DC Comics villain William Tockman, aka The Clock King, comes to Starling City in this week’s episode of Arrow, and Warner Bros TV was nice enough to give me some time to talk with the man himself.
The role went to Robert Knepper (Heroes, Prison Break), one of the most entertaining character actors working today, and Knepper told me that he took the role before actually knowing William Tockman was a major DC Villain. “My wife looked it up and told me that he was a pretty well-known character, known best from the Batman animated series stuff. I was just drawn to it because the role was so good.”
Knepper didn’t have too much time to get comfortable with the character, because he was called to the set almost immediately. “I got the role on Thursday and was filming on Saturday,” he recalls. “Sometimes it’s for the best, not having time to think about it. It allowed me to make some interesting decisions. I think I ended up doing a sort of… [John] Malkovich voice for the character when I got on set.”
This version of the The Clock King is being presented as a behind-the-scenes tech-savvy strategist, which puts him in the crosshairs of Oliver and his team, especially Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), who does the team’s tech work and feels the need to prove herself against Tockman.
“They were so great, Emily and Caity,” says Knepper. “We had a great relationship. I felt like their brother.” As far as how Felicity finds herself embroiled in the conflict, he says “Tockman does something that gets the team’s attention and they go after him. But it’s not personal between them.”
One of things I enjoyed about the costume design of Arrow‘s William Tockman is the little nods to the classic animated character, including the circle-rimmed glasses and watch hanging from the jacket zipper. Knepper commented, “That is something that is very specific to this character. It has very much to do with what he is doing and is not just a costume choice for the name’s sake.” I went on to ask if there were alternate costume choices for Tockman, but Knepper said most of it was already set in motion prior to him coming on board.
Being that I’m a big fan of his villainous work on shows like Carnivale and Prison Break, I was curious if he ever wanted to play the hero. After playfully correcting me that Tommy Dolan in Carnivale wasn’t necessarily villainous, Knepper said he’d love to be playing more comedic relief roles and believes many comedic artists tend to have a darker side, which lends itself to playing a great villain.
“I like the villains that don’t know that they’re villains,” he said. “Like prison guard Bellick on Prison Break. You knew T-bag was bad, because he’d walk around sticking his tongue out while glaring and not hiding it. I would like to see Clark Kent take off his disguise but be [the villain].”
Now that Knepper has become part of the live action DC Universe on Arrow, would he like to play another villain? “I’d love to come back to Arrow [if Tockman survives the episode]. I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve been told Heath Ledger, God rest his soul, took inspiration from T-Bag for the mouth licking thing he did and have been told I would be a good replacement [for The Joker]. But I don’t know if that is something that should ever be done.”
Another role he would love to revisit is Samuel Sullivan, the carnival leader from Heroes, and with the recent announcement of a new miniseries titled Heroes: Reborn, Knepper expressed interesting in returning. “I actually just heard about it with everyone else. I haven’t been approached yet, but I would love to come back. Samuel really got to mess some stuff up there at the end.” I pointed out that the character was still around but had been captured, so there was definitely a possibility, and he agreed, but he doesn’t know the plan for the mini-series.
After a tangent discussing our love of Clancy Brown, I closed things out by asking that aside from the Malkovich voice, if Knepper took any inspiration from any other sources for William Tockman. In a very endearing and honest moment, Knepper shared that someone close to him is extremely ill and much like the origin of The Clock King in the comics, this Tockman isn’t just a mustache-twirling villain, but has some underlying motives for his actions. “Unfortunately yes, the role came at the right time to take advantage of these emotions.”
But ending on a happy note, Knepper revealed that the individual had survived a recent scare, and would be able to enjoy Knepper’s portrayal of William Tockman on Arrow this week. And depending on where Tockman ends up at the outcome of the episode, perhaps we’ll see him in battle with Oliver and his team somewhere down the road.
Robert Knepper guests stars in the new episode of Arrow, “Time of Death,” this Wednesday night at 8:00pm ET, exclusively on The CW.