One big plus of The CW's Arrow is that it's given us the opportunity to watch Paul Blackthorne every week. The veteran British actor has impressed us on a variety of TV shows - 24, The Dresden Files, Lipstick Jungle, Monk - and now he's playing Quentin Lance on the hit action-adventure series. Paul joined BFTV last week to discuss how he sees Lance and tell us about his new documentary, This American Journey.
As fans have discovered, in season two of Arrow, Lance is in a very different place than the detective we met in season one. "Because of his actions in the [first] season finale, he's found himself wearing slightly different clothes this season. He's been demoted," Paul explained. "But having said that, he feels like he's done the right thing. He did what he had to do. So as much as he's publicly taken a hit, internally he's actually comfortable with where he's at. He's back on the streets with the people. And he just did the right thing in his mind."
"To me, any character that's got a lot of internal conflict going on and is just trying to do the right thing by himself in his own mind, it's an interesting character," he continued. "And Lance has so much conflict and is so complicated. It's a great treat."
Of course, we also know Paul for the number of memorable villains he's brought to life, most notably Stephen Saunders in 24, or other bad guys like in White Collar, Burn Notice, Leverage and The Gates. Why does he think he keeps getting cast as the antagonist? "I must just be a really bad person!" he joked, before reflecting, "I've got no idea. They're interesting characters. A good bad guy doesn't think he's doing a bad thing. He thinks he's doing the right thing. He's just very determined to do it.
"Therefore, for somebody to think that what everybody else thinks is bad, for them to think what they're doing is right, makes a complicated character. From an acting point of view, it's kind of fun and interesting."
Whatever side he's playing, the important thing is that we get to enjoy Paul's work on our small screens on a pretty regular basis. We know him well for creating characters that we end up wanting to see more of, even if they happen to be arms dealers or terrorists. Since we always hate to see him go, we asked him if there's any character that he'd like to come back to.
"The Dresden Files was an awful lot of fun. That would've been a nice character to be resurrected," he told us, naming the SyFy Channel series that he so brilliantly starred in back in 2007, playing the wizard-detective Harry Dresden. "I did an episode of Necessary Roughness and the character in that would've been really interesting. He was a sort of neurotic illusionist."
But he's more than happy with his current gig. "I'm having fun with Lance. He's got so much baggage. There's so much going on," Paul continued. "It's nice to return to him. and that's one of the nice things about doing television. You get to sort of stay with characters a little longer than if you just do them in a play or a film."
With so many different roles that he's played, which ones would he suggest that curious Arrow fans check out? "24 was obviously a lot of fun, and so different from Lance. The Dresden Files was a great character and a good show that I enjoyed," he said, but then pointed us back toward the beginning of his filmography.
"In regard to acting, Lagaan is the other project I've been most proud of. That film, it was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar in 2002. Aside from whatever contribution I made, it's an absolutely fantastic film, and I'm just lucky enough to be in it."
While he's a remarkable actor, acting is just one aspect of Paul's career; he's also an accomplished photographer, and has recently completed work on a documentary called This American Journey, which is making its debut on Hulu and DVD today. In the film, Paul and his photographer friend travel across the country, exploring many different cultures, interviewing all kinds of people, and learning a lot more about what really makes up America. Ask him about it, and Paul's passion for the film and its subject matter is obvious.
"I wanted to make an uplifting, inspiring film about this country," he told us. "It's very easy for people, particularly when they live on the East Coast or the West Coast, to look down on the rest of this country. I wanted to see what people were truly thinking. I was myself questioning my own relationship with America; I wasn't sure how I felt about the country. I realized that when I spend far too much time on the East Coast or the West Coast, what's going on in the middle?"
So Paul took it upon himself to find out. "I drove across the country with a friend of mine and we just randomly interviewed people along the way over a period of four weeks. And having made that journey and gotten to the other side, and met the people that we'd met and heard the amazing things that people said, it wasn't difficult to go make an inspiring film about this country, and it made me fall in love with America all over again," he continued. "That's what we did. That's what the film was all about. I wasn't interested in America bashing. I love this place."
"It showed up that people have a lot more in common that we have different, and people are talking about that we're all in this together," he added. "And that's the message of the film." You can check out the trailer for This American Journey with this article, and watch the entire film on Hulu.
Between his series regular work on Arrow, his other acting projects (one of which may be "a sequel to a very well-known comedy," he teases), and documentary filmmaking, how does Paul make it all work?
"I've got to be honest with you, it's challenging," he admitted. "This weekend, I was shooting Arrow on Thursday, then I traveled to Carmel for the Carmel Film Festival. Then Saturday I drove down to Los Angeles to work on a friend's script that I'm going to be involved with next year. Then I came back here on [Monday] to shoot three days on Arrow."
"But I'm very grateful and I'm really appreciative," he continued, adding a special thanks to the many people who helped make This American Journey possible. "It's taken a long time to make this documentary," he said, "and you only get this stuff done when you've got support."
There's a lot to like about Paul Blackthorne as an actor, for the memorable characters he creates; whether it's a police officer or somebody that police officer would put in jail, he knows how to find something we can all identify with. But beyond the small screen, as an artist who's passionate about the world around him and helping us find more ways to identify with each other, there's something to admire about him, too.
This American Journey is available on Hulu and DVD today; you can order your copy by clicking here. Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 PM ET/PT on The CW. You can also keep up with Paul by visiting his website (paulblackthorne.com) and following him on Twitter (@paulblackthorne).