Tonight's episode of Arrow, titled "Spartan," centered on John Diggle, revealing elements of his past and personal life that were previously unknown not just to fans, but to Oliver and Felicity as well. Series star David Ramsey pointed out during an interview today that while fans know a lot about Diggle's experience with his brother Andy and his wife Lyla, there is not much other information to be had in the canon of the show in terms of Diggle's personal life prior to joining Team Arrow (or at least the military).
"I think that’s the great thing about John Diggle," Ramsey told ComicBook.com. "The writers and I have always talked about this, that the characters on Arrow are so rich and they really have been from the beginning. You can tell the story you want, but if you want to tell a story about any of those characters, you’re not hurting for story. You can do a six- or seven-episode arc on any one of these characters and get great storytelling out of it. You haven’t seen a lot of his backstory...and I think people are curious about it — particularly when you find out that his father’s name is Stewart, for God’s sakes, and he has a mother who’s alive and well, that he doesn’t call. These types of things make the character rich. I think that’s the type of stuff that makes a seventh or eighth season interesting — that there is more interesting story to tell. 'Is he Green Lantern? Is he not? What’s going on with his family?' You’re asking these questions at the end of the seventh season of a show. That’s a testament to the storytelling of the show, but I think John Diggle is a really rich character, and I think we’re still scratching the surface to all of his story, both backstory and future. I mean, he adopted a son at some point [in the flash forwards], and there’s conflict between his biological son and his adopted son. How did he play into that? Just tons of story left to tell."
Part of that story, as Ramsey noted, comes down to General Stewart (Ernie Hudson), Diggle's stepfather. For much of his life, Diggle apparently believed that the man his mother married, had abandoned his father on a battlefield. The result is that, in addition to probably not being thrilled with his mom, Diggle resented his stepfather, and called him "The General" instead of anything more affectionate. (If this feels familiar, you are probably thinking of Nathaniel Heywood's relationship with his dad on DC's Legends of Tomorrow). Tonights episode revealed that the truth is much more complicated than he ever believed, and that General Stewart is not the monster he had allowed Diggle to believe. When asked why he had done so, Stewart responded that kids deserve to think their fathers are heroes, and he was not about to share bad news about Diggle's dad with him at a young age. The revelation rewrote years of Diggle's personal history, and his preconceptions about one of the most important men in his life, in an instant. Ramsey told us that playing those scenes opposite Hudson elevated his own performance.
"It’s just great. Ernie brings such a gravitas, but he’s also very grounded," Ramsey explained. "He has the ability -- like all great actors -- to make a four-star general accessible, and to make these big, lofty, larger-than-life characters relatable. At the end of the day, he’s a dad protecting his son. Every gesture in this episode was that. It was just wonderful, the relatability he brought to it, and I can’t think of anyone that could have done that as well. He’s able to switch gears; he’s able to be a decorated, honorable four-star general, and then in a split-second, he’s Dad. It’s an uncanny ability, and you’re in the room doing a scene with them and it’s like 'let me stay in my A game. Let me keep lifting and staying in this moment, because he’s bringing it.'"
Arrow airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT, following episodes of DC's Legends of Tomorrow on The CW.
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