Rick Gonzalez joined the cast of Arrow for season 5, playing new Team Arrow recruit Rene Ramirez, aka Wild Dog. The gun-toting vigilante character grew into a fan favourite over the course of the season, with Rene’s flashback-stuffed origin episode – Spectre Of The Gun – being a vital point in his development.
Rene’s unlikely friendship/workplace banter with Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) proved to be a real treat too, with the pair bonding over their family issues. At the end of the season, Rene failed to appear at a custody hearing, which is bound to have major repercussions in Arrow season 6.
Rene was also present on Lian Yu for the season 5 finale, which ended with a giant explosion on Oliver Queen’s purgatory island. That cliffhanger seemed like a good place to start, when we chatted to Rick Gonzalez for ten minutes on the phone…
I’m guessing, because you’re still on the show, that Rene didn’t blow up at the end of season 5?
Ha! Well, I hope not. Listen, they made me a series regular and they brought me back, but, you know, the interesting part about this show is, like, Marc [Guggenheim] and Wendy [Mericle, the producers] have a way of crafting the story using flashbacks and different ways of telling a story without having to, you know, keep a character alive. So, I mean, that’s the truth. There’s so many characters that have left and disappeared and come back. So, in this universe anything’s possible. So, everyone has to tune in to see.
As you say, you’ve been put up to series regular this year. Congratulations. I was just wondering, as ‘series regular’ is one of those terms you hear a lot, what does it translate to, for you, in terms of your time? Does it feel like you’re working on the show a lot more? How does it compare to last year?
The workload is the same, pretty much, I would imagine. You know, I was really surprised last season, with the way they introduced Team Arrow and how involved we were last year. It was really exciting. Because I really felt included in the entire season, you know. I felt, as a new character, and as a new actor on the show, I was immediately thrust into the world of Arrow and everything that was happening. And that was exciting, because in turn, we were instrumental in kind of using the new season 5, you know, creating a new energy and a new vibe. So that was great.
I look back on season 5 and I’m proud of it. I feel like we delivered a really strong season, you know, where there’s a lot of action, there’s a great story, great episode, great storylines, and that culminated in a really epic season finale. So, I’m excited. I’m excited about returning and kind of staying on the trajectory we created with season 5. I think we did a really great job of kinda like, you know, establishing the theme and our strengths.
For me, one of the standout episodes last year was Spectre Of The Gun, which was obviously the big one for you and for Rene. Could you talk a bit about what that was like, getting those scripts and shooting that episode?
Yeah. Marc Guggenheim wrote that episode, and I was humbled and excited. I knew how important it was, for that episode, in terms of Rene and Wild Dog. And I knew how seriously they took it, because Marc decided to take that episode and write it himself. And that meant a lot to me, knowing that my showrunner is going take over the helm and write the episode that was gonna explain the backstory – or just a small part of the backstory – for Rene. Maybe one of the most vital parts of his story, but his life is so vast. There’s so much more to it.
So that meant a lot. And I really enjoyed shooting that, because you pick up right where you think everything’s okay with Rene, you think things are fine, and then you peel the layer right away to see this turmoil in his life. And, you know, things aren’t going great. And I was always come back to – I’ve been saying this for the last few months – Rene has always been dealt a bad hand. This guy has never had it right. And this time around, being part of Team Arrow, he thought things had turned around, but the one thing that doesn’t complete the circle for him is his daughter. It’s just like, attaining that ability to be a family. And I think, ultimately, he is a family man. He is someone that cares about other people, but because life always threw him bad oranges and bad apples and bad lemons, you know, it’s hard for him to quench that thirst.
I have high hopes that there will be more places for us to explore. I’m optimistic.
Another one of the treats last season was seeing yourself and Paul Blackthorne interacting so much. It was quite an unexpected pairing, and the chemistry was so great. What it was like for you, working with him and building up that rapport? Did it come quickly, or did it take a bit of time to get to know each other?
Paul is like the sweetest, most giving actor. He makes working with him so very comfortable. I knew that, him being on the show for so long, I wanted to… I could sympathise with someone being on a show for so long. And I wanted to make sure that there was something that Rene or Wild Dog could give to Lance, and, vice versa, something that Lance could give to Rene. And I think, as an actor, I took that very seriously. I wanted those moments to be meaningful for him, especially as an actor.
And I think that’s who Paul is, naturally, as a person; he cares about the work that he puts in, and he cares about his scenes and he cares what his character’s feeling. And, for me, that just puts me at ease. Um, and we just kind of connected intrinsically. We just, kind of, through the words and who our characters were… and I think the writers wrote those scenes really well… so it was just so brilliant to work with him. And I always look forward to working with him, to the point where now we are just hanging out on set, talking about family and stuff, and then they call action and stuff, and we’re working. It’s really great.
And just to talk about the future, as much as you can… a lot of the new characters get a new superhero suit every season. Do you think Wild Dog will ever get an upgrade? Because they started at the point where he’s so accurate to the comics.
I don’t know. I don’t know, man. That would be cool. I wish. That would be amazing. You know, I mean, Oliver did have different costumes in the first seasons, right? So he had different ones. So if they made me one, I wouldn’t say no. And I do think that original costume was iconic, and it pops, and it looks super freaking cool, so, if we stayed with that I’d be fine with that too.
Is there anyone in the cast that you’d like to have more scenes with? I was wondering if they will keep Wild Dog with Lance or pair him off with someone else.
Well, I think we’ve seen Rene connected to pretty much everyone, in certain ways. I remember at the start of season 5 I had a great scene with David Ramsey [who plays Diggle], and that was really nice, to have that connection with him. I had really great scenes with Rag Man, and Echo Kellum as Mr Terrific. Great scenes with him. Some comedic stuff.
I think the only person I haven’t really done scenes with is Felicity. I remember talking to Emily [Bett Rickards], like, ‘we haven’t really had our scene yet.’ You know? So, hopefully, maybe, there will be something really cool where I get to work with ‘blondie’. There could be something cool there.
And can you say anything at all about the villains that the team are going up against this season, and kind of how Wild Dog is interacting with them? You had some pretty intense villain stuff last year, especially with Tobias Church right at the start of the season.
Yeah, I don’t know. I have no idea what the plans are in terms of the villains this season, and how that pertains to us. But I do think that WB said that there is going to be a personal vendetta with the new villains against Team Arrow. So how that comes into play, I have no idea. And it’ll be interesting to see, like, there’s a couple of different villains this season, how they come into play, and how they kind of disrupt Star City is gonna be interesting.
And I think I’m safe to say that, on the assumption, that this is going to be even a darker tone, to how we did things last season. I think last season was awesome, especially with the way Prometheus came alive, and his tone, and how he was able to terrorise.
So, I think the most important thing that fans should know, too, is that season is about family. So, last year was legacy, so we saw how that would be chipped at by Prometheus in terms of legacy and who [Oliver] is as a person and what he has built. Whereas this year is about family, so, I think fans should keep in mind and see where could become a major component in this season, and how that could pertain to us as a group, Team Arrow, and also Oliver, what he’s been through. So there’s a lot of stuff there.
Rick Gonzalez, thank you very much!
Arrow: The Complete Fifth Season is out on Blu-ray and DVD September 18. Season 6 premieres on The CW on October 12.