Debuts Oct. 10, 8-9 p.m., The CW
Stephen Amell landed arguably the best superhero gig in Hollywood when he got the part of Green Arrow on the new CW show: no restrictive mask, no embarrassing tights, no awkward cape. Sporting a dab of green war paint around his eyes and a casual hoodie, he’s a laid-back 21st-century-style version of the classic DC Comics crime fighter. Even his name has been given a Social Network-like pruning: Just Arrow — it’s cleaner.
”I’m pretty lucky, it’s totally functional,” says Amell, 31, of his costume as he lounges barefoot in his sparse trailer on the Vancouver set. ”But wearing leather in the summer isn’t cool, and the quiver sometimes is a little uncomfortable.”
Still beats a cowl ‘n’ codpiece — though Amell’s admirers probably wouldn’t mind the latter. In May, when The CW released the Arrow trailer, the little-known actor who’d previously had stints on HBO’s Hung and ABC’s Private Practice became an instant sex symbol by baring his six-pack while training on a Ninja Warrior-style ”salmon ladder.” The CW, knowing a hook when they see it, recently unveiled the official poster for Arrow showing Amell shirtless and scarred, looking a bit like The Passion of the Bowflex. Sighs the actor, ”My friends are going to tease me about that.”
When it’s not showcasing Amell’s abs, Arrow chronicles the adventures of callow billionaire playboy Oliver Queen, who’s shipwrecked on a mysterious island for five years, then returns to his hometown of Starling City with impressive archery skills and a mission to rid the streets of bad guys. For The CW, the drama is a potential successor to its previous DC Comics-based franchise, Smallville, which concluded last year after surviving a heroic 10 seasons. The action will alternate between Arrow‘s current-day missions as he targets wealthy and powerful villains, and flashbacks to the island detailing his transformation. ”The Arrow is the only character I can think of who can sustain a five-year origin story,” says executive producer Marc Guggenheim. ”Usually [a superhero’s transformative event] is much more immediate — like being bitten by a spider or seeing your parents killed.”
Though Arrow will draw comparisons to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, which producers say inspired the show’s grounded approach, there are key differences. Arrow gives every criminal mastermind the opportunity to repent, yet he has no qualms about taking a life — unlike Gotham’s Dark Knight. ”If you’re going to tell a vigilante story and you’re not going to deal with the vigilante killing somebody,” says Guggenheim, ”you’re kind of wimping out.”
Amell says he got the role by deliberately not acting like yet another troubled hero. ”My approach was to be enthusiastic and likable,” he remembers. Rather than simply answering producers’ questions, Amell quizzed them: What is the tone of the show? Is there a lot of physicality? Because I’m interested in physicality… So were the producers, who envision Arrow as a hands-on Bourne-style fighting machine. But during EW’s recent visit to the set, Amell’s eagerness for action goes unfulfilled, as he watches a stuntman performing the bulk of a fight scene. ”Watching is harder than doing,” Amell tells the director from the sidelines. ”I feel like the third guy in a porn scene right now.”
Amell isn’t alone in his battle lust. Costar Katie Cassidy (Melrose Place) plays Laurel Lance, a public-interest lawyer and Oliver’s estranged ex, and says she sought out the role with the promise of getting some action scenes. It’s expected she’ll become her namesake’s alter ego, Arrow’s sexy crime-stopping partner Black Canary. ”Everyone wants to know when Laurel turns into the Black Canary,” says Cassidy, 25. ”And if there will be fishnets. I don’t think I’ll be sporting those fishnets on television.” (It’s The CW, Katie — don’t be so sure.) Also crossing Arrow’s path this season will be a wealthy mystery man (Torchwood‘s John Barrowman) and another of DC’s ferocious females — the Huntress, a Mob boss’ vengeful daughter, played by Jessica De Gouw.
Back on the set, we finally get to see Amell get his fight on; the scene calls for a furious Arrow to break a man’s neck. Getting ready for the camera, Amell does some bare-knuckle push-ups to pump himself up. Instead of wearing his usual urban hunter costume, Arrow is disguised as a security guard in a ski mask this time. ”If you could see his face,” the director explains to a costar, ”it would show demonic rage.” The camera rolls. Behind the mask, Amell squints angrily, trying to convey demonic rage with only his eyes. This must be how those other superheroes feel.