Malcolm Merlyn is back in Sterling City and on a quest to save Thea’s life on Arrow. In “Streets on Fire,” Malcolm re-emerges after his presumed death when his daughter needs him most. Slade’s mirakuru army is terrorizing the city and Thea gets caught in the melee.
I spoke to John Barrowman about his return to Arrow, his reaction to finding out Moira was being killed, what brings Malcolm back to town, the epic fight scenes, and more. Read on for the full interview
Were you excited to get the call back to Arrow?
Oh yes. I have to be honest with you. I kinda knew before everybody else. I’m always excited. I really enjoy playing Malcolm Merlyn and when they decided which episodes it was going to be in, I was thrilled. Absolutely thrilled.
Were you surprised to find out that Moira was being killed?
Absolutely, we were all quite surprised and shocked. I actually had a conversation — well it was an email I sent to Susanna [Thompson], when I knew I was coming back and I was very excited because I said, “You know, look we’re going to– hopefully we’ll be able to get into some meat of some scenes and we’ll get to do some stuff and da da da dah…”
And her email back to me was, “I’d love to, but unfortunately I’m dying. The character: She’s going to be killed.” So we were all like, “Oh my God.” We were gutted. But that’s what makes serial television — episodic television — really good. You don’t know what’s around the corner and if every show were to maintain the same the characters all the time it wouldn’t wouldn’t be a drama. It would be boring, so things have to change. I experienced that on Doctor Who and Torchwood. Things have to be switched up a bit. It was sad, but she knew, we all knew that’s the way it goes. That’s this business.
It gives Malcolm some really juicy stuff to come with Thea. What brings Malcolm back to town?
Malcolm comes back to town because Thea’s in great danger. Thea’s in trouble and someone has to come and rescue this girl. And being his daughter, that he’s known for all of her life, he is desperate to get back there to sort out a situation. And that’s all I can really tell you, but the way in which he returns and it’s sorted out is interesting.
Will we get any insight into what Malcolm’s been up to this past year?
Honestly, nothing is going to be said, but what I can tell you as the actor that plays him and when I come back to do these things, I think, that he has to have been watching. He has to have known what’s been going on. You can’t come into a situation in the middle of it without any shall I say ammunition of a prior stuff that has happened. I would think he’s been watching. Who knows what’s going to happen after this, but I would love to delve into that aspect of it and find out where he has been and what’s been going on.
Malcolm was basically responsible for Tommy’s death, will that affect how he approaches his relationship with Thea?
It might. Tommy’s death was something that– again it’s the ruthlessness of a powerful person that he’s devastated and gutted by what’s happened to his son, but part of him thinks shit happens, you know, he didn’t think Tommy was going to be the hero and that’s why he didn’t think what he was doing would be an issue or problem. He had no idea Tommy was going to sacrifice himself for the love of Laurel. It was a difficult thing when it happened, but I think Malcolm’s a very good person to get up and move on.
Of course, it’s going to affect him in a way when he’s being protective of Thea.That will make him more protective because he understands a little more now that even though he’s a control freak, he cannot control the emotions of other people. So he’s going to try desperately — little tip here — to control the emotions of his daughter.
How is Malcolm handling the death of Moira?
Malcolm seems to lose everybody in his life, so losing Moira is– he lost his wife who’s the mother to his son. He’s now lost a confidant, a good friend even though it was a volatile relationship that they had. I think Malcolm liked it when Moira used to turn around to him and say, not in these words, but like “I’m going to fucking kill you. I’m going to get you.” That thrilled him cause it’s like, “Yeah, come on baby, you’re coming with me.” in this aspect. He’s gutted that she’s gone. He’s lost another strong female in his life that he really cared about. And he’s hurt over it, but you don’t see it yet.
When he comes back, is he after Slade?
I can’t tell you who he’s after. He has come back to rescue and shall I say intervene with Thea. In doing that, a lot of things happen and never underestimate the power and the power of Malcolm Merlyn’s manipulation when he is put into a situation.
What’s it like to do the fight scenes?
Our stunt team, Bam Bam, is our stunt coordinator. That’s his nickname. We have probably one of the best stunt teams on television and I appreciate it as someone who dances, who’s done musical theatre for many years, it’s choreography. It’s choreographed so beautifully to where these men just don’t get hurt. Some of the moves they do…
In one of the sequences that’s coming up, we have a confrontation, but something happens, he didn’t just jump up in the air, he flipped himself backwards in a backflip. Afterward, I was like, “Dude, did you just do a reverse backflip or something?” And he was like, “Yeah, no biggie.” They’re phenomenal. … How they shoot it to edit it together so that it’s seamless and flawless, it’s just brilliant. It’s one of the best action shows on television.
Will Malcolm interact with anyone from the League of Assassins?
This is mainly a focus with Thea. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. There’s no interaction on screen. Malcolm’s a bit worried about what’s going on, but he’s never going to let it deter him from doing what he wants or getting what he wants. If anyone is going to stand in his way or if anyone else from the League of Assassins is going to do anything against Malcolm he’s going to put up a good fight.
On the final two hours
These last two episodes are gonna just toss everything up in the air, where you’re gonna be finished, left with hangers going, “What? No!?! Bring it back!” That’s going to be at the end of that last episode of the season.
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 pm ET on the CW.
(Image courtesy of the CW.)