Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Thursday’s episode of Arrow. Read at your own risk!
Arrow bid farewell to original character Thea Queen on Thursday — and EW can now reveal that Willa Holland is officially departing the CW super show as a series regular.
After being encouraged by Oliver (Stephen Amell) to find happiness with Roy (Colton Haynes), Thea (Holland) planned to leave town. But her happily ever after was quickly crashed by the arrival of The Thanatos Guild, the successor to the League of Assassins that was created by her father Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) before his death.
With the Guild seeking a map to an ancient power, Thea suited up for one final time — with Roy alongside her in a New 52-esque Arsenal costume — only to discover an even larger threat. So instead of getting a quiet happy ending, Roy and Thea decide to leave town alongside Nyssa (Katrina Law) to track down and destroy what is revealed to be three new Lazarus Pits around the world.
It’s a fitting end for the character, whom executive producer Marc Guggenheim previously revealed to EW that he vowed never to kill. Much like Oliver, she now gets to right her late father’s wrongs.
As Oliver’s wayward younger half-sister Thea, Holland was among the show’s original cast. Initially unaware of her bro’s extra curricular activities, Thea eventually went on to join his team as the red-clad archer known as Speedy. She hung up her hood to find her true self, only recently suiting back up to save her former love, Roy.
During season 5, Guggenheim revealed to press that the actress was only contracted for 14 out of 23 episodes, leading to a reduced amount of screen time for the character. The show tried to work around a similar situation this season by having Thea be in a coma for the first run of episodes — all told, Holland has appeared in 10 episodes this season. To find out why Holland left the show now, read our postmortem with Guggenheim below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What came with the decision to write Thea off the show now and whose decision was it?
MARC GUGGENHEIM: At the end of season 4, Willa had come to us and basically said that she would like some more time for herself, and would like to reduce her role on the show. And we did, we reduced the commitment that she was making to us in season 5, and carried that over in season 6. Season 6 is the end of her contract, and going into season 6, with all of us knowing it was the end of her contract, Willa expressed the desire to move on, not re-up. She expressed a desire to be written out at a certain time in the season, which is around episode 16, so we accommodated her on that front as well. Look, we love Willa, we love working with Willa, we love the character of Thea, we particularly have always loved Thea’s relationship with Oliver. That relationship is one of the things that we deviated from the comic book early on. It was one of the very first major creative decisions we made in terms of adapting the Green Arrow comic for live action television. So it’s always been an incredibly important, critical part of the show for us.
At the same time, this is what happens when a show goes past five years. Actors start to reach the end of their contracts, they start to look towards greener pastures or new opportunities. I think this is true across all the shows. We never wanna stand in the way of someone wanting to express themselves creatively in a different way, on a different show, or through a different medium. So we took Willa’s request and took it seriously, and decided “Okay, well, if this is the hand we’re dealt, how do we play it as best we can and write off Thea in the most emotional and interesting way possible?”
Instead of getting a happy ending, Thea has set out to right her father’s wrongs. Why was this the most fitting ending?
This was something that came out of the writers’ room and it excited us for a variety of different reasons. For one thing, we really like the idea of writing Thea off in a way that suggested a larger story for her. One could imagine us, at some point in some medium, exploring the story of Thea, Roy, and Nyssa working to find these other Lazarus Pits. We tend to, as writers, gravitate toward stories that suggest other stories. As a showrunner, I got enamored with the notion of writing out a series regular in a way that didn’t suggest the end of a story, but rather the beginning of a new one. That’s not something that you typically see. Normally when a character’s written off, a series regular’s written off, it always feels to me like an ending. Sometimes it’s a literal ending and you’re killing off the character, but a lot of other times it’s like, well they’re going off and just living a much quieter life and there’s no more story to tell about them. I really like the idea of actually going the opposite route and suggesting a greater and bigger story for Thea. I just think that’s both interesting and unexpected.
You’ve always said you didn’t want to kill Thea, but was that seriously considered? Were there alternate possibilities for Thea’s exit?
There were. We talked certainly about the low-hanging fruit of “Well, the simplest thing to do is bring Colton back and have her and Roy ride off into the sunset together,” sort of the way they do at the beginning of the episode. That to me was the obvious choice. That’s the thing that you would expect given the story that we’ve told with Roy and Thea since season 1. But because it’s the obvious choice, that was one of the first choices we immediately discounted, because we never wanna do something that’s so patently apparent. Killing her off was never on the table. I’ve always been very sincere and consistent in my view that Oliver just can’t lose his last remaining family member. So that was never even on the table.
Is there a chance we could see her on the show in the future? And will we get an update on the destruction of the Lazarus Pits, whether Thea returns or not?
Really, honestly, it’s totally up to Willa. One of the things that I love about Arrow — and I think this is true for the other superhero shows as well, but I think Arrow‘s really shown a capacity for it — is no one is ever gone. Even the characters who have been killed off are never gone. People can come back in a variety of different ways here. In Thea’s specific example, there’s a whole storyline left to explore. We haven’t started thinking about how to do it in season 7 or beyond. I think we know Willa’s just finished Arrow, she’s looking to see what other opportunities are out there for her. But I love this idea of Thea, Roy, and Nyssa making an unlikely trio, exploring a different part of the Arrow-verse, a different corner of the Arrow-verse. It would be a shame not to revisit it. At the same time, we’ve also shown that we can tell Arrow-verse stories in other mediums: animated, comic books, and prose novels. There are those avenues open to us as well. So I don’t know what the future holds, but there are potentials out there.
The show hasn’t yet been renewed, but are you pretty confident that Arrow will return for season 7?
Yeah, we’re very, very confident. We’re extremely confident. It would be nice to get the formal pick-up, Mark Pedowitz, if you’re listening. It would be nice to book directors, is all I’m saying. But we’ve already started talking about season 7. We actually knew a lot of what we were gonna do for season 7 very early on in season 6. Right now, we’re in the process of breaking a season finale that is not a series finale by any means. We’re fully expecting it, just haven’t gotten it yet.
Arrow airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.