It’s nice to know that after eight seasons, Arrow is still capable of surprising us. Or at least, surprising Audrey Marie Anderson. Since making her first appearance as Lyla Michaels back in the CW series’ debut season, Anderson has been a crucial part of Team Arrow…even if it hasn’t always been a visible one. As the head of A.R.G.U.S., Michaels has regularly offered up tactical support, providing Oliver and his crew with equipment and intel. And yet, it’s her contributions as John Diggle’s wife and partner that have arguably been the greater gift. Since marrying Diggle in the show’s third season, Michaels has embraced not only her husband, but his ragtag team of fellow vigilantes as family, giving them some much-needed emotional support and a sense of home that it’s unlikely they could have formed without her and John.
While Michaels has never been a regular on the series, she’s appeared in multiple episodes each season. We know her. Certainly, Anderson thought she did. But as we’re about to learn in the upcoming “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover event, there’s much more to Lyla Michaels, and her Harbinger codename, than even the woman who plays her could have guessed.
Of course, any DC fan who’s read the Marv Wolfman and George Perez Crisis on Infinite Earths comic has a sense of what’s involved. Recent episodes have given us hints of what’s coming and there’s always the comic to look to for more, but to really discover what’s ahead for Lyla we spoke with Anderson about what role she’ll be playing in “Crisis.” Anderson was sparse on direct details—your guess is as good as ours about whether she’ll be doing THAT—but she did discuss how she learned about Harbinger’s connection to the Crisis, what it was like strapping on a super-suit for the first time and why she’s very surprised Lyla made it to season eight.
Your character, Lyla Michaels, was involved in the very first Arrow crossover back in Season 3. Now, you have a key role in what will be Arrow’s final crossover. How do the two compare?
They’re always the same for me in the sense that there are so many different characters and storylines and as time’s gone by, more shows and more characters. The way that it felt different to me the first time was that it seemed more contained. Now, there are these sprawling, intricate relationships between the shows. It’s gotten so complicated—something that happens on Flash will affect Arrow. Like the whole baby Sara thing. That happened on Flash. I’m over on Arrow, and for I don’t even know how many seasons, I don’t think Lyla even mentioned it. Then finally, I had like one line on Flash when I referenced baby Sara. It was funny, when I read the line, I was like, “Finally! Lyla needs to acknowledge to somebody that she used to have a daughter and now she has a son.”
The way that they’re the same for me is I really like working with all of the other actors on this show. I like to see our characters interacting. I still have that same feeling when I go on Flash or when I’m working with those actors. I really enjoy the time that we all have together. It’s pretty fun.
When you were shooting “The Brave and the Bold,” did you ever anticipate that Arrow crossovers would just keep getting bigger from there?
Absolutely not. No, not on my end, at least. I thought it was just a little one-off initially just to get Flash off the ground. I had no idea that it was going to be this ongoing thing that would just keep getting more and more complicated.
When did it first become clear to you how important of a role you’d be playing in “Crisis on Infinite Earths”? Were you aware of Lyla’s role in the comic?
I was aware of her role, though I’ll admit that I didn’t know the comic very intimately. I got a lot of my information from the writers. I looked it up and saw what it was about, but I didn’t go out and study it. Originally, my character was Lyla Michaels. It really wasn’t Harbinger. My name, Harbinger, in A.R.G.U.S. was kind of more like a shout-out originally. I was never told at any point that it was going to evolve into something much bigger. I wasn’t really aware of what this season was going to be for me. Honestly, I don’t think I was really aware of it until we were a few episodes into season eight. There were hints that I had some good stuff coming up, but it wasn’t like somebody sat me down and really went through it with me.
The writers have to be very protective of the information they give out. They don’t want it to leak out before people see the show. It wouldn’t be any fun. They don’t always tell me everything. I had to ask a lot of questions as we went along. There were scenes between Lyla and the Monitor and I had to sit down with the writers and ask them to help me figure out how to play the scenes because I didn’t really know how well she knew him or how long she’d known him. How do I play this scene? Am I angry that Earth-2 is destroyed? Am I sad? I didn’t know. As an actor, it was interesting because I didn’t always have a lot of information.
How closely does your character align with the book’s version of Harbinger? Lyla does some pretty major things in the comic.
I think the essence of Harbinger’s role is there in the crossover.
On Arrow, Lyla isn’t a character who wears a super suit, but you wear one in “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” Were you looking forward to suiting up for the first time?
Of course! It was awesome. It was so fun! Going for the fittings and having the costume made is such a lengthy process—and an expensive one! It’s a big deal. The people who design the costumes and make them are so talented. It was such a fun thing to see how it’s all done. I really enjoyed that part. It was probably my favorite part of the season, just getting the suit made.
It’s not very comfortable. (laughs) That’s the other side of it.
They never are.
They’re super tight. I’ll put it this way, after I wore the super-suit, I did not envy the actors who have to do that in every episode.
In Lyla’s world, doing what’s morally right and doing what’s necessary doesn’t always align. Where do you think she ultimately comes down on that?
There’s a lot of dialog about how things aren’t black and white. There’s a whole grey area where you can exist, and something may seem like it’s a bad thing, but it’s for the greater good and ultimately, it’s a good thing. I always felt like Oliver Queen and Lyla Michaels were very similar in that way. You sort of had to do these necessary evils in order to do the right thing. You had to look at a bigger picture rather than just one single action.
When Lyla became the director of A.R.G.U.S., I was very curious if the writers would take us down this road where she became more like Amanda Waller. I think there are definitely questions. I think even Lyla questions herself at times. She doesn’t want to become that. But then when you have this pressure on you, when you’re in this power position, how do you do your job? How do you get it done? That’s been an interesting thing that the writers have always put in there for her.
You’ve been a part of Arrow since the first season. How hard was it to say goodbye and what’s one thing you’ll never forget about your time on the show?
It was really hard to say goodbye. I didn’t think it would be. I thought, “Oh, you do eight seasons of a show and it’s time to move on.” Right? That’s a long time to be on a show.
It’s very bittersweet. I’m sure there are lots of people on the show who are excited for the next chapter of their lives, but at the same time, you’ll never all be on the same set together again. That’s sad. It’s really a hard thing. We all do it repeatedly in our jobs, but eight seasons is a long time. When I look back, it’s really sweet to think about all of the changes—people get married, they have kids. You see them go through all of these steps when you work with them, and it’s pretty great. I’ll miss all of the people I work with, for sure. That’s the biggest thing. All the crew and everything. You kind of take it for granted. And for me, as a guest on the show, I just always thought, “Oh well… They’re going to kill me.” (laughs)
You know what I mean? I just kept waiting to die!
Wow! (laughs) So, every season you’re asking yourself, “Is this the season it’s going to happen?!?”
As a guest, I didn’t know that I would be on until the end when I started in season one. But then, I finished up with everybody and I don’t think I ever really expected that I would, you know? I always kind of kept things at an emotional arm’s length because I’m a visitor. But then, by the end of season eight, I really just felt like a part of the crew because I had been through it all with them. I’d seen everybody come and go and come back. That’s the part that you really miss. And this season, I got to see some people—I won’t say who—but that I hadn’t seen in a long time. So, that part’s pretty great.
You had a second part to your question, though.
It was just one thing you’ll never forget about your time on the show.
I will never forget, nor will I miss, having to run around and kick butt in high heels. Man, that’s hard!
The five-part "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover event kicks off on Sunday at 8/7c on Supergirl before continuing on Monday at 8/7c on Batwoman and Tuesday at 8/7c on The Flash. The final two parts will air in January on Arrow and DC's Legends of Tomorrow.