On “Arrow” tonight, “Spartacus” franchise star Manu Bennett continues his run as Slade Wilson, and he’ll be pulling from his gladiator background.
In the episode, which kicks off at 8/7c on The CW, Manu’s Slade will be training vigilante-in-the-making – Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen — in the fine art of combat.
Manu first made his debut as Slade in “Arrow” last week, when Oliver, following the map Yao Fei put in his clothing (after tossing him off a cliff), stumbled upon the crashed plane. Slade was immediately on guard, and even tied up Oliver, and threatened to kill him, until he found out that the former playboy had some strengths, and was smart enough to get out of being tied up.
This week the pair’s potential friendship continues, but not without trouble from the other inhabitants on the island – like Slade’s former Australian Intelligence colleague (who also wears the two-tone Deathstroke mask). And, according to Manu, who AccessHollywood.com spoke to on Wednesday ahead of the episode (he was in Vancouver), a face off between the former intelligence allies is coming.
AccessHollywood.com: How lethal is Slade?
Manu Bennett: Slade Wilson, as told to me by the customs guy at the airport, which is the location where I found out [who I was actually playing] when I arrived… I had auditioned in Los Angeles for a character called ‘Holloway’… a military guy called ‘Holloway.’ So, [as] I came through customs, my manager sent me this link to EW’s announcement that ‘Manu Bennett had been cast as Deathstroke, aka as Slade Wilson.’ I rang her promptly back and said, ‘They’ve made a mistake!’ (laughs)… I said, ‘I’m playing Deathstroke?’ And the guy behind the counter went, ‘Are you playing Deathstroke? Man! He’s like the badass of the DC Comics world.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, really!’
Access: The way he’s been written so far (in one episode), he reminds me a lot of the characters in the Jason Bourne movies… You don’t know if he – right now — is a good guy or a bad guy. He’s an agent, an assassin on the loose. Is that a kind of fair characterization so far?
Manu: I’m really playing the script out from what is on the page and I’m not trying to jump ahead… Slade Wilson, in this particular episode… he came to the island with Billy, who is Deathstroke II or Deathstroke I, whichever way you want to have a look at it, and through an act of betrayal where Billy took Fyers’ [offer] to join forces, they’ve parted ways and not on the best of terms. That puts Slade Wilson in a position on the island [of] trying to survive on his own and also trying to complete the mission that he was sent on… So, that gives him some integrity. But, like all characters being developed in this script of Andrew Kreisberg’s, there doesn’t always seem to be as much truth in everything that people say. So I guess, without making spoiler alerts, take words as furniture, in a house, with many doors.
Access: The previews show you fighting or seemingly, fight training with Oliver. Can we take from that, that Slade is responsible for a lot of Oliver’s training?
Manu: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. That seems pretty clear that Oliver begins his journey of becoming Arrow under the instructions of Slade Wilson for sure.
Access: You told us at the ‘Spartacus: War of the Damned’ premiere that you learned new fighting techniques for this role, but there’s photos of you with wooden swords, opposite Oliver. Were you able to pull from your background [playing a gladiator] for that?
Manu: Andrew Kreisberg pulled from my background… perfectly, by throwing in that line, ‘I like swords’ (laughs). It was a great little sort of bridge between Crixus and Deathstroke. I think he did a very tongue-in cheek [thing with that] and reading the blogs that I have seen, that seems to be a comment that everybody had a good laugh about…. But the swords are a trademark of Deathstroke. It just happens to be symbiotic, really. I guess I’ve been cast by the producers of ‘Arrow’ because they’ve seen my sword work in ‘Spartacus’ and they believe that I can make the transition from that show to this show without having any unnecessary residue of the prior series and they can shape me in a way that will make Slade Wilson and Deathstroke something very unique and new to the viewing audience. Andrew Kreisberg has discussed with me that he definitely wants to bring out part of my acting character that wouldn’t have been explored in ‘Spartacus,’ because this is a contemporary piece, it’s fast, the language is modern and with all of that, he wants it to flow. Even the fighting sequences, it’s like, you’ll do four beats in the space of a couple of seconds, whereas when you watch ‘Spartacus,’ one big sword strike goes from high to low in about two seconds and rips somebody’s body. It’s a different kind of pace.
Access: Can we expect a face off between you and your partner that went astray?
Manu: Oh, definitely. Tonight’s episode, Deathstroke fans have got their cake and they can eat it too because Deathstroke is fighting Deathstroke!
Access: That’s crazy. Are they both in masks?
Manu: Hmmm… You’ll have to wait and see how they come out of their corners of the ring!
“Arrow” airs at 8/7c on The CW.
-- Jolie Lash