Can you believe it's been months since the end of Arrow?
It's been so many months that the eighth and final season is available on DVD and Blu-ray, as of today, which you gotta admit is perfect for those of us with a whole lot of time on our hands, or at least those of us who could use a distraction from the wild state of the world. To celebrate the release of the season, which also includes deleted scenes, other special features, and a retrospective doc featuring appearances by the main cast, we sat down and had a virtual chat with leading ladies Kat McNamara, Juliana Harkavy, and Katie Cassidy that somehow hit on the past, present, and future.
That future will hopefully include a future-set spinoff series starring the three of them, about which they are feeling pretty confident, but the present is somehow the bigger question mark right now, thanks to the fact that everything—including all TV production—is now put on hold for the forseeable future.
E! News: So how is everybody doing right now? How are you handling this wild time?
Kat McNamara: I'm surviving. Trying to stay creative and find things to do, and stay productive, stay as busy as possible.
Katie Cassidy: Actually this isn't that difficult to be honest, because I'm just a homebody.
Juiliana Harkavy: Same.
Katie: But it's really interesting because I feel like I've gotten more in touch with my creative side. I also feel like my own contractor, like, hmm, I don't like this wall. Google how to take down a wall. I've been painting cupboards and building things.
Juliana: Outside of checking on everybody's safety and missing friends, it's been really peaceful. I've been gardening a lot, and just thinking about how to make life a little bit more sustainable on our own without needing to go out, so it's been good.
E! News: Is it weird to be actors in this time when that's one of the jobs that's been mostly put on hold?
Kat: I think it's sort of a fun challenge, because there are ways you can be creative; you just have to find them, you know whether that's developing projects or writing or creating or just catching up on movies.
Katie: That's a good point. I started actually taking the masterclasses. Like, for example, Shonda Rhimes, she teaches a masterclass on writing television, so I've been writing a lot and learning. You're kind of forced to develop different areas of your creative side, whether it be singing, writing, drawing, painting, you know. It's making us get to know ourselves.
Juliana: Yeah, trying to stay positive.
E! News: You guys are in this limbo right now, after ending Arrow while waiting to see if Green Arrow and the Canaries gets picked up. Does this make the wait harder or easier, now that you're forced to do nothing?
Katie: I think it's nice. I like to say it's the calm before the storm, time to sort of reset in the hopes that our show does go. But I also think it's a positive thing because people are bored and I feel like they're forced to stay at home, but that's what we do. We entertain. We're a television show. So hopefully we do get picked up and it'll give you more content. We've already shot our pilot, so in terms of picking us up, it would be nice to bring people together to entertain them.
Kat: It's one of those things where with pilots, you can never tell, and in this situation, it's even more so that you can never tell, so I've kind of left it all up to the universe.
Juilana: I like to think that we will be picked up and this is just a lovely long vacation before we work our asses off for the next five years.
E! News: Have you guys thought much about what shows in the future will even look like, both on screen and off?
Kat: If anything, it's exciting, because the television industry in and of itself has been sort of the wild west for a while with streaming services and all these different mediums now that we have, and I think even more so I think this gives people time to develop and think about what other possibilities that are even further outside the box than people had previously thought about, which just leaves room for more stories to tell.
Katie: Do you mean in terms of production moving forward or storytelling?
E! News: A little of both. Like how does TV acknowledge the fact that the world changed in between this season of TV and next season?
Katie: I feel like there's gonna be a lot of stories, I mean myself included. I've been writing about this period of time. I think that it is going to change the way we function on a daily basis, but I actually think for the better. People are going to be more cognizant and careful, and like germs—I feel like as human beings, we were so carefree that now it has brought us back into our awareness. We'll be clean and cognizant and self aware in how we function on a daily basis.
Juliana: Yeah I think it will change the stories we tell, because it's changing the way that we think and the way that we live, but it's also going to be interesting to see the new ways that we release media and that we create content when we can't necessarily have a crew of 300 people there with us. So I think it's not only going to create new stories, but new ways of telling them as well.
Katie: Yeah, and I think in terms of production and shooting and going back to set and being around crew, I was thinking about that. I think the way that's going to have to come back together, there's probably going to be daily testing to determine whether you can work or not. I don't know how they're going to handle that, but they'll figure something out and until then, I'll just continue trying to be creative and resourceful.
E! News: Have you heard from fans who are watching Arrow in quarantine?
Kat: Yeah! It's great. People are rewatching Arrow, people are live tweeting. I just did a live tweet of an old Shadowhunters episode with a bunch of fans that was organized last week, but it's so fun that people are re-experiencing things that they love. Like I went back and watched Jurassic Park last week.
Katie: Me too! I watched Jurassic Park like three days ago. I love that movie.
Kat: It's funny though to see, just going back and rewatching things like Jurassic Park where the world has completely changed because of a scientific innovation, or going back and watching True Blood and all the things that go on in that show. It'll be interesting to see content-wise if people lean into this or people create more escapist content, because I think there's room for both. And I think as human beings it's cathartic to laugh about something that scares us, and then to explore the darker side of something that scares us, but also to be transported to another world. So I think it'll be interesting to see what the trend tends to be.
E! News: One of our quarantine projects has involved asking actors for their favorite episodes of their shows. Do you guys each have favorite episodes you'd recommend for a rewatch?
Katie: I mean, sorry, this is gonna be a little bit self-absorbed, but the episode I like is also the episode I enjoyed filming the most, called "Canaries" (season 3, episode 13). Sorry ladies, you weren't with us yet, but the episode's about my character's storyline. I enjoyed it a lot, watching it, and I also enjoyed filming it, so I guess I'm a little biased. But it's a really great episode.
Kat: One of my favorite episodes was in season eight. It was the Bratva episode. That or the Lian-Yu episode (season 8, episodes 5 and 7). I love the Russian Bratva episode because David Nykl is one of my favorite actors on Arrow and I just loved the fact that I got to work with the one and only Anatoly. And getting to fight in the ring with Stephen Amell is something I had been hoping would happen, but I didn't know if it would considering that Mia was 20 years in the future. And when it finally did, and had William outside of the cage and everyone there, it was the most Arrow, and the most Smoak-Queen that I've ever felt.
Katie: I loved that episode.
Juliana: My episode would be season 8, episode 9. Our episode, for the pilot. It was actually my favorite episode to film, and it's just good to refresh and see what's going to happen in the future.
E! News: Juliana and Kat, you guys joined the show later on. Did you go back and binge the show beforehand? Have you done a binge?
Kat: Oh yeah. When I initially auditioned, I didn't know that I was auditioning to be the Olicity baby. The side I was given was for some rookie cop that had a dark past, and then I got a call from Beth Schwartz, our showrunner, and she's like hey, we're so happy to have you on the show. By the way, everything you know is a lie, you're Oliver and Felicity's kid. So having seen how strong the Olicity fandom was, I knew that I had a lot of responsibility cut out for me, so I went back and binged the entire series so I could pull little character traits so I could pull little character traits and be the best amalgamation of those two I possibly could.
Juliana: I watched a good amount of Arrow, but I decided like into my fifth or sixth episode of watching that I was trying to, like, match what I was seeing, and I wanted to bring it something new, so I watched a good amount but then I stopped myself, and just tried to make it my own thing, especially because I was—I don't even want to say filling the shoes, because it's not even possible, but it was a character that had been done before, a couple of times. So I didn't want to have any preconceived notions of what she was or how she was.
What was it like for you to join this show and this cast later in the run, and Katie, what was it like to welcome Kat and Juliana to the cast?
Katie: Oh my gosh, I just want to say we are the luckiest production ever, because we've had a lot of people since the pilot, or since season one, who have come onto our show. Emily, she started as a guest star, and then Caity Lotz. We're so lucky—so lucky—and so grateful because all of the people they've brought onto our show, not only are they incredible actors and talented, but they're such good people, like genuinely good people. So it was actually great and warm and welcoming, new characters, new storylines, it kept the show fresh. And to have a cast that genuinely loves each other and we don't really have a bad egg in the group, if you will, we're blessed. So I'm grateful for all of you.
Kat: Yeah, absolutely. Coming into a show in season seven, it felt like being the new kid senior year of high school. You come in and everybody's family and all established, and I had just left Shadowhunters, which for me, was family. I built that show from the ground up. But then coming in I was immediately welcomed. The first person I met was Stephen, actually. He was shooting the prison episode, where he was getting all beat up, and even though he was tired and bloody, he jumped out of his chair, ran over and gave me a huge hug, and took me around and introduced me to everyone. And immediately I felt like I was part of the family, so that just immediately set the tone for me, for everyone else.
Juliana: We're very blessed to have a kind and welcoming group. I felt the same. Like immediately, open arms from everybody. I think it made it easier to work and I think it's part of why the show had such long-term success, because it was a great group of people.
And what was it like to get embraced by the fandom? Kat, I know you were used to a dedicated fandom from Shadowhunters, but did all of this still take some getting used to?
Kat: Ultimately it's a huge responsibility, right? We all have those characters that we've looked up to and attached to and seen ourselves in, and it's a huge blessing but it's also something that I take very seriously. And I feel so lucky that the Shadowhunters fandom welcomed me with open arms and the Arrow fandom did as well. What I love about these fandoms is they're so supportive and so passionate but they're also opinionated, and they're not afraid to say what they think and they're not afraid to have open discussions about things, which I think is such a great part of having the online community. Being able to tell a story that people are so passionate about, as passionate as we are about creating it, they're just as passionate about receiving it and being a part of the journey with us, so that's the biggest blessing.
Juliana: It did [take some getting used to] for me. I've never been on a show to this extent or had a role this big, not only in terms of the amount of work but the legacy of the character. So like Kat said, it was kind of amazing to see how many people were passionate about this character, and also scary, because a lot of them knew more about her than I did, and I was playing her. So you know, I had to kind of make use of that, and also, I have to be honest, I had a really hard time with the negative feedback at first. There was always, and now especially, so much support. I get I think 99% love now, but oh my god, the beginning was brutal. Like it was just brutal. People loved the show as it was for five years before I came on, so they had a hard time with change, a lot of them, and I had a really hard time with that. I had to grow like a really thick skin, and learn to not take things personally, and learn to not read everything that you see online.
Katie: Yeah I think that's a big part of it. It's interesting because we're doing something and creating something and we're in Vancouver, and we're, in a way, disconnected while we're filming because the show airs a couple months after we shoot the episodes. We're doing it not only because we love what we do, but we wanted, for the fans, to give it justice. They're big shoes to fill, but I think as long as we've done our work as actors and done our research—for me, I had the comics for Black Canary—and giving my best version of what that is for me and embracing and embodying the character, you sort of do it and pray that it's going to be accepted and well-received by the fans. And there's a a positive thing and a beautiful thing about that, but then as Jules was saying, people can get online and get caught up in the drama and pick it apart and point out the negatives, and that's why I think it's difficult reading messages for me. I don't read them as much as I probably should or would want to, because there is a lot of negativity out there. There's no point in that, in engaging with that.
I know there was a big controversy with Olicity or...Loliver? Lauriver? I don't even remember. People were trying to start fights with me and Emily, and I was like, I'm an Olicity fan! I'm not trying to break that s--t up! What is happening? And I love Emily. She's awesome! I wouldn't want to hate her!
It's difficult, but I think as long as you don't feed into that and just continue to try to do your job the best way possible, and do the work and try to make it as legit as possible, the fans appreciate it. And we have the best fans in the world."
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Season eight of Arrow is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray, including all 10 episodes, with special features and deleted scenes, plus a limited edition bonus disc that includes all five episodes of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Special features include a retrospective special and the show's 2019 San Diego Comic-Con panel.
Arrow aired on The CW.