The early seasons of the CW series “Arrow” jumped between the present and past to show how a rich playboy like Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) could become the masked vigilante known as Arrow. The time approach now jumps from the present to the future, wherein Katherine McNamara’s character of Mia Smoak — also known as Blackstar — is the one learning how to take on the hero duties.
Mia is an underground cage fighter from a possible future who is the daughter of Oliver Queen/Arrow and Felicity Smoak. She must fight alongside her half-brother, William (Ben Lewis). Taking on the role was an easy transition for the Lee’s Summit native, as she had just wrapped up work on the fantasy action series “Shadowhunters.”
“I went directly from one show to another, which I am eternally grateful for,” McNamara says. “It’s also just a wonderful thing to jump into a show where the basis is all about family. You have these kids who were abandoned and then have to learn how to work together with a stranger. It’s interesting because Mia is not used to having someone else to protect, and that’s a scary thing.”
She pauses, smiles and adds: “It’s also nice to be able to keep fighting.”
She’s been able to show off her athleticism back home playing softball at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium at the annual Big Slick Celebrity Weekend.
McNamara got to do plenty of fighting playing Clary Fray in Freeform’s “Shadowhunters,” a character who learned on her birthday that she comes from a long line of human-angel hybrids who hunt down demons. She has to jump into fighting demons after her mother is kidnapped. The series collected awards from People’s Choice, Teen Choice and GLAAD.
On “Arrow,” her character has grown up in isolation with her mother (Emily Bett Rickards) and was trained by terrorists and the assassin Ra’s al Ghul. She must learn to work with others to save the future Star City. That story line unfolds at the same time Arrow and a group of other heroes encounter the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” plot wherein the Earth could be destroyed.
McNamara’s theory is while Mia is the best parts of both her mother and father, her character’s loner quality comes mostly from her dad.
“She has Felicity’s humor and has Oliver’s brooding and aggressiveness and skill on the battlefield. That’s a deadly combination in my opinion,” McNamara says.
Taking on the character meant McNamara was going from one series based on a set of popular books with a tough protagonist to a similar situation. The similarities were a big consideration for McNamara because the actor in her wants to play a lot of different roles. She has already played characters who are quite different on “CSI,” “Unforgettable,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Drop Dead Diva,” “30 Rock,” “Happyland,” “Workaholics,” “Jessie,” “Sondheim! The Birthday Concert” and “The Fosters.” And she’s been cast in the upcoming limited series “The Stand” for CBS All Access.
At the same time she’s had other action jobs as she reprised her role as Sonya in the third installment of “The Maze Runner” trilogy.
“I want to be part of every kind of genre and play every kind of character,” McNamara says. “The way I justified going directly to ‘Arrow’ after ‘Shadowhunters’ is that, yes, it’s a similar genre, but the character is entirely different. Clary was that ember of hope, the naive, wide-eyed person trying to find her place in the world. Mia is a product of her environment.
“She is a survivor. She is cutthroat and will do whatever it takes to survive. It’s a very interesting way to approach a similar world but with a completely different perspective.”
Where to watch
“Arrow” airs at 8 p.m. Tuesdays on The CW.