'Arrow' Actor Aims for a Complex Character


LOS ANGELES -- Actor Stephen Amell was a professional wrestling fan growing up. Comic books didn't interest him much.

It might have helped if Amell had at least read some "Green Arrow" comics, but his interest in the brute force of wrestling will come in handy as the star of the new CW Network series "Arrow." The show is more about the muscle of the comic book character and less about the mythology.

"Arrow" will be such a physically demanding show for Amell that even before production started, he took Parkour training just to be able to bounce around buildings as he chases down the bad guys.

He has a daily workout regimen, but that often gets set aside when he's required to do a physical stunt so many times for the cameras that he gets a full day of training.

"Arrow" producers promise this will be an action-packed show.

"I think it stays very consistently athletic. That's one of the large elements of the show that's successful in the pilot we'll try to maintain going forward, and we give ourselves the time and the material and the help to do that well," says executive producer Greg Berlanti. "I think, as a producer, it is a little frightening when your star is doing a quarter of his stunts because there's no second string. It's a little daring. But it's one of the things I think makes the show incredibly unique and a lot of fun."

Because Amell had never picked up a bow before landing the series, he began an intense training program to look like an archer. He doesn't have to be able to shoot with much accuracy -- just look good doing it -- because often the arrows will be added later with digital images.

The show's not all about shooting arrows and throwing punches. There are equally demanding acting elements for Amell, a Canadian who previously worked on "Hung," "Private Practice" and "Heartland." The acting part has been fulfilling for Amell because there are so many aspects to the character including a tenuous relationship with Dinah Laurel Lance, the character played by Katie Cassidy.

"When I looked at the pilot, I saw four different roles," Amell says.

"I will have a day where it's sort of fake Oliver in the real world right now, and then there will be an island day, and there's an Arrow day and Laurel days. And it's a really fun exercise. It keeps me on my toes, and that was what intrigued me most when I read the pilot. I think that's saying a lot because it's a superhero show, or at least an opportunity for me to play a superhero.

"For me to see it first as a really interesting acting exercise says a lot about the quality of the writing."

The darker, more physical Green Arrow is a contrast to when Justin Hartley played the part on "Smallville." The decision not to have Hartley play the character in this new series was because the tone is much darker. The producers say they aren't worried about changing actors. Executive producer Marc Guggenheim cited the switch in actors for another comic book franchise, "Batman," as an example.

"We certainly wanted to chart our own course and chart our own destiny. Your love for Michael Keaton doesn't affect your love for Christian Bale. And Christian Bale doesn't affect your love for Adam West," Guggenheim said. "There are different iterations that are possible for any character. Look at the James Bond franchise, for example. No concerns there."

It can't hurt "Arrow" that executive producer Andrew Kreisberg brings a long history with the character -- he wrote a "Green Arrow/Black Canary" series for DC Comics.

"Our show is a much more grounded, more realistic take on the character than in the comic books, especially my run that had a lot more flamboyance," Kreisberg says. "Our show takes place in the real world where the Green Arrow in the comic book definitely takes place in the DC universe."

But, he says, "the DNA of the comic book is in the show."

That realistic approach means there won't be a lot of guest appearances by other DC Comics characters, and when they do show up, none will have superpowers or be aliens. Any heroes who guest-star will have to be like Green Arrow, an average person who becomes a hero through very mortal means.

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