Having acted in the 2002 Oscar-nominated Bollywood film â€œLagaan: Once Upon a Time in India,â€ Paul Blackthorne made his way over the pond to begin his American acting career. Thirteen years later, the English actor/photographer/director is still at it and can now be seen playing Captain Quentin Lance, father to Katie Cassidyâ€™s Laurel Lance, in the CWâ€™s â€œArrow.â€ Blackthorne is making his second trip to Louisville to join his co-stars for Wizard World Louisville. We recently spoke with him during a break in filming the fourth season of â€œArrow.â€
I recently saw the trailer for your documentary, â€œThis American Journeyâ€ and noticed that it brought you through Louisville. How did that project come together and what did you do while you were in town?
We had a great time in Louisville. I love that place. We filmed that just after the big economic crash in 2008 and just when Obama was on the point of being elected president, and to me, it seemed like a very interesting time in American history. So I just finished doing a TV show in New York at that point, was heading back to Los Angeles and I thought, instead of flying over all the interesting parts of America, why donâ€™t I drive through them and speak to people about how they feel about that particular time in Americaâ€™s history? So I did just that, and we did it very randomly. It was with an Australian photographer [Mister Basquali], a friend of mine, and we just very spontaneously, randomly made our way from one town to another across America in the period of a month, and I think somebody recommended The Muhammad Ali Center. We got as far as Pittsburgh, and then The Muhammad Ali Center came to mind, and we all thought, â€œOh, we definitely want to go and see that.â€ And once you give yourself a destination, the things you find on the way to your destination or around your destination are usually the more interesting things, and thatâ€™s exactly what happened in Louisville. We had some great interviews there, and thereâ€™s two or three interviews from Louisville in the film. You should check it out.Â
I actually ordered the DVD right after watching the trailer. It looks great; I canâ€™t wait to watch it.
Oh yeah, absolutely brilliant. There was a neighborhood just down the road from The Muhammad Ali Center â€“ I canâ€™t remember what it was called. It was a particularly low-income neighborhood â€“ we met two African American ladies there who were absolutely fantastic. Theyâ€™re among my favorite interviews in the whole film. So yeah, we had a great time in Louisville, and of course The Muhammad Ali Center is brilliant.
Well, weâ€™ll be glad to have you back for Wizard World Louisville. Are you enjoying the con circuit so far?
I did my first one last year, and I wasnâ€™t really quite sure what to expect. But I realize if you decide to â€“ if you embrace them and respect that fact that people have come a long way to see people that they like from their favorite TV shows, you can have a blast and have a great time doing it. So yeah, itâ€™s a lot of fun. Itâ€™s really nice interacting with the audience, with the people that attend, and yeah, you know, just really enjoying one anotherâ€™s company, so yeah, I enjoy them, I enjoy them a lot.
Before acting, you were a photographer. Through social media, I know you still pick up the camera. What got you into photography all those years ago?
I wouldnâ€™t say that I was a photographer, per se. I can definitely take a half-decent photograph, and Iâ€™ve had some photographic exhibitions over the years, raising money for various charities that were close to my heart at the time. And I enjoy it, you know. I just â€“ I think itâ€™s part of the acting brain in some ways. Iâ€™ve got a fascination with people, and when Iâ€™m out in the street, I see people. I see interesting people, and I see interest in them. And I like to, therefore, just snap away with my camera.
You got your big break in the Bollywood film â€œLagaan: Once Upon a Time in India.â€ How did you go straight into a big Bollywood film?
Iâ€™m never quite sure how to define a big break, to be honest, but in terms of the thing â€“ because I was quite happy. I did a lot of musical theatre when I was a kid, and then I was doing theatre and British television and film in the â€™90s in London. And I was quite happy, really. And then one day this opportunity to audition for a Bollywood film came up, and I wasnâ€™t quite sure what to make of it. I was trying to work out how this would define my career and think about it in acting terms, but one day, I thought, â€œHang on, Iâ€™ve got the chance to go to India here.â€ And so I went to India and basically had probably the best experiences of my life, working with one of the most amazing gentlemen Iâ€™ve ever met, Aamir Khan, who is the star of the film and the producer. And this film that, really having no previous knowledge of Bollywood and no idea on how it would turn out, turned out to a magnificent film and was nominated for the Oscars in the best foreign language category in 2002. So in some sense, I suppose that was my break in that thatâ€™s what brought me to America, and I found myself in Los Angeles during the Oscars season, which is the same time they cast the television pilot shows. So I found myself doing a television pilot that year, and it appears to be 13 years later ,and Iâ€™m still doing these American television shows and films. So Iâ€™m quite grateful for all of this.
Letâ€™s talk about â€œArrow.â€ This season, your character is keeping a secret and working with the villain Damien Darhk, which is ironic since he has held grudges against other characters in the past for keeping secrets from him.
Well if you had to rename â€œArrowâ€ I think you could name it â€œSecrets,â€ couldnâ€™t you? Thereâ€™s an ongoing theme of the secrets that people keep from one another and the tight little corners it gets people into. I think when this little secret of Lanceâ€™s comes up, it might be a bit of a moment, a tense family moment at the dinner table, I should imagine. I think itâ€™s that thing where people in their right minds, if you play a bad guy, if you play a villain â€“ if they sort of think what theyâ€™re doing is bad then that would be quite boring, really. Most people do bad things for what they think are very good reasons; they can justify it in their minds as to why it should be done. In Lanceâ€™s mind, he may have crossed a line at this early point in the season, but he did it for absolutely the right reasons â€“ for what he believed would be the good of the city. Things start shifting around a bit, in terms of how Darhk starts conducting himself, and yes, it turns out to be a bit of an issue. And yes, no doubt once it comes up over the dinner table, it will be interesting. Especially the moment where Mr. Oliver Queen might find out about these things. Thatâ€™ll be interesting.
See Paul Blackthorne and his â€œArrowâ€ co-stars Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, John Barrowman and Katie Cassidy at Wizard World Louisville,Â Wizard World will take place the weekend of November 6 at the Kentucky International Convention Center. Hours are Friday 3-8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Weekend adult tickets are $79.95 in advance or $90 onsite. Single day tickets range from $39.95 to $49.95. VIP tickets are $199.99. For tickets and more information, visit wizardworld.com/home-louisville.html.Â More information on Blackthorne and his documentary can be found online at paulblackthorne.com.