Arrow's Ben Lewis breaks down that 'strange' family reunion: We were 'emotionally exhausted'
Warning: This article contains spoilers from the latest episode of Arrow, titled “Present Tense.”
Oliver Queen’s surprising and timey-wimey reunion with his adult children went about as well as it could’ve.
In Tuesday’s night Arrow, titled “Present Tense,” Oliver (Stephen Amell) got to know William (Ben Lewis) and Mia (Katherine McNamara), who were transported to the year 2019 by the Monitor at the end of last week’s episode. To say the trio had an emotional reunion would be an understatement seeing as how William used this journey to the past to come out to his father, who is dead in the future, and Oliver had to stop his stubborn daughter from killing Grant Wilson, a.k.a. the new Deathstroke terrorizing the city (Not to mention Present Team Arrow learning that Diggle’s son JJ killed Rene’s daughter in Zoe in the future). Short story shorter, this episdoe was a lot, especially for Ben Lewis and Katherine McNamara.
“Kat and I had a lot of conversations about just how drained we were when we were shooting the episode,” Lewis tells EW. “It’s not something that I think we’re used to, being that emotionally exhausted. Certainly, she’s used to being physically exhausted.”
Below, EW chats with Lewis about working with Stephen Amell for the first time, how long Future Team Arrow will stay in 2019, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve been on the show for a year now, but this is the first time you actually worked with Stephen on screen. How was that experience?
BEN LEWIS: It was wild because I started shooting the show July of last year. But because we were never in the same timeline and because of scheduling, Stephen and I only met sort of in passing like a couple of times. We’d barely even had like a full conversation. So in that respect, I think that dynamic actually lent itself well to this strange reunion because I’d obviously watched a lot of the show and feel like I know Stephen in some ways, but didn’t actually have a relationship with him. So these scenes that we had to shoot in this episode, they went so emotional [and] so deep so quickly that it really felt like me and Kat, and Stephen just had to jump into the deep end together, which I think was a really bonding experience.
What was it like shooting the scene in which William comes out to Oliver?
It was great. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to get that scene right because it’s a scene that I had actually asked for, like I had specifically requested. After I read the ending of 803, I emailed Beth Schwartz because pretty much as soon as William and Mia were face to face with Oliver, one of the first thoughts I had was, “Holy s–t, William actually never had the chance to come out to Oliver before he died.” So, to have a second chance to go back in time and in your 30s after you’ve been living as a proud out gay man for at least 15 years was a really interesting, extremely unique thing to play.
There’s a regular coming out scene and then there’s this, which [has] the layers of time travel and grief over the loss of a parent, and then the mind-blowing experience of being reunited with that dead parent. It’s really wild. I knew that dramatically, there was so much to play there and I was hungry to play it. I also knew how meaningful that scene was to me as an out gay person myself, and I knew that it would mean a lot to the Arrow audience and fanbase generally who have watched William grow up on the show, but specifically the LGBTQ fan base within the greater family, if that makes sense.
Have you had a chance to watch it? How did you feel about it turned out?
They sent me the episode last night and that was the first time that I watched it all the way through. I had specifically requested to watch that scene before when I was doing ADR for the episode because Stephen had pulled me aside after he saw it and told me that it was one of his favorite scenes that he’s ever done on the show. So, I was so gratified to hear that, obviously because it was something that I requested and like I said, put a lot of pressure on myself to get right. Then for him to say that was so gratifying and so meaningful for me. Once I saw it in ADR, I felt really proud [of it]. I feel a real sense of calm, sense of relief, especially now that it’s been released this morning online, and already the response that I’ve been getting from fans has been so heart-warming.
Connor, Mia, and William don’t return to the future. How long can we expect them to stick around in the present?
I can’t say how long, but I can say that there will be several missions. Obviously, the missions are extra special because it’s members of OTA and members of FTA working together for the first time. As always on Arrow, the stakes are extremely high, but they may be even higher and more dynamic by these added family dynamics. [They] just make it even more potent and dramatic.
Going forward, does William still view this as an opportunity to change the future?
I think they all feel that way. I think they all sort of recognize the toll that the future takes on their children and that they have an opportunity to potentially rewrite that future and create a better, safer version of Star City for their kids. I think [that’s] what really drives and motivates them over the next few episodes.
How does William being back in the present with Oliver affect him going forward?
Everybody falls into their roles to play quickly because there’s a lot to do. They have to get down to business and they have to work together if they want a chance to save the future.
We still don’t know why the Monitor brought FTA back to the year 2019, and I can’t imagine it’s because he just likes drama, which he clearly does. What can you tease about his motivation?
Yeah, I think the Monitor and the fans have that in common, and the writers as well. I don’t think I can speak to why the Monitor did this, but I can say I think from a creative standpoint, I think the writers really recognized maybe some of the concerns that some of the fans had about the future storyline just being a little bit grim and hopeless. Now that’s really been turned on its head and anything is possible.
Looking ahead, what are you most excited about fans to see after 804?
In 805, if you thought William was impressive before, just wait until you hear him speak Russian.
Arrow airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on The CW.