'Arrow' actor Neal McDonough on bringing megalomaniac Damien Darhk to life
Now that Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) is sticking around town, he’ll have to find some way of taking down new Arrow villain Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) — which is basically impossible since he has mystical powers. What’s in store for the residents of Star City? EW turned to McDonough to get the scoop on season 4’s big bad:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s your take on Damien Darhk?
NEAL MCDONOUGH: Misunderstood completely. [Laughs] I’m kidding. He’s a megalomaniac who has to rule the world, and anyone else who tries to come between that is going to suffer the consequences quickly, or sometimes he’ll torture you for a long time. He has a definitive agenda, and that is to be the ruler of the world. In playing that, it’s great because I treat everyone else like they’re so beneath me. It’s so fun to play. I keep saying, it’s a comic book story, so I try to keep the comedy up. If I play him completely dark, no one is going to want to watch him. I’m making him like this 9-year-old kid who, if he doesn’t get his ice cream, he’s just going to throw a tantrum. He throws really bad tantrums. I just want to make him more Lex Luther, kind of fun, comical to start with and then build upon that. Not just make him dark. Make him a little Joker-ish.
Are we going to get into his history and how he got his powers?
It’s so funny you say that. I just got off the phone with [executive producer] Marc Guggenheim, and we’re going to get into it later on and see why he is who he is. I can’t wait. The great thing about Darhk is that he was such a smaller character in the DC Universe that the great mind of Marc Guggenheim, he can just go to town on this thing and really create something that’s just really epic. I’m so looking forward to it. It’s been so much fun thus far. I can’t even tell how great of a time I’m having up here. I’m a kid in a candy store.
Do you think he has any weaknesses?
Oh yeah, absolutely. The ego gets the better of him at some point. When he wants something so badly, and someone else figures out that you want that thing so badly and they work on taking that thing away from you, that’s what happens with villains and good guys. It’ll get the best of him at some point.
What can you tell us about his organization, H.I.V.E.?
Oh, it’s great fun. I basically make these guys take this medication that makes them acquiesce to anything that I want them to do. It’s kind of like I give them the Kool-Aid and they say, “Yup,” and their brains stop and I say, “Why don’t you just go over there and kill those six people? I’ll be over here having a glass of wine.” It’s so absurd in what it is that if I play it so serious, then it becomes really absurd. If I play it funny, then this is hysterical that I can get these guys to do what I want them to do. He’s a dictator, but he realizes that, as puppet master, he can do anything he wants and no one can kill him.
Is he immortal?
Not immortal, but when he slices his arm open as we saw in episode 1, whatever happened thereafter fixes his body. If you shoot a bullet at him, he’ll just flick it back at you. If you try to hurt him, he’ll just crush you. If he touches you, you die. He’s not immortal. There are a couple in the universe who, obviously at some point, figure out the best of me. But until then, I’m going to rule the world and get it as quickly as possible. Every time I talk about Darhk for more than five minutes, I start to think, “Holy cow, this is crazy,” but it is.
I’m guessing Captain Lance (Paul Blackthorne) did not drink the Kool-Aid. What threat does Darhk have over him?
Oh, his children. I will make sure that his family pays if he doesn’t pay allegiance to me in perfection, and that’s what happens. The scenes between Paul and myself get darker and darker and darker. It’s pretty great. Paul’s fantastic.
What will his next face-off with the Green Arrow look like?
Very messy. If you’re talking about episodes 2-4, I try to befriend Oliver Queen, and that just backfires. The scenes between the two of us get deeper and darker. About halfway through the season, it’s just nails-and-teeth fighting. It’s going to be great stuff.
Does he know Oliver is the Green Arrow when he’s trying to befriend him?
Nope, not yet.
What would you say is his ultimate goal and how far he’s willing to go to achieve it?
There’s no stopping him. If I have to destroy the whole world… He’s such a megalomaniac, no one’s going to stop him. As the year progresses, he gets more impatient and childish in his antics and he starts to really unravel. We’re starting to get at that now, but the second half of the season will be very fun to play. He won’t be looking as polished as he has been in the first third of the year. By the end of the season, I’m sure he’ll be crazy.
How is this role different from what you’ve played before?
He’s so precise. He knows exactly what he wants and he’s going to get it. He messes with people, and he definitely enjoys the power that he has and the pain he inflicts on some people. It’s fun to play that. I’ve never played that powerful of a character before. It’s been really great. I’ve been enjoying the heck out of it.
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.