Stephen Amell—one of Primetime’s newest heartbreakers—is destined to become TV’s next great action star. In The CW’s new series Arrow, the 31-year-old former spin instructor stars as Oliver Queen, a billionaire playboy with an archery-savvy alter ego. It’s an updated version of the classic DC Comics superhero, The Green Arrow, and Amell spent weeks familiarizing himself with his characters namesake weapon. Here, the Canadian actor opens up about heartbreak, dating his students, and his not-so secret crush on a certain former costar.
What drew you to Arrow?
It came up during the grind of pilot season. It was still January when I was cast and normally pilot season doesn’t get going until February. It was just an opportunity to play a superhero. I didn’t know much about the mythology of Green Arrow; I didn’t even know that Green Arrow had existed on Smallville because I had never seen the show. I mean, I was a comic book fan growing up, but I just wanted to go have a good audition. Once I saw that there was interest, I met with a lot of the creative team behind it and I started researching people—the director of the pilot, David Nutter, and the producing team—and became so excited that I couldn’t contain myself over the next four or five days.
Did you have to take any archery lessons?
I took a ton of archery lessons—about three weeks worth. I really liked it. Once I got over smacking my forearm with the string, I started to really like archery. Archery is really interesting.
It’s a dying art form.
Arrow has both comic book enthusiasts and archery enthusiasts. They’re protective of their sport because it’s a dying breed. So any time archery gets some mainstream attention, they want to make sure that the person doing it is a good ambassador, which basically means your form has to be really good, otherwise people lose their minds.
I read somewhere that you used to be a spin instructor.
That’s one hundred percent true. When I first broke into the acting industry, I taught spinning classes to support myself. The first acting job that I ever got, I had been acting for about three or four months. Remember that show Queer as Folk?
There was a part for a spin instructor because in one of the last seasons they were training for this long bike ride. I just assumed that because I was a spin instructor that I would get the job. Me being a spin instructor meant nothing to them! It had been like three or four months and I hadn’t even gotten a sniff yet. I remember saying to my agent, “Listen, if I don’t get this part, I’m quitting.” So, I got the part.
Have you gone to SoulCycle?
No, I just do it by myself.
Spinning is a thing now.
It was a thing when I did it, too. It’s funny; I have a Facebook page and I have a Twitter account and I’m starting to get messages like, “We took your spin class way back when!” or “We miss you as a spin instructor.”
Did you ever date a student?
Yes, I did.
Did she hit on you or did you hit on her?
I probably hit on her because I was the instructor. You can walk by the bike and you can pay special attention to a student. You know, I was young. I was in my early twenties. One of my ex-girlfriends I definitely met in a spin class, and a girlfriend that I had was an instructor of mine before I started teaching.
What does a girl have to do these days to get your attention?
I just like someone that can have regular conversation. It’s fun to meet people that have no idea what you do. This is actually a litmus test for me—sometimes I’ll meet an actress in the industry and she and I will talk for a minute, and then I always make a point, if we haven’t introduced ourselves, to ask her what she does and see how she reacts to that. If she gets her back up, then the conversation is over.
You can read someone’s energy.
I think so. I also like girls without a ton of makeup. A girl just relaxed in jeans.
A simple T-shirt and jeans does it for you?
Yeah, because I like to know what a woman looks like when she’s just dressing for herself and she’s comfortable. Very few women are in their natural element when they’re dressed for the red carpet or a gala. Their element is how they look on a Sunday afternoon or a Saturday morning, and just out doing their thing.
You want to know what a girl looks like when she wakes up in the morning.
That’s what I was going to say! I judge a woman purely on how she looks first thing in the morning. That’s the critical point, right? You have to like what a person looks like first thing in the morning if you’re going to be in any sort of long-term relationship with them, because that’s how you’re going to see them most of the time. If it’s an awful experience, then it’s just not going to work.
When did you start dating? Were you a late bloomer?
No, the current incarnation of me dating is actually pretty new. I was in long-term relationships for a while and they bear no resemblance whatsoever to the person that was in those relationships. I’m a very different person now.
What changed you?
Being in long-term relationships. I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for in a woman at this point, but I know a bunch of things that I don’t like. And it’s tough to put a point on them because they’re just these little idiosyncrasies that bubble up in relationships.
I only know them when I see them. Being snobby is a big one.
You must see a lot of that in Hollywood.
You know, I haven’t found that there’s a lot of snobbery out in Los Angeles. I come from Toronto, Canada and I found that there’s a lot of it there, which is weird because it should be the opposite. Everybody in L.A. at one point or another has been put down, so everybody has gone through that moment where they thought they were going to be with somebody and that person was like “Nuh-uh. I’m good.” There’s a lot of rejection there. That’s the best way to get comfortable in your own skin—to have someone leave you.
Have you ever had your heartbroken?
Yeah, for sure.
I was with a girl for a really long time, like five or six years. We both became complacent in the relationship, but you never actually think that the person is going to leave. And then she just left. And that was it. We broke up like eighth graders break up; it was over so fast, which is odd because at the time, you’re looking at a quarter of your life that you’ve spent with this person, and then it was just done. But it was the best thing that ever happened to me because I got to look around and say, “Okay, I’m starting anew here.” The tough stuff, the sort of extrapolating of a relationship was over really quickly because it happened really fast. And you just get to look around and go “Okay, what do I want from a relationship, what do I want from day-to-day life, where do I want to live, what do I want my apartment to look like…” I was beholden to nothing, so I got a fresh start, which is what led me to Los Angeles and to put more stock into acting. Everything fell into place from there.
Do you have a celebrity crush?
Hmm. I’ve always kind of had a thing for Amanda Seyfried. I don’t know why, because I’ve never even met her. I do kind of have a crush on Kat Graham from Vampire Diaries, as well. But she knows this. I think I told her.
You told her?
Yeah, well we’ve met like three or four times. I was on Vampire Diaries and I had a crush on her and I told her. You’re allowed to have crushes on people!
I think she laughed, but not at me. It was a giggle. Maybe it was a nervous giggle.
Where would you take Amanda or Kat on date?
I like dinner, but not anywhere fancy. There’s a spot in Silver Lake called Local that has natural, homegrown food and wine. I like that.
Photography by Nicolas Moore