Guest star Katrina Law talks about her role as a deadly assassin on the CW’s Arrow, the challenges of learning how to use a gun for CBS’s Training Day and the memorable moments she’s had with fans.
Q: Were you a comic book fan at all before your role on CW’s Arrow?
A: I think I was a comic book fan just as much as the next normal person. I had my Batman sheets, I had a Superman cape. I wasn’t gung-ho about comics, unlike my husband who had a secret stash of over 2,000 comics he didn’t show me until we were well into our relationship. So I’m not that much of a comic book fan, but I do appreciate them!
Q: Did you turn to the comics to prepare for you role?
A: When I was cast as Nyssa, they didn’t tell me who my character was at the audition — then basically when I booked it, we were still trying to get who my character could be, and between me and my comic book friends, they came up with Lady Shiva. Then, all of a sudden, we didn’t find out it was Nyssa until TV Guide announced it. I have a couple friends who are amazing and they’re really geeky, and they just gave me the cliffnotes version of the Batman family, the Ra’s al Ghul family, the Green Arrow universe — everything about Nyssa, Talia, and just gave me all of this information, so I feel like I read the comic without actually having to do any of the work. So, that was lovely. Being able to discuss the backstory of my character, her father, her sister is great. One, I like to know what I’m doing when I’m performing, and two, I like to be able to go to the conventions, you want to be able to have a dialogue with the fans.
Q: Speaking of conventions, in the episode, Ming mentions in the episode that you two met at a convention.
A: Yes! I love Ming. He makes conventions so much fun. He finds the best food. I know whenever I see Ming at a convention, I know it’s going to be fun and I know I’m going to eat well.
Q: As a member of the League of Assassins and the daughter of famed DC villain, Ra’s al Ghul, Nyssa al Ghul is an intriguing and often physically demanding character. How did you train for your role?
A: I feel like most of the training for the Nyssa role came down to working on the accent, to be honest, and actually choosing the accent. The producers and writers went back and forth between Russian and British, because according to the comics, her mother is Russian, but we decided there were already Russians on the show so we decided to go for a British accent because it makes her feel more ethereal and otherworldly from the characters that were already on the show. My other research was just going through the comic books and reading up on it, and just kind of getting as much information as possible. When it came to the physical training, I had already done most of it in my role on Spartacus, so it was just a matter of taking what I’d learned and bringing that over — and I have a black belt in karate and I’ve been a dancer my whole life, so choreography and doing martial arts, while I wouldn’t say it’s the easiest, I pick up the choreography pretty quickly. I didn’t do specific training for Arrow, but I feel like I’ve been training my entire life for this role. [Laughs]
Q: Every actor needs to empathize with their character, but how did you get into the head of a ruthless assassin?
A: I just channel all of the thoughts that, if I act on them, I would go to jail. [Laughs] I think Nyssa is so much fun. One, I’m so lucky that [Co-Showrunners Marc] Guggenheim and [Greg] Berlanti, [Andrew] Kriesberg and DC gave me such a beautiful and complex character to play. First of all, she’s gay, and I love that they didn’t give a reason to explain why she is the way she is, they just let her be. That’s a trend on television now that we’re seeing more and more, where you’re not giving an explanation about what people’s sexual orientation is, just like they would if they were straight, and I love that, and I love being able to play that. She has a very complex relationship with her father which is something that ranges from fear to adoration, from looking at him like a god, and then having that illusion completely shattered. To be able to play those kinds of characters, you really have to find those moments in your own life where you came close to feeling that, or imagine what might have to happen in your life for you to feel those things, and I think those things come across pretty easily, because everyone can imagine having your heart broken or being betrayed by someone, and fighting desperately for love.
Q: You also play Rebecca Lee on CBS’s Training Day, another powerful woman who can be somewhat morally ambiguous. Are you attracted to a certain type of role?
A: [Laughs] There’s a thing about getting typecast, and I will never complain about getting typecast because, one, it means I’m cast and I’m working, and two, I think I just kind of lucked out. Not that there’s anything wrong with any other role on the planet, but I would hate to be the person that’s always pining off for the man going off to war. It would be fun for a role, but I think I would feel a little unsatisfied if that was my career. Not that I wouldn’t want to play that role because I do, but being typecast as a kick-ass chick is kind of fun.
Q: Was it hard to adjust from fighting with arrows, swords and shields to using a normal modern weapon?
A: It’s funny, because Training Day compared to Arrow and Spartacus, stunt-wise, is a cakewalk for me. It’s like, “Oh, you just want me to punch that guy in the face? Oh sure, yeah, I’ve done it.” But I think the biggest transition was the weapons, which not to say [Rebecca] never will, but she doesn’t shoot a bow and arrow or wield a sword — though both of those things have appeared in our show, so I’m not ruling them out — but right now my character uses a Kimber 1911 and the challenge was trying to use this weapon as if I’d had it on my body and on my soul for the last 10 years of my life. What CBS ended up doing was sending us to the team who trained Keanu Reeves for John Wick 1 and 2, so they are legit. It’s basically just getting used to weapons, knowing where it is and having it on you, knowing how to pull it and draw it and even just hold it, since a lot of people hold a weapon wrong. I think that was the biggest transition.
Q: I’m sure everyone you know wants you on their zombie apocalypse team.
A: If you could see our man cave, you would want me on your zombie apocalypse team… It’s weapons, comic books, survival gear, a dog and two cats.
Q: The Arrow fanbase, and the comic book fanbase in general, are very devoted. Have you had any memorable interactions with fans?
A: Oh my gosh, there are so many beautiful moments that have happened, whether in person or online. Just things from people reaching out to me and saying, “Hey, between you and Caity [Lotz], you saved my life, or you made my life better, because you let me know that it’s okay to be gay, straight, bi, whatever,” or, “I came out to my parents because there are superheroes on television that showed me that it’s okay.” Those have been the biggest impact — of watching people have their lives changed by Arrow and my character and by Caity’s character. You go into acting because you have a story to tell and you want to let people know their individual story that they’re going through. There are other people who feel the same way in some capacity or another, so when you have that come back to you and have people say, “this directly impacted my life in a positive way,” I think that’s a beautiful thing. That being said, some of the cosplay is amazing. [Laughs] At a convention, I remember dancing with a big robot — I forget what it was called, but it was huge, and it had these arms that I remember thinking, “How is this not taking out small children?” But he was amazing. I remember we did the 22 push-up challenge, and we had Spider-Man and Pokemon doing the 22 push-up challenge with us. I love doing conventions, and I’ve become friends with a lot of these people. It’s enhanced my life, so I thank them as well.
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Comic Book Men airs Sundays at Midnight/11c.