the people who work in LA. So we have another one of these that’s coming up in Newark, New Jersey in the new year, and the guest list has yet to be fully announced, but that one is going to be much more interactive in terms of people across different shows, and we’ll still include some of the favorites from the one in San Jose. And hopefully everyone has a good experience in San Jose and wants to try it again.
IGN: I’m sure at these things there’s got to be some sort of go-to questions you get from fans, which are to be expected. But is it interesting for you when someone will really ask a curveball question or an, “Oh, wow, I hadn’t thought about that!” question, regarding Oliver or something about the show?
Amell: You know, that happens all the time, and it’s almost always kids who ask that type of question. I was at a convention recently, and my response got a lot of play because the question was very straightforward. It was, “Why does Oliver love Felicity?” But I had to give a straightforward answer, because it was like an eight-year-old girl who asked the question! So it’s not like I could be flippant and sort of dance around the question and give a sort of humorous response. It was more, this girl was legitimately asking and wanting to know, and I didn’t know how literally she took the characters, so I had to give a very straightforward response. So that’s not necessarily a curveball question, but you get great questions all the time, and they almost always come from kids. Like, the thing that I like on Facebook is, I’ll have people that will make random requests, so they’ll tell me that they’re coming. I have a buddy who I’ve worked on my page with — I post all the content on my Facebook page, but every once in awhile I’ll see something scrolling through, and I’ll just copy the link and send it to him and say, “Remind me, please.” And before I go to an event, he’ll give me a cheat sheet, and it will have names of people on it and things people have brought up, and I’ll try to surprise them at the convention.
IGN: What you were saying about kids is so true. I’ve seen it at Star Wars conventions too, where you think you’ve heard all the questions and then a kid comes up and asks a great question that gets everyone going, “Whoa!”
Amell: And I don’t know how they get to the front of the line, but they do, and their questions are always fantastic.
IGN: [Laughs] Let’s talk about what’s coming up on Arrow. In the next episode, airing Wednesday night, they’re teasing that the ongoing battle with Damien Dahrk is “complicated by a shocking revelation.” Anything you can say about that?
Amell: Jeez, I was actually surprised by how much the preview showed, so I’m not going to say anything more about the shocking revelation. But I will say that I do very much think that episode 407 is our strongest episode to date this year. James Bamford directed it, and he was one of the first guys that I met in Vancouver when I arrived for the pilot. On our second day of filming, I actually snapped his neck on the show, which was one of the first clips that was released. He’s a wonderful guy, and after 70-plus episodes choreographing the fights and coordinating the stunts, he got an opportunity to direct. All of the things that he has wanted to see on the show, from an action perspective, he puts into this episode. Really incredible. But even more so, he was incredibly deft, as a director, on the emotional aspects of this episode, of which there are many because of this “shocking revelation.” So I’m excited for everyone to see it. It has a different feel. I think fans are really going to enjoy it.
IGN: This season has been interesting, because with Damien Dahrk, you have brought this more mystical element into the show. Is that enjoyable for you? It’s year four, so do you like that your show can evolve and add new elements so that it doesn’t feel stagnant each season?
Amell: Well, it has to. It has to. There has to be something new for me to do every year. There has to be something new for Katie and Willa and Emily and David and Paul. Paul Blackthorne and I have actually talked a lot this year about the relationship of Lance and Oliver and the quite possibly burgeoning relationship of Lance and Donna that gives him new things to do and new arenas to play in. Look, there has to be an element every year that you add to the show, otherwise it doesn’t distinguish itself. As much as we would like to look at it and go, “Alright, we had this one stretch in Season 1, or this was this great fight in 2. Let’s just try to replicate that,” that’s no fun. So it keeps it fresh for me. And of course the characters are changing so much too, not the least of which Oliver. So it’s remained fresh. I’m glad that our writers and producers are never satisfied.
IGN: What’s it like for you playing a somewhat lighter Oliver now? When you think about what he was when the show began, obviously a lot has changed for him.
Amell: Yeah, I mean, we’ve been trying to find that balance. There are elements of the character dating back to Season 1 that I actually quite enjoy. I was talking a little bit with the producers about making sure that we don’t lose sight of the ferocity with which we saw Oliver’s entry back into Starling City. I want to make sure, in the battle to create real stakes, we don’t undersell what a seasoned warrior he is. That being said, there have been aspects this year — principally the mayoral stuff, the public persona of Oliver Queen, the grownup public persona of Oliver Queen — That’s been amazing and incredibly fun to play. The lighter moments, of which I thought [director] Antonio Negret did a wonderful job in 406, the interplay between Oliver and Donna and Oliver and Felicity, and them having a grownup, established relationship I thought was fascinating. We’re going into some good spots within the flashbacks and, again, are leaning more towards the version of him we saw in Season 1. Then there’s a fourth element that we’re going to introduce in a couple of episodes that, again, is a side of Oliver that the audience has never had an opportunity to see and he didn’t know was there. So it’s been a real fun exercise for me thus far this year.
IGN: With Oliver and Felicity, the last episode dealt with them trying to figure things out as a couple – more importantly, a couple that’s in Star City while living this crazy life. Will there continue to be a push and pull, as they continue to figure out how to make this work, considering the situation they’re in?
Amell: Well, domestic bliss is only so exciting, you know what I mean? At the end of the day, it is a television show and conflict is important — well, conflict is actually quite vital — but the thing that I’ve enjoyed from the writers, and Emily and myself have explored in our dynamic, is, you know, couples fight and have disagreements. We’ve always tried to handle them in the most realistic, adult way possible within this fantastical world that we’ve built. Like, if Emily and I are going to have a disagreement about an immortal metahuman, we still need to be able to ground that disagreement and get into the fundamental aspects of what makes a successful relationship. So they worked passed their issue as it pertained to Ray and Felicity’s ensuing guilt. But I’m sure there is something else on the horizon. There always is.
IGN: I have to ask you about the next crossover. I talked to Andrew [Kreisberg] a couple weeks ago, and he was saying they as big as they felt the crossover was last year, this year outdoes that in a notable way. Suffice to say, the scale has gotten much larger when you guys meet up again?
Amell: Yeah, I mean, look, let’s talk honestly about it for a second. It’s a challenging logistical thing that we are still working our way through. That being said, I was speaking with Mark Pedowitz, who’s the president of The CW obviously, and this really is something that is… I don’t know what the corollary is, I don’t know what the precedent is in the history of modern television where you have three shows on one network, each with a distinctive feel. And we weave Legends into the crossover this year, but if everything goes well with that show, and I would say it will based on how talented everyone that’s involved in it is — on the cast side, the production side and the crew side — we could be looking at a situation next year where we’re able to weave three shows into a three-night event. Again, Mark Pedowitz, I mean, this has never happened before. It’s incredible, and it’s a real credit to principally Greg Berlanti and secondarily, a tie between The CW and the WB and DC — a three-way tie — that have given us so much to work with within the DC Universe, to be able to populate three shows. You have to do it. You have to do it. It would be like me going to a Blue Jays game and Josh Donaldson asking me if I wanted to take batting practice and me saying “No.” I have to! I must! Right? So, you know, the producers always say when we get to the end of the crossovers, “We’re probably not going to do one next year.” They’re lying. Of course we are! If we don’t seize the opportunity to give the fans what I think is going to amount to, certainly this year, an incredibly interesting two-night event — because not only are we teaming up people that everybody knows in both the Flash and Arrow universe, but we’re weaving in the Legends and helping to launch that show. So it’s a three-pronged attack, and it’s incredibly exciting.
IGN: Anything story-wise you can tease about what will bring so many of these heroes together?
Amell: Well, Barry actually encounters this situation where he wants to go to Oliver and Team Arrow for help, and that’s our tipping point. The fight takes us from Central City to Star City to Central City to a farmhouse… It’s good, man. It’s just good. It does feel like an event, as a fan of television. And that’s how you can tell; Greg Berlanti is a fan of television, which is why he’s so prolific at it. One of his favorite things growing up, as he has said in interviews, was to see multiple heroes and villains from his favorite shows show up on his other favorite shows. So we’ve done a really good job of creating something, and I think it doesn’t feel like The Flash, doesn’t feel like Arrow; it feels like both.
IGN: I saw Marc Guggenheim tweet out that first photo from the upcoming crossover, and there are so many of you guys together. At this point, a few years in, are you very used to it, or do you still have a moment when you’re all in costume and you’re like, “This is crazy, huh? We’re doing this for a living! We’re getting to be these superheroes in a big team-up”?
Amell: Yeah, I mean, once you get into production, you stop thinking about that stuff a little bit. But I will say, any time I put on the Arrow suit, the Green Arrow suit… In a couple of weeks, we go on hiatus or Christmas break — and when you come back, you always have a moment where you’re like, “Oh man, this is cool.” There is always something very special about whenever I’m in the suit with Grant. That to me is very special, because the nature of both shows and the fact that we don’t get to do it very often just gives a different feel to when both him and I are suited up. The bromance element of Oliver and Barry is really on full display this year.
You know, when we met Barry Allen in Season 2 of Arrow, he was very much “Who is this kid? Why does he know my secret? I might have to put an arrow in him,” and it turned into sort of a teacher/mentor thing in the very early parts of Flash; and then in the crossover last year I felt like it graduated into the two of us as equals, who both have a certain set of skills that are complementary; and then this year that has been taken to the next level. We really work together and respect each other and appreciate one another.