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[Warning: Spoilers ahead for season two of Arrow.]
Oliver Queen has a rough road ahead on Arrow.
In honoring Tommy’s death through his vow not to kill again as he reassumes his perch as The Hood, Oliver’s path to becoming a hero is paved with dead ends and detours. With Queen Consolidated vulnerable, Roy Harper attempting to be the city’s saving grace and Laurel desperate to lock the vigilante away for good, time isn’t on Oliver’s side.
In a chat with The Hollywood Reporter, star Stephen Amell talks about playing a character who isn’t “chasing a ghost” anymore, getting put in “precarious” situations, his bleak future with Laurel and why he believes Arrow is producing the “most engaging hour of television on TV this year.”
First of all, Oliver’s hangout received a major makeover at the start of this season. What has been your favorite part of shooting in the Arrow cave so far?
The scene where I walk into the Arrow cave [in the premiere] and it lights up, that was the first scene we shot this season. To me, it still feels like the same place, but onscreen, it visually looks really cool. We’ve come a long way since the pilot.
When Oliver returns to Starling City following Tommy’s death and post-Undertaking, things are pretty grim. What has the journey been like playing a guy who’s trying to do things differently?
It’s been a lot of fun to play the character this year because he’s not as haunted. He’s not chasing a ghost, so to speak. He’s doing things for a much more virtuous reason. So when he accomplishes his goals, there’s a sense of accomplishment and possibly even good feelings, which is, again, not something we’ve had a lot of in the first [season]. And that’s an important step for the show because anger and revenge can only take you so far. It’s really only a two-dimensional type of storytelling, whereas when you see a character work up a full range of emotions and be happy and content once in a while, that opens up so many possibilities for us on the show. That has made the first bunch of episodes that we’ve shot much more dynamic and much more well-rounded. The first five episodes that we have this year are definitely as good, or in some instances, better than what we put out in the first season.
That’s a bold statement to make.
The show this year for me — I read a lot of reviews of the first episode — I think we’re doing the most engaging hour of television on TV this year. I’m really proud of the show and the direction it’s taking.
Tommy’s death still looms large as Oliver goes on his journey to becoming the Green Arrow. How significantly is the loss affecting Oliver’s perspective?
He says it in the premiere. If they’re going to get back to do this, it has to be about honoring Tommy and trying to become the version of himself that Tommy hopes he would be. For a lot of characters, not just Oliver, there’s a tremendous sense of guilt. Oliver tried to save Tommy but he couldn’t. To a larger extent, he put Tommy in harm’s way to begin with. If Malcolm [John Barrowman] dies in episode 16, then the Undertaking never happens and Tommy survives. [Tommy] remains a pivotal part of the show; we can’t just gloss over him dying like that. Otherwise, what was the point of doing that?
How does that affect Oliver’s standing with Laurel [Katie Cassidy]?
I think Laurel has some misplaced anger at the moment toward the vigilante, but maybe she shouldn’t. We resolve that pretty soon in the show. Oliver and Laurel — I wouldn’t say they’re in the best place because the best place for them always and forever (laughs) would be in a relationship, since they both love each other. But at least it’s in a much more honest place, let’s just put it that way. Laurel and the vigilante on the other hand, they’re not in a good spot whatsoever.
At the end of the second episode, Oliver is put in a precarious position.
He is. At the beginning of episode three, we pick up right where we left off. Precarious.
What’s Roy Harper’s [Colton Haynes] journey like as he starts on his road to becoming Arrow’s sidekick? In this latest episode, Oliver even throws him a bone.
Colton’s killing it this year. We don’t have a ton of scenes together so when I see his stuff, I always find myself laughing. I think he brings a lot of humor to the Roy character. In a future episode Oliver refers to him as “an errand boy,” and I wouldn’t say that [Oliver] just considers him to be an errand boy, but it’s not that important of a job. But to Roy, it’s like he’s part of a team now. Oliver’s just trying to give him a purpose and hoping to keep him out of trouble. The elephant in the room is his proximity to Thea [Willa Holland], that’s what really worries Oliver. It’s the same reason he doesn’t reveal himself to Laurel and why he was so afraid to reveal himself to Tommy: because proximity to the vigilante is dangerous. As Roy gets closer to the vigilante, Thea is in more and more danger. That’s eventually going to become a factor this year.
Thea seems to be the one character who has evolved the most out of everyone. Talk a little bit about what we can expect for the Queen siblings.
When I was talking about the season, everyone wasn’t in the best place. The hangover from the Undertaking has taken its toll and everybody has been demoted, so to speak, or had to move career positions, whereas with Thea, she’s in a great spot. She’s together and she’s managing the club. Her relationship with Oliver is good, but there is still that fence that she has that he’s aware of, in that he hasn’t opened up about what happened while he was away [on the island]. They’ve decided to shelve that conversation for the moment but they’ll have to have it eventually. Certainly they’re in a much better spot compared to the start of last year, when she wasn’t happy with him.
What is it like for Oliver having to go up against a powerful businesswoman like Isabel Rochev [Summer Glau] at Queen Consolidated?
He’s not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. He’s legitimately trying to save the company. It does mean a great deal to him. It’s an extension of his family, and he’s the person who represents his family now. He’s trying to make good for his company, his family and Isabel. As it happens, he has another job [too]. He can’t say to her, “I’m the vigilante and that’s why I’m not here.” He just has to appear to be a failure, and some of that is irresponsible. He’s working to earn her trust, but it’s not happening as quickly as he’d like.
When I spoke to producer Marc Guggenheim prior to the season, he hinted that Isabel and Oliver’s work dynamic will affect another relationship that he has. What can you say there?
We haven’t really seen anything beyond business with Isabel’s character. Last year Oliver had flings, and we haven’t really gone down that road this year. Oliver and Laurel have said they can’t really be in a relationship right now. I’m interested to see if and when something romantic happens between Oliver and anybody because there hasn’t been any of that so far this year.
Felicity [Emily Bett Rickards] has secured her spot in Oliver’s inner circle, alongside Diggle [David Ramsey]. What can we expect to see with Felicity and Oliver working more in tandem?
Their relationship is evolving. She is a full-fledged member of Team Arrow now and she’s not afraid to give her opinion. She’s smart and capable and Oliver’s starting to see that more and more. I don’t know where it’s going to end up but that relationship is going to continue to strengthen throughout the season.
You mentioned proximity being one of Oliver’s biggest worries. Does that continue to affect who he brings into his inner circle?
One of the things we reference later on in the season that we never talked about is how much Oliver vetted Diggle and Felicity before he revealed his identity. There was always the joke in the first season that he was revealing himself to everybody. It seemed like every week somebody new was learning [about Oliver being Arrow]. There was more of a thought process because of how dangerous this knowledge is. Since Felicity’s been a part of this, we’ve seen her life in danger several times. So he does consider it.
Will more focus be put on the supporting players?
We’ve done an episode — I think episode six — that’s Diggle-centric. It’s his episode. In a lot of ways episode three is Detective Lance’s [Paul Blackthorne] episode. Episode five is someone’s episode that I can’t say. It’s very exciting to utilize the rest of the cast a little bit more this year. It’ll be interesting to see how people react to that.
Lastly, what’s your take on this iteration of Barry Allen/Flash [Grant Gustin].
He’s a whippersnapper. He’s young, he’s enthusiastic, he’s not stupid. In fact, he’s incredibly smart. He’s a little naive and his level of enthusiasm and his penchant for problem-solving is something we’ve seen on the show with Felicity. Their characters are incredibly similar and as a result, have an instantaneous chemistry with one another and fondness for one another.
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.
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