‘Arrow’: Katrina Law Discusses Playing An LGBT Character With Respect
As the third spectacular season of “Arrow” comes to a close, we’ve only fallen more in love with Katrina Law’s anti-heroic Nyssa al-Ghul. She’s gone from a two-note bad guy, to an ally of Team Arrow, to a heartbroken daughter on the run, and we’ve been with her every step of the way.
On tonight’s (April 29) episode, “Al Sah-Him,” everything comes to a (demon’s) head, as Nyssa is chased down by the League of Assassins. Before that all goes down, though, MTV News talked to Law about what’s next for Nyssa — as well as portraying one of the only fully fleshed out LGBT comic book characters on TV.
MTV News: What can you tease coming up for Nyssa in the next episode?
Katrina Law: This episode is life or death for Nyssa. She is essentially in a fight for her life! The League Of Assassins are after her… And you get to find out what happens by the end.
MTV: It’s been fascinating to see Nyssa develop over these past few seasons, from a foil for Sara, into a fully blown character. On your end, what’s it been like seeing her develop?
Law: Playing this role has been an honor, and has been so much fun. To be able to say in general that I am part of the DC world kind of makes me geek out on so many levels it’s not even funny… But I think between Greg Rucka, who originally created Nyssa, along with the “Arrow” writers, Mark Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg and everybody else that is involved, they’ve made me such a beautiful and complicated character to play.
And granted, Nyssa is a little bit different than a comic book version. But seeing how she hasn’t been in a lot of comics, it has been fun putting my own spin on her. Everybody across the board has really had a lot of fun putting all their own little touches, and knowing we are not breaking any bible that’s already out there on her.
It has been a fun fan reaction, from everybody going, ’I hate this woman because she goes against Oliver.’ She is a very polarizing character — and I think it is just fun to play those [types of] characters.
Getting to interact more with the Arrow, or Team Arrow, has been a lot of fun and I think by bring on Ra’s al Ghul, her father, it has just made Nyssa that much more rounded. She went from a plot point, to this fully flushed out character who is vulnerable and who needs help — but yet is still so strong at the same time. The interactions with her father have really allowed them to give some interesting scenes and backstory and dynamic to the Nyssa character.
MTV: In previous seasons we saw her with Sara, and we saw her with Oliver… And that’s pretty much it. This season, it’s been surprising to see her friendship blossom with Laurel, to see her play off of Thea… Has there been a particular interaction that was most surprising and most enjoyable to you?
Law: The Nyssa/Laurel interaction is my favorite by far. Working with Katie Cassidy is amazing… That woman is so prepared and so professional and talented, it’s such a joy to show up with her to work with her everyday. But then, to have two female characters that get to bond off of each other and grow together as characters and help each other out — and not be catty towards each other like other female characters are — has been very rewarding.
I really thank the writers for allowing that to happen. But story wise, even Nyssa was surprised that she felt a connection to Laurel. Out of all the people that she wanted to reach out to in her time of need, it happened to be Laurel. She really put herself on the line in a way that she normally doesn’t.
When she asked Laurel in the alleyway, “Do you want to talk about our Daddy issues? Or do you want to go grab something to eat?” And you can just see all over her face that had Laurel said no, that Nyssa probably just would have crawled away into a gutter somewhere and just cried.
But Laurel’s kindness to Nyssa is something [she] found very shocking and unexpected, because it is not what she grew up with — and it is not what she is used to out of people.
MTV: One aspect of the character that hasn’t necessarily played into the season, Nyssa is one of the few LGBT characters on television that just is that way… That it isn’t necessarily the major facet of her character, it just adds another layer to her. When you’ve interacted with fans in person or at conventions, have you gotten any positive stories? Any stories about people being inspired by Nyssa in any way?
Law: I know that there was this woman on Twitter who basically — and you know this could all just be fake online interactivity, but I am going to assume that it is real, and that people on the internet don’t lie — but she basically said that because of the Nyssa/Sara storyline, that it gave her the push to come out to her friends and her family. She just kind of put it out there.
That is the beauty of having characters that don’t make a big deal out of being gay, or lesbian, or whatever. They are just what they are, and that is acceptable — and that nobody should question that and that love is love.
So, my fan interaction has been great. In person, people love the storyline, they love the characters… And every now and then I get a couple of religious zealots that don’t like the character — you know they are out there — so they are going to do their thing and I have to respect them for that as well.
But I really respect the writers as well for not making it an issue that Nyssa didn’t choose to become a lesbian because something terrible happened to her… That she just is this way. And I’m really happy that they didn’t decide that she would suddenly hook up with a man, that she was swayed into… They give her the honor to be what she is.
MTV: Do you feel a responsibility towards this aspect of the character? To make sure the show treats her in the right way?
Law: Yes… There is a fear, there is always a fear — and I don’t necessarily feel that with these writers in particular, it is more of a generalized fear — to suddenly have her become straight because some man was able to sway her.
That’s not how this world works. I don’t think I am going to suddenly become a lesbian, or some guy is suddenly going to become gay because he’s hanging out with other guys. It doesn’t really happen like that in the real world. So there was a fear, in order to placate audiences, or just give a storyline that they were going to do that… But so far, they haven’t and it doesn’t look like they are going to. And I love that.
MTV: On the opposite end of the spectrum, maybe a little less seriously, I am sure she is going to be pretty busy being chased by assassins — but is there a chance Nyssa can find love again after Sara?
Law: I think she is going to try! With Nyssa becoming more open and vulnerable, and just starting to see the world in a different way… Sara really kicked off something in Nyssa that she wasn’t privy to before, and it opened her up emotionally. At the end of the day, Nyssa is going to want to feel loved, and is very capable of loving somebody greatly as well.
MTV: Heading into the last few episodes of the season, things got pretty apocalyptic in Starling City. What will we see this time?
Law: Pretty much the same thing! [Laughs] It is going to be epic, and big, and bold… And yeah, lots of drama happens, lot of mayhem happens and you are going to be on the edge of your seat. Nobody is safe. Nobody is safe by the end of the season, so it will be fun to see who makes it out alive.