If you watched the first episode of "Arrow" on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET on The CW), you witnessed a staple of the superhero genre -- the training sequence that shows just how badass the lead character is.
One part of that sequence prompted a lot of chatter as soon as TV writers first saw the pilot over the summer: The so-called "salmon ladder" scene above.
The "salmon ladder" stunt, in which star Stephen Amell hoists himself up a series of metal rungs holding a long bar that one hopes is unbreakable, actually derives from the actor's real-life training regimen. The director of the first episode, David Nutter, got wind of the fact that Amell could do this crazy/weird stunt (which clearly leads to serious abs), and decided to put it in the pilot.
According to executive producer Marc Guggenheim, "It's one of the most talked about moments in the pilot." And not that climbing that ladder looks easy, but it's really, really not. "I tried the salmon ladder on set and ... the result was not pretty," he added.
But Amell's hardcore training regime has apparently paid off, because he did the salmon ladder bit without any assistance from the show's stunt team.
"People assuming I'm on a harness," Amell said, but he noted that he tries to go without harnesses whenever possible so that the directors have more leeway in how they shoot the show. In the second episode, for example, there's a rope-climbing bit in which he's not attached to anything.
"What we ended up doing was the most impractical way possible for me to climb a rope," Amell said. "I don't think anyone would ever climb a rope that way, but in terms of the camera, I think it worked out pretty well." (It's a good thing Amell isn't afraid of heights, though he does say that he's "uneasy when it comes to balconies.")
Being the lead in a TV series, especially one as action-oriented as "Arrow," means that Amell has very little downtime these days. Most nights, he's in bed by 11 p.m. and "eight hours later, 80 percent of the bed is immaculate because I haven't moved a muscle," he said.
Amell won't have much downtime going forward, given that the show's creative staff and stunt teams are always trying to come up with inventive action sequences, some of which are set in Star City and some of which take place in the abandoned foundry in which his character, Oliver Queen, trains.
"In Episode 2, Oliver does this amazingly cool Salvadorian Sinawali drill with machetes, and in Episode 6 he does a kali drill that's pretty awesome. And in Episode 3, we have Oliver parkouring up a wall," Guggenheim said. The stunt team is "coming up with action sequences on a scale that I've never seen on TV before."
Though Amell enjoys the action-hero stuff as much as the next gung-ho actor, he said the more dramatic scenes are often his favorite ones. When his character, wealthy playboy Oliver Queen, returned from the barren island where he was stranded for five years after a shipwreck, he's a changed man. but he keeps that fact a closely guarded secret. To the world, Queen plays the part of a party-loving rich guy, but by night, he's a crime-fighting vigilante who wields the title weapon with Katniss-level accuracy.
Oliver also has to contend with radically shifted relationships among his friends and families who thought him dead and who don't know the secrets of his recent past, which will continue to be played out through a series of flashbacks to the island. The energy and competence with which all those stories were told in the pilot led me to name "Arrow" one of the four most promising new fall dramas.
Playing the character's secretive, complicated side is one of the most fulfilling parts of the job, the actor said.
"The most interesting part for me are the scenes where I'm not on the island -- it's the family stuff. I like the dinner scene [in the pilot]," he said. "If those elements aren't believable, if those don't suck people in, then why is anybody going to care about the action stuff? That's putting the cart before the horse."
Ryan McGee and I discussed "Arrow" (along with "Nashville," "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," "Dexter" and "The Walking Dead") in this week's Talking TV podcast, which you can find here and embedded below. Other Talking TV podcasts can be found on this site and on iTunes.
Andrew Rannells, "The New Normal" (NBC)
After a hilarious stint on HBO's "Girls" (which he'll also return to for Season 2), we're thrilled that Rannells ended his Tony-nominated run starring in "The Book of Mormon" on Broadway to play one-half of Ryan Murphy's new comedic leading gay couple on "The New Normal." His scene-stealing skills are still very much intact -- he goes head-to-head with co-stars NeNe Leakes and Ellen Barkin and still manages to get the last laugh.
Clare Bowen, "Nashville" (ABC)
Yes, "Nashville's" big draw is the rivalry between Connie Britton's one-time queen of country music and Hayden Panettiere's up-and-coming starlet; but the real gem here is Bowen's Scarlett O'Connor, a sweet girl with an even sweeter singing voice. This Australian native might not be a big name in the States just yet, but it's only a matter of time.
Ed Weeks, "The Mindy Project" (Fox)
British actor Weeks plays Jeremy Reed, the devilish doctor who tempts Mindy Kaling's title character to the dark side on "The Mindy Project." This is his first US TV role, and we're already expecting great things.
Danai Gurira, "The Walking Dead" (AMC)
We only caught a glimpse of katana-wielding Michonne in the "Walking Dead" Season 2 finale, but it was enough to get fans excited for more. As our survivors seek shelter in the prison and meet The Governor (David Morrissey), they're gonna need someone who knows how to wrangle up zombies right, and Michonne's their girl.
Jacob Artist, "Glee" (Fox)
Now that Puck (Mark Salling) has graduated from McKinley, there's a new generation of Puckerman in town -- Artist is signed on to play Jake, Noah Puckerman's half-brother, in Season 4. If he's even half as talented, sweet and prone to causing trouble, we'll happily have a slushie or two waiting in the wings with his name on it.
Laura Benanti, "Go On" (NBC)
Benanti was a bright spot in NBC's drama flop "The Playboy Club" last season, but while the Broadway vet got to sing and shake her tail feather (literally), we didn't get to see her show off her comedy chops there or on her "Law & Order: SVU" stint. Now playing opposite Matthew Perry, there's great comedic potential and some sexual tension to mine.
Rob Evans, "America's Next Top Model" (The CW)
Evans, a male model (and current <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/06/08/tyra-banks-robert-evans_n_1580287.html" target="_hplink">Mr. Tyra Banks</a>), is stepping into some pretty big shoes <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/17/americas-next-top-model-n_n_1524091.html" target="_hplink">to judge "ANTM" this season</a>, and we have high hopes that he can pull it off. He's got the looks to keep us watching and the pedigree to critique this cycle's contestants ... we'll still miss Nigel Barker, Jay Manuel and J. Alexander, but this is a nice refresh.
Janet Montgomery, "Made In Jersey" (CBS)
Montgomery made the final season reboot of Fox's "Human Target" bearable, popped up on "Entourage" and even danced around the company in "Black Swan," but this starring role is her true US TV breakout, and her convincing Jersey accent and go-get-'em attitude will make you forget she's actually a Brit.
Nat Faxon, "Ben and Kate" (Fox)
There aren't many Oscar winners that could come to TV without fanfare ... but that's the case with Faxon, who brings all his funny sidekick experience up a notch to take on one of the lead roles (he's Ben) in this quirky family comedy. He's been around for a while, is a Groundlings member and, yes, even took home an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for George Clooney's "The Descendants" last year, which he co-wrote with director Alexander Payne and his writing partner Jim Rash, a.k.a. "Community's" Dean Pelton. TV is lucky to have him.
Tracy Spiridakos, "Revolution" (NBC)
Spiridakos has done TV guest spots here and there (including a stint on Syfy's "Being Human" last season), but this is the show that should make her a star. "Revolution" has its issues, for sure, but even surrounded by more established stars, Spiridakos shines playing an emotional <em>and</em> gun-toting badass.
Camilla Luddington, "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/19/greys-anatomy-camilla-luddington_n_1687544.html" target="_hplink">Camilla Luddington is on call at Seattle Grace Mercy West hospital</a>. The "Californication" and "True Blood" alum will don scrubs on "Grey's Anatomy" this fall to play a (sexy) new doc, with the option to sign on as a series regular next season. Start placing bets now about who she'll hook up with first!
Stephen Amell, "Arrow" (The CW)
Amell's most memorable TV role to date might be as Jason, the rival male prostitute on the last season of HBO's "Hung," but his new superpowers really suit him. As Oliver Queen, aka The Green Arrow, Amell has some big leather hoodies to slip into ... but we guarantee no one will complain about the way he fills them out.
Mercedes Masöhn, "666 Park Avenue" (ABC)
Swedish-born Masöhn was a bright spot on Fox's ill-fated "Bones" spinoff "The Finder" -- and she's got quite the sense of humor -- but we're loving her in this darker role as one of the residents of a very haunted building. Cast alongside Terry O'Quinn, Vanessa Williams, Dave Annable and Rachael Taylor, she still manages to stand out as a Park Ave. resident to watch.