John Barrowman says it was “very hard” keeping his character’s identity a secret from Arrow fans — and journalists. But now that he has been revealed as Malcolm Merlyn, father to Oliver’s best friend Tommy (Colin Donnell), Barrowman has a new, even bigger secret to keep.
This week’s Arrow marks the first appearance of the Dark Archer, who fans of the comic know as Merlyn, Oliver’s mentor-turned-nemsis. And though the timing of this foe’s debut — on the heels of Malcolm Merlyn’s introduction — has led many fans to believe that the famed villain is Barrowman and *not Donnell, the actor is not saying either way. “There will be surprises,” he says coyly of tonight’s midseason finale. “There will be left turns that come from nowhere and a jaw-dropping moment.”
Giving further weight to the Barrowman-is-the-big-baddie theory is the belief among fans that it is far too soon for Tommy to step into darker shoes, but Barrowman says Malcolm’s actions regarding his son could have many consequences — deliberate and unintentional. “Malcolm thinks [Tommy] is a waste of time and a waste of space. [That's why he took] his trust fund away [and gave] him the ultimatum to do certain things — to really get him to get his finger out of his a– and get himself in gear,” he says. “In my looking at Malcolm, Tommy, and Oliver, I actually think that Malcolm would prefer to have Oliver as son. So that’s why I played the [scene like], ‘This is a way for me to throw this up in his face and to get him and go.’ Maybe there will be a little competitiveness between them — or maybe Tommy will try to prove himself.”
Ultimately, Barrowman sees benefits to both outcomes. “It will add a dynamic and it will add another shape to this show,” he says. “There are all these different characters that could appear in this world, and if they do, it’s only going to be better for the show — it’s only going to add other dimensions to it. If it’s Tommy or myself or Moira — whoever it is — it’s going to be exciting.”
Speaking of Mama Queen, Moira, Barrowman says even after tonight’s epic midseason finale, there are many stones left unturned in their
saga. “There’s a lot of past between Moira and Malcolm,” he says. “Moira was someone that was put under Malcolm’s thumb for a long time, and now she’s standing up and fighting back a little bit.”
*And as if there wasn’t already enough speculation, it’s also worth noting that Merlyn (as “Tommy Merlyn”) appeared in a recent reboot of the comic (The New 52). Arrow has never been one to follow the comics to the letter, but it’s an interesting tid-bit!