Katrina Law on Nyssa al Ghul on Arrow and the Resurrection of Sara Lance
The CW’s Arrow has not been shy about pulling from deep within the vault of DC Comics to find characters that suit the stories they’re telling. Sometimes they bring out characters we seen before and sometimes they breath life into a character in live-action for the very first time. Among those that “Arrow” has brought to life is Nyssa al Ghul, as played by Katrina Law. The daughter of the notorious Ra’s, “Arrow’s” version of Nyssa was given a few alterations from the page to the screen, which we bought up in a recent chat with Law. You can read our full interview with her below!
SuperHeroHype: I want to go back to the beginning when you got the role. How much secrecy was there in the casting?
Katrina Law: Oh my gosh, there was so much secrecy. So much so that I didn’t even find out what part I was playing until TV Guide announced my casting. (Laughs) When it originally started, I got called in for “The Tomorrow People,” and they decided that I was really wrong for that part but to please come back in the next day to audition for this other character and keep the quasi-British accent that I was doing. So I said, “Okay cool,” and I go in and I’m reading for the part and I think it was called “Greta,” and it was a scene with Oliver. So I’m doing the whole scene and they’re like “Great! We want to call you back and we want you to come in and do a chemistry test with this woman named Caity Lotz.” I said, “Okay, where are my new sides?” and they said “No, use the same sides.” I said, “Oh okay, because these sides are very flirty, should I change it? So that they’re friends or sisters?” And they said, “No, just do it exactly the same,” and I asked, “Oh, am I a lesbian?” and they said “We can’t tell you that.”
So then I basically walked into the chemistry read and here comes Caity Lotz with her beautiful blue eyes and she turns around and there was a moment were we looked at each other and it was like “Yeah, okay , it’s on.” Then they told me I booked it and we didn’t know what character it was. Between a couple of friends who run podcasts for DC Comics and comics in general, so between all of us we were trying to figure out what character it was, and the closest thing we came up with was Lady Shiva. So then when TV Guideannounced Nyssa al Ghul, I was like, “Wait, what? Whoa.” Of course then everyone had to go and do their research and do the backstory, and they ended up handing me pages and pages of Nyssa al Ghul back story, Talia back story, Ra’s al Ghul back story, Batman back story. I feel like I got the cliffs notes version of DC Comics, but it was a fun process.
SHH: I can imagine. Now how was it to stepping into the shoes of this character, when you first book it at least. Because you’re playing a character that has been swinging a sword since she was seven or eight-years old.
Katrina Law: Well fortunately to me, I grew up a dancer. So in a lot of ways fight choreography is very similar to dance choreography, it’s just a little more violent. In that aspect it’s an easy process, but also the first two seasons I was an “Arrow,” I had a wonderful stunt double named Atlin Mitchell, who was under James Bamford’s stunt team and James is an amazing stunt coordinator and Atlin used to be a part of Cirque du Soleil, so I couldn’t have asked for a more fierce and physically-fit woman who is super coordinated, more than I have been in my entire life. So whenever it comes down to the real gnitty gritty and doing the hard stuff, she kind of does it for me and then I take the credit and then I say, “Look at me! Look at how good I look.” But it’s really all Atlin Mitchell, who I really appreciate.
SHH: The thing that is really great about the character is that her sexuality in the series is a big deal because it’s treated as not a big deal, so what has it been like to bring that performance and importance to life and how have people reacted it?
Katrina Law: You’re always going to get the people that push back and say, “Why do you have to change people’s sexuality?” The original character as written by Greg Rucka was very much a straight character, in fact she had children, and she tried to give them away but there’s a whole back story about that. I’m actually honored and I think it’s so important that the LGBT community is represented on television and not as the outcasts or the derelicts of society or the comedic relief of society. They are just as valid and important. I love how the writers and producers of “Arrow” have handled her sexuality in that they haven’t made a big deal (out of it). There’s no “excuse” for why she is a lesbian, she just is. She was born that way, it’s her sexual orientation, and there’s no mention of it other than her love for Sara given towards it. The way I ended up approaching it was love is love, and if you happen to love a man or a woman, it’s love. There was no distinction for me between playing a lesbian and playing straight characters.
SHH: Building off of that, I’m curious what your reaction was when you found out Nyssa and Oliver would be getting married last season.
Katrina Law: Normally as an actor when we get scripts, especially on series, there are very few things that surprise you, because you can always kind of guess where they might be going or if it goes a certain way you’re just not surprised. When I got that script and I read at the very end that the two of us were getting married, I dropped the script and I just started giggling maniacally. Because in my head I heard fandom all over the place exploding and losing their mind, which is exactly what happened. From the writer’s point of view I just thought it was such a brilliant choice. I know there was a lot of backlash online between the fans saying that this was a disgrace to her homosexuality and forcing a woman to marry a man that she didn’t love and forcing a lesbian to marry a man, but my argument to that is, things like that are still happening in real life. This isn’t so far off the world, especially in that part of the world. I think it’s a very real issue that they dealt with very briefly in that scenario, and yes my character wasn’t happy about it and she didn’t want to marry Oliver, and she didn’t love him, and she didn’t want to marry a man. I don’t think she wanted to get married. But when it comes to my father’s point of view, Ra’s al Ghul, I think it was more about him wanting to see his line and the succession of his family lineage, more than it was him being homophobic. I don’t think he was exactly excited to find out that his daughter was a lesbian, but I think that lack of excitement probably came more from, “Where am I going to get my heir from?” At the end of the day, I think Ra’s first priority has always been the League of Assassins and if that meant throwing his daughter under the bus to make sure the league is well-protected, then that’s what’s going to happen. I don’t think it was a personal thing, I think he was more appalled that she didn’t see it as a continuation of the League of Assassins the way he did.
SHH: As I understand it, we’ll be seeing you in the first couple of episodes of the new season?
Katrina Law: You will see me in 4.03, that’s when my character is reintroduced.
SHH: I’m going to venture a guess since we already know that Sara is going to be in Legends of Tomorrow, that that’s probably the episode where she comes back?
Katrina Law: I think they’ve alluded to that. I don’t want to say for sure, because I’m not sure what they have said or not said, but in the trailer you definitely see that she looks together.
SHH: It’s got to be peculiar for something like that to occur considering the whole point of season three was finding her killer and then characters such as Nyssa coming to terms with the loss of her presence on the series.
Katrina Law: Yes… I do think the fans are going to be really surprised by the course of events and what happens and what goes down in the resurrection of Sara and also Nyssa’s reaction. I think it’s a great episode, and when they do finally explain everything and show everything, I think people are going to come to a full understanding why certain characters went in the directions they went into. Again, I thought it was really brilliant on the writer’s part, the storylines where they’re going.
SHH: Are you going to be popping up anymore in this season of Arrow or do you think you might be appearing in Legends of Tomorrow?
Katrina Law: I can’t say for sure for “Legends of Tomorrow,” but I will be in and out of “Arrow” throughout the season.
“Arrow” airs Wednesdays at 8 P.M. EST on The CW.