"Arrow" -- The CW drama based on DC Comics' Green Arrow character -- was one of the first shows the network picked up for a new season in 2013, and in response, its characters are going to hit the ground running. At Comic-Con International in San Diego, stars of the action series including lead Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen), Katie Cassidy (Laurel Lance), David Ramsey (Dig), Emily Bett Rickards (Felicity Smoak) and Colton Haynes (Roy Harper) shared plans for their characters, the new guest stars on the series, the overarching plans for Starling City and the island and more.
Each and every member of the cast pointed towards the finale of Season 1 as the spark that lights the fuse of Season 2. The loss of both the "Glades" section of Starling City as well as the character of Tommy Merlyn will loom large when the show returns on October 9, but not in an immediate sense.
"We take some time between Season 1 and Season 2. We take a five month break," Amell explained. "We were basically pretty honest in the timing before in that Season 1 took place over the course of a year. When we took our break between episodes 9 and 10, we took about six weeks because that's how long we were off air. But here we're taking roughly five months, and again, one of the last things Tommy called me was a murderer. That doesn't sit lightly with me, and it impacts everything moving forward for how I do what I do."
Ramsey agreed, saying, "The end of last season affected everybody. The destruction of the Glades. Tommy's death. All of that. Everyone in these first few episodes -- particularly Oliver but also Laurel very seriously -- are reeling from that. Diggle is very purposeful, and I think he's very stallwart and military in how he keeps on course. With the destruction of the Glades, as devastating as it is, brings out the soldier in him where he says, 'The mission is what's important.' But other people in the show like Laurel and Oliver have dealt with this in very different ways."
Amell noted that one major difference between Seasons 1 and 2 was the way in which show runners Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg were able to plan out the series' second year, knowing they had a full order of episodes to work with. "When the writers were doing the first season, they were writing for 13 episodes and then figuring out the rest as it came," the actor said. "When you shoot almost ten episodes before anyone even sees the show, what people see and react to becomes a critical instrument in the series. This year, the writers can write for 23 episodes, and they have a plan. Not that there wasn't a plan before, but they were telling me the island stuff, and wow! The present day stuff is a little bit more open to interpretation, but the island stuff as a finite amount of time means that the Season 2 plan is set."
Cassidy said that while there is always an overarching mythology at work in "Arrow," the development and growth of each individual cast member remains paramount. "It's nice going into Season 2 that we have a lot to go off from what happened in Season 1, and it's all a reaction to what happened in the finale. It's nice to see these characters each evolve and grow on their own. It's the story of a hero not just in terms of Green Arrow, but in a way, as characters we're all on our own journey evolving into our own heroes."
In that respect, each member of the cast was excited to see how their own character would be expanded on in Season 2. For example, Rickards looked forward to digging a bit deeper into Felicity beyond the fluttery hacker persona that made the one-off character a series regular. "It's fun that we got to put a little bit of our own story in the show. We got to change the way they were thinking about going with the characters," she said. "We know that she hates kangaroos but she's never been to Australia. We know these very specific things about, but we don't know anything about her family. And I think we have to. We have to know where she came from. When you look at your friends, you want to know what their parents are like."
Haynes had a more set trajectory, saying, "I don't think Roy has a very great future ahead of him. He gets into a lot of trouble this season -- taking on some people who are double his size and can knock him down a couple of pegs. This season, Roy is trying to impress the father he doesn't have. He's looking for someone to latch onto -- for a mentor. But he's looking in all the wrong directions. His struggle this season is that he's going to have to get deep down to the bottom of where he is...and he didn't really think that Oliver was a good role model before."
Asked whether his version of Roy Harper would eventually morph into the sidekick Speedy of the comics, Haynes said, "Am I Speedy? I don't know yet. There are too many different interpretations on who Speedy is, and I like how they've put in little Easter eggs alluding that it could be either Thea or Roy. But there are so many different ways Roy Harper could go." Rickards agreed, "I think what Marc and Andrew love best is getting you thinking they're going to go one way and then go 'You were so wrong!' It's like they wipe everything off the table and then are like, 'No.'"
Cassidy said her journey for Season 2 will involve two critical factors: the loss of her place of employment in the Glades and the complications of her romance with Oliver. "I think they did a really good job at building Laurel's own world outside of Oliver. When he was gone for five years, she had to have her own life. It's really good to have the relationship with her father. Going forward after CNRI, as we saw, crumbled, she will have to find another job," she explained. "I think that Laurel and Oliver have always had this dance with one another. It's a 'will they/won't they' kind of thing. And she loves Oliver, but she also really loved Tommy. And I do think it's a tough situation. When you're dealing with death, relationships can get affected by mourning and grieving. I don't know that Laurel's head is in that space right now. She doesn't have the emotional capacity to be the best she can be in a relationship with somebody else...at this moment. Whether that will fade and she'll be able to get back into it, I don't know. Our writers are so good and so brilliant at figuring this all out."
Amell was personally ready to return to the island -- the five-year flashback segment that make up the show's second half -- in a figurative sense at least. "It's tough stuff to shoot. The island stuff can be grueling," he laughed. "It's almost always 41 degrees and raining. That's the worst weather on the planet. I'd rather have it be seven degrees and snowing than 40 and damp. But it keeps me grounded.
"The island stuff in episode 1 [of Season 2] might be my favorite thing from the series so far," the actor said. "We find Oliver five months later on the island, doing stuff he doesn't normally do -- namely smiling. Fyers' men are dead. They're still on the island but resigned to it, so we find Oliver almost in a happy place. It's strange. The good thing about playing Oliver on the island is that he's such a different person that when I play Oliver in the present day -- standing up straight, puffing out my chest, making sure the register of my voice is where it should be -- I then get to go to the island and let all of that stuff go. I get to play the character with no ego whatsoever. And it's like a different show. I hope that more people have to be a part of that show."
Amell teased that some of the characters best known as part of the Starling City cast may be making their way to the island over the course of the season...or vice versa. No matter what the particulars are, viewers can expect more crossover between the worlds this year.
Of course, one area fans know will be served up in Season 2 is the long simmering conflict between Dig and his brother's killer Deadshot. "For Diggle, the close trajectory is all Deadshot," Ramsey said. "There's also a long term trajectory, but for now, it's all about how his life relates to that vendetta. Through Deadshot, we're going to learn a lot more about Diggle's past because they're connected by more than what we already know. Obviously, Deadshot is connected to a whole ring of villains that you'll find out more about throughout the season." The actor added that more of his character's military past will be explored alongside his romance with his dead brother's wife, however many of the revelations ahead will link up with key pieces of the modern DC Universe. "You'll see a lot of Dig's past and his time in A.R.G.U.S. They know everything and have eyes everywhere."
And A.R.G.U.S. won't be the only DC Universe characters making their way to "Arrow" this year. "DC Entertainment was our partner, and we're part of the DC Universe," Amell said. "But having had a season under our belt and having had success with that first season, they are partners with a capital P and maybe an exclamation point. They have really been good to us, and as part of the DC Universe, we're going to exploit that connection as we should."
So far, the producers have revealed that Black Canary will be a part of the show this year as well as the likes of Brother Blood and the Bronze Tiger. But fans continue to ask after bigger ticket DC stars as cast members like Haynes have dropped hints at the possibility of heroes like Hal Jordan making an appearance. Asked if his much quotes interview got him in hot water with the producers, the actor said, "That happens a lot. They're like, 'Colton, don't go overseas and say things you're not supposed to say.' Then I go and do exactly that. But the thing is, I could say something that gets out there like the Black Canary news, and by the time the writers figure out their plan, the story is not all that true. So I could say that Ellen Degeneres is going to play my mom!
"What Marc, Andrew and Greg [Berlanti] do best is put their own spin on the comics," he added. "There have been characters you think are supposed to be a certain character, but then they become someone else. That's been good for our own storylines because it turns out that our paths are going a way that people won't expect."
For Amell's part, when asked which member of the DC pantheon he personally wants to see on the show, his answer was immediate. "The Flash," the actor said. "The Flash is cool. I think he could be done in a cool way."
Stay tuned later this week for more on Season 2 of "Arrow."