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Performers Of The Month - April Winner: Outstanding Actor - Stephen Amell



Acting is a challenging enough endeavor in and of itself. Those who say acting is easy don't have the slightest clue how much goes into every single second of a performance. Try juggling half a dozen knives while walking and chewing gum, then multiply that by a factor of about ten and you'll have a smidge of an idea of what goes on during a performance. Performers are worrying about line delivery, hitting marks, looking after scene partners, hitting emotional queues as well as performing to the camera while trying to make everything feel organic to the character. That's for just a standard run of the mill scene, but for performers on an action show, there are a whole extra set of things to juggle.

The industry is full of well-known names that are exceptional action stars but horrible performers. However, in an industry starved for believable action stars, producers can make excuses to overlook stiff acting as long the action parts hit their mark. For the most part, the industry can either produce outstanding performers or outstanding action stars. Though there are some examples where talent meets action capability and those performers are destined to have exceptionally prosperous careers given their immensely impressive capability. Stephen Amell who plays Oliver Queen aka Green Arrow on Arrow is a perfect example of that type of performer. For five seasons he has gallantly led the show while expertly juggling the complicated combination of action and acting. It is this winning combination that has earned him many POTM Nominations. Now, his performance in Dangerous Liaisons (5x19) has won him the title of April's Most Outstanding Actor.

Stephen Amell is committed to bringing a great authenticity to his work. While he has a stunt double, he does just about any stunt that they'll legally permit him to do. They have that flexibility with him because he has put in the time to make sure he is in peak shape to pull off everything the writers throw at Oliver. He pulls off the physical aspects of the character with such incredible precision that it's breathtaking to watch. And as was noted above, while he's exceptional at that, he also does the dramatic side of the character just as well. Amell isn't a one trick performer, and action isn't all he does magnificently well. When it comes to the drama, he puts so much heart into his every action, that whatever Oliver is experiencing feels vividly real. Dangerous Liaisons was the prime example of that. There were a couple physical aspects to the episode, but this was a very character driven episode, meaning that this was more about Oliver Queen and less about Green Arrow. In fact, he doesn't even suit up as Green Arrow a single time in the episode. He did a couple pretty basic fight sequences, but nothing like in a typical episode.

This episode was a nice change of pace, as it actually spent more time with Oliver Queen and only very minimal time with his vigilante alter-ego. While Amell is very proficient in those fight sequences it's interesting to see him delve into emotional side of Oliver. To dive into whom he is as a mayor and man versus all the other aspects of his complicated nature. Everything that Oliver has been through and everyone that he has lost has profoundly changed him. Losing his father turned him into a self-professed killer while the loss of his mom and Laurel and countless other people has made him take a step back and evaluate things. Each big traumatic loss has caused a bit of a metamorphosis of the character and Amell never fails to make those shifts seem natural in the evolution of the character. This recent version of Oliver Queen is just another facet of this complicated man. Mayor Queen is actually a considerable bit more aware and subdued yet still at his core he's that man that survived five years of hell. It's a massive testament to Stephen Amell that he has managed to loop in all these different aspects of the character while also always finding a way to remain true to who the character is. And this episode really allowed him to show off this other side of Oliver.

Throughout the various scenarios in Dangerous Liaisons, Oliver was forced to confront who he was, is, and has been. It is his every action that has shaped his friends and loved ones into becoming who they are today. Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) has been profoundly changed by being around Oliver and this season he's really come to see this. In this episode, in their first encounter, he tried so hard to make her see the errors in her choices much in the same way she once tried so hard to make him see. That meeting was insightful, but it was their meeting at the ARGUS site that was the most impactful. For all they've been through never have they been so exponentially divided, not even when it appeared that Oliver had turned against his team back in Season 3. In this case, they weren't divided by just ideals and principals but by a physical barrier as well, it was a very symbolic moment to visualize the divide between them. And Felicity, unlike Oliver in Season 3, wasn't playing some big long game. Felicity quite literally deployed a deadly laser barrier against him in a spur of the moment decision. She had no intention of harming him, but nonetheless, the impact was nearly the same. Despite this devastating action that was perceived by Oliver as a betrayal, he didn't overtly act out. Amell chose to firmly keep the level energy that Oliver had been working with for the whole episode. Yet, at the same time, even before he took the mask off, Oliver's feeling of betrayal was evident.

The usual Green Arrow costume doesn't restrict Amell from using his face to convey Oliver's complex emotions, while the covert one from this episode does. Still, the way he controls his voice, his body and can adjust the tension throughout his shoulders says so much. Acting relies very heavily on facial control. From emoting through the eyes to facial expressions, the face is one of the most powerful tools a performer has. Take that away and the performers have to manage to use their bodies to convey everything they normally would with their face. Not every performer can do it, in fact, many can't, those who are burdened by a mask simply can't overcome it. Yet for Stephen Amell, it was as if the mask wasn't even there. His performance was hard hitting and perfectly delivered. Not a single emotion or reaction was lost making for a truly powerful scene to come to fruition. This was a profound moment between Oliver and Felicity and Amell didn't miss a beat. He didn't make Oliver angry but instead showed him as disappointed and frustrated because the message he'd given Felicity earlier simply didn't connect with her. It was a hard blow for Oliver to accept standing on an opposing side to the woman he still deeply cares about. And every single aspect of this complicated moment was vividly given life thanks to exceptional prowess and exceptional acting talent.

He carried that same subdued tone into the final scene. Oliver was upset with Felicity, feeling betrayed, but then again so did she. They were at an impasse, both struggling to see things from the other’s perspective. Amell could have stormed into this scene and had Oliver be tense and visibly angry at Felicity, but he didn’t. Oliver has stood where Felicity is and he remembers what that was like. Even if he can’t understand why she is making the choices she is, he also can’t completely write her off. Amell had Oliver make slow but deliberate movements. The distance between him and Rickards perfectly accentuated the void between the characters. In these divisive scenes sometimes the wronged character will pull back and shutout the other character. That often comes from the performer, but Amell made sure that he was consistently connected with Rickards, even if the characters were struggling to understand each other. It’s these smart choices that make him such a strong all-around performer because he understands the nuances and importance of every little action.

This episode was also different because it put Oliver and Felicity on different sides of the fight. Even though they broke up, neither is able to fully deny the strong feelings that still exist between them. This episode managed to delve into that tense dynamic and use it to build up to those three powerful scenes. They would ultimately be the only three scenes they would share in this episode, but Amell and Rickards made them full of meaning and truthfulness with their incredible rapport. There was also a bit of role reversal in that Oliver was suddenly the voice of reason while Felicity was off being reckless in the name of trying to stop Chase. During the scene where Oliver confronts Felicity, Amell made some deliberately subtle acting choices. Instead of having Oliver charge in full force, he brought his normal energy down several notches. He was making it clear to both the audience and Felicity that Oliver is a different man in the wake of all the things that have happened. He sees Felicity going down the same dark path he did and desperately wants to protect her. But, given how well Oliver knows Felicity, he knew that just charging in and demanding things of her wasn't going to get him anywhere. He tried his best to reason with her and when that started to fail there was a very soft and just barely noticeable tonal shift. As the scene wore on Amell gradually started to slip in a bit of a sad and defeated appearance. Oliver knew in his heart that his pleas were falling on deaf ears and instead of angering him that seems to only make him fearful for what may happen to her.

Here's the thing about Oliver and Felicity, they are more alike than either would like to admit. So, the acting for their partnership requires a bit of a push and pull between the performers. It's like a seesaw in that when one character is up it can push the other down. On occasion, they find a way to form this perfect balance and that's when the most tender scenes emerge from this coupling. That did not happen in this episode, nor should it have. In this episode, Felicity was up while Oliver was slipping down at the force of not being able to protect her as he so desperately wanted to. For one of those unusual times, Oliver wasn't entirely in control of things that were going on. That left him and the rest of the team running around trying to keep up. This forced Oliver to appear a bit disheveled for a fair portion of the episode, which was frustrating for the character but provided Amell with golden acting opportunities. He capitalized on every single tiny moment and dove right into exploring the striking qualities that make Oliver such a multi-layered complicated character.

Episodes like this one work so well because of the chemistry Amell has with co-star, Emily Bett Rickards. He has an exceptional chemistry with Rickards, something the producers and writers recognized immediately and have worked on capitalizing. Amell always manages to have an amazing rapport with whomever he's working opposite. From David Ramsey (John Diggle) to Paul Blackthorne (Quentin Lance) and everyone in between, he goes all in with everyone. In the case of this episode, he shared some exceptional scenes with all three. Rickards and Ramsey got to share some of the best scenes with him in this particular episode. Blackthorne got to work with him when he was in Mayor Queen mode and Rickards got to see him cross between his alter egos in their encounters. His scenes with Ramsey were pivotal as it was Diggle who helped prompt Oliver to keep fighting for Felicity. Amell's transitions are flawless and he never lets up during the episode. This isn't usually the norm for all leads in an action series given that they are on set for longer hours than anyone else. More is demanded of them with each episode and by the back half of a season, some of them lose steam and usually have at least one episode where they aren't at full strength. That never happens for Amell. He is always firing on all cylinders which were evident in this episode, the nineteenth of the season. His ability to power through the many months of hard physical work, mental drain from the emotional side of acting, and the general wear and tear of real life without ever showing any loss of energy isn't just impressive, it's almost superhuman. Appropriate for a guy who plays a hero.

When it comes to action and acting being flawlessly combined, Stephen Amell is in a very elite club. For that, he should be so proud, but he doesn't stop at just that. At every turn, he's doing something to aid some charity. He's an adoring husband and father. He's a family man with a big heart and who is in a class of his own when it comes to his work. It's one thing to be an amazing performer, but a whole other to be a dedicated humanitarian. Just this month, he took a run on NBC's Red Nose Day American Ninja Warrior special and he made it all the way through. But that wasn't enough for him and he pushed one obstacle further than the course required. He did it because he could, but he did it to raise more money. Yes, it is something he's long talked about wanting to do, but when he was out there it was clear that while he wanted to defeat the course he also wanted his hard work to benefit others. Stephen Amell might play a superhero on television, but he's also a real-life one.

These reasons and dozens more make it clear why he is SpoilerTV's April Performer of the Month as the Most Outstanding Actor. His immense acting skills and incredibly proficient physical ability make him the real deal. Dangerous Liaisons gave him a lot to do. From great worn-down Mayor Queen scenes to a couple cool action sequences accented by some truly profound moments that beautifully showed how much Oliver has grown. Stephen Amell did it all flawlessly and did proud by himself and the show. This episode and the entire month of April gave him such amazing material that there is no way this one article could cover it all. So, be sure to hit the comments to discuss all the exceptional moments this article didn't have the space to cover.

PLEASE READ: Please keep comments on topic and just discussing the performances of the winner.

Special thanks to Donna Cromeans, freelance editor/proofreader (@DJRiter on Twitter) for editing this article.


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