Expect a lot of Manu Bennett on television in the coming months. The “Spartacus” franchise star (he plays former gladiator-turned-rebel Crixus Friday night’s on Starz) is sticking around on “Arrow.”
“Oh yeah, Manu’s in every episode, I think, throughout the rest of the season,” “Arrow” Executive Producer Andrew Kreisberg told AccessHollywood.com.
Manu was recently introduced on the Wednesday night CW drama as Slade Wilson, an Australian Intelligence agent sent on a mission to Lian Yu. After the mission went wrong, and his partner defected to Edward Fyers’ organization, Slade crossed paths with a shipwrecked playboy, Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen.
Last week, before he was shot (and took down his former partner, Bill), Slade started really showing Oliver how to fight. The training of Olly by the man who will become Deathstroke is something new to the Green Arrow story and Kreisberg hopes it will keep viewers – including the well-read comic book fans — intrigued.
“They’ve been enemies quite a few times, but that was sort of our own creation,” Kreisberg told Access of how the storyline came about. “It’s funny because it actually started with [DC Entertainment’s] Geoff Johns and I, and [fellow ‘Arrow’ EP] David Nutter, when we were making the pilot. David Nutter said, ‘We need one more mystery on the island. I need something! Something!’ And we were talking about, ‘Well, what if we created some sort of totem on the island, like a sort of ‘Lost’ type thing?’ And I’m pretty sure it was Geoff Johns who said, it should be Deathstroke’s mask.
“And all of a sudden, from there, it just became this whole thing, like, ‘Oh, crap!’ because one of the things we really liked about from the pilot [was] if you were DC Comics fan… within 20 seconds of the pilot you see a pretty authentic comic book-looking Deathstroke mask. We really hoped that would get people on our side and say to people that we were taking this seriously so you should too,” Kreisberg continued. “But then it became this wonderful thing to actually have [Slade] on the island… We walk this fine line of most people don’t know the comic books stuff so we have to make a show that entertains them, but for the people who do, how do we entertain them, but also defy their expectations?”
While he’s portrayed a number of sentiments in “Spartacus” – cocky and confident in Season 1, insecure and weak at the start of the prequel, “Gods of the Arena,” and loyal, brave and head-over-heels in love in Season 2 and the current Sparty installment, “War of the Damned,” “Arrow” is showing another side of Manu.
“He brings so much humor to the part, which was sort of unexpected for us and we’ve really been writing towards that,” Kreisberg said. “I think one of the fun things for the show is seeing these people where they’re [at, at different times]… Stephen does such an amazing job of making ‘island Oliver’ such a distinctly different character from present day character and how does that Oliver turn into the Oliver that’s in the present day and where is Slade Wilson? We’ve always said, we know that Oliver survives the island, but we don’t know anyone else does.
“So it’s interesting to see,” Kreisberg continued of the character development. “That’s what will keep you coming back week in, week out, not just watching Oliver transform, but all the people that he meets on the island, like Yao Fei and Shadow and Fyers and what are their fates.”
With Manu is sticking around on “Arrow” Season 1, fans can expect more of the bromance that is taking shape between Slade and Olly.
“Yeah. There’s a real sort of Han Solo – Luke Skywalker thing going on with them, which we really like,” Kreisberg said. “He is the sort of jaded older guy and Oliver still has a little bit of his innocence left and that dynamic is playing really well and when we introduce Shado to that mix, it’s going to become even more interesting and comical.” (Editor’s note: Shado is Yao Fei’s daughter, who appears as if she is being held prisoner by Fyers in order for the Fyers to keep Yao Fei working for him.)
Currently, Manu is playing Slade Wilson, but will fans see the transition to the two-tone mask wearing Deathstroke?
“One of the things that’s fun about the show is being a hero and being a villain is quite often blurred, especially with Oliver who’s not exactly the typical superhero who doesn’t kill and always does the right thing and always makes the right decision,” he said. “So what’s fun for us is having his teacher sort of be the same way, and for the comic book fans who know that Slade Wilson ultimately becomes a villain…
“A pretty bad one,” Access chimed in.
“A pretty bad one, but you know, it’s funny. He also has his own bizarre sense of honor, which I think makes him one of the more interesting villains in the DC Comics universe,” Kreisberg said. “He’s not deranged like The Joker and he’s not a megalomaniac like Luther. He’s got his own sense of why he does what he does and that ties in so nicely with Oliver.”
“Arrow” airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW. The final season of “Spartacus” — “War of the Damned,” airs Friday nights at 9 PM on Starz.
-- Jolie Lash