Heroes and Villains Fan Fest: Interview with Arrow’s Echo Kellum


By: Haylee Fisher (@haylee_fisher)

Echo Kellum is like a kid in a candy store when describing his character’s role in Team Arrow and the enthusiasm he feels in getting to play Curtis Holt. Fans may think they’re excited for tonight’s crossover, but Kellum may have them beat. After all, this will be the first time fans will see him in a bigger capacity in the crossovers. He’s eager for them to see how everyone interacts and how the good guys will prevail in the end. (Because of course they will.)

Now in his third season playing Curtis Holt, AKA Mr. Terrific, Kellum has evolved the character into a full-fledged superhero. He may stumble along the way, and his love life may not be what it once was, but Kellum knows Curtis. He knows what his endgame is and he knows how he needs to evolve to get there.

It’s clear Kellum is passionate about Curtis and Arrow as a whole, but beyond that, he’s just a super nice guy. I recently had the chance to sit down with him at Heroes and Villains Fan Fest in Atlanta, and we chatted about Mr. Terrific and his tech, Curtis and his startup, the crossover, and more.

You’ve mentioned in the past that Curtis would use his smarts more in fights. What has been the most rewarding part of showing that brainy side of Curtis, showing that brawn isn’t always the way to go?

Yeah, I always have loved heroes who were thinkers first. Because brawn [and] using your strengths is important, but if you can outthink an opponent, you can strategize and bring these different elements into it. You look at any major conflict in the world and it’s all about the thoughts and not just about the strength of your arm. So I love the fact that Curtis brings that to the table on the regular, where he can be the guy who builds tech for them or hacks computers, but that he can still get out there and kick a little butt, too. He’s smart enough to know where he can strengthen someone’s weakness, and I think that’s where the t-spheres came in, where they’re this really helpful tool while he got to the point of being a badass and to ease that transition.

That’s exactly what I wanted to talk about! Curtis is a tech genius. In the comics, though, his mask and t-spheres play a bigger part than they do in the show. What kind of development might we see or do you hope to see for Mr. Terrific’s technology side?

I definitely hope [we see more]. I feel like the t-spheres at this period, and even his mask to a lesser extent, are kind of like their version one. I think that when you see Mr. Terrific in the comics, [those t-spheres] are like the iPhone 10. Those t-spheres that he’s flying on and they’re taking down cameras and keeping him invisible to other technology are years and years of work and prep and prototypes and stuff like that. Right now I feel like he’s at that prototype phase where he’s trying to figure them out, because he’s still at a point where he throws them a lot, as opposed to in the comic books where they’re rolling around and he’s flying on them. And I definitely hope the show gets that far, even with the technology in his mask. I hope they definitely touch on that within the span of Arrow, for sure.

Curtis and Felicity are also working on a start-up that many are speculating to be health tech. In what ways do you see the start-up influencing Mr. Terrific’s tech and colliding his worlds?

To go even beyond Mr. Terrific, Curtis the person is a person who I feel like has always wanted to help society and the betterment of mankind. Even Michael Holt [from the comics] is so into science and figuring out these complex theorems or what have you. Trying to figure out ways to help mankind get to the next level. I think with this new company, we touched on it last episode with the bio-stimulant – the chip that helps Felicity walk. I definitely think you’ll see them branching off into more mankind things and ways to really change things for us as a species. As far as Mr. Terrific, I think it will be interesting to see how those things play off into his character, because he will be coming up with more tech and implementing it in the field.

Perhaps his tech will play in to the crossovers?

Yeah, you’ll definitely see some parts of that. He definitely plays a big part in helping remedy the situation in the crossover.

Yeah, I wanted to touch on that and you interacting with everyone in that way. We’ll see you meet and work with characters you haven’t before. Which relationships are you most excited for fans to see?

I know you said for the fans, but I really loved working with Supergirl – Melissa [Benoist]. Grant [Gustin], Los [Carlos Valdes]. We all have such great chemistry together. I think the fans are going to see a lot more things between Mr. Terrific and the Legends of Tomorrow crew, too. I don’t want to say too much and give too many spoilers, though! But yeah, I think the fans will really like the mix and match of all different types of characters coming together. And then the scenes where we have all the heroes! Twenty-two heroes in one scene, if I remember correctly. I think it’s going to be a really cool time and fans are going to love it.

Yeah, you haven’t really done the crossover to this degree before.

No, not like that! Last year I worked with Grant and Melissa and Carlos, which was [great]. They came to us and now I’m going to other shows!

The show also employs flashbacks to tell the character’s stories. Will we ever see one for Curtis and what parts of his background would you like to see?

I do hope you’ll see one for Curtis at some point. They’ve shown backstory for Wild Dog and what’s going on with him and his daughter last year. And in season four, Curtis touched on his brother passing away and his mom, and I’d love to see them touch on what his family life was like, what brought him to Palmer Tech. Even some flash forwards, too! I’d like to see some flash forwards in there!

I would love to see how Curtis and Paul met because I liked them together! Do you see them ever getting back together?

I personally hope so. I really like them together, too. I think they really complement each other well. I would love to see them back together. I don’t know if it will happen in the first part of this season. I think Curtis is just going to strike out on his own and play the field. I think it would be a fun trajectory to see Curtis go and try to find love, but I hope they do get back together.

What has it meant to you to play such a visible LGBT character?

It means the world to me. I was partially raised by someone in the LGBT community. The feeling that people in the community have when they come up to me, they’re just so thankful to see someone living their life who just happens to love someone of the same sex. Or seeing how Caity Lotz portrays her character. I think what’s important is seeing that in a non-stereotypical way, because no one lives their life based on who they love. You live your life and you love who you love and it is what it is. So it’s just another part of him. Sean Hayes used to say it was the fifth most important thing about his character. There’s so much more about us than who we choose to make love with. Although that is an important part. But still, I just like portraying Curtis into whatever way he is and loving who he loves. I think there needs to be a lot more inclusion on TV. We can’t shy away from seeing these types of things. It’s in our world. It’s important to see, and the LGBT community has been marginalized in so many ways, and to me, it means a lot to portray that on screen. I want to see more of it on TV.

A lot of times, the lead of the show influences the atmosphere on set. How have the dynamics been different now that Diggle is the Green Arrow?

Everyone is so down-to-Earth, everyone’s so chill, so it’s still the same atmosphere. We show up and it’s a well-oiled machine. Everyone’s really supportive and we all really genuinely love each other. So the on-set atmosphere is really healthy and positive and fun. It’s a really great working environment. And I know that’s not true on all shows so I definitely feel thankful. It’s just a good time.

Yeah, I went to the Original Team Arrow panel, and it seems like all they do is mess with each other!

Oh, yeah! Like I said, it’s one of the funnest jobs I’ve ever worked on as an actor. But I have had a lot of fun [on other shows]. I loved working on Sean Saves the World, You’re the Worst, Ben and Kate and we all had so much fun, but to be on this drama and to still feel like we’re all just kind of comedians, cracking jokes between scenes and being silly, but then when they call action, everyone is on point, it’s really cool.

Finally, what do you most enjoy about coming to cons and interacting with fans like this?

I love giving back to the fans. When I grew up, my world would have been changed so much if I could have met Will Smith or Jim Carrey. Those people I idolized on TV. It would have meant the world to me, [and now I] get to play a very small, miniscule part in that. You have fans who come up and tell you about bad health news they got and how the show helped them get through it and what the characters mean to their lives and the escapism, things like that are really important. I wish everyone could see their fans. If we don’t have fans, we’re just doing a rehearsal. We’re not really putting on a show. So to me, I love doing [cons]. I’m a super nerd anyway, and for me and all my friends I grew up with, cons are our business. We love it. So it’s pretty incredible to be on the other side of the table and in this capacity as opposed to coming as a fan. It’s something I really like doing.

Yeah, David Ramsey said at his panel that Ric Flair came up to him earlier and said he binge-watched Arrow when he was in the hospital recently.

It’s really crazy! It’s the little things that really help, so I’m happy to be a part of it.

The Arrow-verse crossover, Crisis on Earth-X, premieres tonight, November 27 at 8 PM EST, and concludes tomorrow, November 28. Both nights will air two-hour episodes.

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