Already a huge fan favorite for his role as Crixus in Spartacus, Manu Bennett has a huge episode of Arrow tonight where we get a major focus on flashbacks to his time on the island with Oliver (Stephen Amell) in “The Odyssey.” The episode promises more training between Oliver and Slade, some great character moments, action, and…. Deathstroke vs. Deathstroke?!?!
Mr. Bennett spoke with us this morning about his role and what we can expect from Slade tonight.
For those who didn’t see his first appearance, Slade came to the island in an operation that was organized by the Australian intelligence and Special Forces. As it is explained in the episode, Slade had a partner in the operation, revealed tonight as “Billy,” and we will also learn that “Billy” is also a character that fans of DC Comics should know. “They were shot down over the island before they could even get there and do their operation,” Bennett explains. “They were captured by Fyers, and they were supposedly tortured, and in his last act of survival, Billy accepted to join with Fyers and Slade didn’t. He escaped, and now he’s kind of like a one-man operation, and his partner, as we find out in this episode, is Deathstroke Mask Number Two. Or Number One, depending on which way you want to look at it and the order the viewers or the audience have seen it,” he teases. Bennett feels that the battle of two Deathstrokes will be “interesting” because it will keep fans guessing who “Deathstroke” really is.
We also get some backstory for Slade within, including a reference to a son named Joe. Is this truth, or just a story Slade is telling Oliver? “Well, that’s what he says,” Manu says, revealing that he hasn’t been given any instructions on Slade’s background or future – and that’s exactly how he likes it. “I think the elements of this series as they unfold, it’s a bit like Spartacus, and the same as [being] an actor in Spartacus. I would like to receive my scripts page by page because they give you the life you’re living; not the life you had, or the life that’s coming into the future, because sometimes those things can make you make choices in the present that aren’t the things you would do naturally. There’s a lot of mystery to this series. It’s all about the mystery. We’ll just keep on turning it out, to match what our producers and directors have shaped us to be as an audience experience. I have the job of playing the character I’m given,” he says. In fact, when he took the role, he thought he was signed on to play a character named “Holloway.”
“I pretty much was signed on to this show as a character called ‘Holloway,’ and when I arrived at the airport, I was sent a text from my manager saying that I was to play Deathstroke, and I thought ‘they’ve got it wrong.’ I said it out loud; I said ‘Who’s Deathstroke?’ and the guy at the customs counter went ‘oh, you’re playing Deathstroke? He’s like the bad ass of the DC Comic world!’ I suddenly got all these ideas in my head. I looked at the computer, and saw the images and some stuff about Deathstroke. Then I was handed the script, and I [see] it’s this guy on an island who’s looking out for this kid,” he says.
“I’m glad I didn’t try to perpetrate some sort of preconditioned Deathstroke, because I don’t think that that’s what the directors and writers have wanted at this point in the show,” he explains. “I’m just playing it to be, I guess, what would be the emotional reality of the scenes, as we’re approaching it through the script. I mean, there are two Deathstrokes in this particular episode, so the audience will be kept guessing which way the choice of Deathstroke will go. Right now, I’m just playing Slade Wilson, a soldier who has decided to help a young kid survive on the island, and that young kid is going to be who you learn to be Arrow in the future. What Arrow learns, he learned from Slade Wilson. Whether that’s going to lead to an ultimate collision between the two of them is a script yet to be seen.”
It was easy for Bennett and Stephen Amell to get used to working with one another, as they had first interacted in New Zealand, when Amell auditioned for Spartacus. “Steve’s great. I met Steve in New Zealand; he came to us and read for Spartacus, when Andy Whitfield said that they should go ahead with the show and cast a new Spartacus, so I met Steve then, and we had a good rapport in New Zealand. It’s one of those things where the wheels keep on turning and the circles meet yet again somewhere,” Manu says. Their paths crossed again this past Summer when both were in San Diego for Comic-Con. “There’s already this basis of friendship there, so we fell into it pretty easily. He’s really doing some great stuff. I think in this particular episode, he and I put it to each other to really go through not only the challenges of Slade and Oliver having it out on the island and going through the processes of ramping things up, but I think Stephen and I manage to ramp up, hopefully, what is some of the dramatic content of the series,” he says.
Also related to Spartacus, Manu points out that Slade and his fighting style are purposely very different from what you’d see on Spartacus with Crixus. “One of the things that they brought to my attention in joining this show, was that they didn’t want Crixus,” he says. “They didn’t want the image of Crixus and his huge sword strokes in the arena. This is all about speed; it’s all about hand to hand combat. It’s about getting things over and done with as fast as possible. That’s got a lot to do with martial arts. We’re using fighting sticks, and there’s one particular moment where I’m teaching him how to move with the fighting sticks, and I’m hitting him, and making him frustrated, because he just can’t keep up with it. He turns and says ‘what the hell are we doing with fighting sticks? What if somebody points a gun in my face?’ I say ‘why don’t you point a gun in my face.’ The audience will find out in a matter of split seconds what a mistake that was,” he laughs. “That’s how Oliver learns. That’s why he comes back to the city five years later and he can do what he does. He learned it from Slade Wilson, possibly Deathstroke himself.”
Ultimately, Bennett feels that “The Odyssey” is a “wonderful point in the birth of one of [fans’] favorite characters.” “The Deathstroke character is kind of really put to question in this particular episode, because literally, Deathstroke ends up fighting Deathstroke, and they have quite an interesting battle in tonight’s episode,” he teases.
“This show is all about ramping up what’s happening on the island, and I think at this point in the season, it’s just starting to ramp up. It’s like in Spartacus, the more you went along, the better it got, you know? You get wound up in the characters and the relationships, and the writers just keep reeling it in. It’s like bringing in your marlin. It’s getting close and it’s jumping out of the water, and you’re really enjoying the experience. This is the time for the audience to get their satisfaction from the series, from here on in,” he promises.
Arrow is new tonight at 8PM on The CW in the United States, and at 7PM on CTV in Canada. See a gallery of images from the episode!