The CW’s immensely popular Arrow is about to commence its highly anticipated fifth season. The shows fourth outing received a mixed response In regards to its focus on magic and mystical powers. However, this year things are looking incredibly promising as both the writers and stars have assured fans that season five will be back to basics.
Regardless of the shows recent creative decisions, Arrow has never ceased to be an adrenaline-fuelled hour of entertainment. With brand new villains, an exciting Russian-based set of flashbacks featuring Dolph Lundgren and a four-way crossover event involving an alien invasion, we couldn’t be more excited for the season five premiere.
This week to celebrate the upcoming premiere of Arrow season five, THN will be releasing a range of special features revolving around DC Comics and the Arrowverse.
Check out our exclusive interview with both Willa Holland (Thea Queen/Speedy) and Katrina Law (Nyssa Al Ghul) bellow:
What can you tell us about your both of your experiences with using weaponry on Arrow?
Katrina: Well, I’ll start because I only use the bow and Willa uses most of the other weapons!
Most of my bow experience has just been them handing me this massive compound bow. But I prefer it when they give me the fake one which weighs about three pounds, as opposed to the real one which is about ten pounds! With the real one it’s just this massive metal thing! And then you have to hold your arm out and all you can feel is your shoulder muscle straining while you’re just thinking ‘I need to work out more!’ [laughs].
They don’t actually let you shoot it though because a compound bow could really kill somebody, which they seem to care about a lot for some reason [laughs]. They don’t allow that to happen, so that’s pretty much all I’ve done on Arrow.
Can it be quite dangerous on set then?
Willa: Yes! It definitely can be. When I first started using weapons they gave me a little bit of warning, which is extremely rare for our show. They never give anybody any warning. They told me about six months before I was actually going to be picking up the bow. So I made sure I scheduled two hours, three days a week, for six months with our archery trainer Patricia. On my first day I showed up and hit a bullseye on my seventh try! They were like ‘wow! You don’t need to ever come in again!’ [laughs]. It was awesome, so I only did that one session.
Six months later I did a little refresher session and I’m proud to say that it came very naturally and very easily. But they do have a trainer on set and you are given a lot of time with a set-up bow, which won’t ever actually release the arrow. That’s as much as we get to do when it comes to an actual bow and arrow. But most of the time it’s actually a CGI arrow, so it’s just us running around and pulling and letting go of nothing! It’s amazing how fast and efficient you can be when you’re not actually releasing anything.
Let’s be honest, if those arrows were real they would constantly be getting stuck and we would definitely take an eye out. You will see in the blooper reel for season four that there’s this hilarious bit in the prison where I’m fighting Malcolm. As I’m running down the hallway I suddenly stop because I see him turn around the corner. So I immediately whip out my sword, but every time I do it gets stuck! There’s probably about ten takes of me struggling with that sword [laughs].
Katrina: The brilliant thing about it is that while she’s trying to get her sword out, John’s face is just completely straight and serious.
Willa: He’s just like ‘seriously? This is my daughter? This is really happening?’. It was actually a little more pathetic than funny to be honest. But you can watch it for yourself and see.
Would you say that was your most challenging scene to film then?
Willa: Physically challenging? Not necessarily. It was just challenging getting the sword out really. Once I got the sword out it was like ‘swipe, swipe, swipe’.
What would you say is your most challenging scene of the series so far then?
Willa: I think the most challenging part was when Oliver and I were fighting Slade in season three on the island. The scene where we have that massive fight between the three of us was very challenging. Mainly because Manu is….
Katrina: He’s intense! He’s intense.
Willa: Yeah. I’m a little afraid of him.
Katrina: I think that a really intense scene for me was the finale of season two where the mirakuru soldiers are running through the tunnel and team Arrow is running towards them. Our stunt coordinator James Bamford, who is also a director of some episodes, had about eight different fight set-ups going on. So all of a sudden it was like ‘action!’ and it was complete mayhem of people fighting different people, people fighting two or three people, things were on fire and cars were getting jumped over. It was crazy! But James is amazing and he managed to keep it all coordinated and all in sync. Our stunt team is almost militant. They’re one of the best stunt teams I’ve ever worked with.
Willa: I tell my stunt double almost every single day that she’s actually Speedy. Yes, I’m Thea Queen. But she’s definitely Speedy.
Katrina: My stunt double Atlin Mitchell makes my ass look good so I appreciate that!
Willa: She is crazy fit! She has these insane shoulder muscles.
Katrina: Caity Lotz did the salmon ladder. Which is great because once you’ve done it once, you can do it all day long. But it was actually Atlin’s job to do it and when you watch her you realise how ripped she is. Meanwhile, I can grab it and fall off!
Willa: Yeah, I can hold onto it and hang there for maybe twenty-five seconds before my arms get tired and I fall on my face.
Katrina: Atlin also doubles for Katie Cassidy and Caity Lotz and she’s just amazing.
Willa: My girl is called Melissa Jin and not only is she three years younger than me, but she also does some of the stunts for the guys too. She’s that good at what she does! When it comes to the motorcycle stunts she’s an absolute queen. There was that scene in season four where Oliver and I are on motorcycles together and he does that big jump over a street. That wasn’t even Stephen’s stunt double, it was actually Melissa.
Has there ever been any accidents while filming?
Willa: Oh yeah! Oh god yeah!
Katrina: I’m a recurring character so obviously I come in and out of the show. But, I remember seeing this one girl and being slightly confused because her face had so many cuts on it. I was like ‘what’s happening to my character? I don’t remember reading this?’ And she was like ‘oh no don’t worry this is just my face. I had to do this stunt on The Tomorrow People where I went through a double pane of glass’. She was so hardcore! It just completely shredded her face. It was crazy.
Willa: One time I remember I was supposed to push a stunt double through a glass window and I didn’t even want to do the push. I had Melissa do it because I just thought ‘I’m going to find a way to kill this guy and it’s going to be horrible’. So, Melissa pushed him through the glass and then we he got back up to do it again he didn’t notice everyone staring down at his calf. He was walking around and didn’t even realise that there was a shard of glass going through one side and coming out of the other. Then when he saw it he just ripped it out and his calf started gushing blood. I’m sorry this is a gruesome story! [laughs]. They had to change all the carpets on set because he was walking around and getting blood everywhere.
We legally had to send the guy to the hospital but he came back in thirty-five minutes. He wanted to keep working but were just like ‘we legally can’t let you, you’ve just had a shard of glass go through your calf’.
Katrina: Stunt people are just insane, wonderful, glorious people.
They should make a series about the behind the scenes events!
Willa: I’ve actually already pitched that. I’ve also pitched a Youtube sketch where all of us superheroes are shoved into a clown car. Because I really want to see how we arrive. I mean, how do we really all get to the same place at the same time? And of course, The Flash has already been there for twenty minutes waiting for us. Captain Lance has missed the car and is chasing after us while out of breath [laughs].
Are you excited for the upcoming four-way crossover between Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl?
Willa: I’m scared! No more sleep for Willa. I’ve actually only really done one crossover, but they affect the entire show for a while. It puts us pretty far behind because it’s so much work to do. Where we would normally have eight days to do an hour of television, we suddenly have to make two hours of television in exactly the same time. So that’s eight days to film two hours with literally double the number of people, because we have at least ten characters featured from each show.
Katrina: I actually have so much respect for the entire Arrow cast because it’s one of the hardest working crews out there. Every day is a minimum of fourteen hours. There’s no such thing as a twelve-hour day for them and it’s a very physical show. So they are physically active, doing fight scenes the entire time. I really don’t understand how all of them don’t have pneumonia all the time! [laughs].
So when you add in the crossovers, it’s double the work, double the shows and even more overtime. So what was previously a fourteen-hour day then becomes sixteen, seventeen or maybe even eighteen hours. They’re absolutely insane.
Willa: Oh yeah we lose our weekends. We will go seven days a week for about two weeks before we get a break.
Katrina: But the cool thing is that we all love doing it. The outlook of the entire cast is that ‘we love doing it because the fans love it so much’.
Willa: Plus, we do actually like each other too! We’re all friends. The Flash is right next door to us, half of the Legends cast came from both of our shows. So, we’re all one big family really.
So, when it comes to the crossovers it’s great to be able to work together again. But, from the production side of things it’s an absolute nightmare. Last year Grant [Gustin] got sick for seven days right at the start of filming the crossover. He had the flu and the doctor refused to let him work for seven days, so we had to shut down production on all of our shows for an entire week. Then right after that I got sick and production had to shut down for another four days. I felt terrible, I’m not even number one on the call sheet and I shut everything down.
Katrina: The thing is, Stephen Amell never gets sick!
Willa: He never gets sick! He’s coughed twice in the entire four years that I’ve known him. Literally, two coughs in the four and a half years of knowing this man.
Sounds like he has the power of super health!
Willa: Yeah I don’t know how he does it. He makes the rest of us look like horrible human beings. Not only is he working for pretty much every single scene of the show, but he has a kid, runs about thirteen million different charities and also owns a wine company. Oh and also he attends conventions practically every weekend. So he’s a really good dude and he makes us all look like assholes.
How do you mentally prepare yourself for all these long hours?
Willa: Yeah, honestly that’s it. There isn’t even a lick of preparation that you can do for it. You can try and get lots of sleep and drink lots of coffee, but truthfully there is nothing. You just have to be there and do it. Once you’ve stopped working against it and working against yourself it becomes super easy.
Katrina: I think that you build up a stamina to it. I think that the hardest thing for anybody in any series is when you take a break. Starting up again after that thanksgiving weekend or Christmas break incredibly difficult.
Willa: Even our hiatus isn’t really enough time to switch off and take a break. We have exactly eight weeks off and we spend most of that trying to remember what it’s like to have our own schedule and decide when we want to wake up and where we want to eat. It’s a whole new universe all of a sudden where we can decide what we want to do next. It feels very foreign and all you want to do is sleep. So, for four weeks you do absolutely nothing and then you’re like ‘holy crap I’m about to start ten months in another four weeks’. Then in the second four weeks you’re desperately trying to enjoy your time off. It starts to become this race against time before you start work again.
It’s a good thing in that our brains are always firmly in the show and we don’t need to turn it on or off. Although it makes it difficult for our personal lives where we don’t know how to function.
What sort of life-hacks or technology do you use to facilitate this intense lifestyle?
Katrina: Skype is amazing. That’s been my saviour. When I was working on Spartacus that was filmed in New Zealand. So I was down there for about nine months, followed by a few more months a little while later. So, it was basically two years away from my husband because having him move down there wasn’t practical for us. If it weren’t for skype I don’t think that we would have lasted. Just being able to see someone’s face has been wonderful.
Willa: I’m very thankful for airplanes in general. The flights between Vancouver and LA are only two and half hours which is great.
Katrina: Immigration and customs not so much [laughs].
Willa: Yeah it took about two years of going through it to become an easy process. For the first two years I think I literally met every single person working at that airport, to the point that they all now know me. Now they’re just like ‘she’s not smuggling anything’ or am I! [laughs] it’s all been a set up until now.
It’s a bit of a breeze now finally, but I do really need to get nexus.
Katrina! It’s so good!
Willa: Not being able to have your phone on set is one of my biggest pet peeves though. So, it’s really nice to be able to connect with people back home off set. Although I do have this ritual between setups where I always go off and have a meditation cigarette. It’s like this thing that I have. So I will just say ‘I need at least five minutes of no one talking’. I will just keep my eyes shut and completely zone out for a few minutes before I go back in.
Katrina: I think that’s it’s also very easy to get swept up in the show and your new friends and this new life. So, it’s really good to remember who your friends are and to constantly reach out to them and connect with them. It is hard because all you want to do is sleep when you’re working twelve to fourteen hours a day. But it’s really important not to forget that you do have a life outside of the job that you’re working in. Sometimes it’s a little strange thinking ‘this will end in seven to ten years’ but your old life will still carry on. So you need to maintain that throughout your job in order to stay functional.
Arrow season 4 is now available on Blu-ray and DVD and season 5 premieres this October.
Check out THN’s other DC features every day this week!
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