The real world of Arrow's straight-up sidekick

By Nick Grant

Nick Grant talks to David Ramsey about the new superhero series

Stephen Amell and David Ramsey in 'Arrow'. Photo / Supplied
Stephen Amell and David Ramsey in 'Arrow'. Photo / Supplied

When publicising a superhero project, it's verging on obligatory for actors to profess a childhood passion for the comic book on which it's based, sometimes to less than convincing effect. However, when Arrow cast member David Ramsey says he's been a comic book fan since he was 9 years old, you don't doubt it, thanks to his demonstrably detailed knowledge of the comic genre and his delivery - he speaks with the quiet, measured authority of the ex-military bodyguard he plays in the series based on the Green Arrow comic.

His character is called John Diggle, Ramsey notes, as a nod to Andy Diggle, writer of Green Arrow: Year One, the 2006 reboot of the superhero's origin story that inspired the TV show. And it's no accident his first name is John, either - in keeping with the Robin Hood-inspired accoutrements Arrow adopts, it's meant to remind us of Little John and strongly hints at the right-hand-man role Diggle will increasingly play as the series unfolds.

Ramsey is quick to acknowledge the debt Arrow owes to the recent Dark Knight trilogy of Batman movies. "You can really look at the whole first season of Arrow as Batman Begins, because it really is about the psychological creation of this superhero. And like those films, everything is grounded in an accessible, realistic world, which means you're not going to see superpowers on our show."

Nor, he laughs, will we see the archer hero firing off arrows with boxing gloves on their ends, one of the wackier aspects of the comic character's arsenal.

One of the things that attracted Ramsey to the project is that though the show generally can't stray too far from its comic book source material, his character is purely an invention of the TV series. "That made me very excited," he says, "because it means there are no restrictions on what Diggle can do."

That sense of possibility also excited the writers, resulting in a satisfyingly complex journey for the character, says Ramsey. "On the surface, you see Diggle as a very moral, upstanding, clear-headed person, but there are circumstances he encounters during the season where some of that stalwartness is called into question. As an actor it's great to sink your teeth into such a well thought-out character."

An accomplished martial arts adherent - he has a black belt in jeet kune do, and has also studied kickboxing, tae kwon do, and boxing - Ramsey is enthused to be part of an action show.

"I'm doing my own stunts, I'm doing my own fighting, I have some voice in terms of my own fight choreography and I love that, it gives it a personal feel. To be able to do all that while playing such a well-written character has been a real treat."

Ramsey is quick to credit the writers with the show's success in the US, where the first season has just finished screening, as well as his cast mates, particularly Stephen Amell, who plays Oliver Queen/Arrow.

He also speaks warmly of Kiwi actor Manu Bennett, who has a recurring guest star role later in season one and will be a regular in season two.

"He plays Slade Wilson, who is a big part of Arrow's back story on the island. I think when he talks in real life, Manu kinda growls, but when he's playing Slade you just stand there thinking, 'What is this voice coming out of this person'?" Ramsey laughs. "He really is a very, very good actor - and a little scary!"

Arrow screens Wednesdays at 9.35pm on TV2

- Herald on Sunday

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