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William's Arrow Coming Out Is One of the Highlights of the Series

William's 'Arrow' Coming Out Is One of the Highlights of the Series

William's 'Arrow' Coming Out Is One of the Highlights of the Series

PRIDE chatted with Arrow star Ben Lewis about the super emotional coming out scene in "Present Tense."


***Warning! Spoilers for Arrow Season 8, Episode 4 "Present Tense" ahead!***

The CW's long-running DC hero series Arrow has been delivering all sorts of emotional AF moments ever since the final season started airing just a few weeks ago, but one of the most poignant moments of the show's entire run was delivered during tonight's episode, entitled "Present Tense," and it involved a coming-out scene where adult William (Ben Lewis) finally gets to reveal his sexuality to his father Oliver (Stephen Amell).

We caught up with Lewis, and we got to chat about his character's emotional coming out, how he pushed for the scene to be included in the first place, and the long-lasting legacy of queer inclusion the Arrowverse has gifted to superhero fans!

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PRIDE: William already confirmed he was gay earlier this year, but that was more lighthearted and comedic in nature. The scene from tonight’s episode where you come out to your dad Oliver is way more emotional and really pulls at viewers’ heartstrings, especially those with complex, and complicated relationships with their parents. How emotional was that for you to act that scene opposite Stephen Amell, and what was it like to bring that kind of representation to the small screen? 

Ben Lewis: It was very important to me. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself, honestly, to get it right, especially because it's a scene and a moment that I had specifically asked the writers for. As soon as I read the ending of the last episode, 803, where Mia and William were reunited with Oliver in 2019, one of the first things that popped into my head was 'Wow, I bet William never had the opportunity to come out to his dad before he died.' As a gay person myself, I know what a hugely defining moment that can be in any queer person's life. I know certainly, it was for me. I came out to my parents right before my 18th birthday, and it was such a... Until you do it, you can't imagine just how much it will change your life. To hopefully shed all those years of pent up guilt and shame. Obviously, everyone has a different coming out experience. For some people like me, you're lucky enough to have parents who love and embrace you. For other people, it can be very traumatic and difficult. But I think the thing that everyone coming out has in common is that fear of not knowing. Taking the leap and what it's gonna be like on the other side. 

For me, it was just like this huge turning point in my life personally. It's where I felt like I really started living. So for William to have been robbed of that opportunity to come out to his father before he died. To live with the grief and potential regret of that, and then have another chance 20 years later in his 30s to face his father and tell him who he really is and to speak his authentic truth, it's such a loaded moment. As an actor, a normal coming out scene would be emotional and cathartic to begin with, but then you add onto it the time travel aspect and the fact that he's seeing his dead father for the first time in 20 years, it was just so layered. There was so much to play there, so it was just a real gift to get to do it.  

How receptive were the writers of your suggestion for a coming-out scene?

They were immediately receptive. The rollout in terms of the information we've gotten about William and his sexuality has been really amazing. In my second episode, William made a brief reference to an ex-boyfriend, so that's how you know at least he was queer, but you don't know exactly how he identified on the spectrum. And then it that next episode where I said 'I'm gay and she's my mom!' that's when you realize he identifies as gay. Those moments were a little bit more off-handed or light-hearted because William is a man in his 30s who has been living out for a long time and is very comfortable in himself. That was an interesting thing to tap into as well, the vulnerability of being a child or a younger person and coming out to your parents. 

The writers, I think that they not only saw the dramatic potential in having that scene but also I think they knew how much it would mean to the LGBTQ fanbase for the show. Representation is paramount, it's so important. 

We all know the Arrowverse has been extremely LGBTQ+ inclusive. It's been a trailblazer in that aspect. Since Arrow is wrapping up its last season, what was it like to just be a part of this legacy?

Honestly, when I got the job on the show, I wasn't that familiar with the superhero genre. It's never been necessarily something I've been passionate about, but I respect Greg Berlanti so much as an out creator and artist and businessperson, and knowing that the Arrowverse was his brainchild was something that I really wanted to be a part of. I've really learned so much about the Arrowverse and its inclusivity since getting the job, and the fans have taught me so much about it since I started, and it's a really beautiful, diverse community. Not only on-screen, but within the fanbase that watches it. 

It’s still rare in Hollywood for LGBTQ+ actors to be playing LGBTQ+ roles. Can you speak a little about having this amazing platform to show young fans and viewers that you can be and do anything?

I think that the inclusive representation of the show certainly shows, like you said, you can do anything and you can be anything, and that there's also different ways to be a hero, which I think William specifically shows. You don't necessarily need to be built like Stephen Amell or be able to fight in that way to make an impact and help make the world a better place. William is somebody who takes after Felicity and leads with his intellect and his wit, and that's been really fun for me to play.

It's not lost on me the significance and the importance of me being an out actor myself getting to play an out character and be given this platform. Like I was saying before, I think it's because of people like Greg Berlanti and Ryan Murphy who are going out of their way to hire queer actors to play queer characters, they are the reason that the cultural landscape has shifted and will continue to shift. I'm very grateful to people like them, and I'm very grateful to be working on one of Greg's shows. 

New episodes of the final season of Arrow are currently airing Tuesday nights on The CW and available for streaming on Wednesdays on The CW app

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