After Arrow star Stephen Amell made an unexpected appearance on the WWE last year, facing off against pro wrestling superstar Cody Rhodes – in his Stardust persona – murmurs of a rematch inevitably arose following the highly publicized bout. Time passed with nary a rematch in sight and the hope of seeing Amell step into the ring again were further complicated when Rhodes made the decision to leave the WWE and his Stardust alter ego behind.
As such, the onus of getting the two back together fell on the producers and writers of Arrow, meaning the ballyhooed second bout would give Amell a chance to do battle in his Green Arrow guise while Rhodes took on a new persona, that of Star City supervillain Derek Sampson. In the episode 'A Matter of Trust,' Sampson begins as a drug dealer peddling a substance called – what else? – Stardust, but soon he is imbued with superpowers, making him super strong and unable to feel pain. Naturally, this makes him more than your average threat for the Green Arrow and his still-green Team Arrow 2.0, and fans can expect that to deliver enough action sequences to satisfy their hunger for an Amell-Rhodes rematch.
Screen Rant had the chance to speak with Rhodes about his appearance on Arrow, to discuss his future acting plans, and to see what other roles he would be interested in taking on in the future.
Can you tell me little about your Arrow character Derek Sampson?
"If you look at the episode as a whole, there's an element that's about building Oliver's team and where they go from there. But the episode is also building something else. When I looked at it initially, I was so flattered because you could say "villain of the week" but there's also... and I'm not trying to be coy, there's more. Derek Sampson is kind of built on this episode and that excites me to essentially be born, to be imbued with some sort of ability that leaves room for a potential next chapter. And I'm not being coy at all, I really don't know. I think fans of the episode will not just strictly get a guest role, throwaway episode; it's bigger than that."
So the door is left open for Derek to return in future Arrow episodes?
"Yes, I think there's hope. I think the best way to put it is the door does seem to remain open. Watch me watch it tomorrow and they've added some sort of explosion at the end. I can't say exactly, but I do think the door is remaining open."
Do you enjoy playing villain? Is that something you were attracted to in taking on the role?
"Well for me it's easier to plug into being a villain. I don't why. I don't know what's wrong with me. And maybe my experience with WWE, the best I had in terms of success there was as a villain. I think also it helps that, Stephen and I… on the surface it looks like we're this super buddy-buddy relationship. And he has definitely become a friend of mine and I look up to Stephen in terms of what he's done with charity and his various businesses, I think he's a very smart, smart man. However, I'm super-competitive and he is super-competitive, so it was easy to plug in as a villain because we're fighting one another. And I thought 'People liked the Stardust/Arrow interaction, so the fight has to be good.' We have to throw down. Stephen does so much of his own work, his own stunt stuff and they gave us the opportunity to do so much of our own stunt stuff that it felt very real at certain junctures, and I like it that way."
Given your background in professional wrestling, how was it doing stunts on the show? Was there anything that the producers were leery to have you perform or that you had to convince them it was okay to let you do?
"Well [director] James Bamford is just first rate. He was actually involved when Stephen and me first got into the ring together. He was there to offer us his expertise on Stephen as the Green Arrow, but I think there was an assumption on day one that, because of pro wrestling I might know how to do my own stunts. However, there are very different techniques to stunt punches, stunt strikes, and stuff like that than there are in pro wrestling. So the first day, I very much roughed up a gentleman I had across from me. But they were very generous in their knowledge and expertise, and I'm a quick study. And with James and his team on the ground there, they gave me a whole new arsenal.
As I continue to wrestle, wrestling can sometimes stay the same, or there are those few out there that change it every few years… they add more to it. My experience working with James Bamford on the Arrow set only helps me in pro wrestling, because there was more to learn. There's always an art to beating people up I guess."
Has there ever been a time when you entertained the possibility of transitioning to acting full time?
"Well, when I was 19 years old I drove out to Los Angeles. I was afraid I wasn't physically big enough to be a pro wrestler. So I got into the Howard Fine Acting Studio out there -- Howard's a great teacher. I thought I would do acting first. I was too timid to enter my dad's business without this size on me. And then I realized wrestling today is about all shapes and sizes. The WWE recruited me and so they plucked me out of L.A. But I'll tell you, in the first five minutes I was on set, my shoe came untied and I went to tie it and a wardrobe lady ran out and tied it for me. I was really embarrassed and I said, 'No, no, I got it. She looked at me and said, 'No, this is my job.' And [she] tied my shoe, ran off the set, and they called 'action' for the next scene. After that I called my wife and I said, 'Babe, I don't think I want to wrestle anymore.'
Yeah, those hours are wild and that cast should be applauded endlessly for these super-long days that they do. But the treatment on set, it actually helped the villainous element; it made me feel like a total mob boss. It was a really cool experience."
How did this role come about? How long after your involvement in the ring with Stephen was an appearance by you on Arrow discussed?
"I always thought in the back of my mind when I was still with WWE that maybe we could do this cross-promotion. But time went on and I changed direction with Stardust and then eventually got sick of Stardust and in a bit of a dramatic fashion left WWE. I had kind of given up on the idea of doing it, but I knew that I had ample amount of time on my hands. I was no longer going to have the schedule I'd had the last 10 years, so I asked [Stephen] 'What're the proper channels for reading for a role?' And he provided me with the proper channels. I don't think anyone knows this: I read for two roles and I didn't get either of them. Every time I was there, I thought, 'Oh, I nailed it. I got it!' And then I was told there was something that was built for me. And that's such a huge responsibility and so flattering. And that's what Derek Sampson ultimately ended up being.
I'm very sturdy in my work ethic and I'm not delusional. I'm brand new in the acting world, so it was nice enough to be in the world that is casting for my favorite shows on television. But whatever I did in those reads is what gave them the confidence to go ahead and make Derek Sampson for me. So, in a way, I got a part, just not the part, you know?"
Are there any other TV roles that you'd like take on, or comic book characters you would be interested in playing, either in film or on television?
"[As far as] a comic book character that I would like to play, I always [think of] Dick Grayson. I feel at some point they have to cast Dick Grayson, and I'm probably too old for it now but as Batman gets older… whatever. But on the flip side, for Marvel – my dad was in pro wrestling and was very popular in his business, so I was this self-entitled little kid, so I always liked the idea of royalty, too, someone like Namor. But I have a bajillion roles in mind, and they're always the roles that you kind of forget about, that are under the radar.
I think every day I actively scout and seek out information on the new Star Trek series, because I'm a Trekkie – a late in life Trekkie, but a Trekkie – and then the production on the Metal Gear Solid movie, if it ever happens, because I know everything there is to know about Metal Gear Solid and I just know they're gonna need a Grey Fox. So what this episode and what this experience did for me was give me a lot of confidence and a lot of a direction as far as if I do give acting my undivided attention – which, in two days, I'm moving back to Los Angeles, so that looks to be the case – these character roles are what would fit better for me. These characters I feel more comfortable playing, these nuanced roles. That way I can give a performance that isn't just "dumb wrestler" in a crossover performance. And I feel like that's what we did with Derek Sampson when I saw the cut of the episode. I'm really happy. I hope fans enjoy it."
Cody Rhodes can be seen on Arrow on Wednesday, October 19 @8pm on The CW.