He was very engaging and open on stage, sharing stories about how he got into acting and some of the hardships – and hilarious stories – that he went through before landing Spartacus and Arrow. He mentioned that while he will draw on his past hardships to help in a performance, he’s not too much into method acting as he feels that can be selfish on a set when one has to work with others and interact.
He told a fantastic story about how he got the part of Slade. He had gone from New Zealand to Kuwait to do a show for the troops there. While there, one of the special forces troops taught him how to do a headlock. As a parting gift, they gave him a 5 hour energy drink. He left Kuwait for Los Angeles and when he landed he had to go immediately to audition for Arrow. He was exhausted so downed the 5 hour energy drink “like Mirakuru”! He didn’t know what the scene was until he got there, and the sides they asked him to read were the scene in which Slade first encounters Oliver – by repelling into the freighter and PUTTING OLIVER IN A HEADLOCK! He decided that Slade was a special forces officer – just like the fellows he’d just left in Kuwait.
When he got up to read, he asked that the script reader join him on stage. At this point in his panel, Bennett invited an audience member to join him on stage so he could illustrate his story. By this time in the audition the 5 hour energy drink was coursing through his veins. He launched into the scene, grabbing the script reader in a headlock. Suddenly, as he finished the lines, the script reader collapsed to the floor. Bennett asked, “Is that part of the scene?” To which the casting director replied, “No. I think you just choked him out!” At this point the script reader starts to come around and the casting director sent the script reader to splash water on his face. Bennett was mortified and apologized. The casting director said, “No! It was perfect!” He indicated that he thought Bennett had a good shot at the part. Bennett then had to get on a plane for Wellington, New Zealand, to attend the premiere of The Hobbit. By the time he arrived he was so sick, he almost didn’t go to the premiere. At 8am the day after the premiere, his manager called to tell him that he had to immediately film himself doing another audition for the part if he wanted it. He told her he was just too sick to do it and she insisted that he had to do it or he’d lose the part. He managed to film the scene, even though he was sick and all alone, and was just about to email it when he got another call from his manager saying they’d decided he didn’t need to do the extra audition – he had the part. He said that he’s sure if they’d seen that second audition, he wouldn’t have gotten the part!
Bennett’s stories were long but thoroughly entertaining so he didn’t get to too many questions about Arrow. He was asked what his favorite stunt was and he revealed that he really doesn’t do his stunts. In Spartacus, he did all his own stunts, but in Canada, where Arrow shoots there is Stunt Canada which is a union, and they do the stunts. He’s like to do more of his own stunts, but he emphasized that you are part of a team on a show, and there is a necessary give and take. If he did all his stunts, his body double, James Michaelopoulos, would be out of a job.
When asked what his favorite scene was, Bennett once again acted it out for an enthusiastic audience. He sat with his back to us and raised his voice an octave to mimic Susanna Thompson, and then turned around with one hand covering one eye to intone, “Nice to meet you Mr Queen.”
Another audience member asked if there was any chance that if Slade survived the inevitable confrontation with Oliver whether Slade might team with Malcolm Merlyn, the character played by John Barrowman next season. Bennett pretty much confirmed that Barrowman would be back – quite possibly as the big villain again next season. Bennett also said that that final confrontation wasn’t even down on paper yet – it hasn’t been written yet, so he has no idea how the season is going to turn out. He also stressed that he likes to play the character with only the knowledge of each episode – he doesn’t like to know ahead what is going to happen.
Bennett also confirmed that the crossed swords Slade carries on his back are a tongue in cheek shout out to Spartacus. However, the first thing he was told upon getting the role of Slade was that they didn’t want Crixus – his character on Spartacus. They didn’t want the same dramatic voice, they wanted him to modernize it.
Bennett has met both George Perez who illustrated Deathstroke. Perez apparently told him he wasn’t old enough to play Slade, but was ok once Bennett revealed he’s actually 44. He also met Marv Wolfman who created the character. Wolfman apparently ran up to Bennett’s table at a convention to enthusiastically meet him – in fact, Bennett didn’t realize who Wolfman was at first but when he did, he told Wolfman that he’d come to his table! Wolfman was really happy with how Bennett is playing his character.
I had the opportunity to have a photo op with Bennett, and he was just as gracious one on one as he was in his panel. If you have the chance to meet him at one of the many conventions springing up around the world, take it – attend his panel because he’s very entertaining and engaging, and drop by for an autograph and/or photo op because he is genuinely interested in meeting fans.
Don't forget to watch Arrow on the CW at 8pm on Wednesdays!
I'll be back with a report on the Karl Urban panel...