So far on "Arrow" (Wednesdays, 8 p.m. EST on The CW), Oliver (Stephen Amell) and his bodyguard turned partner in crime-fighting Diggle (David Ramsey) have been a snarky but effective team.
That's all about to change in the Jan. 23 episode "Trust But Verify," when it's revealed that the next target on Oliver's hit-list is Diggle's old commanding officer from Afghanistan, Ted Gaynor (Ben Browder) -- a fact that soon brings the partners into conflict as Diggle is torn between his loyalty to both Oliver and his military mentor.
HuffPost TV spoke to Amell and Ramsey about the episode, their characters' evolving relationship and the inclusion of Ted Gaynor -- a name that should be familiar to DC Comics fans. Light spoilers ahead.
"We know a little bit of the fact that Diggle was in Afghanistan," Amell previewed from "Arrow's" Vancouver set during the filming of tonight's episode. "We don’t know a ton, and this plays into that and this puts them at odds with each other even more so, but there is still a developing friendship there."
While Oliver's suspicion of Ted will cause friction between the duo, Ramsey promised that it all serves a higher purpose. "Every time they're placed at odds, it ultimately brings these two guys closer, which is really what I think I like about the relationship," he said via phone. "They're almost like ... if you could imagine two brothers playing on the same basketball team; they're both trying to win the game, but they both play different positions. They both think the other person should do it this way."
Amell admitted that he was enthusiastic about seeing the relationship develop between the two, especially since Diggle has never been afraid to call Oliver out on his (sometimes questionable) decisions.
"I will say that in [Episode] 11, we see that Oliver and Diggle are a real partnership and on equal footing. We’ve had training scenes and we’ve had confrontations but there are a few moments in Episode 11 where things get legitimately heated and Diggle puts his foot down and it’s an element of that character that I think is necessary," he said on set. "Again, he says 'I don’t want to be a sidekick,' and I say, 'I don’t want you to be my sidekick,' but it’s one thing to say that but then all of a sudden [Diggle] has some input and I go 'Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.'"
Amell continued, "So Episode 11, from my standpoint, the key elements are, A: Oliver’s partnership with Diggle really formalizing and really becoming dynamic, and B: the show continues to show you that calling someone pure good or calling someone pure evil is not something that we do. It’s always slightly ambiguous and we learn that about another character."
"I think, at the end of the day, they both want the same thing, and they’re present in each other’s lives to make each of them better," Ramsey said. "That’s what I really like about the relationship. You’re going to see that when Ted Gaynor comes on. It’s a big episode for Diggle. Diggle’s faced with some choices of loyalty, maybe some choices about who he's loyal to, and he comes face-to-face with his past and who he has decided to become now with Oliver, so it will again be a place of contention between him and Oliver. But at the end of the story, it will make them both closer in terms of [being] partners, but also it will make them both better people, and that’s really unlike any other relationship that Oliver has on the show."
Ted Gaynor has a storied history in DC Comics as part of the Blackhawk Squadron, a team of skilled pilots who were trained to take down Nazis in World War II, but in true "Arrow" fashion, the character has been given a new twist, changing him from a WWII veteran to the CO of Diggle's unit in Afghanistan. Likewise, the Blackhawks are no longer a heroic team of pilots; instead, the name is given to Ted's private security company, Blackhawk Squad Protection Group.
As a fan of the DC Universe, Ramsey was enthusiastic about the inclusion of Ted Gaynor and the Blackhawks, but also expressed his appreciation that the show doesn't strictly adhere to some of the characters' official backstories.
"I’m really familiar with the DC Universe ... I was on it from the very beginning ... I do go back and read [the comics to familiarize myself with the characters' histories]," he admitted. "Some of the characters, I had to kind of go back and just look at because I don’t know them verbatim, but even going back is tough. The [Royal Flush] gang that was in the show before, and Deathstroke … those guys don’t have the same kind of powers that they did in DC Universe, so even when you go back, you aren’t quite serving yourself well because they aren’t exactly the same."
He added, "In many ways, I like to kind of keep this fresh. I have gone back just a couple times, but for the most part, I like to kind of keep it fresh because this is taking a new approach to Green Arrow. He's almost somebody else, in many ways. The whole universe … It is a DC Universe, but it’s rooted and grounded in a reality that makes it very fresh and almost something else."
"Arrow" airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST on The CW.
Are you excited to see Ben Browder as Ted Gaynor? Share your predictions for the episode below!