‘Arrow’ exclusive: Echo Kellum on Curtis’ Terrific transformation, new teammates, and 100th episode

Curtis -The fifth season of “Arrow” is coming to The CW Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, and one of the most-talked-about elements of the premiere will be the formation of a new team of crime-fighters, one that could help a suddenly-shorthanded Oliver Queen secure Star City. While there will be some new faces working with Team Arrow, you’re also going to see a new side of Curtis Holt as he becomes more akin to his DC Comics counterpart Mr. Terrific. It’s a fun story to follow, especially since Curtis has the enthusiasm that so many of us would probably have if approached with the idea of being a hero.

The equally-terrific (and new series regular) Echo Kellum is the man behind the role, and on Thursday we had a chance to speak with him about his arc, how Curtis will adapt to the changes in his life, and also the big 100th episode that is, as of this writing, still being filmed.

CarterMatt – This is a pretty big day for the show, given that the Dominators were just announced an hour or two ago.

Echo Kellum – Yeah, I can now breathe a sigh of relief that I don’t have to [keep that secret]. It’s pretty cool!

When you first joined the show last year, how much of a heads-up were you given about your long-term role and that it would be getting to this point?

I definitely didn’t know I’d be a part of this show this season. I just knew when I booked the character that they had the intentions of him becoming Mr. Terrific, and they let me know that early on. During my audition they let me know that. I always knew where it was going, but I didn’t know if it was going to happen last year, or it was something [that would happen now]. It’s pretty cool that we’re entering the fifth season and we’re getting to that point. I’m really fortunate to be a part of it and that they want me to be a part of it.

When you got the tip off that season 5 was going to be more physical for Curtis, did your training or preparation change? In my head, I like to imagine that the ‘Arrow’ cast has some sort of secret training facility where everyone has to do the salmon ladder.

Yeah, the preparation is definitely different. I’m doing Muay Thai and boxing now, and I have a personal trainer out here that I’m working with. So I’m definitely going places and trying to push the body to the limit. You gotta do that, and you gotta be true to that. It’s really cool to be able to do that kind of stuff, to mix it up and get into fighting, because that’s something that I’ve always wanted to do and it’s a lot of fun.

In going along on the subject of doing new things, I first got to know you for ‘Ben and Kate’ and much of your work I know you for has been in comedy. What’s it been like making that transition to this, and are you excited to more dramatic material?

Absolutely. I started off my professional career as an actor doing more dramatic work in Chicago, more theater work. Doing comedy is a big part of why I wanted to be an actor, but there was always a part of me that wanted to do drama and delve into that even though I love comedy and comedy’s definitely my first love. But, you know, it’s all about the art, and in comedy you still have to be truthful to it and there could still be these sad moments throughout the span of a six, seven-season show like in that Will Smith – speed episode [of ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’]. That ended up being very dramatic. They are different worlds, but they still inhabit each other.

Why do you think now is the right time for Curtis to take a little bit more active a role in the field? Does it have to do with the natural structure of Team Arrow right now with Diggle gone, or is it more something that he just wants to do?

I think it’s a little bit of both, right? Being thrown into that world last year is something that he never got to experience in his life obviously, and dealing with Damien Darhk and killer bees — it makes you think twice about how you’re living (laughs). It makes you think about what you really want in this life and this world. That opening where Willa [Holland] and David [Ramsey] are out because they’re kind of doing their own things, the team’s been disbanded, we’ve lost Laurel — I think that’s definitely something that plays a part in Curtis wanting to jump into that fray now. He sees this kind of need for it, and a need for himself to protect himself and be ready for the harshness Star City can bring.

Curtis has a little bit of that Barry Allen quality to him in that he seems to enjoy the idea of making a difference rather than being burdened by it. Is that going to change as he gets more involved?

He’s going to have that kind of Barry Allen aspect to it, where being The Flash is kinda awesome! Curtis is going to have that [philosophy] where he loves being Mr. Terrific, and he loves going out there and fighting and sometimes getting his a– whooped and coming back from it and being stronger the next time. He’s happy to be a part of cleaning up the streets of Star City. He wants to help people, whether it be trying to help Felicity walk again or stopping someone from getting mugged — he wants to help people in as many different ways as possible. That’s something he’s learned about himself: He wants to be out there helping people.

There’s two other people that we’ve heard a lot about in Wild Dog and Artemis, who are also going to be trainees. Is there any sense of ‘I was here first, so I’m recruit #1!’ in his mind? Is there any friction there?

You know, Curtis is welcoming! I think he likes new people and he likes getting to know new people! Wild Dog doesn’t exactly reciprocate that with him at first, but Curtis is a positive-thinking person. He’ll definitely call them out if need be if there are issues, and you’ll see his sensibility take control in some instances. I think it’s just a fun dynamic playing with Rick [Gonzalez] and Madison [McLaughlin]. Rick brings so much swag to that character and it’s great to have him, and Madison’s so talented and gifted and so sweet. It really is a good mix and a good dynamic.

Does doing this end up changing things for him much in terms of his home life and his relationship with Paul?

It’s definitely going to have an effect on it. It’s never easy to see your partner get more involved into work, no matter what type of work that is. And, they’re going to have hurdles they’re going to have to cross. But I think their love is strong enough that they’re going to be able to tackle those hurdles and realize that they’re destined to be with each other. I think they’ll find a happy medium and a good place to be at.

Is there anything you can say about Prometheus, who seems to be one of the big villains this season? Has Curtis had any run-ins with him?

Yes and no. I mean, we have to deal with the ramifications of Prometheus, and Felicity and Curtis are on the case from the technology aspect of trying to pinpoint who this person is, what sort of clues can help them get him. But, I haven’t had too much interaction with him.

We started with the 100th episode, so let’s circle back to that as we wrap up. Just for you, what has it been like working on what seems to be a huge episode, based on everything that I’ve seen on social media so far?

It’s .. I have no words for it really! It’s surreal, a place I didn’t think I’d be in, and to be a part of such a wonderful show — for any show to get to 100 episodes, it’s just awesome. It’s great that I can bring anything to a show that people can get behind. It feels like a privilege and an honor, especially to be a part of a crossover. It’s very surreal and cool.

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A special thanks to Echo for the time! As mentioned, the premiere of “Arrow” is coming to The CW on Wednesday night. You can head over here to get some more of the latest updates on it now, or sign up over here to secure some other TV news on everything we cover, sent right over to you via our official CarterMatt Newsletter. (Photo: The CW.)

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