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How ‘Arrow’ Producers Tackled the Gun Violence Debate

This week’s episode of “Arrow” will feel a bit different.

The show’s latest installment titled “Spectre of the Gun,” which airs Wednesday, tackles the highly-controversial topic of gun control. The conversation in the episode begins after a masked man shoots up the Star City mayor’s office with many of the show’s main character’s inside. Following a press screening of the episode that Variety attended, executive producer Marc Guggenheim said they had wanted to do an episode like this for awhile.

“We went into Season 5 wanting to do an episode about an issue,” he said. “I grew up on ‘St. Elsewhere’ and ‘Picket Fences’ and ‘L.A. Law,’ and I grew up in a time where it was commonplace for a one-hour drama to tackle some of the issues of the day. Somewhere along the line the industry got away from that.”

Guggenheim cited shows like “Black-ish” and “The Carmichael Show” that continue to create episodes that look at current events, but said the majority of network TV shows aren’t. The team went into Season 5 hoping they had earned the freedom to do an episode like tonight’s.

“In 23 episodes of television you can have 22 pieces of candy and one episode of vegetables,” Guggenheim said. “We felt that gun violence was the right topic because of the level of gun violence on ‘Arrow.’ We could have done an episode on abortion, but that’s not really where the show lives.”

The episode also gives a deeper look into the past of Wild Dog — one of the newer members of Team Arrow. The producers said flashing back to Rene’s (Rick Gonzalez) life before becoming Wild Dog felt like the obvious choice.

“He was someone who’s background we really wanted to explore,” executive producer Wendy Mericle said. “He carries a gun and is a natural spokesman for that point of view.”

“We could have done it for any number of characters — there was an appetite for us and the writing staff to do flashbacks from the perspective of one of our recruits,” Guggenheim added. “We know a lot about Curtis (Echo Kellum); Rory (Joe Dinicol) left the team; Evelyn (Madison McLaughlin) had betrayed the team — Rene felt like the right recruit, at the right time, and is a character whose whole super heroics revolve around guns.”

Taking on such a divisive topic, a question was raised about how the studio reacted to the idea. An episode like “Spectre of the Gun” runs a higher risk of receiving notes that seek to make the show offend the least amount of people. According to Guggenheim, they couldn’t have been more ready to play ball.

“We told them we wanted to do a gun violence episode and they said ‘Great,'” he said. “Nothing was compromised. This is very much the episode we wanted to do.”

“Arrow” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

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