Interview: Arrow‘s Katie Cassidy on Strong Female Characters, Costuming, and Kicking Ass

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Laurel Lance has been through a lot on Arrow. A lot. She’s lost people she loved, got them back again, lost them again, descended into a deep depression highlighted by substance abuse, destroyed her relationship with her father, and become the Black Canary (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this beloved comic character).

Katie Cassidy has spent the last few years bringing this complicated character to life, and sat down with a room full of reporters at Dragon Con to answer a few questions about her training schedule, how much input she had in the Black Canary costume (including a few tips for cosplayers), what’s in store for Laurel in Season 4, and if fans will get to see Laurel and Sara fighting the good fight together:

Reporter: How’s the training going?

Katie Cassidy: It’s good. It’s really good. I actually brought my trainer with me just because I am the type of person that if there – if he’s not here, if I’m not with my trainer, it’s easy for me to be like, “oh, I’m just too tired this morning.” But it’s really good. It’s really, really hard, but I’m in it. It’s awesome.

Reporter: Have you had to ramp up the training for having more of a role on ‘Team Arrow’ as Black Canary?

Cassidy: Oh yeah, absolutely. I think second season, Mark Guggenheim and I had a discussion about the physicality and the difference between Laurel, you know, how pre season 2 you saw her go from being an alcoholic and a drug addict. Literally it was like a disaster all day every day. Which as an actor, it’s challenging, and I love that. But it was really nice and I think a really good arc for me to come out the other side. You know, hit rock bottom, get sober.

And then Season 3, we spoke about the physicality of Laurel, how there has to be a drastic difference. So I spent a lot of time, and still do, obviously, to dedicating my hiatus to training and working out. When I first started, it was 5 days a week, and I was training 3 hours a day. But not just straight up weights or cardio, it would be a mixture of things. It would be like an hour of weights, and then it would be an hour of kickboxing, and then an hour of yoga. So it wasn’t like – there were definitely breaks in between. But I don’t know, I feel like I wanted to make the character, for me as a professional actor, as legitimate as possible.

Reporter: Do you do a lot of your own stunts?

Cassidy: As much as they let me do. For insurance reasons, obviously they’re not going to let me jump off a building. But I would love to – it would be fun, for sure. But they let me do as much as I can. And my stunt double, Atlin [Mitchell], she is fantastic. And I always say, like, I watch her – she’s really good at morphing herself to the actor. Because she’s also doubled Caity Lotz before. And Caity Lotz and I, we have different mannerisms, obviously we’re different people. And when she doubles Caity Lotz, she does a really good job at sort of forming and morphing into that. And when she doubles me, same thing.

We get to talk – and what’s cool about it is, I spoke with her the other night – she shoots, you know like when they do giant masters? It’s normally – during fight scenes – it’s normally the stunt team because they want to go all out. And I get that, that’s totally fine with me. But we’ll discuss if the Black Canary is going to jump off the roof and onto the ground, I am trying to – I’ll talk to her about picking up mannerisms for Caity because we’re sisters. So, even just like the way she falls, she lands, and the way she looks up, and the way she kind of crouches – just small little things just to sort of tie us together and create that, I guess, sisterly bond.

Reporter: How comfortable is the costume?

Cassidy: It’s actually really comfortable. Maya [Mani], who is fantastic, our costume designer – I love her. She let me actually have a little bit of input. And I have to say, I was really – I was just really happy I was not – I was not fully exposed. Oh good! I’m not going to be running around in a – what are those things called? A corset?

Audience Member: A bustier.

Cassidy: A bustier, yeah. And I saw Caity when she was wearing it, and she was freezing all the time. I was just like, I’m going to remember when designing my costume, not to do that. But they let me incorporate, you know, the – I wear these like motorcycle gloves that are fingerless, I guess, gloves. You know, just a hats off to like the comics and the fishnets. They’re fishnet. And then the bodysuit underneath, the top of it is sort of like a fishnet. And so they let me put little touches here and there. I also had a lot to do with the makeup.

 It’s interesting – we had several – we had probably 6 different tests of what the Black Canary is going to look like when it was the Black Canary and when I’m suited up in costume. Everything looks very – I look so masculine in the mask because everybody has blacked out eyes. My suit, though, is so masculine. I was just like – I just looked very intense with the suit being masculine and then the face, and the black – I was just like, can we just make this a little bit more girly, sexy, not so like, harsh?

And they actually, at first, that was like their least favorite look. Or Mark Guggenheim’s. And then our makeup artist and Greg Berlanti pleaded their case, and they were like – she looks better this way. And the suit is masculine enough, so they let me incorporate a lot of the details of the makeup.

Reporter: Is that where the dark lip comes in?

Cassidy: Yeah, that was me. [Laughter] And the uh – it’s Vino, by the way. MAC. It’s actually a whole process, and I’m very specific, and I love minor details. My bottom eyelashes – and I don’t know even if it translates – but I’m really into fashion and I just love it. I basically take my bottom lashes and make them kind of like – you remember Twiggy? So I separate them with a tweezer, but it takes like 20 minutes. Just for bottom lashes. So I literally sit there and tweeze them together so they have that more dramatic effect. But I think it looks cool. And it’s funky. Spice things up a bit.

Reporter: So after 2 years of seeing everybody else get into costumes, and having fights, and being able to do all that, would have been kind of really exciting to be able to get in there and join them.

Cassidy: Oh my gosh, yes. Absolutely. I feel like – I met with The CW – I’m going to start over. I met with The CW before I even read Arrow, got offered Arrow, before Arrow was even around. And I said, ‘listen, I really want to do – I’ve played a lot of strong female women characters. I’ve always wanted to do action, I’ve always worked out. I think having a healthy lifestyle is important. I just, I want to do some like, bad-ass, kick-ass, action show. If you guys have one, let me – you know, let’s talk.’

So Arrow came about and I met with Greg, and David Nutter, Andrew Kreisberg, and Mark Guggenheim, and they pitched me the show. And they were like, well, in the comics, Laurel Lance is Black Canary, so probably like, you know, season 1, season 2. And I was like, ok great. And then obviously the way – it’s television, anything can happen.

I’m actually grateful and glad the way that they went about it, because it gave my character someplace to go. And when you’re on a show season after season, after season, I am so lucky that I’ve had this wonderful arc that they wrote for me. But, yeah, definitely in season 1 and season 2, it was a little frustrating because I wasn’t a part of a story, and I wanted to be in there. And then when Caity Lotz came on – who by the way, I love. She’s amazing. It was definitely hard because I didn’t know. They hadn’t told me that she was coming until like a week before. And I was like, I didn’t say this – I thought this in my head. I’m pretty sure they told me that I was supposed to do that. And then I was just like, you know what? I would just have faith and I trust them, they know what they’re doing. It’s television, I’m a professional. I’m not going to – I tried to handle it in the best way possible. And she was so great.

It was also good, I think, just watching. Because we were still trying to find our legs in season 1 and season 2. It was obviously – it’s been an honor. I am so happy and lucky, and I’m so grateful, and I’m so excited I’m finally part of ‘Team Arrow’.

The one thing I will say is though, when you’re a superhero, and you’re in a show, you work until 4 or 5am. So, I’m nocturnal. My family in L.A. they’re always like, they’ll call me or whatever. And I’ll call them back at like 2 in the afternoon or 3, they’re like, ‘what’s up? How are you?’ And I’m like, ‘sorry, I just woke up.’ And they’re like, ‘it is 3 in the afternoon.’ And I was like ‘I have to go to work at 7pm and work until 7am!’ And they’re like ‘ooohhhh, right. Why?’ I’m like, ‘have you seen our show? We’re a night show.’

But it’s fun, and I’m grateful.

Reporter: So did you and Caity get to do any kind of training together, or working together on it. I know she’s done a lot of action stuff before. She has a good fighting background, and whatnot. Did she give you any pointers or anything like that before you took over the mantle?

Cassidy: Not really, because, again, Laurel was the Black Canary, but she went out there and was fighting with her heart. She didn’t know how. So, trying to play it as legitimate as possible. I went through – I was on Supernatural for a year. And they had put me through fight training. I mean, a long time ago, but I kind of knew. And just from being in television and doing film and just watching, I know how to sell things, and I kind of know blocking-wise, the basics. But I have a feeling that she and I will be training together.

And I just think it’s cool, and she’s become a good friend of mine. And now, absolutely – I totally look up to her. She’s badass, obviously – I feel like she’s a stuntwoman. She’s just so good at it, and she’s really dedicated, and I am as well. And I think the two of us, even if it’s on-screen or off-screen, I think the two of us will definitely be training together.

Reporter: I was going to ask about White Canary/Black Canary possible fights together. Is that something you think, maybe Arrow? Or do you think you will be on Legends of Tomorrow

Cassidy: I don’t know. I think you’re going to have to watch both of them. I can’t tell you. As much as I’d love to tell you. What’s great about this whole universe and what our producers did so brilliantly with three shows, we’re all in Vancouver, we all are in the same world. And it’s obviously definitely a possibility to do – everyone to be crossing over. And first, Sarah being my sister, you’d think that at least, Paul [Blackthorne] and I at some point would probably be involved in their show, and hopefully they are involved in ours. And I am just so happy to have more friends in Vancouver.

And Danielle Panabaker is a dear friend of mine. She’s actually my roommate. I’ve known her for a really long time, and her coming, and Caity, and I was just like – ‘Yes’. Because season 1 and 2 it was our show and I didn’t know many people in Vancouver, aside from our cast. It gets a little lonely, but it’s awesome. I’m so happy and excited.

Reporter: How many months are you there?

Cassidy: 10 and a half.

Reporter: So you essentially live in Vancouver.

Cassidy: Yeah. I sold my house in L.A. I have an apartment in Vancouver. I love it, I mean, it’s beautiful. It’s just day in and day out and then, obviously, it’s a bit dark for a while. I call it dark days. You know, when it starts to get rainy. I try to get away for like a weekend or something. Get some sunshine. But in the summer it’s the most beautiful city ever. It’s gorgeous – the weather’s just perfect.

But it’s such a good location for film because – like a dark show, or a darker show. You know, it’s gloomy and it sort of just helps set the tone.

Reporter: Are there going to be more Laurel storylines that don’t necessarily involve a love interest?

Cassidy: You know, it’s interesting, I have to say I am really happy because I like the way they’ve – the direction they’ve gone with my character. Because they’ve created – I’m not the girlfriend or the love interest. I actually have my own storyline and I’m not just there to serve as the love interest. I feel like – yeah, I’m sure at some point – hopefully, I mean, not to be selfish on a personal level, hopefully they’ll cast someone to potentially be a love interest. I think that it will probably happen, and I like that I kind of have my own storyline aside from ‘Team Arrow’ as well. I feel like I have my own identity. I honestly, I don’t know when they would do it, because I feel like Laurel right now is so – because being on a team, being part of it so, still is new to her – that’s sort of just where she’s focused. And again, kind of just owning her – what she’s doing. Owning herself, the Black Canary, proving herself. And I think she’s sort of just leaving that world, and supportive of Oliver and Felicity…. I love Emily. I love her so much. Sorry, I just have to say it.

We call ourselves – someone said on Twitter once, recently, because she’s become like one of my best friends. What did they call it – Kamly. Katie and Emily. They called us Kamly, and I thought that was cute.

Eris Walsh (@SheGeeksBlog) is obsessed with Batman, Neil Gaiman, chemistry, Doctor Who, and baseball. She also enjoys scouring conventions for fantastic examples of cosplay craftsmanship and discussing role-playing games (both table top and LARP), comics, movies, etc. with other enthusiasts. Eris can also be found on her blog She-Geeks, where she writes about geek stuff; On Comicosity, where she posts comic book reviews; and on the Krewe du Who community webpage, where she posts weekly reviews of current Doctor Who episodes.

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