After six seasons of saving Star City on the CW’s “Arrow,” Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) finds himself in a new place when Season 7 kicks off: in prison, with his double-life as the Green Arrow exposed.
The series also went through a transition off-screen, as long-time showrunners Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle stepped down. (Guggenheim is remaining a consultant with the show; Mericle left the CW series.) Beth Schwartz, who has been with the drama as a writer since Season 1, was promoted to showrunner.
“I will say from a collaboration standpoint, it’s been really good,” Amell tells Variety of the show’s new leadership. “Beth has empowered producers and writers of specific episodes; they’ve been on set every day. They have the ability to be the producer and the decision maker — in conjunction with the director and actors — for that episode.”
Amell also shares that he has ideas both for Oliver and “the show at large” that the writers are implementing, which has been “really lovely and flattering.”
“I posed a question about the nature of the prison when I went to the writers’ room for the first time,” Amell says. “My specific idea, and even my specific nature of the space of a particular character, all ended up in the show. That’s great. I like that there’s stuff I can pitch that comes to fruition on the show.”
Here, Amell speaks with Variety about shaking things up this season, how keeping the villainous Diaz (Kirk Acevedo) around has led to “bold” storytelling and what advice he has for Ruby Rose, who is joining the Arrowverse as Batwoman for the annual crossover event.
How is Oliver handling his time in prison?
He’s doing OK. Despite the fact that [his son] William and [his wife] Felicity are in witness protection, he can’t rest easy with the fact that it’s five months in and Diaz is still out there. He’s sacrificed everything to take him off the board, and he’s not off the board. He’s also having to go against a lot of his better instincts in order to survive. He’s in there with a lot of people he helped put in there. There’s a target on his back.
Has he found any allies inside or is it truly him versus everyone else?
We start with him versus everyone else. He starts to gain a few allies along the way. Some people we’re meeting for the first time, some people we’ve seen on the show. Prison is never what it seems. Just when he thinks it can’t get any worse, it’s obviously going to get a lot worse.
It’s been fun, as an actor, [because in the past] Oliver would immediately try to problem-solve, be heroic, try to help the less fortunate. Prison, and his desire to just get through it and eventually get back to his family, make him act the opposite of what people would expect.
When Oliver ultimately gets out of prison, what lessons do you hope he will have learned?
I think that not everything is black and white; there is a middle ground. Even at his best, he had a tendency to be very dictatorial. He hasn’t really understood the psyche of a criminal. So hopefully he comes out with a better understanding of the types of people he’s dealing with. And hopefully that helps him, if he gets out, be a better person, a better hero.
The series has traditionally introduced a new foe every season. With Season 6’s Diaz still very much in play, how has that impacted the way the new year is structured?
This season feels very different. It feels very bold. It feels like, in my mind, it’s taking one of the things we did in Season 4, where we introduced [a tease] someone was in the grave. It’s not doing anything like that, but that to me always felt like a bold choice.
Even when we introduced Caity Lotz’s character, you think the biggest thing is going to be her seeing [her father] Quentin, so we’re not going to do that for a very long time. And then all of a sudden it happens. It feels like we’re making a lot of those choices, and that’s been very, very invigorating for me, because I never want to be safe. I’m of the mindset if you have a good idea, let’s do it. Season 8 is promised to no one. It’s been very refreshing, and it feels like we’re pushing the envelope this year.
Looking ahead, what you do expect Oliver’s relationship with his team to be like now that he’s revealed his identity to the general public?
That’s the one thing I’m very, very curious to know about that I know precious little about. What’s Oliver’s like with the team when he gets out of prison — what is his relationship with the population of Star City? He’s outed now; he outed himself. What does that mean? We have to respect the enormity of that decision. He can’t live in that apartment anymore, because he’s the Green Arrow and everybody knows it. What are those dynamics? I’m very interested to see.
How has that been handled so far in the show?
He’s in prison. That’s it. … I’ve had very, very intensive work when I’ve been working, but one of the things I’m very, very proud of this year, is I didn’t know if when Oliver went to prison, I’d be working every day, and we wouldn’t see a lot of the [other] cast members. We’ve gone to great lengths to make sure those stories continue. Oliver is an element of the show, but he’s also isolated from everyone. The stuff I’ve been doing has been labor-intensive, but I’ve then had big breaks.
With Ruby Rose about the join the larger DC television universe, what conversations have you had with her about taking on a role like this?
I haven’t spoken with Ruby yet. I know absolutely everything about the crossover, and there is literally nothing I can say about it. Ruby doesn’t need my help, at all. But I have always taken great pride when we have a new character — this situation is very similar to when Grant [Gustin] was introduced as Barry Allen on our show. You effectively have an episode that is this person’s story, but they’re dropping into a world where everyone is familiar with one another, there are no nerves, everyone knows how it works. Even if she doesn’t feel it, I feel like there’s a great deal of pressure on Ruby. I would just hope that if she needs anything from me, she wouldn’t hesitate to ask.
“Arrow” premieres Monday, Oct. 16 on the CW.