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Triple Threat: Amanda Waller's Screen Legacy

Triple Threat: Amanda Waller's Screen Legacy

By Tim Beedle Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

In this week’s new episode of “DC All Access,” co-host Tiffany Smith spoke with actress Cynthia Addai-Robinson about joining the cast of Arrow as Amanda Waller. Addai-Robinson, whom you may have seen mixing it up on Spartacus with fellow Arrow cast member Manu Bennett, embodies the cool, morally ambiguous Waller perfectly, as you can see in the interview and in the below preview of her debut episode, this Wednesday’s “Keep Your Enemies Closer.”

If you’re a fan of Arrow but are unfamiliar with the DC comic book universe that inspired the show, you may not be all that familiar with Amanda Waller. After all, she doesn’t wear a mask, possess any powers, or go by a flashy-sounding codename. However, that doesn’t mean she’s unfamiliar with the world of super heroes and villains. Far from it.

In the current DC Universe, Amanda is the Director of the Advanced Research Group for Uniting Superhumans (A.R.G.U.S.), a group that keen-eared viewers will remember was referenced during the first season of Arrow. In the comics, A.R.G.U.S. is tasked with monitoring, controlling and, in cases where control isn’t possible, eliminating superhumans. As a character, Amanda’s skeptical, if not downright hostile when it comes to dealing with superhumans, viewing even the world’s greatest heroes—folks like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman—as potential threats. While her position affords her a good amount of authority, one of her most effective tools is the deadly team known (at least informally) as the Suicide Squad. Comprised of captured super-villains including Deadshot and Deathstroke, the members of the team have literally nothing to lose, and are willing to join the Squad and accept extremely dangerous, clandestine missions in exchange for suspended or reduced prison sentences.

Of course, if you’re unfamiliar with Amanda Waller, you may be surprised to know that this isn’t actually her first time on film. In fact, the character has showed up on screen twice before (and that’s not even counting her animated appearances on Justice League Unlimited and Young Justice).

Amanda’s first live action appearance was in 2010, in the ninth season of Smallville, played to bold, badass perfection by Pam Grier. Amanda Waller showed up three times that season, though in Smallville’s incarnation, she was a ranking officer in Checkmate (another deep-rooted, shadowy group within the DC Universe) rather than A.R.G.U.S. However, she still ran the Suicide Squad, which made an appearance in Smallville’s final season. Unfortunately, Amanda met her demise—so it seemed, at least—late in season nine.

But a little death isn’t enough to keep a good character down, and Amanda Waller returned bigger than ever in 2011’s Green Lantern. Embodied this time around by Angela Bassett, Green Lantern’s Amanda Waller was markedly different than her comic book iteration. In the movie, Amanda is a scientist who seems far more interested in studying super-humans than in controlling them. We do get some backstory involving her family that suggests Amanda may have reason to fear and not trust people with power, but if she does, it’s not apparent onscreen. Another difference? This version of Amanda seemingly found time to earn a doctorate. Bassett’s credited as Doctor Waller in the movie.

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If you’re interested in seeing Angela Waller on Smallville, you can check her out in Season 9, which is available here:

Or if you’d like to revisit Bassett’s more science-driven take on the character, we suggest the Extended Cut of Green Lantern, which you can order here:

And be sure to catch tomorrow’s all-new episode of Arrow on The CW to watch Addai-Robinson bring her distinct take on this rich character to life as Amanda Waller enters the world of Oliver, Diggle and Felicity for the very first time!