What a week it has been for comic book fans. Arrow‘s Diggle (David Ramsey) took a trip over to The Flash to battle King Shark, the animated Vixen (Megalyn Echikunwoke) was brought to life on Arrow, Agent Carter got a dose of Dancing with the Stars, the Flash (Grant Gustin) was spotted on set of Supergirl to film the multi-network crossover… and now Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) is heading to Legends of Tomorrow! Seriously, what a time to be alive.
When the Legends team crash lands in Star City in 2046, they’re going to be in for the shock of their lives to find Oliver as an old man, not to mention their former home in ruins. But while Amell was recruited to play an older version of his Arrow character on the DC Comics spinoff, the role was very nearly given to a different actor.
“There was a time where we were talking about what actor we were going to hire to play Oliver,” executive producer Phil Klemmer tells Nerdist. “We had casting sessions with all these strapping silver studs. It would have been totally fine if we had that Avatar actor, who played the villain, that guy [Stephen Lang] would have been a great 60-something Oliver Queen. But it all ended up working out so we could get Stephen and all the resources to make him legitimately look like a 60-year-old guy. That was the real achievement.”
According to Klemmer, the writers always knew that they’d explore Star City as a post-apocalyptic wasteland from “day one.” But they just weren’t sure of how to pull off an aged Oliver Queen.
“We originally talked about having Stephen come on to play Oliver, but it’s one of those things you could barely get your hopes up about,” Klemmer says. “We were like, ‘There’s no way that’s going to work. Either he’s going to be too busy or someone will tell us we can’t do that or the special effects makeup would be too complicated or expensive to make him look like a 65-year-old man.’ We didn’t allow ourselves to believe it would happen. It was until we got dailies that it really sunk in. He turned in such a great performance where he’s still Oliver Queen, but he’s a different man. He’s not just older, he’s a man who’s been really changed in a hideous way by the past 30 years.”
And that’s not the only jaw-dropping nugget of knowledge Klemmer revealed about tonight’s shocking episode, “Star City 2046.” Check out the full Q&A below!
Nerdist: Why was now the time to show a post-apocalyptic future on Legends?
Phil Klemmer: By definition they have to fail at least 16 times for us to have a season of TV. We were interested in going to the future and seeing Star City, half of our characters’ home—it’s our version of doing It’s a Wonderful Life. We’ve had enough near-death experiences with our team so it’s time for us to contemplate, “What if they never make it home?” It’s not going to be, “What if they were never born?” But when they return to Star City in 2016, Sara [Caity Lotz] and Ray [Brandon Routh] get to see what the world looks like 30 years after their disappearance if they fail. And Rip [Arthur Darvill] told them he chose them because they had little effect on the timeline if they failed, so this is a gut punch when they realize that maybe that was true globally, for the future of the world, but in the immediate sense of the people in their lives like Oliver Queen, their loss was dearly, dearly felt. Our characters will grapple with guilt upon seeing their city go to hell in their absence.
So what does Oliver Queen look like 30 years in the future?
The version of Oliver that we encounter is a bit of a broken man. Being a superhero vigilante is not a career that is meant for longevity. The Oliver we encounter is the Oliver who had a lot of his friends and allies disappear in 2016. So it’s extremely painful, especially for Sara, to find this Oliver who blames her in a sense for the fact that they went off on this other TV show to try to stop Vandal Savage [Casper Crump]. The consequence of that was that Oliver was left a little shorthanded in trying to resist the forces of evil that has always threatened his home. Oliver is an aging fighter, and he’s lost a lot more than we realize. Not only is he physically broken, but he’s also been spiritually defeated. Sara takes responsibility for that.
How much consulting did you have to do with the Arrow team on writing this future Oliver? Or did you just have free rein to do as you please since it’s only a possible future?
One of the nice things about having [executive producer] Marc [Guggenheim] on this show is that you don’t’ have to appeal for approval. Once it’s hashed out on Legends, it works for the Arrow-verse. For us, it was more wondering how Stephen would feel about it, but fortunately he was thrilled by the challenge of playing a version of himself that wasn’t just 30 years older, but was also a man who was affected by 30 seasons of Arrow that we haven’t seen. Things haven’t gone as well as any of us would have hoped in that time.
At the end of last week’s episode, the Legends crew came across someone in a Green Arrow costume who was definitely not Oliver Queen. That’s Connor Hawke, right?
The fans are pretty smart when it comes to that. So how did the new Green Arrow come to be born from seasons of Arrow we haven’t seen? What’s his connection to the current Arrow-verse? That’s what we’re dealing with in the episode, explaining why Oliver is no longer the Arrow and who this new Arrow, Connor Hawke, is. They have very strong feelings about one another. It was not a placid passing of the bow. These men have a lot of turbulence and resentment and a shared history and a shared love of a third party.
Is Connor going to be Oliver’s son like he is in the comics?
No, we chose to go a different route. But it’s one that will hopefully be no less titillating.
How will the Legends team be affected by this future of Star City?
We have such a disparate team of heroes and villains, so we’ve got guys like Ray Palmer who’s like, “Oh my god! Everything I tried to accomplish in life is literally in smoking ruins!” And then we have guys like Snart [Wentworth Miller] and Rory [Dominic Purcell] who step off the Waverider and see the smoldering wreckage of Star City and they’re like, “This is awesome! This is what we wanted, a lawless city run by criminals! This is paradise!” They sort of forget their mission like when The Odyssey heads to the land of the Lotus-eaters. While everyone sees this futuristic place as a steaming shithole, Snart and Rory want to stay there and become kings of this new world. Screw saving the world, this is the version of the world they want to see come to pass.
Are there any other cameos you’re excited about?
It’s already been speculated we’ve got an appearance of Deathstroke. We’re not dealing with a very old Deathstroke, it’s a Deathstroke Jr. One geriatric superhero was all that we could tolerate. [Laughs] One of the sad things we learn in this episode is how many people have disappeared or died or thrown in the towel. The tide of evil and wickedness has washed over the city. It’s more haunting to see who isn’t there, is how I’d put it.
Images: The CW
Legends of Tomorrow airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.