Exclusive: Lexa Doig on what's next for Talia al Ghul on Arrow

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Mar 14, 2017

Lexa Doig has been playing the iconic DC Comics character Talia al Ghul for much of the past season on Arrow, but now she's about to make the jump from flashbacks to the modern day. So, what’s next for the most famous al Ghul daughter?

A bit of a refresher: Doig's Talia has been Oliver's mentor in the flashback arc this season, preparing him to return home and start his superhero-ing career in earnest (connecting to the start of Season 1). Now she's set to finally feature in the present-day story beginning in this week's episode, "Checkmate," and Doig promises we'll be getting a whole lot of answers soon in regard to Talia's role in the world.

Talia finally makes the jump to the present in the next episode. What can you tell us about the role she'll be playing in the modern-day story?

Lexa Doig: Absolutely nothing. [laughs] She helps Arrow answer a few questions, I can say that.

We've seen in the teaser for this week that Talia obviously knows some things about Prometheus as she tells Oliver that the Big Bad is actually Adrian Chase. What can you tell us about Talia's connection to Prometheus?

I think I can say she trained him; at this point Oliver has already figured that out.

Talia seems to be very different from the other al Ghuls we've met in the series up to this point; for example, her sister Nyssa. What can you tell us about how Talia fits into that family dynamic?

I don't think she fits into that dynamic at all, which is part of the deal there. There's a reason why [earlier in the series] when Oliver went to Nanda Parbat and met Ra's and Nyssa, there's a reason Talia wasn't there or even mentioned. These are the question marks that get answered somewhat next episode.

I think the biggest difference that I chose to make is Talia is someone who doesn't exist in the shadows like the rest of the League. She doesn't just influence events from the peripheral. She can do that, and has done that, but she will take a more active role. She could be running her own company, not unlike how Oliver has an identity in the real world, as well as one in the underworld, so to speak.

The reveal that Oliver knew Talia five years ago, before he met Ra's and Nyssa, really colors those interactions in a different type of light. But how much does Talia know about how Oliver has intersected with her family?

That'll be answered a bit next episode. But she knows in the present day. She knows exactly what Oliver had to do with her family.

Talia's motivations are still pretty much a mystery at this point, along with her backstory. What can you tell us that we might not already know about this version of Talia?

The fact that it's on Arrow, for one, because so many other versions usually had her interact with Batman. in this case, I think that's probably the biggest difference. I haven't seen Marion Cotillard's portrayal [in 2012's The Dark Knight Rises] and didn't read all the comics. But I did a lot of research at the University of the Google to learn as much as I could. Maybe mine is a bit more earnest than other versions. She's curious, and personally I have a lot of more fun playing a character when you can inject that sarcasm and snark, which she does every now and then. Not much in the next episode coming up, but still [laughs].

I think her portrayal is probably a little more TV-friendly, and grounded in an identifiable way, relating to the character, that maybe doesn't come through as much when the character is heightened. She's a supernatural person, and that's not exactly easy to identity with when you're at home watching telly. With a character like Talia you see on Arrow, it felt a little bit more in-universe to ground her in certain reality the TV viewers could understand.

What can you tease about the back half of the season and your role?

I'm not in a ton of the back half of the season, as far as my role. My tease would be, just, "Where'd she go?!" [laughs] At the same time, I can say I think there are a lot of "Holy s**t!" moments that happen.

From Continuum to Stargate SG-1 to Andromeda — you've played a lot of roles in a lot of beloved sci-fi shows. What is it about the genre in particular that keeps calling you back?

A lot of it is shot in Canada, so that's probably a big factor, not going to lie [laughs]. But I really enjoy it. Once you get used to the fantastical elements and the language. Like, in Andromeda, fun with the language and unique word salad they'd put together for me to say. But that really did make sense, in fairness to the writers of Andromeda. If you understood the science behind it, which I rarely did.

Once you get comfortable doing it, I'm kind of shocked so many actors aren't. There are so many things shot in front of green screen, and using CGI, now. I did a Canadian show about a small airline in Canada and we did stuff with effects, because we had to. Because you couldn't film in a blizzard or the Arctic tundra. So much of that that's done, once you get accustomed, it becomes second nature and it's not an impediment to your performance. Like, you're screaming because a tennis ball is attacking. "Oh God! It's a tennis ball!" [laughs] Once you get used to that, that's one of the things.

When you're dealing with genre television, one thing I love about sci-fi, fantasy and comic shows is that they're metaphors. On the surface they may seem very fantastical and silly or child-like, but underneath that there are these lovely metaphors for what's happening in our world today. It's relevant to life right now. That's what I love most about the genre.

The latest episode of Arrow airs on Wednesday at 8PM on The CW.