The CW's Arrow picks up its second season tonight, which means more of the talented Susanna Thompson, the veteran actress behind Moira Queen. During the show's midseason break, BFTV had the opportunity to talk with Susanna about finding out Moira's big secret earlier this season, the other roles that she's loved, and the actors and actresses whose work she enjoys.
Audiences were surprised in November when it was revealed that Moira's daughter Thea (Willa Holland) was fathered not by her late husband Robert, but by the villainous Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman). What was Susanna's reaction to that paternity bombshell? "I actually was a bit shocked," she admitted. "But that's the magic and the mystery of a series. The writers keep presenting new information to the information that you've already received and that you are already sort of building upon.
"For me, getting to explore this comic world, it's a whole new territory for me. The stakes are much higher and the more they raise the stakes, the more I have to be willing [to go along]," she continued. "It can be quite extreme at times. But I have to just keep coming back to sort of resetting myself so that I can make sense of [Moira]. I can't stay too far away from her. I have to be very close to her." Besides, she added, "I get to work with a lot of wonderful actors, John being one of the best."
Although Arrow is only a season and a half young, it's already established itself as a solid series with a passionate fan base and critical respect. We asked Susanna to tell us what stands out to her about the work she's done so far. "I'll start with the pilot," she reflected. "I thought that we as a cast, with David Nutter at the helm, and Marc [Guggenheim] and Andrew [Kreisberg] and Greg [Berlanti] as writers, we all created something to set a tone in reality and groundedness so that we could then fly out from all different directions. And we use that as a touchstone, still, to come back to."
"I loved exploring some of the flashback moments. Those were very interesting, to go back and explore what Moira was like with Malcolm and with Robert and with Walter, prior to the horrendous loss of her husband and presumed loss of her son," she continued. "The kidnapping of Moira [in "Darkness on the Edge of Town"] was quite hard to do. John Bering directed that, and the [phrase] he used at the read-through was 'We've got a low of raw emotion,' and I remember just sort of holding onto that word 'raw'. [And] the beginning this season, just the subleties of what it's like to play a woman that's lost quite a bit of herself, and to be in the truth of that."
It's not surprising that Susanna has delivered such an impressive supporting performance on Arrow, as she's been a dependable actress on television for years and on some of the small screen's best series. Last week, she reprised her role as Hollis Mann on NCIS, and she was also one of the regulars on the fantastic family drama Once & Again. What have been some of the performances she's most proud of? "The most recent is a thirteen-episode series [that] I wish we could've done more of, Kings. It was written and created by Michael Green and it was one of the most intelligently written pieces I've ever been a part of," she said. "To work opposite Ian McShane was extraordinary.
"I did part of season four and part of season five of NCIS. I always love working with Mark Harmon and, the crew is one of the best I've ever worked with," she continued. "We did nearly three seasons of Once & Again, which set the bar high for me. It was fantastic." Among her many other credits include playing the Borg Queen in four episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, The X-Files, Cold Case and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She's been a part of some of TV's biggest franchises, and that's because the caliber of her work is so impressive.
Yet there's still one thing on Susanna's to-do list. "I've always wanted to do Broadway and that has not happened. It's been a number of years since I've worked on stage," she revealed. "I've worked twice in New York, once with The Book of Daniel and once with Kings, and so I got to work with the best of Broadway. I think that's an ironic little twist. I still have visions of what I'd like to do and one of them is to get back to the stage." We don't doubt that she'll get there eventually.
Since we've enjoyed her work for so many years, we were curious which shows and performers have stood out for Susanna over the years, and so we asked her for her favorites. "I love The Newsroom and House of Cards. I loved seeing Robin Wright back up on the screen. Newsroom, I'm a huge fan of Aaron Sorkin's writing and all the wonderful actors he got on that show. Alison Pill played my daughter on [The Book of Daniel]; I'm a huge fan of hers."
Speaking of actors who've worked with Aaron Sorkin, she shared our respect for recent People's Choice Award winner Josh Charles, whom she still remembers from Sports Night. "We love watching The Good Wife because of that. He's a terrific actor," she said, adding that "I love a lot of the political satires out there, [like] Jon Stewart. I'm still a big fan of Mad Men."
Maybe another one of the reasons we love watching Susanna's work, other than her immense talent, is that she's an actress who strives to do more than just entertain us. "I just know that the work that we do as storytellers is deep on so many different levels, and when it gets the opportunity to shine it can be powerfully transforming, not only to the performers but to the audience," she told us. "I love when those layers start happening and I've had great fortune to be part of those pieces of storytelling."
Arrow returns to The CW tonight at 8 PM ET/PT.