Susanna Thompson Shoots Her ARROW Straight When Playing Moira Queen


Actress Susanna Thompson plays Moira Queen in the CW’s Arrow, somewhat based on the DC Comics’ Green Arrow.   

And her role on the series is a complex one.

When I sit down to speak with her, we chat openly about Moira, Thompson’s background, and Mark Harmon.

It’s Hard to Keep Track

I delve in with a comment about the complexity of Moira Queen and how Thompson manages to keep track of everything that’s going on in Queen’s world.  Thompson says, “You know, I do a lot of journaling.  I look at the script they give me, and I build upon previous scripts.  I just keep adding to the character. 

“I do think there are a couple of things about her, though, that are very clear,” she continues.  She 100% loves her children, Walter, and she’s trying to survive.  I feel like she’s been backed into a corner by circumstances, but I think she has counted on money as a result of her privileged background to get her out of things.  I think she’s counted on men.  But I also think she’s learning to navigate a lot on her own now.”

Thompson says, “I just keep asking myself questions.  Now, she’s in a very desperate place.  She’s looking for answers.  She’s looking for solutions, a way out of all the deals she’s made with, I think, many devils.  I think she’s constantly keeping her antenna up and open.

She’s An Interesting Character

“And I don’t think I’ve ever personally been in that sort of desperate place,” she adds.

In continuing a comparison with her own persona, she says, “I think she’s more self-centered than I am and maybe a little oblivious at times.  But she’s very powerful.  And I’m trying to bring more and more of that strength to her.  It’s certainly a wild ride.”

We touch on the fact that Queen can sometimes be a challenging role to play, and Thompson says, “I’m an actor that wants to be doing something.  Right now, most of my character’s storylines center around the Queen estate.”  She adds with a laugh, “and sleazy back alleys.”

What’s in a Future?

She continues, “I would love to really explore the environment of wealth, and I’d like to see who she is in different areas.  I’d like to see what a different environment would do for her and see her active, not just keep her as an overseer of the estate.

“I have some ideas, and I’m waiting for the right time to share.  I know the writers also have their ideas of what they want to do the first season.  But I am hoping to see some ideas of environmental places that we’ll explore, that environment of a wealthy community, of what it’s like to be a billionaire.

“The other hard thing is playing a bad mom, the one that doesn’t quite know how to nurture.  It’s foreign to me.  I’m not a mom, but I’d be a terrific mom.  Historically, I’m a nurturer,” she laughs.  “That’s the hard part.  It’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I got that quite right.’”

When I ask how she thinks Queen has changed since the beginning of the series, Thompson tells me, “I thought she had a lot in her back pocket when I read the pilot.  What has developed is more of a desperateness, a searching and a grabbing of solutions as opposed to a solution that I thought maybe she had already created.  I thought she was more cognizant of how she was going to handle herself.  She’s become more of a victim of circumstances than being more in the driver’s seat.”

Acting Is Life

Being a fan of Thompson from her NCIS days as Army Lt. Col. Hollis Mann, I’m curious to know if she auditioned for the part of Moira Queen, what attracted her to the role, and if being an actress is a dream-come-true for her.

She tells me, “I did audition.  And, it was originally offered to another actress.  I had been asked to come in and read.  Something slipped through the cracks, and it was offered to somebody else.”

She continues, “Anyway, it was something about her strengths, her being the head of the family, and again, that environment of wealth that made me sort of curious about playing her.  She seemed to be a woman who you could count on to get out of just about anything.

“I was also very interested in the comic book genre of it.  It was interesting to see the political landscape of it, a reflection of the times.  We live in an ever-changing world right now, and we need to take care of each other.

“And,” she adds, “it was one of the more interesting female characters of a certain age during pilot season, and I was happy to see that.”

“As for getting into acting,” the San Diego-born Thompson says, “I can remember being a very young child, and my mother just always loved movies.  I can remember something in me loving them too.  Maybe it was just her love of them that spilled over into my love of them. But, I can remember she used to get my hair permed in elementary school.  And I can remember sitting in a hairdresser’s chair, and that old question that adults ask children came up – ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’  And for some reason, what came out was ‘a movie star.’  But I had nothing attached to that, no background.  My family aren’t performers, but I think it came out of me because of my mother’s love of movies.

“Where it led me in middle school and high school was a decision to give it a shot.  Then, when I was in college, really the decision was theatre.  Then, when I tried L.A., I can remember carrying over from college the sense that I wanted to be a working actor.  And I have been a working actor, and that’s a true gift – to work when many are not.”

You Get to Act with the Best

Of course, I have to ask her about acting with Mark Harmon.  She says, “Playing opposite Mark  in NCIS was fun.  It was a little bit of an adjustment at first, because it all happened really fast, but I loved trying to get that military into my bones, putting on the Army fatigues, and really chatting with some of the Army advisers there while getting a sense of what it all felt like in my body.

“Once I got that in there, it was just fun playing opposite Mark.  He had directed me years ago in  Chicago Hope.  I already knew what a great person he was to work with.  But for the two of us just to banter back and forth, we both felt that Moonlighting energy and really tried to create characters and a relationship of equals where our characters could be much more honest with each other.  It was just great.  He’s a great guy, a talented actor, and really a team leader.  It’s fun to work with him.”

Thompson’s current series, Arrow, airs on Wednesdays on the CW.

Cheryl has been a freelance TV/film writer for more than 10 years. Simultaneously, she has worked in PR for Bon Jovi Productions in NYC, PolyGram Records (also in NYC), and Rogers & Cowan Public Relations. Cheryl has published articles at, “Sci-Fi Entertainment” magazine, and “Soap Opera Weekly.” She was also a credited researcher for English author Denis Meikle’s JOHNNY DEPP: A KIND OF ILLUSION. Cheryl enjoys writing for the entertainment industry and meeting new people. She is also an animal lover. 

Article originally posted at Suite101.