‘Arrow’: Stephen Amell on How Prison Has Changed Oliver, and What’s Next

Arrow shockingly “went there” at the end of Season 6, with Oliver Queen confessing to being the vigilante alter ego The Green Arrow, and surrendering to serve a long sentence at Slabside Maximum Security Prison surrounded by many of the bad guys he personally put there. The first seven episodes this season followed his life in prison, along with a journey of self-discovery before his release.

During a recent set visit in Vancouver, series star Stephen Amell talked about how prison has changed Oliver, what the character learned about himself, and what the future holds. Warning: there are some light spoilers for the mid-season finale, “Unmasked.”

QUESTION: Will we see a definitive change from Oliver after he is released from prison as far as his personality, and what will be the key adjustments for him after being on the outside?

STEPHEN AMELL: Yeah. I spent a lot of time talking with Beth (Schwartz/Arrow showrunner) about Oliver when he gets out, because I felt like in the first episode this year, we were really trying to charge ahead with a lot of cool new ideas, but it didn’t necessarily lend the proper weight to what happened at the end of Season 6 in an episode that’s titled “Life Sentence.” One of the first drafts in the first episode of this season focused a lot on Oliver focusing on good behavior so that he would get released. And I was like, I mean one way or the other, he’s been in there for five/seven months. Whatever the case may be, he’s got another 14-15 months to go if he has good behavior. So, we changed the focus a little bit.

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The same thing happened when I read episode eight. I know they wanted Oliver back in the world and he is in an exciting way. Concurrently it felt like we were treating my experience at Slabside like I spent a night in county jail when in actuality, even for Oliver, it was a pretty horrific experience. So, I did want a change in him in the way that he interacts with people, with the public, and even so far as his wardrobe. I’m like, Oliver’s in his mid-thirties, he’s a former politician. I want him to dress a little bit more like he used to dress for Sunday brunch at the Queen mansion. But you know in the first episode that I’m out, we had me going to a gala and I was in the same suit that I would wear as the mayor. I didn’t like that, so we pushed that in a different direction. Part of the fun of this year is I’ve pitched a bunch of stuff and I think, not the opening scene of episode eight, but the first time you see Oliver we came up with a really interesting way I think of showing what prison life did to him without really bashing people over the head with it.

Collider: The horrible things that happened on Level 2 as far as the way they were conditioning Oliver’s behavior to break his cycle of violence: do you think that ultimately, even though it was a horrible thing, the way it was done, is going to be a positive for Oliver going forward?

AMELL: Absolutely. It teaches him a net lesson. I think that the person who was trying to teach him that lesson didn’t use the most nice tactics to get him there. So, I think that the answer is a little less black and white, but it definitely teaches him something and it’s addressed I think in the first episode after he leaves prison, and sort of what his new mantra is going to be if and when he puts the suit back on.

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QUESTION: Oliver decided to leave Diaz alive at the end when he leaves prison. Will he come to regret that decision, and will that decision influence his relationship with Felicity?

AMELL: His decision to leave Diaz alive will not influence his relationship with Felicity, but I think it’s going to have an incredibly impactful moment on another person that he’s very close with. I don’t know if he’ll come to regret the decision, actually: probably, but you know, maybe that’s part of the new Oliver post-prison in that those are the decisions that he has to live with, even if ultimately the best thing to do would’ve been to not leave him alive. We shall see.

QUESTION: Can you talk about Oliver and Felicity’s reunion? Also, how Oliver’s going to reconcile this new version of Felicity? A little bit darker side of her?

AMELL: We have some really fantastic scenes in episode eight. I mean, obviously, we see each other for the first time at the end of episode seven. Then pretty quickly I learned that a lot of the stuff that Diaz was saying about Felicity is true. And I thought the way that we worked it out, and we do work it out pretty quickly, is that we come to an understanding that nothing’s ever gonna be perfect. You know, one of the other things that we talked about a lot is Oliver can’t live in a normal apartment building anymore, right? Actually, I thought that they should militarize the Queen Mansion, but I got shot down. I don’t think we could afford to do that. But nothing’s ever going to be perfect or normal about our relationship. And I think the sooner that the two of them accept that, the sooner that they can move on with their lives.

QUESTION: How do you see his role as the protector of the city now that he’s out and there’s this new Green Arrow?

AMELL: Well, he runs into the new Green Arrow, or runs into the exploits of the new Green Arrow pretty quickly coming out of prison and he gets asked that specific question very early on like, “What are you gonna do?” and he says, “I’m going to try and do what you guys did, which is just find a different way to help the city.” We come up with an idea pretty quickly, but I think one of the fun things is it’s not Oliver who comes up with it.

All the new developments promise to make the back half of Arrow Season 7 very interesting indeed. Where do you think the rest of the season is headed? Let us know in the comments.

Arrow airs Mondays on the CW.