Coinciding with last week’s stunning debut of the new CW series ARROW, the powers-that-be behind the red hot hero series provided a special glimpse behind the curtain at the DC Comic’s Burbank headquarters. During that press conference in the illustrious hallowed DC offices, co-creators Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg, along with comic writer Geoff Johns and star Stephen Amell, shared a bit about what is upcoming on ARROW, as well their inspiration for the show.
Greg Berlanti is credited as being the one who first conceived of bringing ARROW to television since he had a deal with Warner Bros Studios, with whom he had worked previously on the film “Green Lantern.” Greg thought basing a television series on the character Green Arrow was a good idea because the character is grounded in reality opposed to being just another superhero. Plus, Marc Guggenheim noted that when looking back over history, the comic book heroes with the greatest success are those who were the street-level heroes opposed to the cosmic-level heroes. So when Greg approached Marc, they then brought Andrew Kreisberg in, and then they approached the CW to pitch the series. Then due to his long-standing association and involved with DC Comics, comics writer Geoff Johns was involved early on and has been involved at every stage developing the show. Geoff also thought that the character of Green Arrow was ideal because it also had good audience awareness because of the former CW series SMALLVILLE. Thus, people knew who Green Arrow was and that made it appealing as well.
One of the vital storytelling components to ARROW is the flashbacks to Oliver Queen’s journey and struggles on the island because that 5 year period of Oliver’s life is critical in shaping the man – and the hero – who he is now. Thus, every episode will feature at least one flashback to Oliver’s life on the island. This created a unique opportunity allowing the show to tell two stories simultaneously. For example, in end of Episode 1, the audience sees Oliver reach the island; then, in Episode 2, the flashback picks up with him setting foot on the island for the first time. Ideally, however long the series runs, the last flashback in the last episode of the series will be Oliver seeing the boat that rescues him; thus, completing the loop. As Marc explained, the show is really for the graphic novel fans and the non-graphic novels fans because the series shows how Oliver became the Oliver Queen he is now. The comic books have delved into that story from time-to-time, but the series will go even deeper into that journey for him. Right now, they are in the stage of deconstructing Oliver Queen, for as will be seen, his life on the island was pretty gnarly.
In fact, one of Geoff Johns’ favorite things about ARROW is the contrast between Oliver-now and the Oliver on the island, because his life there was not pretty; he got his ass kicked there. They wanted to take the character and beat him down to nothing before he rises up again; and they want to make the flashbacks speak towards the present day story. So the theme that Oliver is dealing with on the island usually has some direct parallel or thematic parallel to what is going on in the present day story in the episode.
It was also noted that most superhero origin stories are one traumatic event, but Oliver had a 5-year origin story. He had to live through this five years of hell and come out the other side. So in the present day story, we watch him become whole again, and at the same time see him deconstructed, which they think is one of the most fascinating aspects of the show. Though as Stephen noted, “Based on the hair and make-up though, I’m pretty sure by the end of it, I’ll wish I’d had just been bit by a spider!”
Will Fans Root for a Hero Who Kills?
Addressing one of the biggest concerns, it was explained that Oliver’s willingness and ease with killing those who pose a threat is tied directly to his motivation. They wanted there to be a distinct reason why he does the darker things; and it is pretty clear in the storyline why he crosses a line. So it’s not something he does without being aware of it, and it certainly is something that affects him. Oliver does not set out to kill people; if it has to happen, then it happens. But he has a code. Thus, the show will not be shying away from the effects that his actions have on him and on others. It’s not violence for violence sake.
In fact, a lot of the Huntress’ (Jessica De Gouw) story is that she is a darker version of Oliver, which puts his actions and motivations into perspective for him. When the show brings in other characters they will strive to always try to look at: how does this affect Oliver? Why we doing it for this episode? So the whole reason to bring in the Huntress is not so that they can throw in another DC Comics character because she’s really cool, but because it is really about having an emotional effect on Oliver. When we meet him in that particular storyline, he is lonely and he is feeling a little lost, then into his life comes this girl who is sort of the darker version of him, who he thinks he can save. So it is more Oliver’s story than it is hers. She is but the prism with which he sees his own life refracted.
Someone Finds Out Oliver’s Secret
Also quite quickly someone finds out Oliver’s secret and it forces Oliver to see his own actions through other people’s eyes. Cognizant that every story has to have an affect on Oliver, they try to assess for each episode: what’s Oliver’s emotional journey for this episode? So when someone discovers his secret identity and what he is really up to, the audience will see how just having someone know his secret starts to effect a change in Oliver, and that has ripple effects throughout the series. In fact, that person calls Oliver out on his actions, and calls a “spade a spade.”
For Stephen, what surprised him the most was, “Having someone who knows my secret adds a whole new element to the series, and it makes it a lot more interesting. Plus, [Oliver] is pretty steely and unflinching in the pilot, and we are finding these moments as we go along where he’s a lot more vulnerable.” Stephen also noted that he really enjoys playing a character without ego, who does not worry about looking cool.
Two prominent villains that have a huge impact on Oliver and ARROW this season are Huntress and Deadshot. They all noted that the Huntress, as played by Jessica De Gouw is simply “awesome” and they think she will be a huge breakout star because of her striking performance. In fact, they are extremely excited for the fans to meet her. To explain why they chose Huntress and Deadshot, it was explained that both are characters who have not really been seen before. Both are very popular DC Comics characters who have never been given their proper due in other mediums other than the comics, and they wanted to take some of these lesser known characters and put the ARROW spin on them. They also felt that characters which are going to succeed in the transition from the comic book to the screen are those that have a very grounded reality; so there will not be seeing characters who are aliens or who have superpowers. The key component was both Deadshot and Huntress have very grounded realities, and yet very emotional stories.
Because, at its core, ARROW is a drama — if and you take away all the uniforms and arrows and super villains – it’s really about people. In addition, someone like Deadshot is just a very scary villain, so that kind of malevolence was cool to see Oliver confronted with; and then with the Huntress, she and Oliver have a very similar backstory since both of their crusades were born out of pain and loss. So the Huntress was chosen for the emotional resonance she has with Oliver Queen. In fact, all of the characters in the show are connected to Oliver in some way – even the way Deadshot is tied in to Oliver’s life is really interesting.
For fans who are not familiar with her story, the Huntress aka Helen Bertinelli is the daughter of a big crime boss and she decides to take it upon herself to take down her family from the inside-out.
The producers also explained that, for now, they will avoid bringing in the bigger name comic heroes like Batman because the moment they do that it suggests that there is a bigger world than just Starling City; and right now, they want the audience to feel like Oliver Queen is the star of the show. But as they ruefully noted, “never say never.” There is always the possibility they could draw upon those other rich characters down the road.
The Royal Flush Gang
Taking a lot of inspiration from Chris Nolan’s playbook and what he did with “The Dark Knight,” they are bringing Royal Flush Gang to Starling and into Oliver’s world where they worked hard to ensure the iconography of the card without the supernatural aspect; and they think they found a cool way to portray them without betraying the comic fans. Be sure to keep a look out for the Royal Flush Gang in episode 6, which they felt was one of the most successful attempts of alchemy that they did in transforming the comic characters to the screen. In fact, the relationship Oliver has with King, the leader of the Royal Flush Gang (who is played by Currie Graham), is something they are really proud of.
One of the biggest changes from the Green Arrow comic book is the fact that Oliver has a sister and a mother who is alive. But it was felt those changes were necessary because, as a television show, they wanted to populate Oliver’s world with characters, more specifically people who have a relationship with Oliver. They did not want to start the series where Oliver does not have a family or any friends, so they decided to populate his world deliberately. So part of the fun for them was dropping in little Easter Eggs, like Speedy, and teasing the audience and fans with those tidbits. In fact, they revealed that there were seeds planted in the pilot episode that won’t grow to fruition until much later in the series; for example, the tattoos on Oliver’s body and what’s inscribed on the hosen that he gave Thea. Each will have answers, but viewers may not see those answers in the first season. They wanted the series and the mythology to be a slow burn. However, they were quick to reassure any secrets they hint at in the pilot, they have ways of paying each of them off.
As for Oliver’s relationship with his sister Thea, they have such a strong bond that when you see Oliver and Thea onscreen together it is something that is really powerful. After watching the chemistry between Stephen and Willa Holland as siblings, it was something the writers just naturally started writing towards as a result. Because, in some ways, Thea is what Oliver is fighting for — despite her drug use and itinerant behavior — Thea is still somewhat innocent.
This also is why Oliver is becoming more vulnerable. On the island, Oliver made a plan and he became this tough weapon — this human living weapon — and then he comes back and realizes it is not that simple. There are people involved, people have changed, people need help, and his mission gets a little blurry. So Oliver reaches a tipping point with his family because it is one thing to come back from the island after 5 years and greet everyone “hello,” but after he has been back for awhile it’s not that simple anymore. You can only disappoint people so many times before they sort of write you off.
Thus, Thea becomes both the reason he finds himself fighting for the innocent and the strength that he draws from as he continues to pursue justice for them through the murky darkness of Starling’s underworld.
The other woman with a lot of influence in Oliver’s life is Laurel. She is the woman he left behind, that he betrayed, and to whom he owes amends. Yet in the 5 years that Oliver was gone, Laurel also underwent her own transformation, and a lot of that is due to her father. Because Laurel’s father is a cop – perhaps the one last honest cop in this corrupt town — she’s always idolized him. So when Laurel lost her sister, she threw herself into law school and became in a lot of ways exactly what Oliver became: someone who is going to stand up to the system, to fight for what’s right, to make sense of a tragedy that happened to her and her family, and to make her father proud, and to stay connected to him. But in losing Sarah, her father lost one daughter, yet he cut off emotional ties with Laurel too because it was what his heart needed to do. It made Laurel emotionally hardened and isolated in her grief and her drive to help the helpless.
In a recent interview, co-star Katie Cassidy talked about who Laurel is and her reaction to the return of Oliver Queen into her life:
So while Oliver Queen may be the hero of the story, Laurel may be the heart of it. Both Oliver and Laurel’s fates are intertwined in ways they cannot yet fathom, but it will be fun to watch their parallel stories unfold. To see more of ARROW be sure to tune in Wednesday nights at 8PM on The CW (CTV Two in Canada). Some heroes are born, some are made and some are carved out of destiny.
Top Photo Credit: Pictured (L-R): Stephen Amell and Geoff Johns — Credit: Joe Magnani/The CW — © 2012 The CW Network. All Rights Reserved
Tiffany Vogt is the Senior West Coast Editor, contributing as a columnist and entertainment reporter to TheTVaddict.com. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).