'Arrow's' John Barrowman on Season 3: "Shit Is Going to Hit the Fan"

"Malcolm will confront somebody he never thought he would confront"
The CW

Malcolm Merlyn has his eye on the prize.

After spending several months training his daughter Thea (Willa Holland) in Corto Maltese, the Dark Archer returns to Starling City on Wednesday's Arrow, titled "The Magician," which includes the introduction of prolific DC villain Ra's al Ghul (Matt Nable). Though Thea agrees to go home with her brother, Oliver (Stephen Amell), she leaves out one important piece of intel: that she's been working with Malcolm all this time.

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Ask genre king John Barrowman, who was promoted to series regular before the start of the season, about what's in store and he promises the best has yet to come. "They've been teasing Malcolm's return [to Starling City], but he is going to come back, shall we say, with a bang," Barrowman tells The Hollywood Reporter of Malcolm's ultimate plan. "The proverbial shit is going to hit the fan."

Last week was the first time viewers got to see how Malcolm was training Thea, and it was also the first significant amount of time father and daughter have spent together. How has their relationship evolved in that short period of time?

It's made them a great deal closer. In fact, you can see that when she is now calling him "Dad," rather than last [season] when she didn't want anything do with him. The time they have been training in Corto Maltese for the last five or so months has really changed their relationship and strengthened their relationship. What the viewers are going to be interested when they watch is, why is he doing this? That's all I'll say. Why is he doing it?

Malcolm's a character who always has an agenda or motive behind every move that he makes. It's not just simply about helping his daughter or his family. So this sounds like it's in line with what we know him to be.

Yup, there is a motive behind it. Malcolm is a very good poker player, and Malcolm will keep his hands very quiet until he needs to know what card he has to play because of the situation that he's in. He never gives anything away. He does love Thea, no doubt about that, but he absolutely also loves Ollie as a son. And he's said that multiple times. But that doesn't mean that he's not going to fight Oliver. That doesn't mean that he's going to agree all the time. Again, the relationships are going to grow, and you're going to see different sides to them, but always with that agenda at hand.

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Oliver doesn't know that Thea's been hanging out with Malcolm. Hypothetically speaking, how do you think he would take that news if that comes out?

I don't know when and if it will come out, but vice versa, she doesn't know that Oliver's the Arrow. And Oliver doesn't know that she's been working with Malcolm. They're both lying to each other. The person, Malcolm, who's been telling them the truth all this time — as much as he possibly can — needs to get the two of them together to, in a way, make them understand that people have secrets. We don't need to know everything about everybody.

Eventually Malcolm becomes suspect No. 1 in Team Arrow's search for Sara's killer. How does he navigate that?

I am not answering that. You're going to have to watch. (Laughs.) That's the answer to that question. Some of that will be explained of what you just asked in this next episode. But seriously, watch, it's a great arc.

Even over the course of three seasons, Malcolm still remains one of the show's most mysterious characters. What have you grown to love about your character that you weren't expecting in the first season?

What I've grown to like about him, the thing that's developed is his emotional connection to people. I've also liked playing his straightforward ruthlessness. It's very matter-of-fact with Malcolm. "Do you have to die?" "You have to die." That's it. Done deal. No ifs, ands or buts. That's the way it is and that's how it's going to be. If you're in my way, then I have to get you out of my way, and that's what I like about him. He's very clean-cut and dry like that. There's no wavering. There's no "Should I do this?" No. Done. Deal with it afterwards. That's what I love about him, because that makes him exciting.

Malcolm discovered early on that Oliver was the Arrow. How does that affect things moving forward when Oliver discovers Malcolm has risen from the dead?

When Malcolm pulled the hood off after fighting the Arrow, he was gutted, he was shocked, he was devastated. He loves Oliver as a son, he feels like Oliver is a son because he grew up with Tommy, Oliver is the son that Malcolm always wanted. When he pulled that hood back, that reiterated that "Oh my god, this is what I wanted Tommy to be: passionate, to fight for what he believes in and to become a hero. I didn't want him to die a hero, I wanted him to become a hero. And this is what Oliver has done." It gutted Malcolm that he knew now that [Oliver] was his nemesis. Someone he loves is his nemesis.

How big of a role does Malcolm play in Oliver's season-long journey of figuring out whether he can balance the Arrow with his public persona?

Malcolm will play into that but again, you will have to wait and see whether it's to help Oliver from figuring it out or whether it's to deter him from figuring it out so Malcolm can control him. There a double-edged sword there and there's a dynamic that has yet to be played, if it is to be played at all. But Oliver is on this discovery path, and do you think Malcolm's not going to use that to his advantage?

Might there be a chess match between Malcolm and Oliver in regards to Thea down the line? It seems as though they could be fighting for her loyalties.

I don't know how to answer that one yet, because Oliver doesn't know that Malcolm has been involved, and I don't want to tell you yet if he will discover that. But if that were to come, of course, Oliver is not going to be happy. And if he never finds out, what he doesn't know isn't going to hurt him.

Any last nuggets you can tease?

Malcolm will confront somebody he never thought he would confront.

Ra's, perhaps?

I'm not telling you. That's your teaser!

Arrow airs 8 p.m. Wednesdays on The CW.

Email: Philiana.Ng@THR.com
Twitter: @insidethetube

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