When you think of the person cutting together roaring Wookies, blaster battles and high speed space chases, you don’t necessarily think of a female, ex journalist from Brisbane Australia, and yet, it is in fact Pippa Anderson who is the Vice President of Post Production for all Star Wars films.
One female of many on the Lucasfilm executive team, as well as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Anderson oversees the entire post process for the Lucasfilm slate, including live-action, direct-to-consumer, and animation. Since 2013, with production schedules often overlapping, she has led the post production process for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, and “Solo: A Star Wars Story” as well as the “Star Wars Rebels” animated series. She will continue to oversee post for the upcoming Star Wars: Episode IX.
Ahead of the digital, DVD and Blu-ray release of “SOLO: A Star Wars Story”, we sat down with Pippa to talk life in the male-dominated film industry, how Peter Jackson started her on her journey to Hollywood, and her advice for keeping sane with so many (high-stakes) projects on the go.
When you first started your career, it was actually in journalism, and now you’re the VP of post-production over at Lucas film. Were you surprised about where your career has taken you?
Pippa: Oh yes, I would say surprised and so amazed, and you know really pleased the opportunity came up and that I was in a position where I could grasp it with both hands. That involved obviously changing jobs, but also changing life, moving to Sydney, to New Zealand and then setting up life here in California. So yep all of that was fantastic. You know when I came into Lucasfilm at the time I did in 2013, Kathy [Kathleen Kennedy] and I, we’ve talked about it recently, taking over from George and you know we were in development on “The Force Awakens”, which was the first film with Disney, and then followed up with “Rogue One”, and then we also have Rebels really going strong. And then there was “Last Jedi” and then “SOLO”. “Force Awakens” was the highest number one movie of 2015, “Rogue One” 2016 and “The Last Jedi” 2017. Not only are they amazing movies, but grossing crazy amounts of money. Wow, how could I not be amazed, surprised and delighted to be right in the middle of that?
And I hear you still have your Australian accent?
Pippa: Yes, I was born in Brisbane in Queensland. I spent a good deal of my adult life before heading off to New Zealand to work with Peter Jackson, in Sydney; in Putney area in Sydney, for those that really want to get specific because my great passion, one of my many great passions is boats in the water.
So we lived on an island there at the time, you know; as in you could only get there by boat. So it was a pretty and amazingly fun early life and I was a freelance editor and a post-editor supervisor then and then I moved over to join Peter Jackson to be his head of post in New Zealand. But then from there of course, you know I moved to California and I spend some time in London. So I think my accent is pretty modernized these days. You know, it’s got a lot of all of those flavours in it, so. Funny it only takes an hour or so to– when I’m back in the room with all these Aussies, for it all to come back.
It seems that almost every aspect of film, from screenwriters to directors to editors to critics, is male-dominated. Lucasfilm has an executive team that is more than 50 per cent female which is incredible to see. Was that part of the attraction for taking this position?
Pippa: You know I can’t say enough how what an honour it is to be part of the executive team under Kathy and also under Lynwen Brennan who’s the General Manager of Lucasfilm and also the Executive Vice President. I mean, both incredibly strong, smart, sharp savvy women and so they’ve surrounded themselves, and I’m delighted to be part of it. There are strong, smart, savvy women who are at the heads of very diverse roles such as Legal Finance, Human Resources, Post-Production, Publicity, Marketing, Story Development; what else? X-lab you know, ministry of entertainment, visual effects, animation, et cetera.
I mean it’s phenomenal that it’s across the board with a range of skills and talents – no wonder it’s a great team, but you know we have at our helm if you will, we have Kathy who’s such an inspiration, such a role model and an inspiration.
Working on so many films across the board, such as “SOLO”, and I’m sure you guys have a really busy slate, how do you manage to stay (a) Sane, and (b) Have that work-life balance?
Pippa: Yes, okay, I think that might be a different interview [Laughing].
How do we do it all? I certainly don’t wear the Gal Gadot Wonder Woman suit. Because the secret really is just amazingly dedicated teams. Really talented people, you know I’m talking in post now.
In terms of Skywalker Sound, in terms of the editors and the editorial team. I mean everybody loves Star Wars and so it isn’t usually very difficult to find A-listers, people who are excellent, who are really keen to work on a production, to come on-board. I for one definitely try to provide an environment where everyone can be individuals, and collaborative, work together, still be at their best and be at their best at all times within their own areas of the post-production process.
And they are the ones that enable me to kind of stay on top; not sure about the sanity bits, and definitely another conversation but stay on top of all of the curveballs, the changes, the very fact that that for me in my role, where I have very often got different complex productions you know; we’ve got one production that might be going on with all of the challenges that entails, but then we all have a number of different productions, all the way from starting to talk about something in the future in the very early sort of nascent stages, all the way through to whether you’re in that full-on crazy delivery time with mastering delivery and try to manage the system. All of that at any one day of any one week can theoretically all be happening at the same time. So you know I rely incredibly heavily on all of the teams both in London where we typically shoot, and in the teams in post land which is usually for us in Los Angeles, and of course my core, my incredibly, oh such strong, small core team here in San Francisco.
And did you grow up watching Star Wars, were you a big fan? And if so, what is one of your favourite Star Wars movies from that era, just for the fans out there?
Pippa: First of all I should say I grew up loving movies. I love that version of storytelling. I mean using all the different aspects like location and music and picture obviously and all that stuff. I just loved that storytelling and thought it was such a good expression of whatever was going on in society or in the world at that time. I wasn’t per say a Star Wars fan, but I very quickly became one. I’m old enough to have been there when the original came out. And I just was so smitten with this movie, and it was different, there was nothing else like that around at the time and I just loved the way that the story was excitingly told.
For the time, it was sophisticated. So as a movie experience, it was amazing. Now I’m talking about “A New Hope” now. And what it did do ,and then this was George’s brilliance, was just those fundamental things and issues like good and evil, and anger and betrayal and sacrifice and such different level; all those things that make human beings tick, and enable human beings to either effectively or not, interact with each other. It was just so well done that I was smitten, you see, and I saw the movie many times.
Then of course I loved “Empire” and “The Return of the Jedi”, but I have a special soft spot for “A New Hope”, just because I think it was that the first time I really received a movie like that into my heart.
What excites you about working on the Star Wars franchise in terms of the direction it’s going ?
Pippa: What I love is the fact that now with the new Star Wars films, I really loved the fact that it is so generational, speaks to all generations, and really able to go in that direction of diversity. I mean obviously as a woman we have this amazing executives with so many women but just also there’s such strong women being a role model. And then we’ve got women, people of colour, people of different backgrounds. We’ve got– yes, our minutes you know I could wax on forever but I love the fact that the standalones allow us to go inside the Star Wars universe and express new things. We can deal with stories, we can answer questions like Solo came about; how did he and Chewie meet, how did they find the Millennium Falcon, how did they get it off land, metal etc.
All of those things which is in sort of a Canon if you will, but it’s just very exciting to be able to explore the Star Wars universe now and do that in a way that is really satisfying from a personal and a sort of a societal and social point of view.
What kind of advice can you give, kind of aspiring filmmakers?
Pippa: Honestly, I think I’ve got to say this. I think you know I don’t want this to sound glib or anything but I think you know the best thing you can do is to be a bit of student of life.
Really, you know be observant, watch lots of movies, be open in your thinking, respond to people around you and everything because all of those things are a part of I think what makes you a good filmmaker or a good person in post-production – in fact a good human being really in all those ways. I mean you can choose to go to some film school or you can choose to go out like I did – and back then, by the way there weren’t so many film schools or possibilities to do it that way, you effectively came up through the ranks in a way; and they both have pluses and minuses, but they both get you to the same goal if you could be determined. And I think that’s one thing that is to be is, just don’t give up.
And be serious, keep your eyes open and don’t give up, and then as the opportunities reveal themselves, take them.
“SOLO: A Star Wars Story” is now available on digital, DVD and Blu-ray.
Extensive extras invite fans aboard the Millennium Falcon with Han, Chewie and Lando, and behind the scenes with the stellar cast and crew
Lucasfilm’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” directed by Academy Award®–winning filmmaker Ron Howard—the creator of unforgettable films, such as “A Beautiful Mind,” “Apollo 13,” “Parenthood” and “Splash”—took moviegoers on this summer’s wildest ride with the most beloved scoundrel in the galaxy, Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich). The action-packed journey explores Han’s first encounters with future friend and copilot Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and notorious gambler LandoCalrissian (Donald Glover), as well as his adventure-filledpast alongside fellow street thief Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke)and career criminal Beckett (Woody Harrelson).
Interview: Patrick Lee, co-founder of Rotten Tomatoes
”Everyone from the original team is super happy that it’s still around”
When Martin Scorsese pens an entire essay about how your company has ruined cinema, you know you’ve made an impact. But where are the original founders of the ‘industry destroying’ site? What do they think of it now, and would they do anything to change it?
While in Melbourne as part of an event with Hacker Exchange, connecting Aussie entrepreneurs with Silicon Valley, Mandy spoke with the former CEO and original co-founder of Rotten Tomatoes, Patrick Lee. Working with Sarah Moran of Girl Geek Academy, the two tech entrepreneurs combined forces to host a #goldopen fundraising screening of “Crazy Rich Asians”, and support Asians in film.
Given the film’s staying power at the box office, the #goldopen initiative seems to be working.
How did you get involved with Girl Geek Academy?
Patrick: I met Sarah at an event with Hacker Exchange, and then we ended up talking about a bunch of different things, including that I had been helping to get the word out about “Crazy Rich Asians”.
It’s a huge moment for Asian representation in Hollywood. How relieved were you when you saw the film and it delivered?
Patrick: I actually didn’t know, we saw the film, we did a screening to some a bit earlier with some other influencers to help get behind the film to support it, and at that point in time I don’t think the ratings have really started coming out, and all I could base everything on was the trailer, and I was like ‘I can’t really tell how good a movie is going to boom based on its trailer’, and after I saw it I was like ‘okay I’m pretty sure that’s going to “fresh”‘. And when it came out it was you know very fresh, it was holding at a hundred percent for a few days, and then it settled around I think 93 percent but that’s still amazingly high.
Patrick: Yes and also you know since it was important to make an impact with the box office, and the director of the shoot was saying $20 million would be really good, and it totally blew that as well.
Yes, $34 million that first week, just in the U.S., and it’s held so well. I’m Caucasian and female, so I always notice the gender disparity when I’m looking at films generally, you know at screenings and it’s like ‘great, another male protagonist in a male dominated film’, but I have been trying more recently to also look at diversity in general, and this film certainly brings attention to cultural representation, the first all-Westernised Asian cast since “The Joy Luck Club” in 1993.
Patrick: Yes, I mean it’s not just the director is Asian, the writers are Asian, yeah it’s been a really long time [since “The Joy Luck Club”], and when that came out I was still relatively young and you know everyone thought ‘oh this is going to change things’ and yeah, they didn’t change, but this time around, we can’t let this be a blip again, we have to really show Hollywood ‘hey, people will come out and support these things’, and they totally did. I think they said normally Asians are about 11 percent of the market usually and this was like 40 percent.
It’s interesting how these “fresh” and “rotten” scores are affecting, or perceived to be affecting, the box office now. Do you think if this film hadn’t done well with critics that would have impacted the box office?
Patrick: You know if it came out and it was very rough I think it definitely would have had a negative effect in that situation. It’s rare for a film to get 90 something percent with this, you know over a hundred reviews, so when there’s all this word of mouth, that actually adds to the word of mouth. I mean it was like the end to the trailers, that it was ‘certified fresh’ and then everyone was sharing it and then there’s always articles also writing about how it’s how it was not only like people trying to support this movie, and get the word out but the fact that it was you know so fresh, I think it definitely helped versus you know the other possibility where it works is here
I know you’re not involved with Rotten Tomatoes anymore, but obviously founding a company takes incredible commitment – mentally and financially – and I read that you lived in the office for six months in the beginning. You’ve invested so much getting it started, is it strange to see I guess how big and influential it has become?
Patrick: I mean everyone from the original team is super happy that it’s still around is continue to grow and even when we were running it it was pretty well known, but now it’s just on another level. For me personally, it’s kind of funny because after we sold I went to Asia for nine years, and in Asia very few people knew about it, you know there was little about Hollywood entertainment that they know, and then suddenly I come back after being away for almost a decade, and then everyone is like ‘oh my god you did Rotten Tomatoes’ and it was part of the public consciousness, and that was actually really interesting. Again I’m just happy it’s around, because a lot of my friends’ companies some that got sold at the time, within a year they didn’t exist anymore, because buyers run it to the ground, and they lose control.
Rotten Tomatoes has a strict criteria of who’s film rating they will factor in to their overall score, and one criticism of the site is that most of the critics are white males. Do you think there should be some work done to ensure more diverse representation of who is assessing the films?
Patrick: So when we ran it, we had criteria about what was a professional critic, we tried to make that distinction versus you know, the amateur critic, and they’d have to have reviewed a certain number of movies, and be part of a film critic society, or with some sort of media or publication or website that has a certain reach. The main thing is that critics will see nearly all the films that come out, and so then the rating will be consistent. You have to see everything and the thing with, say, user reviews and stuff is we didn’t know if people actually saw the movie or not.
You can go on IMDB or a lot of other sites that have these user reviews and even others, you can put a rating in, and you may not have ever seen that movie. And also with people who post user reviews, these are people who have seen the movies willingly, they paid and bought a tickets to see it, so they’re kind of inherently biased – they want to like it, it’s a decision to invest two hours and money that they spent, so there are those issues as far as trying to get more representation.
One thing I personally have always wanted, but when we ran it but we didn’t have the tech resources to build it, is what I call critics machine, where as a user go in and start putting in your reviews, and it will start trying to find critics and other users who have similar views on films, they could actually be a much better predictor for you than an overall critics score. But obviously that’s technically a lot of work, but I have suggested that many times because I think something like that would definitely solved the issues of representation, and I mean at the end of the day what is most important is just getting the rating that’s most accurate for you. And not everyone’s rating should be the same.
There was a study that found that male critics are harsher than women on female led films, films like ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, which has turned into a bit of a classic, across the board all the male critics rated it a lot less than the female ones. This was a film about fashion, not a film aimed at the traditional male, and that may have skewed their reception of it.
Patrick: Oh that’s interesting. There’s ways to have more demographics on the reviewers, and then they could add a filter for the critics – like a male, female or age or the other things. We don’t work there any more, but if we did, we would give you all of that.
But also on the other side, you don’t want it to be too narrow, or assume people different to you might enjoy the same things, or things they didn’t expect. I’d bet a lot of critics who reviewed “Crazy Rich Asians” didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as they did, and there’s something to be said for universality of storytelling.
Patrick: I mean definitely, especially considering that most of these critics or almost none of the critics are actually Asian, it makes it even more powerful to see that rating.
And what’s next for the #goldopen initiative supporting Hollywood films with Asian influence?
Patrick: They are actually trying right now to kind of get support behind another film called “Searching” with John Cho, and so they’re doing that but it’s a little bit I think tough because right now everyone’s so focused on “Crazy Rich Asians”, it’s kind of getting lost in the noise, but I believe some of the folks behind #goldopen are just trying to make it more of a film movement. Because from what I understand like the African-American communities have been really good about mobilising behind African American films, movies like “Get Out” and “Hidden Figures” and “Black Panther” which was amazing, but those box office records didn’t show up randomly. It was something that built up over many, many years, decades even, and I think they were very good about consistently coming out, supporting any film that had a high percentage of African Americans in it.
I think Asians were not always as good about doing that, and I think that maybe wherever these kind films, if they come out, you have to support them, whether it is your kind of movie or not, you still have to get behind it because that’s the only way that there will be more reach happening.
It’s similar with Australian films, they can get lost in the box office next to the Hollywood blockbusters, which makes it harder to fund more Australian films because they don’t make any money.
Patrick: And it really has to be the grassroots, like you got to start and it’s like that’s what we did with the cinema buyouts as part of #goldopen, we’re bringing people in there, and they’re like ‘how do we pay you for the ticket’, and we’re like ‘no, go out and buy more tickets’. That’s the way to make an impact.
Oz Comic Con Interview: Clare Kramer of Buffy, Bring It On
Clare Kramer first gained notice in an eye-catching turn as the headstrong cheerleader Courtney opposite Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku in “Bring It On”, and then followed it up with a role that was declared by TV Guide as one of the best villains of all time in “Buffy”.
Landing in Melbourne to host this year’s Oz Comic Con, we were thrilled to sit down with the award-winning actress, entertainment correspondent and pop culture authority.
I’m a huge “Buffy” fan, from the very beginning. Do you find it interesting that it’s resonated so well over so long a period of time?
Clare: You know, it’s amazing. I never would have guessed that the show would have the longevity that it’s had, but it’s getting passed down from generation to generation, it’s passed to boyfriends and girlfriends, and new friends alike, and there’s just something about that early Joss Whedon voice, that obviously carried into all of his other work with “The Avengers” and every other show he’s been a part of, but it had never been seen or done before on television, and to have this teenage girl who was literally slaying her fears, the vampires were metaphors for all of the problems we all had in high school, it just really, it was unique and his writing style hadn’t been out there before. Like the cadence that he creates and the humor hiding the pain. So it’s not surprising, when you look at those facts, but it is surprising when you’re a part of it to it still has such lengths.
Your character, Glory, was the first female villain for the show, and certainly at the time, there were not many other female villains on television, did you feel a bit of responsibility coming into that?
Clare: I didn’t really know what the character was going to be to be honest. The character description that I was given when I auditioned for the role was just a woman, and I was like “well okay, I am a woman.” Which I wasn’t really even at that moment. I was in my very early 20s, and the writers, I think, were exploring the character as they wrote episode to episode and realised that the character was going to stay for the whole season.
Oh so they didn’t even know it was going to be a season long thing?
Clare: They probably hoped it would, but I think they wanted to make sure. I think they didn’t want to commit before they get the right actor or actress in place for something like that. So as the season progressed and more details about the character came out, I was constantly surprised myself. “Oh she’s a god…” literally I was reading the script and I was like “Oh. Oh! Okay!” So it was a pleasant surprise, needless to say.
As a viewer it always seemed like they had it all planned.
Clare: I used to say “You know, at the time I thought, they should have told me that at the beginning, I would have played the character differently”. But now, a little bit older, I realised that it was probably a gift that they didn’t tell me that, because I played her without any preconceived notions.
Did you get to keep any mementos, any of her incredible wardrobe?
I did not, but I will tell you a really great story. At the end of the series, after season seven, Warner Bros had an auction where they auctioned off many of the props and the set items and the wardrobe and things like that, and a fan bought the gown I wore in the hundredth episode, which was this custom-made gown, and sent it to me and said “You’re the only person that should have this.” And so now it’s hanging in my office. With the certificate of authenticity. Like I know it’s authentic, it was made for me [laughs].
So Buffy fans are officially the best fans.
That’s awesome. And another great role of yours was in “Bring It On”. I loved Roger Ebert’s film reviews and he once described “Bring It On” as the ‘“Citizen Kane” of cheerleading films’. I think he was completely right.
Clare: Oh my gosh, that is awesome. I have heard that before.
Do you have fond memories of that filming as well?
Clare: It was a total party. I mean, it’s funny because there were a couple of different Universal movies going on right then. They were also filming up in Los Angeles, “American Pie”, and so all the attention was kind of on that movie. We were down in San Diego, we had this little $10 million-dollar budget and first time director Peyton Reed, who obviously has gone on to do great things, and so we were just kind of left alone down there and we went to a month long training camp before, where we learned how to cheer and you know, did these fun stunts, and part of our job was going to the gym and working out and tanning, and you know, doing all these fun things. It was kind of like being in high school all over again, except we were getting paid to do it and there was a lot more freedom, so it was an incredible experience. We had so much fun making the movie. I think that part of the reason that the movie came across so lighthearted and was so enjoyable was because we truly all had a great time making it. And it was…between that and “Buffy”, which were my first basically two jobs, big jobs, notable jobs, I really was spoiled.
Like ‘this isn’t so bad’.
Clare: This is how every film is? Noooo.
And you have four children now, I understand?
Clare: I do.
I have an 18-month-old. And I find that high maintenance, so tell me, does it get any easier with four?
Clare: I think you just become a little, it’s like each child shuts down a different of your brain. I’m on autopilot all day. No, in a way it does, especially now my youngest is four years old, so they’re getting to the age where they are becoming human beings. They can talk and walk and do all those things and you know, it’s really, you find so many different sides of yourself through parenting. So much more empathy and patience than you ever thought you would have. It is the greatest gift and also the biggest challenge. Being a parent. I strive every day to do the right thing with my kids, and who knows, I’m sure they’ll end up hating me for at least a decade but hopefully they’ll like me again after that.
You are doing double duty as both guest and host of Oz Comic Con this year. Are there any particular panels or anything that you’re looking forward to?
Clare: Oh you know, I enjoy talking to all the actors. David Ramsey is one of my favorites. He’s so great. So gracious and he’s such an interesting career. Everyone of course knows him as Diggle in “Arrow” but he played Mohammed Ali in a biopic in 2000, so there are so many interesting things to talk to him about as an actor. So yeah, that’s a great line-up.
I actually just spoke with him. He was so lovely. You have interviewed a lot of incredible people over the years. Do you have any stand-out interviews that you really enjoyed?
Clare: I really enjoy anyone from “Game of Thrones”. Because I really like that show [laughs]. I think if I had one interview I would like to have in the next year, it would be George R. R. Martin. I’ve met him and I’ve talked to him, but I haven’t had an official hour with him to pick his brain.
I feel like he probably gets scared every time he comes out, because all the fans are like “get back in there and keep writing.”
Clare: Yeah I think so too, cause I’ve seen him at Comic Con the last two years and I feel like people are like “Do you have time for this? You really should be writing that next book”. You know, so I agree with you on that. Anyone from the “Game of Thrones” cast, of course anyone from “The Walking Dead” cast as well, I love to talk with. Alex Cooper I’ve interviewed a couple of times recently and he’s like such an amazing musician, he’s so interesting. He’s so talented and I just, absolutely what a lovely human being. Those are some of the stand-out ones, recently.
And you get to travel quite a bit with this work? I saw on your Instagram recently you’ve been in Europe with Charisma Carpenter.
Clare: I do. Yes, it’s wonderful. I am actually going to see her in a couple weeks in Sacramento.
That’s interesting because she was gone from “Buffy” and over to “Angel” when you joined.
Clare: Yes she was already gone, but you know all us girls, whether we’re from Buffy, Angel or Firefly, were all very close, because we’d been traveling together for years. And so really the “Women of Whedon” as someone has named us, we all stick together and we’re pretty tight.
Catch Clare at Oz Comic Con.
Oz Comic Con Interview: David Ramsey of Arrow
David Ramsey has a reputation as one of the nicest, funniest guys in showbiz, and arriving straight from the airport, traveling long haul from the US to Australia, with only one cup of coffee to keep him awake for our one-on-one interview, he does not disappoint.
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, David gained many fans from his work on the popular Showtime drama series “Dexter” as Anton Briggs, a confidential informant who had a love affair with the character played by Debra Morgan. He portrayed the title character of Muhammad Ali in the Fox television movie “Ali: An American Hero”, and has starred in recurring roles on television shows including: “All of Us,” “The West Wing,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “Ghost Whisperer,” “Wildfire,” “Hollywood Residential” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
David currently plays former United States Army Special Forces soldier, John Diggle, on the CW’s “Arrow”.
You’re going to be directing an episode of “Arrow” this season, is that right?
David: Season 7, episode 11. 7-11. You know it’s funny too because I just tweeted out a moment ago, I said “On my way to Oz Comic Con,” I shouted you guys out. “Can’t wait to meet the fans in Melbourne.” Low and behold, in my inbox was episode 7-01. And I gave a shout out to Beth Schwarz, who’s our new showrunner, and just how well it was done and that the fans are going to love it. And Beth said “thanks Dave, the response is fantastic. Don’t talk about this, don’t talk about that, don’t talk about that, or talk about that, or talk about that, or that or that and definitely whatever you do, don’t talk about that.” I have been sworn.
So that’s in writing. Damn.
David: I think…maybe it’s well deserved, maybe I’ve earned it. People think I’m the spoiler king. So I have been told to shut up. There you go.
Okay so no specifics, but you feel good about it?
David: Season 7? Oh my god, I just can’t…I don’t know…at the beginning of every season, you talk to the show runners, previous seasons it was Mark Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle and they would tell you what was happening, kind of an overview of what’s happening. The arc, if you will. And it’s always incredible. But Beth is just really kind of just going for it. She’s just really like “we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that” and it’s like oh my gosh. So it’s just great. She’s just fantastic and I’m looking forward to doing it. And I don’t…she hasn’t said this but my feeling is that I won’t get any mercy in terms of the episode that I’ll be directing. It’s going to be in the same daring vein as all the other episodes of the season.
They’re not taking it easy on you?
Excellent. And Beth Schwartz; she’s been a part of the Arrow family for a long time. It’s
very exciting to see another female showrunner at the helm.
David: It’s fantastic. For me it’s just right, in every way.
What do you think she’ll bring that’s a little bit different than in the past?
David: I think some of the stuff is just…some of these fans are talking about “Oh I would love to see…” yeah they’ll see it. “Wow it’s time to see, why don’t try…” Yeah we’re going to try it. It’s kind of, to some degree, answering some of the things I think fans want to see. And I think in other ways, taking it in directions the fans would never have thought of. And really to Mark and Wendy’s credit, and to Beth’s credit, for season six, I think we ended in a way people didn’t think we were going to end it. There was no big bad guy ending finding justice, it’s continuing into season seven, putting Oliver in the prison and all that. I mean, that was a risky for our show.
Going back a little bit, when you filmed the pilot six plus years ago, and “Arrow” was the first DC TV show, did you think you’d still be John Diggle all these years later?
David: I didn’t even think it would be on the air. And not because it was bad. Just because no one knew. Actually I should rephrase that, I didn’t think that it would not necessarily be on the air, I just didn’t have the guts to allow myself to think this far in advance. You know people seeing it all over the world, we just, we didn’t think. And we were living in the shadow of “Smallville”, believe it or not. And “Smallville” did 10 successful years. Much of the crew of “Smallville” was working on our show, the gaffers, the grips, so they were shooting in the same city, Vancouver, and to be honest this Green Arrow was in some people’s minds – on the rating of the big DC comic book heroes – a B or a C. He wasn’t really Batman, Superman, he didn’t have that mythos. To bring him to life I think was daring. And I don’t know if people saw – could see six years or seven years down the road – particularly being as successful as it was. Spawning so many spin-offs, nobody saw that.
David: Arrow-verse, that’s right. That’s right. The Arrow-verse. I mean Greg Berlanti is I think now the most successful showrunner in history, 12 or 13 shows. It’s just incredible. Other shows are being developed and it’s just…it all started here. I can’t speak for him, but I would say much of it started with Arrow.
I was watching the first season as it aired and it was interesting, you could see they were still trying a few different things and trying to get the groove, but I think once you kind of hit on the ‘Original Team Arrow’ dynamic…
David: I think that was the key. You know, when you found Oliver [Stephen Amell], Felicity [Emily Bett Rickards] and Diggle and the chemistry those three specifically had. That’s just lightening in a bottle. It really is just something you can’t plan. And it wasn’t only that the direction of the show, we had no idea Emily was going to walk into the room. So no one knew that was happening. I mean, the idea was that there’ll be a powerful love interest between Oliver and Laurel and, also no one saw the chemistry me and Stephen have. I was told at the very beginning “You don’t have much to do in the pilot, David, but you will find out that he’s Arrow and we’ll see where we go from there.”
And that was the brief?
David: That was really it. Diggle will be integral to the story line, in the sense that you’ll be his friend and no one knew. No one saw it.
In this last season, you and Stephen, Green Arrow, had a big fight scene which was quite unusual. Was that fun to film, or was it a little bit strange?
David: It was both. It was fun because any time you get these really visceral writing as an actor is great to sink your teeth into stuff, you’re pointing at people, you’re screaming at the top of your lungs, you’re crying and all that’s great, for actors.
David: Exactly, actor catnip. But I think the struggle was just getting the words right. We really worked with the writer to just get that moment right, because we’re recalling the long brewing history between these two men. So you kind of want to get the right emotional arc, throughout the paragraphs, throughout the words, you just kind of want to get the right tone. So that took a while. But we really relished it.
And just touching on directing again, is that something that you’ve always wanted to do, or you just developed an interest in it in the last few years.
David: Season two I was sitting in Greg’s office – and by the way I can’t speak well enough of Greg. This isn’t about anything besides the truth really for me. I’m on the show. and I’m in season six, we‘ve done our bit for king and country on this show and so we’re looking at the horizon so, what I’m about to say is really from the heart. There’s no better showrunner that I’ve ever worked for. And that’s not because he has so many shows on television, I mean shows come and shows go. That’s just the nature of it. But he’s always had an open-door policy. I can literally call the biggest showrunner right now and talk to him and he can say “come let’s talk, let’s have coffee, come to my office.” And I haven’t worked for every showrunner in the business but I have worked for a lot and that’s unusual. And that’s not to put down other showrunners because other showrunners in my experience have had a big job to do and I haven’t run into bad showrunners. But Greg is exceptional and when I met with him, I had a meeting with him. I had several meetings with him but this particular one was in season two and we were just talking about where I’m going, what he sees for the character in the next however many years and it was a very successful season so we knew we were going to go far around that time. And he asked me point blank “do you want to direct?” and I said “Yeah, I do. I do want to direct.” And I said it very similarly to the way I’m saying it now. I was so taken aback that he would ask me that, it’s always been something that I really, really wanted to do, but I was just taken aback that he would say that. And he said “Look, when you’re ready, let me know.” That was season two. We’re going in to season seven, that was five years ago, so I wanted to make sure that when I finally did this, this was something that I’d earned, this was something I felt like I really had something to say. It wasn’t just about the showrunner asking me direct so I’m going to do it. But I really wanted to say something, in terms of my directing style; I wanted to even develop a style. Which I didn’t have at the time. So, it’s been something that’s really been on my heart and it really started with an invitation. So I really can’t say enough about him. Me being able to direct in a show is in no small part because of Greg Berlanti.
That’s really great to hear. Because it shows a lot of faith.
David: It does. And for him to ask me that in season two. I mean, he doesn’t know me. If he’d asked me in Season five, that would have been different, but in season two, it was just a fantastic request.
Last question, do you have a favorite moment of playing Diggle so far?
David: I do. It’s between me and Stephen. I’m going to say this, I don’t know how crass it’s going to come across but it’s the truth: it was season one and Stephen at the time, now let me paint this picture: Me and Stephen are incredibly good friends now, we joke, it’s amazing that any scene between he and I makes it to camera straight faced because we’re always joking with each other. Season one, I’m the chauffeur, I’m the guy driving around, and I’ve said this story before, but in the scene it’s his cover so the camera’s on him and I have to whisper in his ear “Mr. Queen, your car is ready.” So when the coverage is on me, I said the correct line, but now the coverage is on him, I whisper in his ear “Mr. Queen, your car is ready,” but I don’t say that, I say “Mr. Queen, I have the biggest, “blank” you’ve ever seen before in your life.” And it pushes in on his face and he just turns completely red, his eyes go a little bit blank, kind of tilts his head a little bit and he totally breaks character. Now before that, he was like “David Ramsey, very serious actor, blah, blah” so he didn’t even really know that he could even cross that comedic line with me. And so ever since then we try to crack each other up at every opportunity. And it’s all base humor, it’s like fart jokes, it’s just the dumbest, silliest stuff but we work 12 hours a day together so it’s whatever gets you through, but I would say it was the best story because we really got to know each other a lot.
A defining moment in your relationship – it started with a dirty line.
David: Most do.
See David at Oz Comic Con this weekend. “Arrow” season seven begins in October 2018.
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