Susanna Thompson Talks ARROW, Learning More about Moira in Season Two, Her Feelings about the Undertaking, and More

     December 10, 2013


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.  Now that the trial for his mother’s life can be put behind them, Oliver and Moira (Susanna Thompson) are trying to get Queen Consolidated back on track, but there are still too many skeletons in both of their closets for things not to blow up again soon.

During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Susanna Thompson talked about how much fun it is to be allowed to explore her character so deeply, that we’ll be seeing more of Moira during the rest of this season, what her reaction was when she learned where her character’s story would be going, whether she personally thinks Moira should have been punished for her involvement in the Undertaking, how much she loves watching what everyone has been doing with their characters and the character relationships, how Moira might feel if she found out that Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) was risking his life on a regular basis, and that she thinks Moira might know more about what’s going on with Oliver than she’s letting on.  Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.

arrow-posterIs it exciting to be a part of a show that somehow manages to up the ante, every single week?

SUSANNA THOMPSON:  The key to that is that they have a style with it, that is based in that comic book world, but with the writers, the actors and the directors, everyone is trying to base it in a grounded reality to really make it believable and not just skim the surface of these situations and environments.  And it’s a joy, as an actor, to know that you’re able to go deep with it and they’ll honor that.  Sometimes the editing edits away some of those great moments, but that happens.  You’re like, “Oh, darn, I found that and nobody gets to see it!”  But then, you have some perspective on it a year later and you go, “Oh, okay, it still works.”  I’m suspecting that that might be way [people who aren’t fans of the comics] are able to watch it. 

Will we be seeing more of Moira, during the rest of this season?

THOMPSON:  I think we have to.  Her story impacts Oliver and Thea and Walter, and most of Starling City.  Right now, they’re planting the seeds for some other trajectories, as well.  We’ve gotten a lot of the Queen family, and this season, we’re getting a lot of the Lance family.  It’s been interesting to me, as an audience member, to see that story and to go deep with that.  It’s an interesting dynamic to see how the fabric of those two families has been woven in and out of each other’s lives, throughout the years, and still are, to a certain extent.  So, you will be seeing more of Moira.  You haven’t heard the last of her. 

When you learned where this story was going to end up in Season 1 and where it would be headed in Season 2, what was your reaction?  Did you think it was going to be exciting, or were you concerned about being isolated even further from the action?

THOMPSON:  Oh, that’s interesting.  No, I was really curious.  I didn’t find out, until probably 3/4 of the way through the first season, what Malcolm actually had planned.  I knew that I was creating a backstory, whether they were telling me the story or not.  I also tried to project a strength and a resourcefulness for who this woman was, in her very wealthy billionaire life.  She wasn’t isolated.  She clearly had connections with people, but also had a lot that was being used against her, coming from Malcolm, in particular.  She was also trying to protect a lot, keep a lot of balls in the air, and keep a lot of faces up.  In many senses, she was a very good actor.  Now, having had a great deal of that stripped away is another wonderful arrow-susanna-thompson-5place to be, as an actor.  She’s a more grounded and more truthful Moira, and yet I don’t think anyone bares everything in their closet, or every single truthful place in themselves.  That being said, if this truly is a season of redemption for her, and I believe it’s a season of redemption for a number of the characters, she’s got a lot of redeeming to do, especially because the situation she found herself in last season was so extreme.  It will be interesting to see what she still hides, what faces she’ll still put up, and what she’s willing to risk to be honest.  It takes a lot of trust.  She’s lost a lot already, in her life.  To bare one’s complete soul means that one has complete trust and that, no matter what happens, they’re okay with the outcome.  Now, she’s trying to hold on to what she does have still, in particular those relationships that mean the most to her – her son and her daughter.  That’s the core of her heart.  So, it will be very interesting to see how this all plays out. 

Were you happy not to have to wear an orange jumpsuit?

THOMPSON:  It’s interesting, I kept thinking that the orange would bring out a better look for complexion.  But, everybody has been loving the gunmetal blue.  It’s much more in alignment with the show and what the costume designer has created for the look of our costumes.  I kept joking with the press that it was going to be an orange jumpsuit for her.  They surprised me.  But, it was probably best with Orange is the New Black

Are you looking forward to interacting with some of the great guest stars this show has, or even some of the other characters you haven’t gotten to work with much yet?

THOMPSON:  I always love coming up against a character that I haven’t had a chance to work with.  I’ll be having a little bit of a connection with Felicity, so that’s interesting.  And it was nice to have a bit with Roy.  I always was curious how they were going to write that scene, and it wasn’t anything that I thought it was going to be.  I thought it would be in Season 1, but instead it was in Season 2, and it was all about giving a gift to her daughter.  Moira can see how happy her daughter is with him and how miserable she is without him.  Clearly, there must be something wonderful about this person for her daughter to feel so deeply, and she wanted to reflect that back to her daughter, in a very generous way. 

arrow-susanna-thompson-4As an outsider looking in, do you think Moira should have been punished for her part in the Undertaking, or do you think people were unfairly placing blame solely on her shoulders?

THOMPSON:  She said it, and the writers wrote it beautifully, that she is due.  There is some responsibility and punishment that she is due, for her participation in this.  And yet, it is understandable, in my mind, that she was also a survivor of a very traumatic experience.  In many cases and in many ways, she is a victim of the torturous place that Malcolm put her in.  It was hard for me to keep wrapping my brain around it, last season, but then we wouldn’t have a show.  I kept wanting to say, “Just go to the police!  Go tell someone!”  But, that’s not who this very complicated woman is.  It’s like, if you go along living your life in as best and positive ways as we can, trying to be good people, and then circumstances bump up against you and you make decisions, and you think you’re doing the best you can, in that moment, and really it was the worst thing you could choose to do, but you’re doing it for some sense of survival.  There’s a primal need to live and to survive and to protect.  And yet, if you could stand outside of it, you’d go, “No, take that path instead, or it will set up all these other dominos.”  I’m curious, as an audience member, to find out what else there is that she’s living with, that we maybe don’t know yet.  It’s hard for me because, as a person, I just want to go to the truth and resolve whatever it is.

What’s it been like to share some of the more honest moments with both Stephen Amell and Willa Holland, this season?  Do you feel a dynamic shift between you guys, as actors, as well?

THOMPSON:  Yes, and I felt it towards the end of Season 1.  Now, we’ve just carried that over into Season 2, and we keep building on it.  Each time the writers write another great script, they give us more to dive into and to get deeper with and to get messy with, and the messiness is what I love.  I think all three of us are committed to that.  And then, if I look beyond the Queen family, I see it in everything that everyone is doing.  I look at what Manu [Bennett] is doing, what Colton [Haynes] is doing, and what Paul Blackthorne and Katie [Cassidy] have been doing, and what were very quirky and fun characters, initially, like with what Emily [Bett Rickards] is creating and how deep that goes, and the ramifications of that soldier life with David Ramsey’s character.  But, he three of us love working together.  We just bounce off of each other.  If in one take, one of us decides we’re going a different way, the others will keep up with them.  We don’t get set in a way that it has to always come out a certain way.  We really go with each other, like families do.  They’re just lovely.  The whole cast and crew is lovely.  I couldn’t ask for a nicer situation. 

arrow-susanna-thompson-2Even though Moira has essentially given her blessing for Thea to be with Roy, do you think she’d feel the same way, if she knew he was risking his life, pretty much every chance he got?

THOMPSON:  Probably not!  I think she’d sit him down and talk with him.  It’s interesting because I think he’s craving that family connection.  I think there’s some appreciation on both ends, with Roy and Moira.  But no, I think she’d have a hard time with it.  Anything that he gets involved with, like that, is going to have an affect on her and eventually bring her into harm’s way.  Moira’s not going to be for that. 

How do you think Moira would feel, if she ever found out what Oliver was doing as The Arrow?  With everything that she’s been through, do you think she’d be upset, or do you think she’d be proud of the good he’s trying to do?

THOMPSON:  I’m not so sure.  They’ve never written anything about it, but I’ve always felt Moira knows more than we think she knows.  At the very least, I think there’s an intuitive side of her that knows something else is going on, more than what’s on the surface, and she has had to let go, each day he’s been back, to be able to stay in his life and to trust.  But I’m still very curious, every episode we get, to see what gets revealed and where their story goes because they both have so many skeletons in their closets.  They’ve both had big life experiences, as have many of the characters on Arrow

Arrow airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.

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