On Season 2 of the hit CW series Arrow, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) has rededicated himself to his mission of being more than just another vigilante, and is attempting to become a beacon of hope for the city’s most vulnerable, as The Arrow. In Episode 3, “Broken Dolls,” Officer Lance (Paul Blackthorne) asks Arrow for help in stopping a serial killer who goes after women, known as The Dollmaker (Michael Eklund), but their plan doesn’t quite turn out the way they’d hoped.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Paul Blackthorne talked about his limited awareness of the comic book world, how this show has the best of both worlds, with comic book mythology mixed with human stories, where Lance’s head is at this season, having been demoted from detective to officer, getting in on the action more, and where Lance’s relationship is at, with both the Arrow and Oliver Queen. He also talked about his directorial debut, the documentary This American Journey, which explores how Americans feel about the challenges they and this country face in the wake of the economic downturn, what inspired him to take it on, where people can watch it, and what he’s looking to direct next. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
PAUL BLACKTHORNE: No, not at all. I was involved in another show called The River, at the time, and that river dried up a little bit sooner than people would have anticipated. And just as that was heading in that direction, I received a phone call about this role and this show. I have very little awareness of the comic book world, myself, but once the nature of the role was explained to me, and the way in which the show would be approached, in a much darker way, it was tantalizing to me and I was happy to do it. It’s been great, how the show has turned out now.
What’s it like to work with executive producers who are so passionate about the material and care so much about what they’re doing that they really take the time to recognize what works and what doesn’t with the show, and really focus on the things that have worked best to make the show even stronger?
BLACKTHORNE: Well, that’s why they’ve got a hit show on their hands. Their hard work and dedication is why we’re all sitting here, enjoying being in a hit show. These producers and writers write tremendous material. What I think they do particularly well is that, as much as there’s some comic book action going on and a very rich comic book mythology, they put real people in that world, in terms of very believable, rich characters, so you get the best of both worlds. You get some comic book fantasy, but you also get that realism of human beings trying to get by and do the right thing.
Since we haven’t gotten to see too much of Lance this season, what can you say about where his head is at now?
BLACKTHORNE: Obviously, it’s much different from what it was last year for Lance. He was very much trying to chase down the vigilante. But there was that shift that took place in the finale, where he realized the vigilante was actually trying to do something good, in stopping this earthquake, and that his police department was more interested in the system of law, rather than what was appropriate at that time, in order to stop this calamitous event from occurring. Lance was in a position where he had to choose between the system of law, or justice and just doing the right thing. Doing the right thing was what he had to do, and he took a hit for it, personally. He’s been demoted. He’s a police officer now, and not a detective. But within his heart and within his mind, he’s actually comfortable because he knows that he did the right thing by the people of Starling City. He’s actually in a better place than ever before, to be honest.
What’s it like to wear the police uniform, this season?
BLACKTHORNE: Thankfully, the costume department came up with a very nice uniform. It’s fine. That’s where the character is at. He’s a police officer now. He’s on the beat. That’s where he’s at, so he wears those clothes.
In a lot of ways, it seems as though Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and her father have traded places this season, in terms of their feelings towards Arrow, with your character seeing his usefulness and her character being out for blood now. How will that shift affect their relationship?
BLACKTHORNE: Good drama is all about creating conflict, and we’ve now got a position where we’ve got some good conflict between Lance and Laurel. They’ve shifted roles. He’s now tentatively working with Arrow, and Laurel has started working against him. It’s great. It creates conflict. That’s good writing.
Where would you say things are at now with Lance and Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell)?
BLACKTHORNE: Oliver’s conduct since he’s been back, as far as Lance is concerned, has proven that he’s clearly a changed person. He’s not running around like he was, five or six years ago, before he disappeared. He’s not running around like a playboy. He seems to be keeping himself out of trouble. This season, he’s more involved with Queen Consolidated. Lance definitely can look at him and acknowledge that the guy is growing up a little bit. As much as I’ve never been too enamored with the fellow, he seems to be changing somewhat, so his views are a little bit more positive than they were before. They’re certainly not any more negative.
With your character being on the beat more this season, does he get in on the action more?
BLACKTHORNE: Yeah. There are some episodes coming up where Lance is more involved with Arrow because he’s not in as strong of a position as he was when he was approaching cases as a detective. He realizes that if he can recruit the help of the Arrow, then he might be able to get some positive results on some cases. In the first episode, it was suggested that they may work together. But when you see that they do work together, they’re quite the odd couple. It’s not the partnership you would normally expect, so it’s interesting, when it does happen.
There have been some awesome villains on this show. Is there anyone you’d love to see your character come head-to-head with, or maybe even get to defeat?
BLACKTHORNE: In Episode 3, we have a villain called Barton Mathis, or The Dollmaker, and he was terrific to work with. He’s played by Michael Eklund. It’s a crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy villain.
What made you decide to make and direct the documentary, This American Journey?
BLACKTHORNE: I was intrigued by the state of America, in the last few years. America was clearly going through some difficult times. I’ve been in love with America since I was a kid, but I was struggling somewhat with how I felt about the state of the country. I spend a lot of time on the east coast and the west coast because of what I do, and what I felt was appropriate was to go and meet the people in the heartland of America and form my views based on having met as many people as I could, in the middle of America, outside of the places that I’m familiar with. I wanted to see what those people thought about the state of the country and the future of the country. Having done that, I was extremely inspired and uplifted by the people that we met. I couldn’t help but fall in love with America, all over again, and learned some lessons about how to approach life in a way that will not just be beneficial for you, but for the people around you, as well.
Hearing Americans, out there on the streets, talking about community and togetherness, and the fact that if we’re going through these tough times, we have to remember that we’re all in this together and that we have more in common than we have differences. We have to remember the positive things about each other and about ourselves, and move forward, out of the dark times. So, what we learned was that, yeah, America is having a tough time, but with the American spirit and the spirit of human beings, in general, we’ll get through this stuff. But, we do have to remember that it’s not all about materialism and consumption, and having a big this or a big that. It’s about community and it’s about each other. That’s really what I learned, as a result of making this movie. It’s basically a feel good film about America. It was a great experience to have.
Were you surprised that you found so many people who still were so hopeful, positive and inspiring?
BLACKTHORNE: They say that it’s not what happens in life, it’s how you react to what happens in life. If something has happened, it’s happened. It’s done now. The American dream stumbled a bit. The country took a little stumble. So, it’s a case of, what do we do from here? Do we dwell on the past? Do we keep repeating the same mistakes of the past, or do we learn from it and move forward? That’s what the people talked about. I don’t know if I was surprised about it or not because I went out there with an open mind. I didn’t have any opinion about what the thoughts of people would be. But when I heard that kind of talk, it was very uplifting. A lot of documentaries can be heavy going. This is a feel good film about America. When you watch this, you’ll be like, “Hey, man, we can do it! We’re gonna be all right!” It’s a very entertaining little film that touches on issues that are important, but in a really entertaining way because of the people that we met, along the way. We’re really proud of it and we hope that other people enjoy it, too.
What was it like to edit all of those hours of interviews?
BLACKTHORNE: We had 96 hours of footage, and I had to go through every minute of footage and categorize it, and then work out which interviews were ones we wanted to transcribe. Then, we would get them transcribed, and we would work out how we wanted to edit the film for the story we were trying to tell. It was difficult. The shooting of it was easy. That was just getting in a car for four weeks and driving across America to interview people. That was the easy bit. The challenge was getting a film together, at the end of it all. But with the help of an enormous amount of people that contributed along the way, in so many ways, we were able to do that, and I’m thankful for that.
What’s the final running time?
BLACKTHORNE: It’s 90 minutes.
Where and how can people see the documentary, if they’re interested in checking it out?
BLACKTHORNE: In the U.S., we’re available to watch on Hulu and on DVD. After that, we’ll be looking into foreign sales.
Did this experience inspire you to want to direct again?
BLACKTHORNE: Yes, definitely. Obviously, I’m involved with Arrow these days, but we get breaks. There are other projects that would definitely interest me. We’ve got one or two different ideas that we’re putting together. At some point in the future, when the time is right, we’ll definitely do some more of this.
Are you looking at doing more documentaries, or would you like to do a narrative feature?
BLACKTHORNE: I would like to direct a narrative, I have to say. I’d love to direct a narrative film about a nice small town with people trying to just get by, find happiness, and trying to work out what they think makes them happy. The Last Picture Show is one of my favorite films. I just love that film. To direct something like that would be great. Real people are what fascinates me, whether it’s from an acting point of view or a directing point of view. We also do have some interesting documentary ideas, as well. I just love going out there and listening to people. People can teach us a lot.
We judge people by their appearance so quickly, and we form opinions about people, compartmentalize people, and think we know who they are. But if you sit down and talk with someone for more than 10 minutes, you’ll find something in common, no doubt whatsoever. People concentrate, particularly for their own purposes, on dividing people, and it’s just not necessary. If you actually spend time with somebody, in 10 minutes, you’ll find something in common, and it’s powerful when you do. When you find you’ve got something in common with somebody, all of a sudden, you’re friends.
We’re all in this thing together. There are so many issues that this country has, and that the world faces, that it’s important that we sit down and recognize our commonality. When we do that, we can actually work together to overcome some of the problems that we have. That, to me, is just a good starting place.
Arrow airs on Wednesday nights on The CW. You can learn more about This American Journey at http://paulblackthorne.com/documentary/.