At first glance, Wednesday nights on The CW may seem powered by testosterone, and indeed, the tough guys are the ones all over the billboards. But “Arrow” is proving, episode after episode, that dude-driven television doesn’t have to be peppered with disposable, underdeveloped female characters. In fact, the women on “Arrow,” from Oliver’s deceptive mother, Moira, to his quirky IT sidekick, Felicity, are just as capable and cunning as the vigilante himself.
“True Blood” star Janina Gavankar‘s McKenna Hall is another example an empowered female on the show. McKenna, a vice cop with the Starling City police force, was recently introduced as a returning face from Oliver’s past.
In tonight’s new episode, “Dodger,” Oliver gives their romance another go when he asks her out on a date. Things are complicated (to put it mildly) by McKenna being assigned to the task force out to apprehend the vigilante, but she’s willing to give Oliver a chance.
“She’s had this wild past, but she’s a grown up,” Gavankar told us when we visited her on set recently. “By the time they reconnect, they’re both in very [different] places than who they were in the past. I think that’s why they have an understanding. She’s an incredibly intuitive girl; there’s a reason why she’s a detective. She’s an observer, which tells you that Ollie is incredibly good at staying undercover, for this girl not to notice that he happens to be the vigilante. That’s what I really like about her. She’s a strong, independent, grown lady.”
Gavankar admits to geeking out over her character a little — she’s put some serious thought into McKenna’s backstory and just what kind of history she shares with Oliver. While their paths crossed a few times during his d-bag playboy days, she never saw a legitimate future with him.
“She comes from a family of cops; she’s always thought she would always be blue collar,” Gavankar says, noting that McKenna’s life doesn’t have the glamour that Oliver’s does, at all. “When you meet somebody like Oliver Queen in the club and he actually takes a liking to you, you’re like ‘Screw it! I’m totally going to have some fun with this guy! We’re definitely not going to end up together but whatever, at least one day I’ll be able to say that I dated Oliver Queen. And I’m going to tell all of my girlfriends everything.’ You know? So that’s what I feel their past was. Nothing serious, and she never expected that they would ever connect in a real way.”
That said, things are definitely different now. While Oliver can’t make love a priority for many reasons (which we spoke to Stephen Amell about, as well), he isn’t necessarily the love-them-and-leave-them guy that he was in the past. Could his date with McKenna turn into a more serious relationship?
“He has changed a lot, and she does have this moment when she thinks back, and she goes, ‘I always loved how much you loved your sister,'” Gavankar muses. “So even back then she saw something real and grounded in him. I think McKenna has always seen a little of the softer, what-could-be side of Oliver. I mean, if he stays that way, who wouldn’t fall for that?”
One nice thing about this particular pairing is that, unlike many of the other people in his life, McKenna isn’t demanding of Oliver’s time. She’s not worried about him showing up late to dinner or ducking out of fancy events early. “I think the reason that they ever would be okay together in the future is that because McKenna is independent and incredibly career-driven, she has no problem with a guy who is busy,” Gavankar says. “In fact — thank you, please stay out of my way, I gotta work. Mama’s got to pay the bills.”
Somehow, though, they will find time to be together, and McKenna allows herself a moment to enjoy it. “He’s got that face, and he holds her in a certain way, and it feels good,” she says. “They’re shiny for each other, you know?”
Tune to “Arrow” on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. EST on The CW. In the meantime, hear more from Janina Gavankar in our video interview below. Additionally, tonight’s episode introduces Colton Haynes’ character Roy Harper, who you can read more about here.