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Mere weeks after Fringe ended its run on Fox, Seth Gabel returns to the small screen with a role as a Joker-type villain on the CW’s breakout Arrow.
During Wednesday’s episode of the freshman drama starring Stephen Amell as Starling City’s savior, Gabel plays The Count, a charismatic drug dealer peddling Vertigo. It’s the same drug that has landed Ollie’s kid sister Thea (Willa Holland) in hot water with the law after she is busted for using.
“The Count is a trickster, and he comes from the street. Most of the people on Oliver’s list are white-collar villains … but The Count is unique in that he relishes the opportunity to prove his own dominance over any force in Starling City and as a force of the street,” Gabel tells The Hollywood Reporter. “He feels like he can take on anything, including the Arrow.”
Gabel says Arrow executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg pitched the character as being in the vein of Heath Ledger‘s the Joker, from The Dark Knight, an idea he confesses he found intimidating.
“I didn’t want to be redundant or copy what Heath had done and worked hard to find my own version of that,” he says, noting The Count has a similarly intimate relationship with violence and psychosis in an outrageous yet grounded capacity.
Going from the dual universe of Fringe, where he played good-guy Lincoln Lee (and Alt Lincoln), the married father of two says Arrow provided a cathartic experience to play a bad-boy.
“To get to play a bad person and do bad things in a safe environment like Arrow was pretty amazing,” he says.
Gabel, who is currently reading scripts and going on auditions as pilot season is now in full swing, credits his role on Ryan Murphy‘s FX drama Nip/Tuck as setting his career trajectory as more than a teen romance actor.
“That story arc really shifted things for me,” he says of playing the sexually confused Adrian Moore. “I could have been on a path that led to different, more traditional teen romance, and Nip/Tuck shook me loose from any generalization I might have been forced into. It helped me understand I wanted to take on things that were edgier, more challenging and riskier.”
While he’s mum about just what parts he’s going out for, sci-fi fans should expect him to continue on in the genre.
“I love the sci-fi world,” he says. “It’s a grand metaphor for what we’re experiencing in society now, with technology changing in an exponential way. I think the world we’re in is going to change very quickly, and we need these sci-fi genre metaphors to help us understand the scope of what it is we’re all going to be experiencing in the next 10 to 20 years.”
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.
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