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Keeping it in the Family: Arrow's Kat McNamara Talks "Crisis" and More

Keeping it in the Family: Arrow's Kat McNamara Talks...

By Tim Beedle Monday, December 9th, 2019

SPOILER ALERT: The below interview contains spoilers from last night’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” premiere.

If Oliver Queen’s shocking early death in the first chapter of “Crisis on Infinite Earths” surprised you, imagine what it must feel like to Mia Smoak, his time-displaced daughter who had finally been getting to know her father after a lifetime believing her father had abandoned her. Mia only learned the truth about his choices and sacrifices after she was rocketed back in time by the Monitor along with William Clayton and Connor Hawke in the shadow of the coming Crisis.

Speaking of the Crisis, Mia has a role to play in that as well, and has a sleek new costume to play it in. The young, al Ghul-trained vigilante is more than capable of holding her own…under normal circumstances. But against such otherworldly forces as the Anti-Monitor, the Book of Destiny and more, it’s hard to imagine what the scrappy young archer will be able to do, especially since she’ll be doing it while also grieving the death of her father. To get a sense of what’s ahead for Mia as “Crisis on Infinite Earths” moves into its second night, we spoke with the actress behind her, Kat McNamara, who opened up about what it’s like inheriting such an important legacy both onscreen and off.

When did you learn that you were going to be a part of “Crisis on Infinite Earths”? Did you know what a big deal this crossover was going to be?

Well, I knew that “Crisis” was going to be epic pretty much from the time I was cast on the show just because all of this, basically from the introduction of my character, has been building up to this point. I didn't know whether or not I was going to be a part of it for a while, though. I think my first inclination was when I found out that they were building a suit. That, obviously, is a really long process that takes many months. I knew that was happening and that it was going to come up around the crossover, and then eventually we found out that Oliver was giving Mia the suit in the Supergirl episode. I was over the moon ecstatic because these comics are just so iconic. It's such a unique opportunity in television to get to have so many shows and so many people that exist in the same universe, and to explore those relationships on screen? I’m a kid in the candy store. It’s so much fun.

Mia, like Oliver, is a hero without any real superpowers. How do you imagine she feels being faced with something so massive?

Mia’s a very tactful person. We know this. She's been raised to be a realist, if not a pessimist. The fact that she is suddenly on a spaceship among aliens and people with superpowers dealing with this godlike being talking about multiple realities? She’s in over her head and just trying to grasp some sense of logic in all of this. As things move forward, it comes to the point where she’s literally on another planet among strangers dealing with the biggest loss of her life. That rocks her world in a real way. It forces her to be out of her element and figure out a way to handle it all.

Were you excited to get the chance to act opposite Stephen Amell and the other present day cast members? Is there any one in particular you’ve had a lot of fun with?

I was over the moon, especially to get to work with Stephen because he's been so lovely in welcoming me onto the show and guiding me in that way. He’s taken on the role of being the father to me off-screen that he is to Mia on-screen, which I appreciate very much. He created such a legacy, and I want to take that on as much as I can.

It’s so exciting just to get to be on set with everyone and because all of these characters know Oliver so well, they see those qualities in Mia. It creates a lot of interesting situations and relationships where some characters butt heads with Mia and other characters form these friendships and these partnerships and develop a banter very quickly with her. They understand her because they understand her father. It just creates such a fun interaction between everyone, and it’ll be really interesting to see how things move forward.

Let’s ask the big question now. How can we expect Mia to react to Oliver Queen’s death?

This is what's so wonderful about that. Mia’s not ready for it, and because she isn't necessarily the most well-versed person in dealing with emotions of this nature, the first thing she does is go through the stages of grief. And because the stakes are so high right now in the Multiverse, we really get to see that accentuated and exacerbated in an interesting way. She’s not ready to accept the fact that her father’s gone. She is going to fight tooth and nail to save him and to try and fight against this thing that's just happened. She’ll go to any lengths. She’ll take any risk. She’ll risk any cost to get her father back because she's finally formed that bond with him. She finally understands why he made the choices he did and the fact that they weren't easy for him to make, but that he had to do it for the greater good and for the people that he loves. She understands that now. She understands what being a hero means, and she's not ready to lose him.

Were you surprised when you learned what sort of trajectory the “Crisis” writers had planned for Mia?

Oh, definitely. I was just happy to get to be at the party. The fact that Mia actually has a real arc in this crossover and gets to be a part of the team in a really pivotal way is amazing. It’s a huge honor. It's something that I was very excited to take on because it's such a special moment in television. To have all these worlds that can exist and can cross over in this way, I'm just happy to be a part of it as much as I can.

Mia now has a new costume, does she have a new name? Will she call herself Green Arrow?

I can tell you that the suit is really modeled to be the Oliver Queen suit 2.0. It was amazing to watch the designers that craft the suit and all the elements—from the bow to the quiver to everything—do what they do best down to even the fabric that they use. The designers commissioned this fabric especially for Mia’s suit to have these little tiny arrowheads imprinted in it, so it carries the arrow motif through it. It’s little details like that that really make each character so iconic and so special.

I’ll admit, it took me a little time to warm up to your character, she likes to keep those angry defenses up, but now she’s quickly becoming a favorite of mine. Did you expect it might take fans a little time to warm up to Mia?

I thought that was definitely a possibility, especially given that Olicity is so beloved by the fandom. Emily and Stephen put so much time and energy into crafting each character and their relationship together. You know, it’s something I've taken very seriously, and something I feel a huge responsibility for—carrying on that legacy that they've created. So, when I found out that Mia was their child, I went back and watched the entire series and tried to pull elements of their characters—their little nuances and mannerisms and things that maybe people notice or maybe they wouldn't. Maybe it's just something that exists in the back of my head, but it helps to carry that through and to make Mia the amalgamation of these characters that people love so much.

I had a feeling that people would have very strong opinions about Mia, and I was hoping that they would be positive ones. But I also knew that they've developed her in a really wonderful way to where no matter how you feel about her at first, you can't help but have some compassion for her because you really see the the pain, struggle and conflict that she's going through in trying to reconcile these emotions that she's had and defenses that she's had to put up to just survive. Now, the biggest vulnerability of her life is now standing right in front of her, one of her biggest moments of tragedy. Then later on, he will be the catalyst for the next biggest tragedy in her life and the next big transformation and steps she has to take. It's just event after event and obstacle after obstacle, but that serves the legacy of what it is to be a Queen and what it is to be a hero. It really does prepare her to take on her father's legacy in a way.

On the subject of that vulnerability, often the moments it comes through are silent ones where it’s conveyed entirely through your acting. Is it difficult to strike that balance between guarded and scared?

These are the kind of characters that I love to play. These people that find strength in their vulnerabilities and power in their brokenness. They can use that as a weapon and a tool to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and fight for the people that they love and for what they believe in. Obviously, with Mia this is a bit more overt given that she is literally fighting people. But I feel like you can find that sort of battle in in any character that's written well and that has a complexity to them.

Mia, in particular, is one of my favorite characters that I've ever taken on, given that she is such a dichotomy. She is so strong on the surface, and she has such a hard shell on the outside. And yet, at her core, she's just a little girl who wants a family. She’s someone who wants to be loved, belong, and to fill that gap in her life that has always existed. She's never known what it's like to have a father and that's the tragedy of Oliver and Mia’s relationship. There is such love and such conflict there in that they want to connect and they want to bond and reach out to each other, but because of who they are as people and how they handle emotion, it takes so much time for them to get there. And when they finally do, when they finally are on the same team and understand each other and they have this lovely, beautiful moment on Lian Yu, the sky turns red and “Crisis” crashes down on them.

That's sort of the joy of it, finding those moments. It gives you something to play with because Mia’s constantly learning and constantly figuring out the world and what to do next. She's a strategist, like her mother. That's where the Felicity comes in. She's a strategist and a warrior and getting to blend the two of those things together has been such a joy.

The five-part "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover event continues tonight 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.