When October finally rolls around, Greg Berlanti and the CW’s Arrowverse will be larger than ever. This fall, the CW will be home to four DC Comics properties. Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow will be returning for their fifth, third, and second seasons respectively, while Supergirl will move to the CW after its freshman run aired on CBS.
With the Arrowverse continuing to grow, the four series are now showcasing more acting talent than ever before. Several new cast members have been announced for the upcoming season, while most of the series’ regulars are returning to their respective shows. Additionally, it was announced that several characters including, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), and Leonard Snart (Wentworth Miller), will be series regulars across all four shows. With so many different characters occupying the Arrowverse, it would be nearly impossible to list them all, but what we will try is to give credit to some of the four series’ greatest actors. So without further introduction, please take a look at the 20 Best Actors In The Arrowverse.
20. Willa Holland (Thea Queen/Speedy)
Willa Holland is probably best known for playing Oliver Queen’s little sister, Thea Queen, on the show that kicked of the Arrowverse, Arrow. Prior to landing that role, Holland had roles on both Gossip Girl (portraying Agnes Andrews) and The O.C. (portraying Kaitlin Cooper). She has also had a few notable film roles including Straw Dogs (where she played James Woods’ characters’ daughter) and Tiger Eyes, the latter for which she was recognized as Best Actress at the Boston International Film Festival.
Ultimately, Holland is still in her acting adolescence. She has 19 acting credits to her name, several of which are voice roles in video games. Still, she has demonstrated in her four years on Arrow, as well as her previous roles noted above, that she is a highly capable actress. As Thea Queen, she has shown us that she can play a spoiled and rebellious teenager, an entrepreneur, a caring sister, and a crime-fighting vigilante (adopting the “Speedy” code name). And she’s done it well. Fortunately for us, she was not the character that met her demise at the end of season 4, because it looks like Thea Queen will continue to evolve.
19. Emily Bett Rickards (Felicity Smoak)
Felicity Smoak is a bit of a polarizing character on Arrow. While some fans love her rambling sense of humor, others are constantly annoyed at her romantic storyline with Oliver Queen. Of course, there is also a large group of fans who love the “Olicity” storyline, so there you go. Smoak is portrayed by Emily Bett Rickards, and she is perfect in the role. Smoak has become one of the standout characters on the show due to her use of sarcasm and her tendency to over-speak or have conversations with herself.
Outside of Arrow, Rickards has not done much. She only has 16 acting credits, and many of them are her reprising her role as Smoak in the other Arrowverse shows and online series. Still, we can see from what she has done on Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow that her acting career is only getting started. She has also become popular enough among fans that it is probably a good thing she made it through Damien Darhk’s attack in season 4.
18. Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen/Green Arrow)
The actor that really kicked off everything is Stephen Amell, who plays Oliver Queen/Green Arrow on Arrow. Amell has been acting pretty consistently for over a decade. After appearing as a recurring character or guest star on several television shows, Amell landed his breakout role in the third season of HBO’s comedy, Hung. Of course, only a year later he landed his most famous role as Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow.
Amell’s performance as Queen has mostly been praised, though of course there have been some detractors. While some have called his early portrayal a Batman knock-off as well as criticized the cheesy “You have failed this city!” line, the character has continued to evolve throughout the series, and so has Amell’s performance. Amell has successfully showcased the series’ many different Oliver Queens.
Due to Arrow‘s use of flashbacks, we have had a chance to watch Oliver Queen grow from spoiled playboy, to survivalist, reluctant operative, and eventually, the Green Arrow. It will be interesting to see what Oliver Queen we see in season 5’s Russia flashbacks, as well as how his character may change from any ramifications that may occur due to The Flash‘s “Flashpoint” arc.
17. David Harewood (Hank Henshaw/J’onn J’onzz)
One of the newest additions to the Arrowverse is David Harewood’s Hank Henshaw, who is a main character on the former CBS show Supergirl. Like many of the actors on this list, Harewood has had to play two different versions of his character. It was revealed in the middle of Supergirl‘s freshman season, that Hank Henshaw was in fact dead, and the character Harewood had been playing the whole time was J’onn J’onzz (perhaps more widely known as Martian Manhunter).
While Supergirl may have been Harewood’s first foray into the superhero genre, he is an extremely accomplished actor and has been active for nearly thirty years. Some of his well known credits before his role as J’onn J’onzz include Homeland (where he played the CIA’s David Estes) and Blood Diamond. He also had a main role on the highly acclaimed AMC mini-series The Night Manager, starring Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie.
16. Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost)
Danielle Panabaker made her first appearance in the Arrowverse as Caitlin Snow in a season 2 episode of Arrow. Since then, she has starred as Snow on The Flash, and played her evil doppelganger, Killer Frost, as well. With The Flash bringing the idea of the “multiverse” to television, Panabaker is just another one of the many actors who need to demonstrate incredible range on a show by show basis.
Prior to her breakout role as Caitlin Snow, Panabaker had appeared in starring, recurring, or guest roles in over a dozen television shows. She has also appeared in many films including Sky High, Mr. Brooks, and the Friday the 13th remake. Caitlin Snow has become a bit of a tragic character on The Flash, and Panabaker has done a tremendous job showcasing her anguish – including dealing with the loss of two loved ones, and finding out one of them is really the sociopathic speedster, Zoom.
15. Manu Bennett (Slade Wilson/Deathstroke)
To fans of Arrow (which presumably most reading this are), Manu Bennett is most recognizable as Oliver Queen’s ally turned enemy, Slade Wilson (AKA Deathstroke). After recurring as the character in season one’s flashbacks to Oliver Queen’s time spent on Lian Yu, Deathstroke went on to be Team Arrow’s main antagonist in season 2 of the series. While Manu Bennett may be primarily known as Deathstroke, he has appeared in over a dozen television series, including being a series regular on Spartacus and The Shannara Chronicles.
Bennett only reprised his role as Deathstroke in one season 3 episode, where he was released from his Lian Yu prison by Malcolm Merlyn to test Oliver and Thea. He did not appear at all in season 4 of Arrow, and has yet to appear on any of the other shows in the Arrowverse. With plans for Deathstroke to join the DCEU, we unfortunately may have seen the last of Bennett in the Arrowverse. Of course, you never know.
14. Brandon Routh (Ray Palmer/The Atom)
When Brandon Routh was cast as billionaire Ray Palmer on Arrow, he was no stranger to the superhero genre. Almost a decade prior, Routh landed what is still his most famous role – Superman (to be fair, that would be anyone’s most famous role). Brandon Routh played Clark Kent/Superman in Bryan Singer’s homage sequel to the Christopher Reeve starring Superman I and II. While many dismissed Routh as lacking the same charisma that Reeve brought to the role, he did win a Saturn Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the Man of Steel.
Of course, Routh is now back in full swing with DC Comics, having portrayed Ray Palmer (The Atom) in Arrow, Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow, the latter in which he is a series regular. Routh seems to fit the role of Palmer, who is kind-hearted and less aggressive than the rest of his Waverider team, perfectly. In reality, Palmer is just a romantic, with many of his storylines revolving around his deceased fiancee, relationship with Felicity, and engagement to Hawkgirl. All in all, Routh does a nice job showcasing some of that conflict.
13. Summer Glau (Isabel Rochev)
Summer Glau is no stranger to television or “geek culture.” She has starred in Joss Whedon’s Firefly and its film sequel Serenity. She has also appeared in Whedon’s Angel and Dollhouse. Further, she has had roles on The 4400, the shortlived NBC series, The Cape, and starred as the Terminator, Cameron, in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (for which she was nominated for several Teen Choice Awards). Glau has even appeared as herself in an episode of The Big Bang Theory, where main characters Howard and Raj fight for her affection due to being fans of Firefly and her role as a Terminator.
So, by the time Summer Glau was cast as Slade Wilson’s protege, Isabel Rochev (AKA Ravager) on Arrow, she was already a household name among television fans. While Glau only appeared in nine episodes of Arrow‘s second season and, short of some weird “Flashpoint” arc is unlikely to return, she was still one of the better actors for her short time on screen. She was successfully able to portray Rochev as both a cunning businesswoman and someone out for revenge.
12. Susanna Thompson (Moira Queen)
Susanna Thompson was a main cast member of Arrow for the first two seasons where she played Oliver Queen’s mother, Moira. Prior to joining Arrow, Thompson was a recurring or guest star on a variety of television series, including three different incarnations of the Star Trek franchise and a regular short-lived NBC series Kings. In film, Thompson is probably best known for her role in the cult children’s classic, Little Giants, where she played Junior Floyd’s (the quarterback) mother, Patty.
For the two seasons that Thompson was part of Arrow‘s main cast, she was easily one of the standout actors on the show. She was tasked with portraying a complex character who was both a loving mother and a corrupt businesswoman (even if she was coerced). In the second season, Thompson was able to explore Moira’s redemption story, as she ran for mayor, and subsequently sacrificed her life to save Oliver from making an impossible choice. Hopefully we get to see Thompson’s Moira Queen in a flashback or two, because she has been sorely missed.
11. Carlos Valdes (Cisco Ramon/Vibe/Reverb)
One of the breakout actors in the Arrowverse is Carlos Valdes, who plays Cisco Ramon (AKA Vibe/Reverb) on The Flash. Valdes has also portrayed Valdes on Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and the CW Seed series, Vixen. In fact, Valdes’ only acting credits are as Cisco Ramon. Still, this hasn’t prevented him from showing off his incredible acting talent.
Cisco Ramon has become a fan favorite on The Flash, and any Arrowverse series in which he is a guest star. His sense of humor, penchant for naming villains, and pop culture references are a highlight of almost every scene he is in. Valdes has also had the opportunity to portray various incarnations of Ramon, as many of the Arrowverse actors have with their characters. He has played both Earth-1 and Earth-2 Cisco Ramon, with the latter being his villainous persona, Reverb.
10. John Barrowman (Malcolm Merlyn)
John Barrowman is an accomplished theater, television, and film actor, who started his career performing in one of London’s famed West End theaters. In Arrow, he is known as Malcolm Merlyn, Tommy Merlyn’s father, and Oliver Queen’s main adversary, the Dark Archer, in the series’ first season. Despite presumably dying in season one, Barrowman’s Merlyn has continued to appear, especially after learning that he was Thea Queen’s biological father. Prior to playing Merlyn, Barrowman had a successful run as Captain Jack Harkness on the long running Doctor Who, and its spin-off, Torchwood.
Barrowman has been given a lot to work with when portraying Malcolm Merlyn. The character has been portrayed as a villain, reluctant hero, and successor to Ra’s al Ghul. But above all, he is a selfish, yet complicated person, who seems to truly care for his family. Fortunately for us, we will be seeing a lot more of Barrowman’s Merlyn, as the actor was announced to have inked a deal as a series regular across all Arrowverse shows, and will be a prominent member of the Legion of Doom in the second season of Legends of Tomorrow.
9. Wentworth Miller (Leonard Snart/Captain Cold)
Another actor who has inked a deal to be a series regular across all Arrowverse shows is Wentworth Miller, who will reprise his role as Leonard Snart, and will also be a member of the Legion of Doom. Wentworth Miller’s Snart has been a standout on both The Flash (where he was a recurring villain) and Legends of Tomorrow (where he was a reluctant hero). By now, Miller has become a cult favorite in television, having been the star of Fox’s Prison Break, a role he will reprise in the upcoming miniseries, and of course, for his role as Captain Cold.
Miller has done a tremendous job of highlighting all of Leonard Snart’s worst qualities, while still showcasing his trademark code of honor, and loyalty to his partners. Snart made the ultimate sacrifice at the end of Legends of Tomorrow, dying so his friend Micky (Dominic Purcell) could live. The result was surprising to many, but fortunately, we know the character will make a return – it’s a good thing comics allow for easy resurrection.
8. Jesse L. Martin (Joe West)
Jesse L. Martin, who plays Barry Allen’s father figure, Joe West, on The Flash, is like Barrowman, an accomplished theater actor. To a general audience, he is perhaps best known for originating the role of Tom Collins in the hugely successful Broadway show, Rent. Further, before joining The Flash, he appeared as Detective Ed Green in over 200 episodes of Law & Order and its various spin-offs. He also returned to his role of Tom Collins in the feature film adaptation of Rent.
Jesse L. Martin’s performance as Joe West has been widely praised by fans and critics, and is the most prominent parental presence in the entire Arrowverse. In fact, most of the series’ dramatic storylines have involved Martin’s relationship with his daughter Iris, “adopted” son Barry, and biological son Wally West. And, of course, like so many other Flash characters, Martin was able to deliver a decidedly different performance as Earth-2 Joe, who instead of being a cop, was a jazz musician, and no fan of Barry Allen.
7. Melissa Benoist (Kara Danvers/Supergirl)
Melissa Benoist is a relative newcomer to the Arrowverse, but that doesn’t diminish her acting or impact to the series of shows. Benoist plays the title character of Supergirl, Kara Zor-El/Supergirl. Prior to landing her breakout role on Supergirl, Benoist recurred, and later starred, on Fox’s musical comedy, Glee, where she portrayed Marley Rose. Benoist will have a chance to show off her singing talents again, when The Flash and Supergirl crossover in a superhero-sized musical. Benoist also had a small role in the hit indie film, Whiplash, where she played Andrew’s (played by Miles Teller) romantic interest.
Benoist take on Kara Danvers (and her alter ego, Supergirl) have been widely praised. She has brought a familiar, nerdy portrayal to Kara Danvers (similar to Reeve’s Clark Kent) and also highlighted Supergirl’s desire to to help people, with an attitude that no job is too much for her to handle. Benoist is no doubt one of the bright spots on Supergirl, with her charming take on Danvers being a constant to joy to watch.
6. Neal McDonough (Damien Darhk)
Despite Arrow‘s fourth seasons being relatively less well-regarded than the previous seasons, it did introduce one of the series’ breakout characters, Neal McDonough’s Damien Darhk. What is funny, is that most of the criticism the fourth season faced was due to the more fantastical and magical elements, which seemed out of place on the more grounded Arrow. Why is this funny? Well, the magical character was Damien Darhk, who used an idol that granted him odd abilities. Yet Darhk was easily the standout of the season.
Neal McDonough is an accomplished character actor, who is no stranger to the superhero genre. He has played Dum Dum Dugan in Captain America: The First Avenger, as well as in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. Further, he has provided his voice to cartoon versions of Floyd Lawton/Deadshot, and, funnily enough, Green Arrow. McDonough can also be seen currently as Sean Cahill on USA’s hit legal drama, Suits.
While Damien Darhk met his demise at the hands of Oliver Queen in the season 4 finale of Arrow, it appears he will be back in the Arrowverse in some shape or form, as he has appeared in Legends of Tomorrow second season images, as well as being confirmed as a member of the Legion of Doom – lucky us.
5. Tom Cavanagh (Harrison Wells/Reverse-Flash)
By now, it has become clear that actors on The Flash are tasked with playing various incarnations of their characters. But Tom Cavanagh (who plays Harrison Wells) has had to take that to the extreme. Cavanagh has showed off his acting chops by playing no less than than five different versions of his character on The Flash. Let’s try and count them.
First, he played Eobard Thawne pretending to be Harrison Wells. Then he played Harrison Wells of Earth-1 in a flashback, eventually being killed by Eobard Thawne. Then, once he was found out by Team Flash, he played Eobard Thawne, but in Harrison Wells body. Of course, he has also recently played Earth-2’s Harrison Wells. And to top it off, he played Eobard Thawne again when Barry traveled back in time to learn how to get faster. Head spinning yet?
Clearly, Cavanagh has had to be one of the best actors, if not the best, in the entire Arrowverse. He has just been tasked with so much responsibility. And this is no surprise, as Cavanagh has been the lead in a variety of television series, including Ed, Love Monkey, and Trust Me. He has also had prominent guest roles on two medical shows, Scrubs and Royal Pains. With season 3 of The Flash set to feature a “Flashpoint” story arc, we can’t wait and see which Harrison Wells we’ll watch next.
4. Calista Flockhart (Cat Grant)
Arguably the most decorated actor in the Arrowverse is Calista Flockhart, who plays Kara Danvers’ boss and media mogul, Cat Grant, on Supergirl. Flockhart is, of course, most widely known for playing the title character of the Fox legal drama, Ally McBeal. For her portrayal of McBeal, Flockhart won a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild award, and was nominated for several Emmys. And, after Ally McBeal, but before Supergirl, Flockhart starred in another Greg Berlanti-produced show, Brothers & Sisters.
Flockhart has been incredible as the Devil Wears Prada-like boss, who constantly gives Kara a hard time, while also acting as a mentor to her – and to Supergirl. Unfortunately, we won’t get to see nearly as much of Flockhart’s Cat Grant in Supergirl‘s second season. With Supergirl moving from CBS to The CW, and thus moving production from Los Angeles to Vancouver, Flockhart is only set to recur on the series’ sophomore season.
3. Mark Hamill (James Jesse/The Trickster)
Mark Hamill is an actor who needs absolutely no introduction. You know who he is, and you know what he’s done. But still, here are a few highlights anyway. Hamill is known for bringing several of the most iconic television and film characters to life. He is, of course, Luke Skywalker, the protagonist of Star Wars, as well as the greatest to ever voice the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series and other properties. He has become a pop culture and geek culture icon, and is set to reprise his role as Luke Skywalker in the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VIII.
While Hamill has only appeared in two episodes of The Flash, he had no trouble stealing every scene he was in. He appeared in both the first and second seasons of the hit show, where he played James Jesse/The Trickster, the same role he played in the The Flash TV series from 1991. Hopefully we will see more of him in the Arrowverse, because everything is better with Mark Hamill involved.
2. Grant Gustin (Barry Allen/The Flash)
Grant Gustin is only in his acting adolescence, but that hasn’t stopped him from already leaving his mark on television. Of course, he plays the title character on The Flash, arguably the most well-received of all the shows in the Arrowverse. Before landing his most famous role to date, Gustin recurred for several episodes on both Glee and the reboot of 90210. Gustin’s contribution to the success of The Flash can’t be overlooked. He perfectly embodies Barry Allen, so much so, that some were hoping that he would reprise the role in the DC Extended Universe (the role eventually went to Ezra Miller).
Grant Gustin has delivered as Barry Allen over and over again on The Flash. We have felt his pain when he has lost loved ones, his joy when reunited with his father, and his struggle to be Central City’s unrelenting protector. Allen’s emotions were taken to the extreme at the end of season 2 after losing his father during the season-long struggle with Zoom. This leads Allen to go back in time and prevent Reverse-Flash from killing his mother, Nora, and setting off what will undoubtedly be an explosive third season of The Flash.
1. Victor Garber (Dr. Martin Stein)
There are no actors on this list that have been doing it as long as Victor Garber. Garber, who plays Dr. Martin Stein — and one half of Firestorm –on The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, has been acting for nearly fifty years. Another veteran of the stage, Garber appeared on Broadway in the original production of Sweeney Todd, and has been nominated for several Tony Awards, Emmys, and Screen Actors Guild Awards. In film, he is perhaps best known for his roles in Titanic, Legally Blonde, and Argo, while on television he is known for his starring role in Alias.
Garber has played the genius, Stein, as an intellectually curious hero, looking to make the world a better place. His interactions with Ronnie Raymond and Jefferson Jackson, his two Firestorm counterparts, have consistently been one of the highlights of his performances, especially on Legends of Tomorrow with Jax. Garber is set to reprise his role as Stein in the second season of Legends of Tomorrow, and it will be fun to see him conversing with another genius, Albert Einstein, who the crew is bound to meet.
With four shows going strong, narrowing down all the great actors in the Arrowverse was no easy task. Did we miss your favorite actor? Let us know in the comments!
The Flash season 3 will premiere Tuesday October 4th at 8pm on The CW, Arrow season 5 will premiere in the same timeslot on Wednesday October 5th, Supergirl season 2 on Monday October 10th, and Legends of Tomorrow season 2 on Thursday October 13th.