Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Report from the Set: Season two of 'Arrow'...

The interior of the Oliver Queen mansion is lit for night, Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Thea (Willa Holland) all dressed up and returning home from a fancy soiree that, from their discussion, didn't go very well, or at least as well as they hoped. Her giant jewels sparkle on the hot soundstage, while he is a bit more relaxed in a partially unbuttoned tuxedo shirt and suspenders, no tie or jacket. On the other side of the wall, half a dozen crew members sit in closer to darkness, directly underneath a chandelier that normally sparkles brighter than any necklace Thea could slip on. There are monitors and cast chairs set up in the Queen family foyer, between the staircases, a table full of family photos featuring a younger Oliver and Thea and Moira (Susanna Thompson) pushed aside so everyone can gather around and watch the images from the three cameras shooting the scene. During rehearsal, they mess around a bit with their lines and Holland grimaces when she gets a hug because the hands on her bare back are cold. Amell jumps up and down a few times and stretches around the monitors to watch the director work until his action is called. And when it is, he steers Holland through the doorway and into the other room, the other set, the other world. They are all business then, and they hit their lines without pause each time.

Day one of this year's annual Warner Brothers-sponsored Vancouver blogger trip brought us to the set of Arrow in its second season. The energy around the set was even higher than in season one, when it was shiny and new and on the cusp of something very exciting. Now, they've had success, but they're still on the cusp of something very exciting with integrating The Flash (Grant Gustin) into the series. In fact, this was a BIG week to be on set as executive producer Andrew Kreisberg had just handed in his script for The Flash's second episode, and Gustin was in Vancouver to begin filming. We were not able to speak with Gustin this time, but Amell, Holland, Thompson, and Kreisberg carved out a good chunk of their day to sit with us and talk about season two, and Emily Bett Rickards (and her awesome dog Ophelia!) even came in on her day off to see us.

I go to many sets that clearly are not excited to have press there. Whether it's for fear of spoilers or simply because no one who works on the show is all that excited about the fact that they work on that particular show, it always makes for a weird and slightly uncomfortable experience. Arrow is not one of those shows. From Amell to the equally awesome crewmember Ryan who came to pick us up at the airport and then chaperoned us, made sure we got talent in a timely fashion for interviews, set us up with lights and food and information about the show, it is clear that they are not hitting a sophomore slump on a working level. Undoubtedly that care will translate to the product they deliver week to week and what you will see on screen. 

Amell in particular has always gone out of his way to be genuine and gracious with everyone from press to fans (and in our interview he reiterated how sometimes seeing fans on the street during a long day of filming will help move the day along faster for him and reenergize him). He is the star of the show, and everyone else will take their cues from him, and in season two he is still just as passionate as ever, and most importantly, he understands that talking about the show in (often repetitive press interviews) will help make others even more passionate as well. He, and everyone I've encountered at Arrow thus far, makes my job easy!

The Queen mansion was not the only standing set we got to visit on this trip. Just next door on their soundstages is Oliver's lair, which ended up being our housing quarters for the few hours we were on set. Last year it was mostly just some tables and that now-iconic salmon ladder, but this time around it was decked out in flat-screen computer monitors, display cases full of shiny arrows, archery dummy targets, and of course, that iconic salmon ladder. 

"It's a changing, expanding universe that we're operating in, and the easiest way to deal with it is just to deal with it head-on," Amell said of the show in season two.

But for all of the new cast coming in (many of whom were flying up at various points this week to work on episode eight, which was the one shooting), those who make the show run from week to week are all returning to keep the world expansion smooth. Director Michael Schultz was working on this particular episode, and of course actors like Bett were bumped up to series regular this year. It was clear from the way the actors spoke about the early part of the season that the show wants to focus on those core relationships that Oliver has with people who are steady and constant in or revolving on his life. Much of Starling City will have to be physically rebuilt after the earthquake in the Glades at the end of season one, relationships have to be repaired, and a good part of Oliver also has to be emotionally rebuilt as he holds himself responsible for so much destruction. But he, like the show itself, can't do it alone.

For the formal interviews and show scoop from these set visits, please visit my LA Examiner page.

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