There were a lot of new faces last year on Arrow, which usually means some wouldn’t be sticking around long. But it wasn’t hard to figure out we’d be seeing more of Rene Ramirez, aka Wild Dog, portrayed by Rick Gonzalez. The saga of the lone vigilante trying to find his place on a team while also attempting to reconnect with his daughter made him a permanent fixture on the show. We spoke with Gonzalez about where his character’s headed, what excites him about the work, and his thoughts on the controversy over his new costume.
“I did hear that Terry Beatty, the original creator of Wild Dog in the comic books, wasn’t too happy about [the costume upgrade],” Gonzalez says of Beatty’s Facebook post lamenting the makeover. “And I totally get it. It can feel we’re not keeping the integrity of Wild Dog the same, especially by changing his look.”
But even though Wild Dog is part of a new continuity, Gonzalez says there’s still respect for the character’s origins. “I promise you that Maya [Mani, the show’s costume designer] took everything from the original design and upgraded it and tried to make an homage to that [while at the same time integrating him into the Arrowverse],” he says. “And I agree with him — I love the original costume! It’s incredible.” (Beatty is somewhat resigned to the change. “Oh well, I got a year’s worth of seeing how cool my costume design looked on screen,” he wrote, going on to praise the actor for his work in the role.)
On a practical level, Gonzalez says working with the new outfit has its challenges: “Oh, it’s definitely harder. I need two other people to help me get it on, strap everything on.” Of course, a full leather bodysuit — complete with a redesigned mask more fit for a high-tech goalie than a typical hockey goon — is going to be tougher to don than a jersey and camo pants. “It’s a lot more work, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Gonzalez says. “If looking good takes time, you gotta do the process!”
Sadly, he didn’t bring the old costume home with him like a lot of stars do (or try to). “I wish!” he says with a laugh. “No, that’s someplace under lock and key. I’m hoping to get my hands on it again.”
One of the reasons why the character is still around is he fits. Just like Curtis and Felicity go together like peanut butter and jelly, so too do Rene and Lance. “I just truly love the way the characters connect on screen,” Gonzalez says. “There’s something very organic about it. Both characters are cut from the same cloth and deal with the same type of loss. I love that they have the same temperament and yet, they still get along.”
While he credits the writers with putting the two together, he thinks that what he and actor Paul Blackthorne bring to their roles is what really makes it special. “Sometimes, it just happens that way,” he says. “You write two people together and there’s something else that happens — a trust that happens in terms of the work.”
That also allows them to bring lightness to their heavy stories of men who’ve, in different ways, lost their daughters. “I love the idea that we’re even able to find the comedy in our energy together, the comedy in Rene and Lance, because they’re so comfortable with each other,” he says.
Looking ahead, Gonzalez says he’s hoping to see his character connect with his daughter and to “figure out what’s going on inside of Rene’s brain that makes him not want to connect with Zoe and then what makes him actually do [it]. I think he’s always, always wanted to [but he’s his own worst enemy].” He believes Rene tells himself, “I don’t think I’m a good enough dad.”
“I think he’s lying to himself,” Gonzalez says. “I think he’s going to be a great dad.”
He also sees Wild Dog as someone strong enough to take on more responsibility for the team. With Diggle being asked to wear the Green Arrow suit — and with Dig possibly unable to wear it — does that mean he thinks Rene may eventually put on the hood? “No. I hope not!” he says. “Wild Dog loves his suit. He doesn’t love the code name, but he loves the suit.”
Arrow airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.