Exclusive: Sean Maher On His ‘Mind Blowing’ Exit From ‘Arrow’ And Reflects On Coming Out

by | March 20, 2014 at 12:46 PM | Arrow, LGBT, Looking, Sex and the City, The Golden Girls

Sean Maher as Shrapnel (CW)

Shrapnel is no more.

On last night’s episode of the CW hit series “Arrow,” supervillain Mark Scheffer, better known as Shrapnel, disobeyed the orders of Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) and, well, she blew his head off because of it.

But, thankfully, actor Sean Maher was very much intact when we sat down to talk recently for this exclusive interview about the demise of the character he played in two “Arrow” episodes this season as well as the Batman animated movie where he’s the voice of Dick Grayson (aka Nightwing), his reflections on publicly coming out in 2011 and how his daughter makes him want to sing.

Tell me when you found out that Shrapnel wasn’t going to make it through the episode.

The day before I was leaving to go to Vancouver. Andrew [Kreisberg, Exec Producer] called me so I could hear it from him, which I was grateful for, but I hadn’t read the episode yet because I hadn’t received it yet so it was confusing to me to figure out what it was that he was explaining to me in terms of the larger arc of the story.

Is the stunt work or choreography a challenge for you?

Stunts I love. I think as long as I remember…my first job [Fox’s “Ryan Caulfield, Year One”] was very heavy on stunts and I took pride in wanting to do them myself or do as much as insurance would allow me to. I found with “Arrow,” when I read it on the page, I’m so excited and I say ‘Oh, it’s all explosions!’ but I don’t get to do the explosions since they’re done with CGI or done in post [production]. But I like to do my own. The stunts weren’t necessarily physically strenuous. I do a lot of driving in the last episode and in this episode again. They double check that I’m okay but it’s kind of fun. It’s like cops and robbers for adults. ‘Drive as fast you can down this street’ and cameras are catching it.

So tell me about shooting the ‘death scene.’

I’m driving and I’m disobeying orders and I don’t want to be a part of the Suicide Squad and, for the highest good of what I believe in, I’m trying to escape. Unbeknownst to me, I have a chip in my head so what I shot is the moment that it happens and the rest is done in post.

So Shrapnel was basically having a moment of conscience?

Yes, he’s disagreeing with the hierarchy but I don’t suffer anything. It just goes boom! I have a moment where I go ‘Ow!”… it’s mind-blowing! [laughs]

Have you died onscreen before?

Brian’s Song” I died…I got shot in “Serenity” real bad but just “Brian’s Song.”

What else are you working on?

I have the Batman movie (“Son Of Batman”) is coming out [on May 6th] where I voice Nightwing. I don’t know much about them because the second movie I did all by myself, alone.

And a lot of that work in those animated movies is very intense. How do you do it when you don’t have other actors to work off of?

It’s wild and it’s new for me. It’s fun and kind of liberating and strange and all of the above. You go by line by line, do each line three different ways and then if they want anything else you do it again. I’ve seen a little bit cut together because I did ADR for the first movie but I haven’t seen much.

How different is it doing voice acting just in terms of the business?

From what I’ve understood, it’s an entirely different world and it’s a tough world to get your foot in the door but I’ve always wanted to be a voice of a Disney character. I kind of wanted to be Aladdin.

Shifting gears, what are your thoughts on “Looking?”

I think Jonathan [Groff] is just effortless and perfect and so charming. I cannot watch his performance without having a smile the whole time. He just encapsulates and embodies that time in our lives when you’re looking. I think the performance is really wonderful and it’s a true slice of life. I’ve fallen hard for it…I’m a huge fan of “Weekend” (directed by Andrew Haigh) and talk about the same tone. I really feel like “Looking” has a similar feeling and tone of “Weekend” and that’s one of my favorite movies of the past couple of years. It’s just so simple and subtle and the writing and performances.

I think in terms of a first season, talk about laying a foundation! I feel like I have such a true essence for each character, which is not the way. I love it. There’s a scene where Patrick (Groff) and Dom (Murray Bartlett) are walking down a street and Patrick is eating a burrito and Dom’s chit-chatting about his restaurant but there was a gesture where Patrick puts his arm around him and in that moment I see years, years, years of history between these two guys. And just that subtly that speaks to years and years of complexities and ups and downs of relationships.

Sean Maher

I was just reading something the other day that Sarah Jessica Parker was saying and she believes that the success of “Sex and the City” was because they were all such loyal friends.  Carrie was one of the most loyal friends and I thought about that and then I look at “Looking.” You know when [Patrick] comes home and watches “The Golden Girls” and Agustin is passed out, there’s such a history there and a loyalty there that I am drawn to.

The first time we talked was when you came out during “The Playboy Club” in 2011. When you look back on that time now, how do you feel?

Still the best decision professionally that I ever made. I am still so proud of it and it still feels so right. I don’t even think about it anymore. I don’t even feel like it changed that much. It just brought me to a greatest sense of truth in myself and, if anything, it kind of kept me on the path of what’s in line with my own body.

Like I’ve been trying to sing again and singing is my first love and the thing that makes me happiest and I was told, by people who will remain nameless, that that was a little fey and there was no “Glee” back then. I didn’t agree but I listened to what people said and now that I’m older you just want to do what makes you happiest and what inspires you and makes you vibrate and that’s it. Right now, I’m swimming and trying to reclaim who I am because if I look at my track record I went from a young rookie cop on the streets of Philadelphia to a stock broker to a football player…it all kind of makes me chuckle.

How does being a parent affect your choices in terms of roles or even logistics?

Certainly that comes into play and we pause and say if I’m going to be away from the family this long is that in line with what’s best for the family? On the flipside, my daughter has been my greatest teacher so in a million years I wouldn’t take on something that challenged my integrity. But I also feel like I have so much more now as a parent but then being present for the children’s lives and milestones are more important than work so it’s a bit of a ping pong for me.

I think the next thing for me is truly to start writing more. I’ve always wanted to write and I don’t know why but it was like when Sophia was born, I started singing again out of nowhere and I really credit her for that because that was my first love, I suddenly I’m feeling love like I hadn’t before and here I am as a parent thinking I need find my way back to a greater sense of truth and who I am and I want my children to always follow what’s authentically true for themselves and I think the best way to teach them that is to do it myself.

Keep up with Sean Maher via his Twitter account, @Sean_M_Maher. “Arrow” airs Wednesdays at 8pm on the CW. 

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.