MediaVillage Breakout Star of the Season Justin Hartley Talks About Playing the Green Arrow and Aquaman
"My work on Aquaman is something that I'm really proud of. People got to see my work ethic. I think that translated into a role on Smallville".
Justin Hartley first came to the attention of television fans during his three-year run on the NBC soap opera Passions. This fall he has made his mark in primetime playing the Green Arrow, the new superhero in
town on The CW's Smallville. His smooth portrayal of the arrogant Arrow and his suave alter ego, millionaire businessman Oliver Queen, has contributed to the show's creative resurgence this season and has had fans buzzing about a possible spin-off right from the start.
Interestingly, Hartley first came to the attention of Smallville executive producers Al Gough and Miles Millar earlier this year when they cast him as the title character in the pilot for Aquaman, a potential spin-off from Smallville. Unfortunately, Aquaman, which was
originally developed for The WB, didn't make the cut when that network was combined with UPN to form The CW. But the pilot went on to become a popular download on iTunes, while Hartley landed over on Smallville and made so strong an impact as the Arrow that he was the clear winner in the second annual Breakout Star of the Season poll here on MediaVillage.
Hartley recently talked with MediaVillage entertainment editor Ed Martin about his experiences on Smallville and Aquaman and the future of the Green Arrow. He called from the Smallville set
in Vancouver on the final day of shooting for the last of seven episodes in which the Arrow is scheduled to appear. An edited transcript of their conversation follows.
MediaVillage: Congratulations on
being named Breakout Star of the Season by the community of television fans at MediaVillage.
Justin Hartley: Thanks. That's cool!
MV: You didn't just win. You won by a landslide over the stars of Heroes and Ugly Betty.
JH: Good! If you're going to do something, do it right, right? [laughs] I did a soap opera for three years, and I'm sure that landslide
probably had a lot to do with that, because those soap fans are loyal. They will follow you to the ends of the Earth.
MV: You're up in Vancouver.
JH: Yeah. I'm shooting tonight. I think my call time is midnight.
JH: They're doing a night shoot
tonight. It's an interesting thing. You have the day off but you can't really do anything because you have to go to work soon.
MV: What has it been like being the
Green Arrow these last few months and being recognized as that character?
JH: It's been very cool, because ever since I moved to Los Angeles and started working and making a living as an actor, the only thing I had been recognized for was [Passions]. So to have
someone walk up and recognize me for work other than that is really, really cool, and the fact that I'm playing a superhero is kind of neat because people look at me differently, like they get a kick out of me. There's nothing better than someone walking up to you with a smile on his or her face and you
can just tell you made them happy at least for a minute. The best thing is when people walk up to me and say, "Man, I've been following you since Passions. Now I'm watching Smallville and you're great."
MV: Your journey to Smallville has been really unusual. The producers decided to spin-off Aquaman, a character that was introduced on Smallville, and they cast you as the title character, even though
another actor had played the role. The Aquaman pilot didn't get picked up but you ended up going to Smallville as another superhero. What was that ride like for you?
JH: Thank God I kept my head about me. The whole time I kept in mind that I was doing a pilot. Everyone started to say Aquaman was a sure thing, it was going to be a show. I just kept telling myself I got hired to do a pilot. Just do this pilot and see what happens. My work on Aquaman is
something that I'm really proud of, as far as the relationships that I developed with the creators of Aquaman and also Smallville, and the cast and the crew. People got to see my work ethic. I think that
translated into a role on Smallville, which is great. That's what I was always told as a kid. "Work hard. Work hard. Work hard." It definitely does pay off.
MV: What was the wildest thing you had to do during the Aquaman shoot?
JH: Obviously a lot of the stuff was underwater. We would go out into the ocean. Everybody had wet suits on. I didn't realize how cold it gets without a wet suit. The water can be 72 degrees and after about ten
minutes you're freezing. I would go down without a tank, without a wet suit, just wearing swim trunks and board shorts, and I would swim from one diver to another diver and share their air. I was down in the ocean for 20 minutes at a time without an air tank, breathing off of other people's
tanks. I'm not afraid of water, but I had never done that before. When you're acting you don't want to have that fear in your mind because then you can't concentrate on your work.
Justiin Hartley as the Green Arrow on Smallville
MV: That sounds like it was above and beyond the call of duty.
JH: You've got professional divers all around you, and you've got to keep reminding yourself there is no way in hell they're
going to let anything happen to you, not because they care about you, but because [they are thinking], "My God, how are we going to finish the show!" (laughs)
MV: Had you done much swimming and diving before Aquaman?
JH: I'm a fantastic swimmer, but I was not a diver. I had never gone scuba diving. I was basically a stroke swimmer.
MV: Were you into archery before playing the Green Arrow?
JH: I took a class in college just to get the credit and ended up liking it. A while back I dated a girl whose dad was a big bow hunter. We shot at targets every once in a while. Other than that I hadn't really done
much of it. Pretty much every time I'm here in Vancouver they've got me training with this guy. I took about a week of really intense archery training and ever since that it's been whenever I get a chance, on set
or whatever. He's always there and I'm always learning something new. The idea of course is to look like I'm a natural.
MV: Were you a fan of Smallville before you got this role?
JH: Here's the thing. I started watching Smallville when I thought I wanted to go out for the Aquaman pilot. I got a bunch of Smallville DVDs because I knew it was the same people doing it. My
wife saw me watching the DVDs and she's like, "Where did you find those?" I'm like, "I just got them at Sam Goody," or
whatever, and she goes, "Justin, I have a whole collection!" She's been a Smallville fan forever. It's her favorite show. Now we have double sets of Smallville seasons. [Hartley is married to Lindsay Hartley, his former co-star on Passions.] Now that I'm on the show it's fun for her, too. I brought her to the set. I thought, "This is gonna be cool. She's gonna get to meet Lex Luthor and get to meet Superman and I'm gonna be on her good list for months! She
didn't really care about any of that. She wanted to meet John Glover and Annette O'Toole and she wanted to see the sets. That's all she really cared about! John and Annette are our acting icons on the set.
MV: How does she rate your performance on the show?
JH: She tells me, "You're makin' that show, sweetheart. You're so good!" (laughs) Her critique of me is not really a
critique. It's just kind of praise no matter what I do. It's just nice. We have a marriage. We don't really critique each other.
Coming next week: Hartley reveals his hopes for the Green Arrow, details about his upcoming movie projects and more.
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