Stephen Amell’s TV show, “Arrow” is in its third season, while the comic book spinoff from “Arrow,” “The Flash” is setting ratings records for The CW. Amell’s fans have also lobbied for him to play Green Arrow in DC’s upcoming Justice League film.
The actor talked with Speakeasy about life as a comic book icon.
I would say that it is everything that we expected but that wouldn’t really be true because there hasn’t been a recent history of successful comic book shows on television, with the exception of “Smallville.” Aside from the success of our show, the appearance and relative abundance of comic book properties on TV is really gratifying.
Aside from “Smallville,” comic books had a pretty spotty history on TV until “Arrow” came along. Now “Flash” is doing well and so is “Gotham.” Last season saw “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” score big ratings.
Yeah. A lot of reviews of “Arrow” at first said “This is an interesting concept but we know that comic book shows don’t work long-term on TV.” Well, that has now been proven wrong. I think the success of “Flash” and the other comic book properties is because of the quality of the material in those shows. But if we had been a bust, I don’t think any of those shows would exist. They stand on their own two feet, but I think we led the way.
We’ve heard so much in recent weeks about Marvel and DC announcing so many comic book movies over the next few years. Are you ready for a Green Arrow movie?
I am completely indifferent. First of all, wanting a movie undersells the idea that making 23 episodes a year isn’t a huge achievement. It is and I would put that degree of difficulty up against any feature film that has ever been made… except “Lord of the Rings” and that gigantic Peter Jackson-led undertaking… and maybe “Titanic.” But, other than those two movies, I’d put making 23 hours of interesting content in a TV season up against anything on the film side. It is difficult to me to want or envision an “Arrow” movie when we are shooting the 10th episode of our third season with 13 more episodes to go and in all likelihood 3 more seasons on the other side of that. I’m interested in keeping that content fresh. Once we get to the end of that road, maybe then I’ll shift my focus.
There was some talk and controversy about the fact that Grant Gustin is doing the “Flash” TV show but was not named the Flash for the “Flash” movie. If Green Arrow was going to be on screen, do you feel like it should be you?
Yeah. Of course. And I feel like it should be Grant doing the movie. But the important thing to remember is just because Grant Gustin plays the part of Barry Allen doesn’t mean Ezra Miller can’t also play Barry Allen. There can be different interpretations of the character. Anyone who is a fan of the comics knows the Flash character is one of the forces that leads to parallel universes. And who knows, they might find a fantastic actor to play Oliver Queen on the feature side who has a different take on the character. I’m certainly a departure from the typical Oliver Queen from the comic books. I just think that everybody needs to be patient with the whole thing. The fact that DC and Warner have announced all these comic book features is nothing but good for business.
It is clear that Arrow and Flash are going to be interacting quite a bit on TV. I know you are going to have some crossover episodes coming up. So, who would win in a fight?
Well we will have to wait and see, won’t we?
How would you combat somebody with super speed. We saw in that teaser promo last spring that you can’t even shoot him with an arrow because he is too fast.
Speed doesn’t equal experience. Let’s just put it that way. And I am 8 years older than Grant.
[spoiler alert] Were you surprised at all when you read the script for the premiere episode and saw that Sara Lance was going to die?
I’ve learned not to be surprised at anything on the show. Whenever a character dies on our show, my prevailing emotion is sadness because there hasn’t been a character that’s appeared on our show for any length of time that I haven’t really enjoyed working with. Caity Lotz was at the top of that list. We probably spent more time together in season two aside from maybe the time I spent with Diggle and Felicity. I was privileged to work with her, so when I find out that she is falling off a rooftop, that doesn’t sit well with me just from the standpoint of not getting to go to work with my friend any more. You wouldn’t believe the number of times in episode two in the scene where I had to close her eyes where I would stick my finger up her nose because we are good friends that way.
I know you do a lot of your own stunts and you are a workout fiend. Is there anything strange or unusual that you do to maintain those ripped abs?
No, not really. You know, there are different motivations when it comes to going to the gym and the motivation of maintaining the physique you’ve established on television and the fact that you are going to be showing it on television – if that’s not enough to motivate people then I don’t know what would. I go to every workout with the notion that it’s my job. Me being shirtless certainly isn’t the only element that’s made it successful, I don’t think its anywhere near the top of the list, but it is certainly part of the total equation and I’d be silly to think that it is not.
So, if you have an episode where you’re going to be a little more shirtless than usual, you work out extra hard that week?
Sure. I’m working out really hard right now because I wasn’t shirtless for the first few episodes of the season and then I am shirtless all the time for a long stretch.
Let’s talk about the charity effort you are launching now.
The folks at F–k Cancer approached me back in August and connected me with Represent.com. I had no idea what Represent represented. They are a really interesting, forward-thinking company that helps you design a T-shirt and then puts it up for sale to help out a charitable cause. Where I came in is, I’ve been having a lot of fun over the past ten months on Facebook interacting with fans. The first of this year I had 500,000 fans and now we are hurtling towards 3 million. Along the way, people have been really interested in charitable endeavors that I have been a part of. So, I canvassed them to see what would be the most palatable idea for a T-shirt and they wanted to see a shirt with my face with a post-it note on the forehead. We ended up selling just over 21,000 over a three-week campaign. Since that point, I’ve received so many notes from people saying “we missed our chance, can you put them back on sale?” I wanted to maintain the exclusivity, but it is for a tremendous cause so I said, “Let’s put it back up for 24 hours,” and that’s happening Thursday night at midnight.
Do you worry that the F–k Cancer message is a little profane or does the edginess and the harsh attitude toward cancer really sell it?
I think that it is 90% something that sells it and 10% something that holds it back. But cancer is such a horrible thing that it works. I have received notes from people who are more conservative by nature or, because we ship worldwide, people who live in far more conservative parts of the world and they said, “We would love to suppose something like this that does not drop an F-bomb right on the cover.” I’m going to work with Represent.com in the future, we don’t know what we are going to do yet, but I can assure people there will not be an expletive on the T-shirt.
I’ll give you something for episodes that are going to come after our fall run, stuff in our winter run. I have never, in my history with “Arrow,” had as light a schedule as I have had for the past several weeks… ever! It’s been very strange, let’s just put it that way.
One would hope. I normally fight the big bad of the year. If it turns out he is the big bad, but I don’t think that has been printed, that R’as al Ghul is the big bad this year. I don’t remember anyone announcing that. But, typically I get to fight our big heavies so hopefully I get to fight him because that would be something very iconic for the show.
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