Another villain is headed to Starling City on Arrow, but is he really all bad? Robert Knepper is William Tockman, the Clock King, in tonight’s “Time of Death.” He will break into Arrow’s computer system and rob a bank, but could he have a noble reason?
I jumped on the phone to talk with Knepper about taking on this established role and Arrow‘s interpretation of the villain. Check out edited excerpts from our conversation.
Who is the version of William Tockman that you’ll be playing on Arrow?
Yeah, you know, it’s funny. When they offered me this gig, I didn’t know anything about it. I knew the show. I grew up with a dad who hated TV, so we had to sneak it actually. I did read comic books, but I don’t remember reading about that character. And, my wife’s the one who actually ended up looking over to me and said, “You should Google this thing. This is a well-established character.”
I went that’s good and bad because they’ll be preconceived ideas about this guy. But, then I looked at the different images of who had played him and different drawings of him and everyone has sort of different idea of who he is. So I thought, “That’s good. I can have some freedom here.” And the guys up in Vancouver were great. They said, “What do you want to do? Here’s what we have on paper. Here’s the outline of it. Now let’s now get into the specifics. What does he look like?”
I think we honored what was written there before, what was drawn. I say “we” because it’s a true collaboration of every department. I can even remember drawing some facial hair and I thought he’d be very precise. There was an older photograph of the guy who had done it on Batman and he had a very precise mustache and I thought, “Okay, lets go with that, but not make him too effete. Let’s make him still strong.”
On the costume
The costume is a beautiful, big leather jacket. At first I was like, “That’s not a three-piece suit with a vest and the fob and everything.” Then I saw that’s even better. He’s also very physical and very smart. The glasses were still an homage to one of the paintings we’d seen with the actual glasses where like clocks that you could see the dials of the clock on his eyes. The three or four wristwatches on the left hand were totally stolen from one of the pictures. We took bits and pieces of it and the most important thing was to bring it off the page and make it real.
In my memory of doing it, we shot everything, everything I did — I’ve never quite done it this way before — was shot in one day. it was kinda interesting to see everybody all come together. At the end of, I think it was 14 or 15 hours, I was still standing there saying, “What’s next? What’s next?” They said, “Oh, we got it all.” I thought, “We got it? We’re done?” It was kinda odd to get on that horse and just go. It was kinda exciting and exhausting at the same time. And, exhilarating.
What is the Clock King’s area of specialty as a villain? What are the skills he uses to his advantage?
I can only tell you what I shot. I didn’t have time to do any other research on him other than to stay in the moment. In the old days, the most precise thing about someone who know clocks very well or watches is the tick-tick-tick of time. And, what they were able to do as writers was to take him to the next dimension that time can also be that precise with computer technology. The clock being the sort of antique of computer I would think.
So he can know everything you are doing before you do it, while you do it because of how his brain works. The engineering of it all. I think that’s the danger of him. The monocularness of him. And what was beautiful — why I said yes to it. I don’t like to just play a guy who is all good which I’ve done and I don’t like to play a guy who’s all bad. I like to have a lot of shades of gray.
This guy is a total — you’ll all find out til the end of it, he’s got a really good motive for doing what he does in order to pull off this bank robbery. I don’t want to spoil it. The good writers always figure out a way to make the bad guys have some empathy and hopefully this one is no different.
In the preview, we see that he’s working with a team of guys to steal money from a vault. Is that his main goal to steal the money?
Yeah, but the reason why he’s doing it is what will come out and make you go, “Oh, wow. Okay.” He’s not just buying another home in Palm Springs. He’s doing it for a specific reason. For somebody else.
Felicity seems to have met her match and maybe even bettered by William. Does he see her as a rival in the episode?
I can’t give that away. She and I have a brief encounter at the climax of the story. You’ll see. There’s some worthy opponents going on there.
Before they actually meet, William breaks into Arrow’s computer system. Do they have any interaction?
You’ll see. It’s a little spooky in that way because they are very much aware that I’m watching them and they can’t of course figure out where I am.
You’ve played some really great villains over the years, can you think of any of them who would fear William Tockman?[Laughs] Well, T-Bag (Prison Break) would. Samuel (Heroes) wouldn’t. He’d probably bury him in dirt. Yeah, I think those are complete opposites there. The rest of the guys, I think Tockman could slice up and put in his meat pie and have a nice breakfast. He can run circles around people.
Any other thoughts on the role?
I hope it resonates with people. It was like walking a tight rope and jumping off into the Grand Canyon. And I just hope it resonates with people because I’d love to play more with those guys. They were a lot of fun.
Arrow airs on Wednesdays at 8 pm ET on the CW.
(Image courtesy of the CW.)