‘Arrow’ Interview: J.R. Ramirez Talks Stepping Into the Ring as Wildcat

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Actor J.R. Ramirez landed a pivotal role for Arrow as superhero Ted Grant, better known as DC Comics character Wildcat. The character is a key component in the origin of Laurel Lance as Black Canary. Wildcat is set to get a spotlight in episode six of Arrow’s third season, entitled Guilty, that promises a showdown between the archer and the brawler. Warner Bros TV was kind enough to offer us some time to speak J.R. about the role and his hopes for the character down the road. Beware of spoilers below:

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So far viewers have only seen Ted Grant interact with Laurel, but in this week’s episode titled Guilty he gets into it with the Arrow himself. How do these two end up knocking heads?

In this episode coming up you’re going to get to see stuff start occuring in Ted Grant’s facilities [The Wildcat Gym], bodies start showing up and of course [Ted is] getting accused of murder. Arrow does what Arrow does and comes in and questions me, and believes I’m the reason behind all of these bodies showing up. There’s going to be a really fun power struggle between him and myself and you’re going to kind of get to see a little bit of Ted’s background and what he can do.

So far this has all been introductory, showing him and his boxing techniques with Laurel and kind of a little bit of their relationship. But you’re going to get to see a lot more of Ted’s background [in Guilty]and I’m really excited about that.

Ted Grant JR Ramirez Interview 02Will we see anything in his back story that may reveal he’s a little more seasoned as a hero than we might have expected?

As a hero? Yeah, you’re definitely going to get a little here and there of his past and what he’s done in that realm. But you’ll definitely be able to see his capability of being able to stand and go toe-to-toe with someone like Arrow, and that’s something the fans are going to really, really like. The dynamic between them – I can’t even wait to see how it plays out when it airs.

As for the future and where this guy is going to go, that’s something that I obviously can’t talk too much about. But I don’t even really know where they’re going to go with it.

Ted Grant/Wildcat is certainly a name fans recognize, but isn’t exactly a household name. What did you know about the character before being cast?

For DC Comics, as any other kid I was obsessive about Batman and Superman and Spider-Man – but Batman more than anything. To this day I go crazy about him. But I didn’t know about Ted Grant, I didn’t know about Wildcat. So when I first went out for the role, like they normally do they did not release the names. I got the role and then the next day I realized that the character’s name was Ted Grant and it was announced at Comic-Con and that he’s a superhero with nine lives called Wildcat. I started doing all of this research and that’s when it really sunk in. I got extremely excited about the whole thing.

Arrow was nice enough to send me a bunch of comics, a big booklet of comics with Wildcat’s background and his training with Batman and everything. That whole DC Universe, it was really fun to do that kind of research before I stepped on set.

It’s obvious you weren’t just an actor that threw on some boxing gloves and you know your way around the ring. Exactly how much experience did you already have coming in?

I took karate a lot man, as a little kid. I was in Tae Kwon Do for years and I did a lot boxing all through grade school, middle school and high school. I hadn’t put on gloves in about five years, to be honest with you, before this. So when I got the role I got really excited to have an excuse to get back in that ring, and I realized I wasn’t in as good of shape as I thought I was. [laughs] That’s definitely a sport – it will get you in shape quick, man. It’s such an incredible cardiovascular workout.

So it was really fun to have an excuse to get back in the ring. I have a really good friend that is a trainer and he was excited to get me in there and kick my butt. I wish I had a little more time to prepare, but I was able to kind of train with him throughout the episodes whenever I would come back to L.A. I’m still in there. I have an excuse to get in there. Whenever I take a week off he calls me, “Where are you?” and I’m like “Alright, alright.” My whole body hurts after I see him.

Most of your scenes so far have been with Laurel, played by actress Katie Cassidy. What’s your experience been like developing the Wildcat/Black Canary mentorship, and whom else might we see Ted interact with in later episodes?

I don’t know anything else coming up, but I’m sure there will be more stuff with other characters. As for working with Katie it’s been a blast. She’s such a workaholic, man. She’s really taking this boxing thing to a whole other level. She’s got some quick hands on her, that one! She loves what she does and she’s been amazing to collaborate with. She comes in totally prepared and ready to work and she’s a sweetheart of a person. It’s been a blessing to work with her since I’ve had most of my workload with her so far. I’m very, very grateful. She’s awesome.

Ted Grant JR Ramirez Interview 05

Are you scheduled to appear in more episodes past Guilty?

You’ll definitely see more Ted Grant this season. Absolutely. As for how much and where it’s going, I don’t really know. I think there’s so many different avenues on where they can go with it. I’m really excited for this episode, because it’s really going to give a good little background into who I am [as Ted Grant]and hopefully give the network a good idea to suit me up and put me on the team, and let me go out there and kick some butt. Because that more than anything, is what J.R. wants to do.

I think it would be really cool if they did a Justice Society episode with Wildcat at the focus, and bring a team around him like the show did with the Suicide Squad.

I’ve heard a lot of people write about that. That would be amazing. That would be super fun.

Are you the type of person that relishes his privacy or would it be cool to have people recognize you on the street as Wildcat?

I’d be stupid to say it would not, but I’m definitely someone that does not do well in those circumstances. [laughs] I’ve been asked that kind of stuff quite a bit. I’ve been working in New York as well on another show, and I’ve been asked quite a bit since Arrow has come out – kids love the show, it has such a huge fan base and has done so well, and it’s really fun to see the reaction that they have. I’m sure its only going to grow and get bigger.

But I am an extremely private person, so it’s a funny little balance of what we do. But it’s part of the job and I’m very excited to able to have someone- even my little cousins when they found out the role, they just went crazy. So it’s that kind of call for me, just really excited to see it have that kind of impact, I’m so grateful and blessed.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but other than a brief cameo on Smallville, you’re the first actor to portray a full fledged live-action version of Wildcat. What did you enjoy most about bringing the character to life?

Wow, yeah I did not know that. It’s honestly been a blast. In fact, one of the things I love the most about Ted is the fact that with all the stuff that he has been through in his life, he’s been able to really not make it about himself. He opened the gym up to get kids off the street. The guy is always putting everyone before himself. The struggles that he’s had in his life – he’s done good with it. He might have a tough exterior but he’s a really good guy. He means well, he’s trying to help people and trying to give these kids a life that he didn’t have as a kid.

In a lot of the research I did, Ted Grant is in his late 50’s to early 60’s and probably has a kid my age. But this is a nice “early on” Ted Grant and hopefully I can do him as much justice as is done in the comics.

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Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8pm ET, exclusively on The CW.

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