The midseason finale of the CW’s breakout hit “Arrow” appeared to set up an impending showdown between Stephen Amell’s heroic Oliver Queen and his arch-nemesis, Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), the wealthy head of the mysterious Tempest group also known as the Dark Archer. Executive producer Andrew Kreisberg (“Warehouse 13,” “The Vampire Diaries”) cautioned, though, that the second half of the season really will focus most intently on Oliver expanding his role as the Arrow and getting more in touch with his non-vigilante side as well.
With the series set to return Wednesday, Kreisberg spoke to Hero Complex about what else audiences should expect — the importance of the show’s flashbacks to the years Oliver spent on a deserted island following the crash that claimed his father’s life, the difficulty of staging epic fight sequences and what actors have signed on for guest-star turns in the episodes ahead.
HC: The show is about Green Arrow, but he’s typically referred to as simply Arrow or “the Hood.” Similarly, Merlyn is the Dark Archer on the series. Why deviate from comic book convention?
AK: Obviously this doesn’t take place in the real world, but we tried to ground it in as much reality as we could. If everyone was running around calling him the Green Arrow, we thought it would cheapen it and make it feel cartoonish and a little silly. We tell our police officers that they’re in an episode of “Law & Order.” And if there’s some crazy person running around with a bow and arrow, you’re not going to give him a nickname and put a giant light on top of the police department to call for help. Whatever he’s doing, he’s a crazy lunatic and you’d be trying to stop him. So the whole notion, him not having a superhero name and everyone calling him the vigilante or the Hood or whatever, helps us keep it grounded in reality.
HC: Do you think that grounded approach has helped the show reach audiences that might not be familiar with the character from the comics?
AK: I’m not sure. It’s just an approach we decided to take. I’ve always said there’s room for everybody. There’s room for every version in the world. I’m a huge fan of the Adam West “Batman” and I’m a superfan of the Michael Keaton “Batman” and I love the Nolan Batman movies. One version doesn’t obviate the other. Certainly when you look at the Tim Burton “Batman” movies, they are a little more heightened and baroque and comic book-y, and in that setting it completely works. [Christopher] Nolan created a more grounded, real world aesthetic. The approach we’re taking with “Arrow” is leaning more toward that. I don’t think one is better than the other or it’s a conscious decision to service a certain set of the audience. It was just a version of Green Arrow that’s never been told before. The more comic book version was told in “Smallville” and done very successfully for a long time. We were just interested in doing something different.
HC: Do you have an over-arching plan for the flashback sequences? Will those run throughout the series? Will we ultimately get the full story of what happened to Oliver in the five years he was stranded on the tropical island?
AK: It was always our intention from the very beginning that the flashbacks appear in every episode. And with the exception of a couple of episodes, we continue to do that. There’s really two series going on, and hopefully the last flashback in the last episode of the series will be Oliver seeing the boat that rescued him in the pilot. It will really be a complete loop. I can’t say right now that we have every moment on the island mapped out, but we have a general sense of the kinds of things that are going to happen to him and how each major arc that he encounters on the island helps shape him into the person who showed up back in Starling City in the pilot…. For us the island is a constant source of excitement and it’s really our magical box that we can reach into.
HC: Your fellow executive producers have talked about the amount of time that goes into planning the fight sequences. Would you say that’s one of the most challenging aspects of the production?
AK: Yes, I think both the fight choreography and the aesthetic of the show. We set such a high bar with the pilot. It looks like a feature film. We knew that going into the series, we would have to maintain both the grandness of the scope and the high level of fight choreography at a much lower budget and a lot less time. We have the world’s greatest stunt coordinator and producers who surprise us with brand new locations and new ways to shoot things. I thought we’d never be able to pull that off week in and week out. Not only do I feel like we’re pulling it off, we’re exceeding both the audiences’ and our own expectations.
HC: Can you reveal anything about new characters who are set to appear on the series?
AK: I think we have the best supporting cast on television, so many great actors and characters appearing over the next five episodes. We have Janina Gavankar from “True Blood” and “The League.” She’s going to be playing Mckenna Hall, an old flame of Oliver’s. He’s going to rekindle the relationship in the present. Unfortunately for him, she’s also a police officer and she’s assigned to the task force to bring the Arrow down. So she’s dating him during the day and hunting him at night.
We also have Manu Bennett, who I’m a huge fan of from “Spartacus.” He’s joining the cast as Slade Wilson [the DC Comics villain better known as Deathstroke]. We also have Colton Haynes, who’s playing Roy Harper, another comic book fan favorite. We’ll be seeing the very early stage of his character’s development. In the very beginning, he’s drawn into the Arrow’s world and we need him to be a bit of a ne’er-do-well. But we’re excited about what he brings in his relationship to Thea as well as his relationship to the Arrow-verse. We have so many amazing guest stars coming up. We have Seth Gabel, we have James Callis, we have Ben Browder. Every time I look at a call sheet, I can’t believe the names that are on it. I can’t believe they’re part of this show.
– Patrick Kevin Day
Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex
RECENT AND RELATED