A different Green Arrow? How Justin Hartley originated the role
Arrow, which ran from 2012 to 2020, jump-started one of the best live-action connected universes in television history. The Arrowverse (we’re ignoring that The CW wants to call it the “CW-verse”) still has a robust cabal of shows. How did Arrow get started? Believe it or not, we have This Is Us’ Justin Hartley’s own portrayal of the Green Arrow to thank for it.
Before Stephen Amell made all of our dreams come true by doing shirtless salmon ladder exercises, Justin Hartley played Oliver Queen in the long-running Smallville. He debuted as the Green Arrow in season six and continued in the role until the show ended in season 10. The original concept for Arrow was a series focused on Hartley’s character, but it changed to what we know the series as today.
Without Smallville or Justin Hartley’s performance as the Green Arrow, then we wouldn’t have had the Arrowverse. Here’s how Hartley originated the role and why he decided to stick around.
It wasn’t a long-term thing
Hartley would play Oliver Queen for 72 episodes on Smallville. Talking with Entertainment Weekly’s editor-in-chief JD Heyman at SCAD’s aTVfest in March 2020, Hartley said that he was only supposed to be on for a couple of episodes. “Thankfully, the people that watched the show, they loved this character. He had a lot to say.”
The Green Arrow would become a major part of Smallville for those final seasons, which went into a lot of different directions. From a romance with Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) to struggles with alcoholism, Oliver Queen went through it on the show. When the WB network became the CW in Smallville’s tenth and final season, it seemed natural that there would be a spinoff of some sort. Or, well, so the rumors went.
Of course, however, the spinoff with Hartley didn’t come to pass. Eventually, it was reimagined by Greg Berlanti, which brought us to the Arrow that we know. As for the show premiere in 2012? People’s memories of Hartley’s performance were still fresh as was the love for Green Arrow. Amell, of course, eventually won them all over.
Hartley has a lot of fond memories of playing Oliver Queen
Given Hartley’s busy schedule filming NBC’s This Is Us, it’s definitely a bit of a bummer that we couldn’t see him play Oliver Queen during Crisis in 2019. Even without the cameo, he still remembers his time playing Oliver fondly. In the same interview, Hartley talked about what playing the Green Arrow meant to him.
“And it was the first time — I think — on that show [Smallville] where you had a guy in a costume. He’s wearing the costume. I remember thinking, ‘We have a show about Superman but we don’t really have a character on the show that is in costume,’ so it was kind of cool. And I always loved the fact that he was mortal. I loved the fact that when he got hit, he got hurt. And he could die.”
It was that sort of vulnerability, along with some great stunt work, that really made Green Arrow a popular character on Smallville. Given that Tom Welling never wore the iconic suit, he was also the only character onscreen that we saw acting as a traditional DC hero. For fans, it introduced a lesser-known DC hero into the spotlight. In turn, it helped launch a sprawling live-action fictional universe.