CW’s Wednesday dramas ‘Arrow’ and ‘Tomorrow People’ feature cousins Stephen and Robbie.
SAN DIEGO — When first cousins star in their own TV shows on the same night and network – Stephen Amell on Arrow and Robbie Amell on The Tomorrow People (CW, Wednesday) – a little one-upsmanship isn’t surprising.
“Well, I do have one superpower,” Stephen, 32, says of his green-hooded Oliver Queen, who credits his character’s resolve to surviving five trying years on a remote island. “I have no fear anymore of anything.”
“I have (a bevy) of superpowers. It’s awesome,” Robbie, 25, says of his character, Stephen Jameson, whose skills include telepathy, teleportation and telekinesis.
Stephen seeks an advantage. “It kind of rings hollow if you don’t have a superhero suit.”
Robbie pauses for a comeback, thinking about Jameson and his fellow Tomorrow People. “They have leather jackets.”
The banter is constant as the Toronto natives, who look and act like brothers (their fathers are) , discuss second-year Arrow — which last season followed Oliver’s efforts at vengeance after years in exile — and freshman People, about youths with extraordinary powers who represent the next phase in human evolution. Both series premiere this week.
The senior-junior dynamic goes beyond the actors’ ages and their series’ tenures to the characters themselves, says Arrow and People executive producer Greg Berlanti, who joined the Amells for an interview at Comic-Con in July.
“What’s so exciting for me about having them on the same night is that they’re two different kinds of actors, two different kinds of people and two different kinds of heroes,” he says. “One is sort of the more boyish hero, coming into manhood, and the other is a wounded man who’s come home a changed person and is trying to redeem himself and find his humanity again.”
Berlanti knew Robbie from an appearance on his former ABC series Brothers and Sisters, and met Stephen in an audition session for Oliver. After he cast Stephen, Berlanti helped Robbie get a green card so he could work in the United States.
Now, both actors are shooting in Vancouver. “That’s the punch line,” Berlanti says. “We immediately sent them both back to Canada.”
Stephen says Season 2 of Arrow feels like a new show, as it follows Oliver in the aftermath of his failure to save part of the Glades section of Starling City from destruction and the death of his closest friend, Tommy Merlyn.
“As much of a catalyst as spending five years on an island was for him, the death of Tommy is bigger. And it’s going to impact everything that he does and the person that he’s trying to be,” Stephen says. “We have all of our returning characters, but every single one of them is in a very different place.” Oliver’s mother Moira, played by Susanna Thompson, “is in prison and Oliver is not even in Starling City at the beginning of the season. It’s a very different show.”
Berlanti sees continuing transformation for Oliver on Arrow, which last season was CW’s most-watched show (4.4 million) and trailed only The Vampire Diaries among young-adult viewers.
“The show’s always been very much a journey from the character we meet in the pilot, which is almost a prisoner of war, a vigilante, to becoming the hero that we know, the Green Arrow,” he says. “Last year was about revenge and this year the city needs something very different. And his journey is a little bit more hopeful there. Concurrently, we’re watching his adventures on the island, where he’s getting darker and darker because he had to become more of an animal to survive. So, as he darkens there, hopefully he can regrow some of his humanity at home.”
On People, a confused Jameson, adjusting to his new powers, must decide whether to go underground with the Tomorrow People or enlist with his uncle, Dr. Jedikiah Price (Mark Pellegrino), who is hunting them down.
“All of these Tomorrow People come from a really damaged situation, because they all thought they were losing their minds. They were hearing people in their heads,” Robbie says. “My mom – I can’t tell her I have superpowers – still wants me on my medication. I’m good, but what reason does she have to believe me? I didn’t just wake up one morning and get better.”
One thing the cousins’ characters have in common is a propensity to go shirtless. Stephen says that makes sense for Oliver, including upcoming flashback scenes from his time on the island.
“The thing that really should be jarring about that is that he has three scars. And now, in the present, he’s got like 30 scars on his body. So it’s an important part of the story. (And) the three tattoos he has, they all mean something.”
Pushed on the hunk factor involved, he concedes: “It is TV. We’re not mapping the human genome. We’re trying to entertain people.”
Berlanti interrupts. “On Tomorrow People, we actually are mapping the human genome, just so you know.”
Robbie goes shirtless to comic effect in Episode 2.
“I hop out of the shower and (fellow People rebel) Cara (Peyton List) is talking to me telepathically, but I think she’s in the room,” he says. “So I freak out and I flip around and I’m only in a towel. It’s that sort of thing where I’m still learning these powers. I’m not a stud yet. I’m not Stephen in Arrow.”
Stephen counters, “I come out of the shower with purpose,” and promotes a workout regimen that includes personal training, yoga and parkour. “You should join. It’s great,” he tells his cousin.
“I’ll give it a shot,” Robbie says, unenthusiastically.
“Guess what?” Stephen says. “You’re not going to be 25 forever, pal.”