ARROW's David Ramsey Talks Diggle, Team Arrow and the SUICIDE SQUAD
Image from Arrow: "Suicide Squad"
CREDIT: The CW
Walker Stalker Con 2014 might have been a celebration of all things zombie in general and The Walking Dead in specific, but by no means did it limit itself to concerns of the undead. The modest event that took place in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont (the same site that’s hosted Wizard World conventions for years) managed to attract most of the core cast of The CW’s hit superhero series Arrow including Stephen Amell, Emily Bett Rickards, David Ramsey and Manu Bennett.
In a brief panel discussion fueled by attendee questions, the four stars revealed a bunch of little details about life on the Arrow set, including a comparison of ‘battle scars’ earned during on-set mishaps. One in particular came when Emily Bett Rickards butted heads with Caity Lotz's Sara "Canary" Lance just after a stunt at the climax of the Clock King episode. Manu Bennett almost put out his eye for real when his eye-patch wearing, present-day Slade Wilson jabbed his blind-side with the unseen corner of a car door.
In-between jokes about how the show’s infamous salmon ladder must always be used shirtless, and a story about how Manu Bennett all but secured his role as Slade Wilson by accidently rendering an Arrow staffer unconscious with a choke hold he learned from members of the US Armed Forces he met during a USO-like event in Kuwait just days before, a few precious details were leaked about where the show is going as it heads into the final five episodes of the season – episodes that include loaded episode titles like “Suicide Squad” and “Birds of Prey.”
Stephen Amell hinted that it wouldn’t be long until his heroic alter-ego was finally identified as “Green Arrow” after spending the run of the show so far as merely “The Hooded Vigilante,” “The Hood” or “The Arrow.” The panel also revealed that this week’s John Diggle-focused “Suicide Squad” episode that features bad guys that Team Arrow has put away including Diggle’s personal nemesis Deadshot, knife-wielding martial artist Bronze Tiger, explosives expert Shrapnel and a hereunto unidentified blond woman in pigtails and black nail polish who may or may not be Harley Quinn, is the first step in a big build-up to the season finale.
With this landmark DC TV Universe-expanding episode approaching, Newsarama cornered David Ramsey to try and squeeze a few answers from the actor about it, him and the stoic John Diggle. Newsarama editor Lucas Siegel caught up with him later via the phone to pull a few more teases and details out of him.
Newsarama: David, it’s a big week for John Diggle; can you tell us about your experience shooting the Suicide Squad episode?
David Ramsey: It’s a big week! It’s gonna be crazy. [The production] was great, it’s a great episode, Diggle has to make some decisions about working with the Suicide Squad. He has to, to achieve a larger goal obviously of taking down the bad guy. You are going to see some interaction with Deadshot, his arch-enemy, again, but you are also going to find out something about their relationship that you’re not expecting, so there is going to be a nice twist to that. But you have to remember, whatever happens with the Suicide Squad, it’s all ramping up to our ultimate showdown with Slade Wilson, so there will be a little nugget at the end of this episode that takes us in that direction.
Nrama: There have been many additions to Team Arrow this season as more and more heroes learn Oliver’s secret, how do you feel about that and how does the character of John Diggle feel about that?
Ramsey: I, David Ramsey, feel great about that. I think it’s a great story point, something else to provide drama. Diggle, well, Diggle is a military guy. He’s a guy who wants this to be a secretive as possible so he is naturally, as his is about most things, cautious. So, Diggle: cautious. David: fine with it.
Nrama: How would you gauge the response to the Diggle-centered episodes, and would you like to see more of them?
Ramsey: Yeah, I’m always happy doing that kind of work and at the end of the day I’m always happy when they are giving me a lot of stuff to do. I don’t envy Stephen [Amell], he’s doing freakin’ seventeen hours a day, it’s crazy, and that’s the kind of thing I do when it’s a Diggle-centered episode. That is tough, but I love it, the writing is so good, the stuff it gives me to do as an actor, it’s a dream.
Nrama: How do you feel about the John Diggle character making the jump into the ‘real’ Green Arrow comic?
Ramsey: Isn’t that great? I have [the fans] to thank for that. Because this has really been about the fan’s connection to Diggle and really insisting that Diggle be more intricate and be used more. DC listened to that, and I’m very proud of that and [the fans] made it happen.
[Newsarama Note: At this point we switch to the phone interview conducted three days later]
Nrama: David, The term “Suicide Squad” carries a lot of weight for DC fans. When did you first see that term pop up in the story, and how much did Andrew, Marc and company tell you this was being built up to?
Ramsey: Well, they told us somewhat early on this season that they had some plans for the Suicide Squad, and they were working for a good story for them. They did not tell me, however, that Diggle would be the “A” Story for “Suicide Squad.” I didn’t know that until about two weeks before I got the script. They told me, “Hey, we have a good story for you, it’s coming up in the Suicide Squad episode, I think you’ll really like it!”
I had no idea, really, that I’d be working in such a big part of the “Suicide Squad” story.
Nrama: As a former soldier, Dig understands the concept of following orders, but how far can he really be pushed, and will we see him be pushed far in this episode, especially with Deadshot involved?
Ramsey: You will. He really does get pushed far.
I think that Diggle, often he’s pushed far by some external force: “you have to do this because Felicity is being held ransom” or “you have to do this because your wife might die” like in the Russian episode, when he had to go there because Lyla was held captive. Those are external things going on. Obviously, there are some external forces here, in that ARGUS has once again strong-armed Diggle into doing something maybe he doesn’t want to do.
But there’s a bigger thing here, in who Diggle is and has always been as the honorable soldier, like you said. He has to negotiate his own “honor” with people that are not honorable, but are achieving an honorable goal. At the end of the day, he has to recognize that is what he and Oliver do every day. Perhaps in some peoples’ eyes, this would not be honorable. At the end of the day, they both have killed, they both have taken lives in order to achieve a larger goal.
At the beginning of the story Diggle doesn’t see that parallel between what he does with Oliver and what ARGUS is doing with the Suicide Squad. I don’t know that he jumps on board by the time the story ends, but he definitely questions his stance, his rigidness when it comes to his understanding of justice. I think there’s some soul searching going on in this story for Diggle. He comes in as a man very set in his ideals, and he leaves questioning them.
Nrama: Very interesting. You’ve said that while “Suicide Squad” may appear to be a fairly stand-alone episode, it also does still lead-in to the ultimate confrontation with Deathstroke as the season finale, right? Can you give any hints as to how it ties in? Is it more of a thematic tie-in or a direct one?
Ramsey: I think it’s both. There’s an obvious tie-in at the end, that really does tie us into Team Arrow, ARGUS, and our information about Deathstroke. We do see that at the end, it’s a very physical tie-in.
But also, both these men, Diggle and Oliver, end up in the same place emotionally. They both need help coming to grips with who they can ask for help from, who they will accept help from. Diggle will have to accept help from the Suicide Squad, and Oliver will have to accept help from some outside forces in order to create something that can match Deathstroke’s abilities.
So you’re going to see a physical tie-in to this. How we get there, I think is very, very clever. Like I said, Diggle and Oliver are both coming to this very similar place.
Nrama: It’s interesting that you say that, because I didn’t see a lot of people pointing this out, but it sure seemed like Deathstroke coordinated with ARGUS to have Diggle taken at the end of the last episode…
Ramsey: Hmm. It’s interesting you say that… but I can’t tell you. (laughs)
Nrama: We’re getting not just Diggle-centric in the present day, but we’re also getting a Diggle flashback! What was it like shooting those scenes, and what do they add to your character for you as well as for fans?
Ramsey: Anytime you flesh out a character, as long as that writing is good, you’re giving those fans a treat! As long as the story is compelling and the fans care, when you flesh out that story it’s great. I think the fans do care about Diggle, they’ll care about his story, this flashback. It gives them one more nugget of who Diggle is and why he is who he is.
For me, David, any time an actor gets more backstory, it’s great. There was a scene last year with Diggle and Felicity where he explains how he had to protect a warlord, and had to kill a child in the process, and that did something fundamental to Diggle. He had to question whether he remained a good man, because he had to follow orders, but in doing that he had to kill a child and protect someone that didn’t deserve protecting, in his estimation.
We actually play that scene out in Afghanistan in this flashback. It helps shape my understanding of who Diggle is, so that’s always good.
Nrama: Funny you mention them: there hasn’t been as much time for Diggle-Felicity interaction lately with the crowded Arrow Cave – anything coming up for the original pair of team members?
Ramsey: Yes. We will get back to that. The writers are making a point of that. If it’s not the, it is one of the greatest strengths of the show, Team Arrow, the original members. Every time that you see them on a mission and Team Arrow has to coordinate and work together, you see this well-oiled, well-programmed unit working together. It’s always what the fans identify with most. I think it’s one of the biggest strengths of the show. The writers do, the producers do, and we’re getting back to that.
You know, the big story of who Oliver Queen becomes: The Vigilante, The Arrow, and then Green Arrow – it’s a big story, there are a lot of places we will go in how we tell that story. The Arrow Cave will get fuller, and it will get emptier, but the core team will always remain intact. It’s what has saved Oliver’s life; without Diggle and Felicity, we wouldn’t have Oliver where he is emotionally or as a superhero at this point.
Nrama: You have been inside this character’s mind for two years now, and seen tons of changes, from the dynamic between him and Oliver to the team expansion and the way the Heroing game is approached, like you just said. Ultimately, what would you say Diggle’s goal is in being a part of Team Arrow?
Ramsey: I think that in Team Arrow he has found a place, a place where he feels he is useful. He had that place in a way when he was in Afghanistan. But war, as he explained to Oliver, is something that scrapes your soul. That’s what has happened to him. He is war-torn, so he had to leave the military. But he left that service, and now he’s serving again. Serving is what Diggle does.
So who do I see him ultimately as? He is this. Does Diggle become a superhero? I don’t know. Does Diggle stay as the regular guy we can better identify with? He has to remain that, no matter who he becomes. Ultimately, he has to keep these things that we identify with him intact: honor, a sense of duty, a sense of servitude. These are his truths. They may sound really Boy Scout-y, but those are the things we tune into. And we need that, because Oliver doesn’t have that, so we need that in Diggle. As long as we keep that intact, he’ll be Diggle.
Nrama: Just to end on a “Suicide Squad” note, can you give us one specific scene or tease that you’re really excited for fans to see during the “Suicide Squad” episode?
Ramsey: The scenes I’m excited for fans to see is all the scenes between Diggle and Deadshot. The relationship between Diggle and Deadshot will come to a head in this episode. Even if we see more of Deadshot in the future, the relationship between Floyd and Diggle will once and for all change. I’m really looking forward to the response fans will have to that.