There was a time when Michael Rowe was known for his intensity as a musician. Dreadlocks flying and eyes fixed, Rowe was the drummer for St. John’s-formed metal/punk band Bucket Truck.
It’s that same intensity that landed him his latest gig: playing the role of DC Comics villain Deadshot in CW’s “Arrow,” a television series set to debut next month based on the Green Arrow character.
Executive producer Marc Guggenheim has said in online reports that the character doesn’t speak much, so he must have a physicality about him — and that’s something Rowe definitely has. It was also something Rowe made a conscious effort to convey in his auditions, though he didn’t know at the time what part he was really auditioning for. In an effort to keep the character under wraps, agents and producers told him he was audition for the role of Finn, a military sniper.
“(The audition piece) was all physical, with one line at the end,” said Rowe, dreadlocked no more. “It was this guy putting together his weapon and getting ready to take out his target. I didn’t know what to do there, and the morning of the audition it started to come to me: this guy’s from the military, he’s all very regimented. He’s done this so many times, he’s just focused on the target and he’s not even looking at the gun because he has this routine.”
Rowe — who had to mime putting together a gun — got a callback audition and this time, took it a step further, taking off his jacket, folding it precisely and continuing with the scene long after it was meant to be over, until he was told to stop.
It got him the part, but it wasn’t until he showed up for a wardrobe fitting that he learned Finn wasn’t a real character.
“I got to get fitted for my wardrobe and as soon as I step on set, everyone starts calling me Deadshot. I’m like, I don’t know who you’re talking about, and they were saying, ‘Have you seen your guns yet? Your glowing red eye patch? Oh, they haven’t told you yet. You’re a superhero villain.
“I wasn’t into comics that much, but my brother used to play this card game that had all the characters on it, and I remember seeing this picture of Deadshot. I couldn’t even comprehend it. I’m playing a superhero villain? This is crazy.”
Rowe’s Deadshot audition was only his sixth acting audition ever. When Bucket Truck broke up in 2007, after almost 10 years of playing with bands like Our Lady Peace and Green Day and on dates on the Warped Tour, Rowe was at a loss as to what he wanted to do next. His youngest brother, Andrew, had moved from St. John’s to Vancouver on a film school scholarship, and Rowe decided to go visit him. All he knew about acting at that point was what he knew from theatre arts in high school, and he wasn’t interested in it.
In Vancouver, he started helping his brother and friends produce short videos and comedy scripts.
“My brother said, ‘We don’t know any other actors, we’ve got to act in this thing, too.’ I didn’t understand acting, but I said OK. I started to quickly realize that everything I had studied when it came to music and songs and injecting my personality into my band was transferrable to acting. Having the crew around me again and making this creative thing and seeing the footage back as opposed to hearing the song back after recording it gave me this kind of feeling I was looking for again. It made me see that maybe it’s not a new band I was looking for; maybe it’s a completely different thing and I want to go down this path and see what it’s like.”
Rowe eventually took a year’s worth of acting classes at Vancouver’s Actor’s Foundry, and started working on sets as a double. He said he developed his confidence on camera through making the sketch comedy videos with Andrew, and signed to an agency in June. He got the Deadshot role in July.
Rowe and his brother also star in “Sleepy Stories,” a 12-minute film written and directed by Andrew, which screened at the Atlantic Film Festival two weeks ago.
He won’t give too much away when it comes to “Arrow,” other than the role is a recurring one. The show is less “cartoonish,” more action-packed, dark and gritty than the similar themed “Smallville,” he explained.
In “Arrow,” the shows website summarizes, billionaire Oliver Queen (played by Stephen Amell) goes missing and is presumed dead for five years before being discovered on a remote island in the Pacific. He returns home a changed man, wanting to make amends for his previous actions. He secretly creates the persona of Arrow to right the wrongs of his family and fight evil. The show is based on characters from DC Comics comic books and graphic novels.
Deadshot, with a glowing eye patch he uses as both a binocular and for night vision, is a hitman known for never missing a shot, and was originally an enemy of Batman. Rowe’s character has custom-fitted machine guns on his forearms.
Despite his quick success on film, Rowe said he always considers himself a musician first, and will continue to draw on what he’s learned from that part of his life for his acting career.
“I’ll always feel like a musician, but I really love acting,” he said. “I think my best asset as an actor is my ability to focus. When you play the drums in a hardcore punk-style band, it’s so fast. I have a millisecond to make a decision. I am so focused, and I call it aggressive meditation. I can’t think about anything, but I’m thinking about everything.”
“Arrow” debuts on CW Oct. 10, and will air in Canada on CTV and MuchMusic. Rowe makes his first appearance as Deadshot Oct. 24.