The days of purely fictional, flying object-like superheroes are gone. From inclusive casts like Black Panther’s to neurotic leads (Jessica Jones, future Marvel star Venom), the contemporary superhero genre depends as much on healthy doses of realism as it does on fantasy. And while the CW’s long-running Arrow, in which a rich playboy-turned-Robin Hood-like vigilante fights crime with a bow and arrow, may not be dark and gritty, cast member Rick Gonzalez says it presaged the realism trend.
“[It was] the first of its kind,” Gonzalez says. “It’s grounded in a character that doesn’t have superpowers. He’s a human being that has certain tools to save the city, but he’s not superman. [That’s] what drew me to the show.”
While he joined the series for its fifth season in 2016, Gonzalez has long been a fan of flawed, humanistic superheroes. “I think me and every kid in my neighborhood were Wolverine and Punisher fans,” says the New York native. “I love the antihero.”
Gonzalez plays Wild Dog, a relative newcomer to the Gotham-esque Starling City. And though he technically belongs to the Team Arrow squad, Wild Dog, says Gonzalez, transcends the good vs. evil binary. “The response to [my character] has been kind of mixed, which I expected,” he says. “Because you don’t exactly respect where he’s coming from—it doesn’t make sense. But like in real life, both sides can be wrong.”
Albeit controversial, Wild Dog’s presence on the show represents an overall force for good, according to Gonzalez. “I think the idea that [the character] started out as Jack Wheeler and is now Rene Ramirez points in the direction of inclusive casting,” he says of the decision to rewrite the role as a Latino man.
In his over two decades in Hollywood, Gonzalez has appeared in films like Biker Boyz and Coach Carter and even played Jesus in Lady Gaga’s “Judas” video. Reflecting on his career, Gonzalez says that, until recently, the superhero genre representing people of color was an un-reality. “I think possibilities are opening up,” he says. “And it would be ignoring the truth not to include people of color. Our president Barack Obama set the tone for a lot of things. And more and more of that happening is a beautiful thing.”
He also acknowledges that, while the political divides that have emerged in the post-Obama era may bear an unfortunate resemblance to the gridlocked turmoil of the Arrow-verse, the show is ultimately meant to be escapist television. “I think it’s impossible to not see the parallels. The writers take small slices of what’s happening in the real world and inject it,” he says. “While at the same time giving the audience a chance to escape. But I think the parallels are there for you to cherry-pick if you want to.”
When Gonzalez himself wants to escape, he says his mind goes to Barcelona, where he spent a summer shooting a film in 2010. Herein, a few of his favorite spots in the Spanish cultural mecca.
Cup of Joe: I recommend walking down Las Ramblas where there are so many awesome cafes and shops. I’d recommend walking down Las Ramblas and going to a local café. Nothing that’s franchise. And you will not be disappointed. The people take pride in brewing a cup of coffee.
Power Lunch: Everything. And it was impossible to find bad food. Me and me wife would say, today is the day we find a bad meal. And we couldn’t do it.
Don’t Miss: Gaudi’s home is open to the public. And all his art is there, and you can just walk through his home and see his artwork.
Field Trip: Definitely check out La Sagrada Familia. An artist started it and continues to protect it. While also trying to finish it. But it’s a beautiful church.
Hidden Gem: There was this one pastry shop across the street from the opera house in the city. It was so small. But this guy would bake these croissants. So I’d get a pastry and a coffee and just walk. It was incredible. I’m a pretty simple guy. Give me a coffee and a pastry and I’m good.
Main image: Rick Gonzalez, courtesy of Dynamic