Watching the annual Arrowverse crossovers are fun for fans. But behind the scenes, they're not the most glamorous to shoot. Departing Arrow star Stephen Amell revealed as much in a recent appearance on Michael Rosenbaum's podcast Inside of You. With his obligations to Arrow finished, Amell didn't hold back releasing some pent-up frustrations with The CW's complex, machine-like process, which he says is "a little disrespectful to actors."
On January 21, Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum released its episode with Stephen Amell, the actor's second appearance on the show after a previous interview in 2018. The episode gained attention because of Amell's panic attack halfway through recording, which is heard in the episode. Three weeks later, Amell returned to explain just how hard the end of Arrow hit him.
You can listen to Amell's episode on Inside of You here.
When it came time at the end of the episode to answer questions from fans sent to Rosenbaum via his Patreon, one fan asked if the crossover specials are "fun to shoot."
"Be honest," Rosenbaum told his guest. Amell immediately replied, "No."
Added Amell, "They're not brutal. You just can't..." The actor pauses before continuing, "They come out great. The fans love them. I always think of what we leave on the table because we try and shoot something really extraordinary, and with this amazing scope, within the confines of our typical schedule. It's never made any sense to me."
In his explanation, Amell brings up the difficulty shooting a particular scene in the recent special, "Crisis on Infinite Earths."
Spoilers for "Crisis on Infinite Earths" ahead.
In the first episode of "Crisis on Infinite Earths," a crossover between the TV shows Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, and Batwoman, Amell's Oliver Queen/Green Arrow sacrifices himself in order to buy time for the citizens of Earth-38 to evacuate. Later, at the Arrow Bunker, Oliver dies on a gurney, surrounded by some of his closest friends.
But in reality, behind the cameras, the scene wasn't shot with all the actors together. Due to the rigorous demands to shooting, not to mention the spliced nature of the crossovers, Amell found himself filming a very important scene for his character of eight seasons on another show (Supergirl), with a completely different crew he's not familiar with, opposite characters whose actors weren't there because of their schedules.
"In the first episode of the crossover that has already aired, my character dies," Amell explains. "And he's dying on a gurney in the Arrow Bunker. some of my lines... My lines are to Kat McNamara, to Caity Lotz, and to Grant [Gustin]. We're trying to wrap Caity and Grant because they had hit their 13-hour mark, or whatever it was. They were trying to wrap Caity and Grant before I shot the coverage of the scene where I died."
"I blame no one for this," Amell adds, "but this is a scene with me from Arrow, that's taking place on Supergirl with a Supergirl crew with demands on both Grant and Caity Lotz who are on Flash and Legends who are on a different schedule than the crossover because they're shooting different shit and they're trying to pull them so they don't, Flash and Legends, mess up their day the next day. Meanwhile, the fucking Green Arrow is laying on a gurney trying to deliver his lines to something other than a fucking tennis ball."
(Tennis balls are used on movie and TV sets as a way for actors to direct their line of sight to missing characters or CGI creations that have yet to be rendered on computers.)
"There are lots of scenes where I'm acting and there just aren't other actors there, and that's just not an acceptable way of creating the best product from my perspective," Amell said on the podcast. "I think it is a little disrespectful to actors and their process, speaking personally. Other actors may not give a shit."
It's a rare but eye-opening moment of honesty where Amell's obligation to talk up the product isn't required. Instead, Amell shows just how difficult creating for television can be. While both professional movies and TV are subject to union rules that mandate things like set hours to work, there is an ounce more leeway with movies (especially independent productions) for actors to try things out and experiment together on set.
There are still opportunities for that on any given episode of Arrow. But crossovers like Crisis demand that all the shows deliver cuts on time, which means corners need to be cut. Hence, you have the most important moment in all of Arrow history -- all eight seasons of it -- not having the proper ingredients its actors need. Amell and co. no doubt worked hard, but you can just tell they weren't sharing the scene's emotions together because of how many cuts between characters take place. It's almost distracting.
Still, all that matters is what makes it to the screen. Amell says as much, emphasizing one more time that "they come out great. I'm glad that we do them. They're not the most fun to shoot."
Arrow airs its final episode on January 28 at 9 p.m. Eastern on The CW.