Better Watch His Speed
by Jay S. Jacobs
What is cooler than playing a beloved character from an iconic comic franchise? How about playing two?
For several years, Stephen Amell has been making his bones playing the title character in the hit CW series Arrow, which was the cornerstone in the network’s current all-DC-Comics all-the-time strategy. As billionaire playboy Oliver Queen, who secretly doubles as the vigilante superhero The Green Arrow, he has been using his trusty bow and arrow to protect Star City from all sorts of super-villains.
The success of Arrow has led to other CW series also based on DC Comics series: The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, iZombie and Supergirl, which has just moved over to the CW after a high-profiles first season on sister network CBS. Fox also has two DC series, Gotham and Lucifer, and AMC recently debuted the DC-based series Preacher, with several other DC-based projects in the planning stages.
However, as much as he loves his TV series, Amell has been itching to try out a big movie role. And now, he has that, too.
Last year Amell was tapped to play the hockey-stick wielding street fighter Casey Jones in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sequel Out of the Shadows. Like Queen, Jones is also a vigilante, working as a corrections officer by day and donning a hockey-mask and stick to fight crime at night.
Casey runs across the heroes in a half shell during his day job, when he is transferring baddies Bebop and Rocksteady to a different jail, only to find himself in the middle of a jailbreak orchestrated by mega-baddy Krang. Through some serious CGI fight footage, Jones saves himself and Turtles confidante April O’Neil, and then teams with the heroes to track down the bad guys.
Plus, though it is not overly explored in the current film, according to the mythology of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, Casey Jones becomes romantically involved with Megan Fox’s character of O’Neil. Must be nice to get a job where you are paid to flirt with Fox. However, in this movie the flirting is still in an early stage. Right now, Casey Jones is still all about slap-shotting the bad guys.
Which brings up the most obvious question: Who would win a fight, Casey Jones or Oliver Queen?
“Why are you making me choose, man?” Amell laughed at the recent Philadelphia red carpet premiere for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. “That’s like [asking] ‘Who’s your favorite kid?’ No. No. [I’m not going to say…] My daughter will always be my favorite, yeah…”
Amell was in Philadelphia for a dual purpose. Beyond introducing Thursday night’s Philly premiere of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, he also spent the weekend at the Philadelphia Convention Center for the annual Wizard World Philadelphia Comic-Con. (Though, it turns out he didn’t hang around for the complete screening. Not long after he introduced the film, he tweeted from a local bar – probably Warmdaddy’s next door to the theater – that he was anxiously watching the Golden State Warriors – Cleveland Cavaliers NBA playoff game.)
“When I decided to come back to Wizard World Philly, it all basically revolved around the idea that it was opening weekend of Turtles,” Amell said. “I thought an event like this would be really fun.”
Not half as fun as working on the Turtles movie, though. Amell has been wanting to make a movie for quite a while, actively lobbying for the role and working hard to fit it into his busy Arrow schedule.
“We had a lot of fun making this movie,” Amell explained. “We shot it last year right around this time in New York City. I feel like we leaned into the idea of a Turtles movie. We brought a lot of fun stuff like Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang, me, stuff like that. So if you enjoy the movie, share it on Facebook, share it on Twitter, tell a friend, see it again, pay for a ticket. All that stuff that matters to theoretically make a third one of these, because I had such an awesome time playing Casey Jones and I’d love to do it again.”
While he had a great time making the movie, Amell found that working for a big-screen spectacular really wasn’t all that different than being on a weekly series, it was just in a more compact time period.
“I’d say, no [it’s not much different],” Amell said. “Show up on time. Hit your marks. Say your lines.”
Casey Jones is also a very different type of character than Oliver Queen is – other than the obvious nighttime vigilante fighting crime aspect. However, Queen is more of a brooding, serious character. Jones, on the other hand, loves to have fun and is just a tiny bit of a goofball.
However, Amell insists that it was not really much of a stretch to go from one character’s head space to the other.
“You know what? It’s all there on the page,” Amell admits. “I know that sounds a bit like a cop-out answer, but the first big major scene I got to shoot was with the Turtles [I felt comfortable with the new role]. And it’s not as though I was ever concerned that Casey Jones would seem like Oliver Queen…”
And he didn’t have that steep a learning curve. For example, asked if he knew anything about martial arts like Kung Fu, Amell said, “No. Only what I see in movies.”
One majorly cool aspect of filming Out of the Shadows is that it was made in New York City, picking up the vibe, the sweat, the grime and the spirit of its host city. It was fun to work on the city streets, but it was a bit of an eye-opener after working in the relative calm of Vancouver, where Arrow is filmed.
“I was surprised how easily distracted I was, having never been to New York City before,” Amell admitted. “Just New York City in general. The pitch of the streets, the paparazzi, the yelling. No one cares that you’re filming…. Some of the things that used to bother me as an actor. I turned to [actress] Laura Linney and said something like: ‘Does this bother you?’ She was like, ‘No.’ So I learned that I needed to relax.”
Surprisingly, for a man who has become a star on the back of an iconic superhero, Amell was a bit more geeked out to be playing with the Turtles. Asked if he was a fan of the characters growing up, he admitted, “Oh yeah, big time. I loved the live action movies. I loved the cartoon. I wasn’t a big comics guy.”
However, now he is more submersed into the world of Arrow. However, if they were to ever make a crossover between Arrow and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Amell is certain that Oliver Queen would barely be fazed by giant pizza-scarfing ninja turtles.
“I feel like Oliver has seen enough that he would be like, ‘Oh, God. There’s mutants, too,’” Amell reasoned. “He would probably shake his head and figure out whether they were born Americans.”
For now, though, Amell is enjoying the publicity tour to promote the Turtles. Soon enough he will return to television and his bow and arrow. However, could Arrow have a film crossover as well? The character of the Green Arrow will undoubtedly be a part of the upcoming DC All-Stars movie Justice League. At this point, they have tried to keep the DC television and film franchises separate.
In fact, director Zack Snyder has made a point of it in the recent Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Snyder was asked why he did not cast Grant Gustin, star of the CW’s hit TV series The Flash, to play the character of The Flash in the movie.
“I just don’t think it was a good fit,” Snyder said. “I’m very strict with this universe and I just don’t see a version where… that [tone is] not our world.”
While this attitude was disappointing… to say the least… to fans of the TV series, Snyder has stood by it. However, even on the series, the character of Oliver Queen/The Arrow is much darker than The Flash’s Barry Allen. Perhaps Amell’s characterization would fit more into Snyder’s worldview?
Amell isn’t holding his breath for that.
“I don’t know,” Amell admitted. “I feel like they made a decision to keep things separate. Whether that’s the decision that lasts forever remains to be seen. It all depends on the success of a bunch of films. Until a movie is released, it’s a theoretical thing, right? I feel like there is always going to be an opportunity on the landscape.”
One thing that will not be kept separate is the characters of the WB series. Amell has done crossover guest appearances on The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow and characters from those series have visited the Arrow in Star City. This trend will continue, and Amell said that now that Supergirl is on the network, he would not be at all surprised if those characters also make the rounds, particularly since in the comics The Arrow and Supergirl are supposed to be friends.
“It depends on what they write; you know what I mean?” he allowed. “It would be interesting to see Oliver meet Supergirl. I don’t know how that’s going to play.”
Perhaps Oliver can give Supergirl some advice on fighting.
“Oh, yeah, Oliver always gives people advice, even when they don’t ask for it,” Amell said, good naturedly.
Amell paused a moment, then admitted, “I have a confession. I haven’t seen Supergirl yet. I usually watch everything when a season is done. I finished up this year and then went directly to the press tour. I’ve got some homework to do. I’ve got some homework to do. Although maybe it would be better for Oliver having never met as the character to not watch the show yet.”
The world is full of so many variables, that the most important thing is finding your bliss. Amell has found his in acting and being a family man. He hopes his fans all find theirs as well.
“You’ve got to do what makes you happy,” Amell said. “You’re never going to excel in an industry if it’s just something that you feel like it’s an obligation. By the way, that doesn’t have to be something as out there as acting. My mother-in-law loves taxes as much as I love acting. I swear to God. She’s written tax code for the IRS and she loves that as much as I love acting. You just got to do what you love.”
Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 4, 2016.
Photos ©2016 Nick Bergmann.