“Arrow”: Hot Superhero
By: Lynn Barker
In the DC comic universe, Arrow is Oliver Queen and his alter-ego character was called Green Arrow at one point. The origin story has changed many times since the character was created way back in 1941 and morphed a lot through the 1950’s.
New TV series story goes like this: After a violent shipwreck, billionaire playboy Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) was missing and presumed dead for five years before being discovered alive on a remote island in the Pacific. When he returns home to Starling City, his mother Moira, sister Thea, and best friend Tommy welcome him but he has been changed by his island ordeal. Oliver hides the truth about the man he's become and desperately wants to make amends for the actions he took as a boy. He wants to reconcile with his former girlfriend, Laurel Lance (played by Katie Cassidy). Oliver secretly creates the persona of Arrow, a vigilante, to right the wrongs of his family, fight the ills of society, and restore Starling City to its former glory.
The Arrow character was used in the last season of TV’s “Smallville” but this is a new, action-packed take on him starring very hot Stephen Amell who played Nick in the “Heartland” TV series. Stephen talks about learning to use a bow and arrow (lessons from Katniss Everdeen?) and getting into character.
Q: The bow and arrow disappeared for a long time, and now all of a sudden it’s trendy again. Hunger Games had a lot to do with that. Had you ever shot a bow and arrow before? Had you thought about it? Was it hard to get to look good at it?
- Stephen: I had never picked one up before. I have a wonderful coach, Patricia Gonsalves, and she started my training by showing me a 45 minute video of all the ways that archery has been done badly on television and in film.
Before she taught me how to aim, because working with a bow and arrow is literally one of the most dangerous things that you can do on a film set. You can put blank bullets in a gun. You’re making sure that there is nobody within 180 degrees of you when you are shooting it. The first thing was getting the form and I really like archery. I mean, I enjoy practicing it when I have time off. It’s an interesting sport.
Q: Could you tell us more about the don’ts of archery? What could you do really wrong?
- Stephen: When you are firing an arrow on screen, a lot of times it’s CGI. So you’re pulling nothing. When you’re not actually firing an arrow, there’s a tendency to want to shoot your hand back when you release it. And all you’re supposed to do is basically, just open it up and let it go, which lacks some of the panache that going like this (demonstrating) has, but is technically correct. And if you think comic book fans are aggressive and interested, archery fans and enthusiasts are just as much so. So you want to please them as much as you want to please comic book fans.
Q: When you were growing up, were you a fan of comic books? Did you know this character? And when you got the role, did you know how you wanted to play it immediately?
- Stephen: I read “Superman” a little bit, “Lobo”, “Spawn”. But wrestling professional wrestling was my thing. Those were the magazines and posters and actions figures that I collected. When I read the pilot script I had a very, very clear vision in my head. And then after my audition I asked “What is the vision stylistically? How do you want the fights to go?” And everything that they said was what I sort of already had in my head. I have since read almost everything Green Arrow.
Q: You’re playing variations on this character. There’s the Oliver on the island. There’s Oliver the jerk. There’s Oliver the real guy. Could you talk a bit about the different faces of this character?
- Stephen: As an actor, it’s really fun. When I looked at the pilot, I saw four different roles, and normally they break down where it’s fake Oliver in the real world right now, and then there will be an island day, and there’s an Arrow day and Laurel (his girlfriend) days. And it’s a really fun exercise. It keeps me on my toes, and that was what intrigued me most when I read the pilot, and I think that’s saying a lot, because it’s a superhero show so for me to see it first as a really interesting acting exercise says a lot about the quality of the writing and how great I thought the pilot was.
Q: Ever play all those “parts” in one day?
- Stephen: Yeah. It was weird. The wigs make it easier. When you put those things on, you feel very different.
Q: You must have trained for all the crazy action.
- Stephen: Yes. I trained out of Reseda, California at a spot called Tempest Freerunning Academy, and that was when that’s when the training became intensive, because it was all of these muscles that I didn’t even know existed, let alone had used before. And my coach, Paul Darnell, was actually the double for Henry Cavill in Superman, and he just had me doing things that I had never even considered immediately. So it was really fun too.
Q: How did you do those chin-ups where you’re moving the bar up each time? Did you have any help?
- Stephen: At Tempest Freerunning Academy, people train for “America Ninja Warrior,” and those are called the salmon ladder, or sometimes they call them the dyno. And that’s there at the facility, so they asked me if I could do it. And we took a tape of it. We sent it to the producers who freaked out. Basically it’s a chin up with a dance move, if that makes sense.
Q: Part of what you take from this is that isolation for a long time, like on the island makes human beings go a little bit nuts. Do you understand how this must feel? Have you been totally alone for a long time ever?
- Stephen: The closest thing that I would get to being with myself for an extended period of time would be driving from Toronto to California in a Smart car (laughter). I was crazy by the time I was in Missouri, let alone got to California. One of the things that we’re going to deal with with Oliver is that he’s coming back from this island, and he clearly has posttraumatic stress disorder. That’s a serious subject. All the talk of supervillains and potential nemeses for the Arrow, I think that the most the most imminent danger to Oliver right now is himself.
Q: Okay, I would have just assumed, a guy your size, you’d be driving a big old Detroit muscle car. Did you really have a Smart car? Why?
- Stephen: I don’t know. Cars, for me, are like a point-A-to-point-B thing now. I don’t know. I mean, I like big TVs but I’m not a huge fan of big cars, which is funny. My cousin, he always sees me in my car, because he’s, like, a Mustang guy. And now I have a Prius and whatever. He makes fun of me. I don’t care.
Q: Where are you filming the island scenes?
- Stephen: We filmed in Wycliffe Park just outside of Vancouver. It’s very beautiful, but it is certainly not the island from “Lost.” There are no plush beaches. It hurts when you fall on rocks, no matter how well you’re trained to do it. And you can pretty much guarantee that regardless of what the weather was the day before in Vancouver, it’s going to be 51 degrees and overcast when we’re there