The drama series Arrow will not only have been on The CW for eight seasons by the time it ends its run this season, but it also kicked off the Arrow-verse, which has led to such other TV shows as The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning and Batwoman. The story it’s been telling has seen characters come and go, timelines changed, more Earths revealed, and team-ups that have saved the planet, on more than one occasion, and it’s almost guaranteed that there will still be more triumphs and tears before the credits roll on the last episode.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actor David Ramsey (who plays John Diggle, aka Spartan) talked about how it feels different when you know that you’re shooting the last season of your show, the experience of taking this journey alongside Stephen Amell (who plays Oliver Queen, aka Arrow), the absence of Emily Bett Rickards (“Felicity”), the episodes that he’s most proud of, whether he wishes he could have more of a say in the final outcome, what he learned about himself by directing the series, which other shows he might like to direct an episode of, the dynamic between Oliver and Diggle in Season 8, what we’ll see of Diggle’s family dynamic, whether we might feel a sense of closure at the end, and what he’s planning to take home from the set.
Collider: Does it feel different, when you know you’re shooting the last season and that this will be the end?
DAVID RAMSEY: Yes, it does. I’ve done a show and thought we were continuing to go, and it’s been cancelled. This happened a couple of times, so I do know what that feels like. This feels better. It’s still bittersweet ‘cause there’s still some sadness to it, obviously, but to have an idea of when we’re ending and how we’re ending, and to know where the characters are going, it’s a lot better, in that way. There’s still some sadness, but it’s better than the alternative.
Does it feel weird to be doing the last season without Emily Bett Rickards, after having her there for so many seasons? Did you think you’d all be going to the end together?
RAMSEY: We did. When Emily announced it, and she told us that she was going to be leaving, it was sad. The first day on set of Episode 801, we were in the area where Emily normally is, and it was different. It had changed, and Emily was not there. You immediately feel it because Felicity’s presence was so big to the show. When that’s not there, particularly in the space that she normally inhabits, you feel it. It just speaks to how fortunate we were, in the show, to have everyone really gel. That doesn’t happen a lot. That’s what I’ll miss the most. We’ve worked on the show for eight seasons, and you form these relationships. That’s what I’ll miss, more than anything else. Like any other job, when you’ve worked at a job and you like who you’re working with, and you’ve worked there for eight years, and then you have to leave the job, you’re gonna miss the people you worked with.
Is there an episode where you felt most proud of yourself, as an actor, and is there an episode where you felt most proud of your scene partner?
RAMSEY: Both would be in Season 6, with Oliver and Diggle’s fight. There are several times that I’ve been proud with Stephen [Amell]. In the finale, I was very proud of Stephen and where he went, emotionally. With Tommy’s death, I was proud of where Stephen went, emotional. I was proud of both Stephen and Emily, in the finale of Season 7. But in terms of myself with my scene partner, it would probably be with Stephen in Season 6, for the big fight between Oliver and Diggle. We crashed through everything, and we worked for a long time, trying to get the language right and how we wanted to see brothers fight. It wasn’t gonna be a martial arts fight. It was gonna be brothers fighting. I have two brothers, and I know how they fight. There’s no martial arts involved. You’re breaking things, and your mother has to break you up. So, just trying to get that right, and get the language, attitude, mood and intentions right, I was most proud of our performances together in that.
Are you someone who wishes that you could have say in the outcome and where things end up, or are you good with leaving that to someone else and having it be their responsibility?
RAMSEY: Both. I go back and forth with that. There are times when I wish I had a little more control over it and I wish I could take it where I want to take it. And then, there are times when I understand that I don’t know as much as I think I know and I’m like, “Nope, it’s a great thing that you’re not at the helm. Just hit the mark, shut up and do your job.” So, I go back and forth between those two.
When you were at the helm of it all, what do you feel you learned about yourself, as a director?
RAMSEY: That my greatest strength is as an actor. I forgot that for a moment. But then, I remembered that, with the directors that come to set and direct us, the ones I really connect with are the ones that either love actors, or were once actors, because ultimately, that’s their approach. Their approach is storytelling, the way an actor would tell a story. That’s what I learned, as a director. Just communicate your vision and let the people do the jobs. The DP is awesome. Let him do it. The first camera operator is fantastic. Let him do it. The focus puller is great. Let him do it. The actors are great. Let them do it. You tweak it, here and there, but for the most part, you watch the process, you communicate your vision, and that’s it. And when other directors have come to the show and done that, that’s what I appreciate the most. I had to learn to be that director.
Once the show is done and you have some more time, have you thought about another show in the Arrow-verse that you’d like to go director an episode of?
RAMSEY: All of them. Why not? [Greg Berlanti] has 250,000 shows on television. I think I would have to work hard to miss a Berlanti show, if I threw a stone. He has so many shows. But the immediate ones that come to my head are obviously The Flash, which is right next door, Supergirl, Batwoman, and Legends. Riverdale would be fun. Those are shows that come to mind, and directing is on the table, so we’ll see. I don’t have a thing where it’s like, “Okay, I’m going right to this, right after.” I’m just gonna see what the landscape is. Arrow has allowed me the latitude to be able to look to see what’s next and make some decisions that are right for me.
What’s it like to take the journey with Stephen Amell, on this last season, and know that you’ll be closing out this experience alongside him, just like how you started?
RAMSEY: I couldn’t ask for anything better. Stephen’s just as passionate now as he was on day one of the first episode. To be able to close it out with him, I’m sure it’s probably much of how Jared [Padalecki] and Jensen [Ackles] feel [with Supernatural]. It’s how this should be. It’s one of those things that’s never gonna happen again. You’re never gonna have a show and all of these integrated spinoffs again. CSI did, to a certain degree, but not with five or six spin-offs. That’s unprecedented. So, to be able to close it out with Stephen, it feels like it’s the right thing. This is how it should be.
What can we expect from the dynamic between Oliver and Diggle, this season?
RAMSEY: Again, it’s as it should be, finally. Their differences have been laid aside. Diggle is at Oliver’s side, exactly where he should be. They’ve worked out some of those issues, so now it’s about the mad rush to our crossover and facing this cosmic being, which Diggle doesn’t blink at, for one second. He remains the absolute stalwart and confident partner that he’s always been to Oliver.
What can we expect to see with Diggle’s family?
RAMSEY: Lyla Michaels (Audrey Marie Anderson) is a big part of the season. She’s the leader of Argus. She’s the new Amanda Waller. So, where that is with the relationship that she has with this very virtuous guy, in John Diggle, we work that out. We find out where that’s going. Their child, JJ, who’s into a lot of the nefarious stuff, in the future, and you’ll find out more about their relationship with him, and their adopted child and their rivalry. There’s a lot of stuff in the Diggle family that has to be worked out, in these 10 episodes, and will be. And ultimately, I think we have to find out what’s going on with Green Lantern. We’ve been teasing that since Season 2 or 3. It’s been a crazy amount of time, so we have to put a button on that, and from what I’m hearing, we will.
Have you been dying for those answers, yourself?
RAMSEY: I would have been if Marc [Guggenheim] and Greg [Berlanti] weren’t incredibly forthright with the process and some of the politics. By the time any show is up on television, there have been literally thousands of hoops that have been jumped through. It doesn’t happen arbitrarily. There’s been a tremendous amount of logistics and moving parts that have come together, to make this one show happen. How Greg has duplicated that, over and over and over and over, and 18 times over again, has just been incredible. But he and Marc and Beth [Schwartz] have been very forthright about what they want to do with that whole possible mythos, with Green Lantern. So, if it had not been for them, yes, I’d probably be pulling my hair out, what little I have, and saying, “What’s going on, guys?,” but they’ve been very honest about it.
With what you’ve been told about the season, do you feel like you’ll have a sense of closure, or do you feel like there will still be some questions left unanswered?
RAMSEY: Yes, there is some definite closure to some parts, and there’s definitely questions still laid out there and certainly lives that aren’t fully completed yet. By the time the series ends, you’ll still say, “Okay, I still want to see more of this,” without a doubt. There are situations in this show, by the time Episode 10 is done, where you will clearly say, “Okay, I wanna see more.” It isn’t wrapped up in one little nice bow. To some degree, there are pieces that are wrapped up, but this is a show that has a lot of moving parts and a lot of different characters that can live on past the show, so you’ll still wanna see more. That’s part of the strength of what’s happening, in this last season. This isn’t a situation where people are saying, “Oh, you’re still on?” It’s like, “You’re leaving? No!” That sentiment is there because there’s still a lot of life left to the show.
Is there fun in exploring the legacy of the show and getting some of the previous actors back, who haven’t been around in awhile?
RAMSEY: Yes. We’ll be seeing a lot of characters that you haven’t seen in awhile.
Is it fun to explore your character, in that sense, in relation to who he is now?
RAMSEY: Yeah, it is. John Diggle, in Season 2, was alongside Arrow, Arsenal in red leather, Black Canary in black leather, in a brown bomber jacket with jeans. Even in that sense, it’s great that he’s grown to this Spartan character. It’s great to see how that relationship is now interacting with Flash and Supergirl, and the other characters. By the time we’re done, you’re gonna wanna see more iterations of that character. You’re gonna say, “Great, let’s see more,” which is fantastic.
Have you started thinking about what you’d like to take home from the set?
RAMSEY: A Spartan helmet is going with me. It already has. It’s already gone. The Spartan helmet is mine. I don’t want the leather, but I want the helmet. The gun that Diggle wears is almost like the Deckard gun from Blade Runner, so I wanna take that, too. I’m a Blade Runner fan. I probably won’t get away with that, but the helmet would be good. Imagine you’re on the subway in New York, and I’m in the helmet, asleep in the back. That would be fun. They’ll be like, “Is that somebody in cosplay?” So, yes, I want the helmet.
Are you looking forward to the fact that you also get to end on another crossover that’s bigger than ever?
RAMSEY: I’m a geek. I’m a comic book nerd. So the idea that we’re able to have these big, huge crossovers is exciting. I was watching Bionic Woman and couldn’t wait for it to crossover with The Six Million Dollar Man. That was my life. So, to be a part of the flagship show of these crossovers is great. I’m just a geek, when it comes to this stuff. I love being able to be part of it.
Arrow airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.