When it was announced that The CW would be pursuing a new television series centered on DC comics' emerald archer, Green Arrow, fans likely assumed it would be a spin-off allowing Justin Hartley to continue the role he played for many years on Smallville. However, those fans learned soon enough that this version, now known simply as Arrow, would not pick up where the adventures of a young Clark Kent left off, but seek to create its own universe with a new actor playing the familiar character.
Executive producer Marc Guggenheim (Green Lantern, FlashForward) makes it clear that he's a fan of Hartley's rendition of Oliver Queen, but walking in the footsteps of Smallville was never in the cards for Arrow. Scroll down for details.
“We certainly wanted to chart our own course and destiny,” Guggenheim said while discussing the show at The CW's TCA press tour. He also reiterated the commonly used justification that multiple actors can take on the same role, without damaging the core essence of the character: “Michael Keaton [as Batman] doesn’t affect your love for Christian Bale and Christian Bale doesn’t affect your love for Adam West … multiple iterations are possible.”
For those who have checked out the trailers for the series, it's clear from the start that Arrow is starting fresh in a world absent those fanciful aspects on display in Smallville. To set the series on the right foot, Guggenheim and the show's other producers sought an actor to embody this more ambiguous version of Oliver Queen. One of the defining characteristics of Stephen Amell's version lies in the way the character handles his foes – which varies between a Batman-like style of physical intimidation, and the more permanent approach of ventilating bad guys with arrows.
“We’re exploring the nature of vigilantism … and we'll get into those [moral] issues. The Arrow always gives the bad guy the opportunity to do the right thing … when he kills, he kills for necessity … it’s not just random violence … we’ll face the issues of his morality head on…that’s part of the fun, quite frankly, when telling a story about a vigilante.”
While this translates well within the context of the new series, longtime fans of the character may not take too kindly to the thought of Oliver Queen putting his adversaries in the ground. Some may recall a similar distaste for such acts following Green Arrow's execution of the villain Prometheus in the pages of DC comics' miniseries, Cry For Justice. As Guggenheim points out, this is merely another iteration of the character - one that will have its various attractive or unattractive qualities for those in the audience – not unlike Tim Burton's Batman, who had no qualms with killing any number of thugs foolish enough to challenge him on the streets of Gotham.
Helping to explain this change in character will be the flashbacks to the island Queen was stranded on, which will be interspersed throughout Arrow's current war on crime. As the present day story unfolds, the audience will slowly be told the account of how the rich, entitled, Oliver Queen came to be the vigilante known as Arrow.
Co-executive producer Andrew Kreisberg explains:
“The last episode of the series will be [Arrow] seeing the [rescue] boat in the pilot. Every week is telling the origin story.”
So there you have it. Not only is Arrow a distinctly different character than the one embodied by Justin Hartley, he is also a distinctive interpretation of the character from the comics. With only a short while until October, fans won't have to wait long to check it out for themselves. And if enough people stick with the show, the producers would like to have Hartley on to make a cameo at some point.
“More than anything, Justin has been so amazing and so supportive of this. Neither of us really knew him before we worked on this pilot. We actually met him during pilot season, and he’s just been so cool, saying ‘I’m happy for you guys,’ so great… and he and Stephen have actually developed a nice friendship. So, we hope, in the same way that in the Superman movies, you’d see actors from previous incarnations joined in some way… if there’s an opportunity down the road for Justin to play with us, that would be great.”
Arrow premieres Wednesday, October 10 @8pm on The CW.