When Arrow season five debuted, we knew that there would be new members on Team Arrow. One was going to be a version of Wild Dog, a hockey mask-wearing, gun-toting vigilante created by Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty. But the Arrow writers made some tweaks, turning Jack Wheeler into Rene Ramirez and casting Rick Gonzalez (Rush).
The character started off as all attitude and disobedience, but he quickly connected with John Diggle (David Ramsey), Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum) and my favorite, Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne). We would learn as the series went on that Rene had been married and has a daughter. His wife was killed and his daughter taken away by social services, so he channeled that anger into cleaning up the streets.
We also learn that when Rene was young, he had a run in with Officer Lance. A run in that ended with Lance giving Rene a chance to become a better person. It changed him and the connection between the two men is one of the best side stories of the series. They're both damaged and trying to heal and now have each other's backs. Lance was already one of my favorite characters on the show and Rene is quickly catching up.
With season 5 coming out on Blu-ray tomorrow and Gonzalez being promoted to series regular for season six, I had a chance to talk with him about the series and Wild Dog.
DAN WICKLINE: When you got cast as Rene, how much of the backstory did they tell you about? Were you aware of his daughter and what made him become Wild Dog?
RICK GONZALEZ: When I auditioned, it was for a generic name. Not that I knew it was a generic name. It was something like Jason Seaborn, a guy who was being court-martialed. It was a court room scene and the guy displayed the same energy that Rene has. The same attitude and lack of respect for authority. When I got the part, I thought I was playing Jason Seaborn, a guy who is going to get court-martialed. I had no idea how that was going to play into the series.
Then my costume designer, Maya Mani, called and said she needed my sized and had to fit me for a mask. And I'm like, "What? What do you mean a mask? I'm playing a guy… maybe you got this mixed up." And she told me, "No, sweetie, you're playing Wild Dog." "Who?" She sent me a photo and I immediately go on-line and learn about him. And I'm jumping for joy, excited as a 10-year-old.
From there, they slowly revealed his backstory, giving it to me in doses. I wasn't told I had a daughter for a while. I will say that how I auditioned was completely different in tone than what he became on screen. He hadn't been regionally placed when I first read. He didn't have the energy or regional tone that Rene has now. And that's kudos to the executive producers and James Bamford that directed the first two episodes of last season. They came to me and said, "I know how you auditioned, but I think Rene should be closer to you. Something of what you represent having grown up in New York City. And I think that would help the world of Arrow. To give Star City and the DC Universe more color and diversity."
I loved that idea and that we could bring different types of energy to the show. The evolution of all that happened very quickly and they were instrumental in allowing all the actors to bring themselves to the character. That's something I love about the show.
DW: One of my favorite things in the new season was your relationship with Paul Blackthorne. To me those were some of the best scenes of the whole year. What's it like working with Paul and tell me how you view the relationship the two of you have built up?
RG: Working with Paul if fantastic. He's a giving actor. So kind and gentle in making it an easy space to work in. He's always been fantastic, so I had an idea going in that even though these were to very abrasive characters, the ultimate goal of the writers was to bring two characters to the point that they got each other more than anyone else would. There's a connection between the pain that they have both suffered. We jumped to that pretty quickly, being safe allowing the characters to be vulnerable with each other. It's always just a sweet time to spend on these characters and bring them to life.
I love that, like Felicity, Wild Dog has been able to connect with everyone in one way or another. That's what I love about playing Rene, his ability to mesh with everyone.
DW: What did it mean to you when you got bumped up to being a series regular?
RG: It meant the world to me. I was so excited about it. I collected comics as a kid and I'm very much a fan of the Marvel and DC universes. I even collected comics from Valiant and Image… I was just a big comic head. To play a character from the DC Universe like that is a big deal. And the fact at he's Latino. That we got to take Jack Wheeler and make him Rene Ramirez. Spin the original idea on its head and make him more contemporary. To me that means even more.
Working with Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle, they're some of the nicest and most giving producers in the industry. I knew when they brought me on to be a regular I would be surrounded by people who are going to trust me with Rene. Trust me with Wild Dog. And know that I'm going to give him the attentiveness, care, love and energy that you should have when playing a character in a big universe. It's an exciting thing to do. I'm a fan on the outside and want to see these characters come to life. That's something I hold dear.
DW: What would you like to see happen or how would you like to see Rene grow in the new season?
RG: I'd like to see that the seed we planted in season five, of Rene being a father, I hope that can come to fruition. I'd like to see him become a father and win that battle. I think he's someone who has suffered a lot. He's never really had a great hand in life. The one thing that is a positive in his life and giving him a chance to grow is being a part of Team Arrow. It's helped him turn the tide and find purpose in his life. So, I'm hoping, that along with being a part of Team Arrow, I'm hoping that he can become a dad again. To complete that circle and see what that looks like. To be a vigilante and a dad at the same time would be awesome.
Arrow season 6 premiere's October 12th at 9 PM on the CW. Arrow season 5 hits stores on Blu-ray and DVD tomorrow.