Katherine McNamara on the Way Mia Fits Into The Flash: Armageddon

The CW series The Flash is kicking off its eighth season with a five-part event called “Armageddon,” in which a powerful and mysterious alien threat arrives on Earth promising the end of the world. Barry (Grant Gustin), Iris (Candice Patton) and the rest of Team Flash are up against a ticking clock with time running out and in order to save humanity, they will need to enlist the help of some of their other super friends.

With one of those superheroes to the rescue being Mia Smoak, aka Green Arrow, Collider got the opportunity to chat 1-on-1 with Katherine McNamara, the actress who first brought the character to life on Arrow. During the interview, she talked about how it was a dream come true to reprise her role as Mia, what it was like to see her character through the eyes of the creative team on The Flash, having kept up with training on her own during the pandemic, and what fans can expect to see from her in “Armageddon.” She also discussed teaming up with Alcon PRECISION1 contact lenses and how they’ve helped her vision, especially when it comes to safely pulling off the badass stunts she’s become known for.

Collider: First of all, I think it’s so interesting that you’ve teamed up with Alcon and their PRECISION1 contact lenses. How did that come about? Why was it important to you, especially when it comes to your work and the stunts that you do, to find the right contact lenses, and what made them the right fit for you?

KATHERINE McNAMARA: It was a very coincidentally fortuitous situation, that’s for sure. I had good vision, my whole childhood. I never thought I needed vision health. I was fine, or so I thought. I ended up going to an optometrist to get a contact lens fitting for some special effects monster contacts for a job. I thought, “Well, it’s been about 10 years since I’ve gotten my eyes tested. I probably should. I’m here. Why not?” I was shocked and quite embarrassed at the results. I did not know how bad my vision was. It’s something that is so simple and can be right in front of our faces, and yet is so easy to forget about doing. You go about your life and things can change drastically, right before your eyes, literally, and you don’t even know. I started wearing glasses and, obviously, doing what I do, it’s not always conducive to work or to fitness, or for a lot of the other activities in my life. Glasses got to be very cumbersome.

So, mid-pandemic, when the world started opening back up again, I went, “Okay, I’m gonna figure out contact lenses. I’ve never had them before. I’ve never explored them. I’m in my mid-20s. It’s time to adult and take care of myself.” Around the same time, Alcon had reached out, seeing that I was wearing glasses and going, “Hey, have you ever thought about contacts?” I went to my eye doctor and it turns out that PRECISION1 was actually the perfect lens for me. They’re so comfortable. They’re daily lenses that you just throw in and I completely forget about. They truly have opened up my world and have made me feel as though I have my own superpower, as it were.

I love their See What Happens campaign because it really aligns with a lot of the way I live my life. It very much centers around encouraging people to go out into the world and have experiences and live your life and go on adventures and don’t let anything stop you, including your vision, which is exactly what Alcon did for me. I know being a young adult, I’m learning how to do all of these things in the world. It wasn’t necessarily something I knew how to do. So, they have a great feature on their website. You can go to SeeWhatHappens.com and find an eye doctor near you, where you can go get your vision tested. You can explore the options on their website and see what’s available to you, so you can go in with a little bit of knowledge and have the right questions to ask so that you can really find the right lens for you.

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When you do as much physical work as you do, that must also help with stunts and making sure you can actually see what you’re doing.

McNAMARA: Oh, absolutely. Especially if you’re holding a bow on set and having to pretend to fire an arrow or you’re throwing a sword, or doing anything like that, it helps if you can see where you’re going or where you’re stepping in the dark or what you’re aiming at. If you’re throwing a kick in the dark, and there’s smoke and fog and your hair is blowing in your face, it helps if you can see, just a little. There’s only so much smolder that you can get away with.

You’ve certainly proven, in recent years, that you can do physical work and stunts. Is that something that you’ve always wanted to do and always felt you could do, or are you surprised your career has taken this turn?

McNAMARA: I’m very surprised. I grew up doing ballet. I was a dancer my whole life. Fighting was something I never knew how to do. I’m also a tiny human, so I never thought I could have any modicum of real physical strength. I just didn’t think that was something possible for me. Then, after booking Shadowhunters, I started working with a really amazing trainer that I still work with to this day in Toronto, and the incredible stunt coordinators on Shadowhunters. They taught me that it doesn’t matter what body type you have, and it doesn’t matter who you are or how you’re built. If you train correctly and for your body type and work with what you’re given, you can do anything. The human body is an amazing thing and can achieve so many feats. They worked with me so closely. I trained with them three to five times a week, and they taught me how to throw a punch and hold a sword and how to fight and how to move like a fighter, and all of these things, where I ended up doing the majority of my own fighting and stunts on the show. I also had an incredible stunt double, who’s a world champion martial artist, who also taught me so much and did many of the aerial tricks and things that, not being a world-class martial artist, I don’t do. I learned a lot of it from her and from the stunt coordinators there, and it really showed me that so much more as possible than you would ever think.

Did you feel like you had a moment where you realized that you had this confidence in your own body and that you were capable of doing something that feels necessary to play a character, or is it more gradual than that?

McNAMARA: Yes and no. I was thrown into the gauntlet with Shadowhunters, in the best way possible, but equally so was Clary. I had the luxury of being able to grow and learn, physically, with my character. As we went through the years of Clary going from Brooklyn artist to fighter, I went from ballet dancer to action actor. It really was a journey. I was so grateful to train with the boys. We all trained together – the rest of the cast and I – as we went through it, and it was really motivating to be in the gym with guys that are so athletic and had been training for a lot of their lives. We’d push each other. I was the little sister. It helps when you have people that are coaching you and giving you trouble about things, in a way that’s encouraging and makes you laugh, along the way. After I did my first couple of fights scenes, it hit me and I realized they weren’t pulling in the stunt double unless they really needed to for safety. The stunt coordinator and the stunt double were like, “You did it. You’re doing it. Keep going. You’ve got this.” When you’re in it together and you’re dancing with the camera operator and you’re moving and you’re doing it yourself, it’s such a visceral experience. Not only do you feel like a little kid in the woods with a sword when you’re six years old, but also you really get immersed in the world and it’s such a part of the character’s journey. I’m just so grateful to have had a team surrounding me that helped me to do the work and get that far.

It’s so exciting to see you return to Mia. When and how did you get notified about returning to play the character, as a part of this huge event for The Flash?

McNAMARA: As is usually the case with these things, they keep everything under wraps. All I knew was that they wondered if I was interested in coming back to play Mia for an episode of The Flash. I said, “Absolutely! I will be there. You let me know. I’m yours.” Mia, just like Clary, is such a special character to me. I learned so much from and had such an incredible experience on Arrow. They did so much for me and took such good care of her. I never thought I’d get to play her again, and now that I do, it’s such a dream come through. Grant [Gustin] and everybody over there, and the whole crew on The Flash, was just amazing and welcomed me with open arms. I’m just so grateful.

Is she a character that immediately comes right back to you, or does it take a minute to find your groove with the costume and the bow and arrow?

McNAMARA: I was a little curious. I was wondering about that. I was like, “Okay, well, what is this gonna be? It’s a different writers’ room and a different everything.” I was immediately put at ease, as soon as I read the script and I had an amazing conversation with Eric Wallace, who’s the showrunner on The Flash. His enthusiasm over bringing Mia back, and the way that he spoke about her character and her story, I was immediately excited. And then, I read the script and somehow they found Mia’s penchant for humor and sarcasm and the little elements of curmudgeoness that come from her past were all beautifully blended into a story that was really moving. I was thrilled to be able to come back and do it. And then, you get on set and you put on the suit. I had a moment where I was putting on her suit for the first time in the fitting and I welled up a little bit because it felt like home. It felt like putting on an old comfy pair of speakers. You just go, “Oh, right, this feels right. This feels like where I belong.” It was really a dream come true.

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It’s such a rare experience to be able to return to a character and the character is familiar, but you’re on a different set with a different showrunner, and everything else around her is different. Is that weird? Did you need an adjustment period to figure out how she fit in with everybody else?

McNAMARA: Sort of. The beauty of Mia is that she’s always been a little bit of a fish out of water. She’s always been a lone wolf and someone who is constantly thrown into situations where she is on her own, but forced to cooperate, whether or not she wants to, with the people around her. She’s very driven by her own impulses and her own goals and her own sense of justice. That feeds into not only the character of the Green Arrow, but also Mia and the way she operates in this world. Ultimately, whether or not she wants to be, she’s driven by justice.

Did you know that you would be returning to her with enough time to actually prepare to return to her? Are you always training on your own anyway?

McNAMARA: I had a little bit of time. Fortunately, I spent a lot of the pandemic training and keeping myself busy, physically. Things like boxing and training in martial arts and things where you need another person have not always been the easiest to do. But I’ve got my boxing dummy Bob, the quarantine boyfriend. He’s kept me company. We spar, from time to time. He’s pretty harmless, but we make it work.

You had done some work during the pandemic, but it seems like with Mia, you have to get into a whole mental headspace, along with the physical side of it.

McNAMARA: It’s a bit like the first day of school, in the way that you go, “Oh, it’s been so long since I’ve been on a set in a really traditional environment. Am I gonna remember how to do my job? Do I even know how to do this anymore?” And then, after the first day, I just remember getting back to the hotel and going, “I feel normal, for the first time in two and a half years. I feel like myself again. I feel like I’m right where I need to be.” It further affirmed how much I’m so grateful to do what I love for a living and to be able to have the job that I do. It just confirms that you’re in the right place.

What can you say to tease fans for what they’ll get to see of Mia and how she’ll fit into “Armageddon”?

McNAMARA: It makes me so excited. It’s definitely very true to who Mia is, and to her drive and her motivation of really trying to pick up where her father left off. She had such a limited amount of time with him. Mia and Oliver were finally getting to a place where they understood each other. They were overcoming their hangups and issues with each other. And then, of course, he died and she was left scrambling and going, “Wait, I’m not ready to take this on. I’m just learning how to be a hero. I’m just learning how to do all of this.” Mia is someone who is so desperately trying to live up to the legacy of her father and to live up to all of these promises that she made without really knowing how to do it. Given that she is a bit of a lone wolf, it can be a bit of a struggle sometimes. Barry Allen is really good at finding people when they’re a little lost and steering them in the right direction.

Did you have to do anything new or different with her, this time around?

McNAMARA: I spent a good portion of it in a cocktail dress and heels, which is very odd for Mia. It’s not her usual habitat, so that was interesting but fun.

When you first started playing Mia and you were discovering her as a character, did you have a moment where it all clicked and you felt like you really got who Mia was?

McNAMARA: Because she’s not a character that’s canon in the comics, there was a lot of finding Mia as she was being written. I give huge credit to Beth Schwartz, Marc Guggenheim, Jill Blankenship, Oscar Balderrama, and all of the writers on Arrow that were so integral in bringing Mia to life and creating who she is. From the first episode that I read, I got a lot of her backstory. A few episodes in, they did a full flashback episode, where you saw Mia’s story, how she developed, and when she finally found Felicity again. But a lot of my character development, aside from that, came from watching Arrow. I knew that she was meant to be this amalgamation of Olicity. Stephen [Amell] and Emily [Bett Rickards] had done so much work. At that time, I had six seasons wort to watch, of their work and their relationship and how their characters had developed and what their pasts were. From what I knew about Mia’s upbringing bringing, as well as how their characters had developed and what Mia’s genetic makeup would be, I loved both of the characters and decided to try to pull little elements of each of them. I was like, “What would their child be? How does she move? What’s her sense of humor? What does she glean from each of them, having spent more time with Felicity, but still being very much of the Queen family genetics? How does that personify?” Between that and the writers, I was able to really come up with something that I was very happy with, in the end.

The Flash “Armageddon” five-part event starts on The CW on November 16. And you can find out more about Alcon PRECISION1 contact lenses at www.SeeWhatHappens.com.

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Christina Radish (5060 Articles Published)

Christina Radish is a Senior Reporter at Collider. Having worked at Collider for over a decade (since 2009), her primary focus is on film and television interviews with talent both in front of and behind the camera. She is a theme park fanatic, which has lead to covering various land and ride openings, and a huge music fan, for which she judges life by the time before Pearl Jam and the time after. She is also a member of the Critics Choice Association and the Television Critics Association.

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