Stephen Amell: 'I look at a weight and I start to build muscle'
Having started out as a spinning instructor, Stephen Amell is continuing something of a family tradition with his comic-book roles. And he's certainly not short of confidence
Actor Stephen Amell (35) is best known as the titular costumed crime-fighter of TV series Arrow. DC Comics’ latest Green Arrow reboot has just been renewed for a fifth season and has spawned spin-off series Legends of Tomorrow.
Comic books turn out to be something of a family trade for the Amell family. When Stephen relocated from Toronto to Los Angeles, he was following in the footsteps of his cousin Robbie who plays Firestorm in Arrow spin-off The Flash.
“Ironically, I’m seven years older than he is,” says Amell. “But I meandered around Toronto and worked in the Canadian industry for seven or eight years. Robbie just went straight to Los Angeles. so he got started way before I did . . . I was talking to him last night about all the things he turned down during pilot season. I better not get into this, out of respect for the actors that did get those roles, but his career is a lot more dynamic than mine.”
Amell made his screen debut in 2004 as a spinning instructor in the Canadian-American transplant of Queer as Folk. At the time he was working as, well, a spinning instructor. These days he looks as if his biceps would scarcely fit over the handlebars. Tellingly, when a waiter brings him a coffee, the nicely-mannered Amell gives a polite yet firm “no” when offered sugar.
“I have put on a bunch of size since since I took on the role of Arrow,” he says. “My body changed for sure. You know how some people say they just look at a sandwich and they gain weight? I look at a weight and I start to build muscle. Don’t get me wrong: I have to lift a lot of stuff. But muscle happens very fast.”
His first Hollywood break came in 2010 when he was cast as a killer in CSI:Miami. He was sitting in the audience of the Jimmy Kimmel Live! when he got the news: a story he has recently related on the same talk show.
“Before they start they warn you to switch your phone off,” says Amell. “But I had a good feeling and the receptionist at the casting agent had given me a tip-off. So I left my phone on vibrate and took it out just to check if the call was coming from my agent’s number. But there’s a guy standing over me mouthing the words: ‘turn off that phone’. Honestly, nothing will ever match the excitement of getting that CSI: Miami job.”
He has subsequently had recurring roles on shows like New Girl, Hung, and 90210. These shows have fans but they don’t have anything like comic-book fans. When Amell was unveiled as Green Arrow, alter ego of billionaire castaway Oliver Queen, not everyone was happy.
“People were pissed,” he laughs. “They were mad. They wanted Justin Hartley because he played Arrow on Smallville. He’s the most recent incarnation of the character so that was the first reaction that most people had. That’s how it goes. People were pissed when Christian Bale was cast as Batman. And they were even more pissed when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman. But I think the general consensus coming out of Batman V Superman was that Affleck was awesome. So now the same people are really fired up to see Affleck in a standalone Batman movie.”
Is the Turtleverse any kinder?
“Well, it was unnerving when I got cast as Casey Jones. The first picture of Casey came out and I didn’t have long hair. So everybody said: ‘Hey! Wait a second! Casey Jones isn’t supposed to some Abercrombie model. The real Casey Jones would beat the shit out of this Casey Jones.’ So, phew. Now we’re back where I’m comfortable.”
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