Dolph Lundgren Compares His ‘Arrow’ Villain to ‘Rocky’ Character Ivan Drago

Jacob Bryant

We’ve know for some time now that the fifth season of “Arrow” would be the last to feature weekly flashbacks to Oliver’s (Stephen Amell) five-year stay on the island Lian Yu. With the clocking ticking down, it was important that the show bring in an imposing and intriguing villain (something the flashbacks had been lacking in the past couple of years). That’s where Dolph Lundgren (“Rocky IV,” “The Expendables”) came in.

Lundgren plays Russian government strongman Konstantin Kovar. Oliver left the island and headed to Russia to track down and kill Kovar as part of a promise he made to Taiana (Elysia Rotaru) at the end of Season 4. Last week’s episode ended with Oliver being captured, and finally meeting the sharply-dressed strongman face to face. Variety spoke with Lundgren about making the jump from film to TV, Kovar’s plans for Oliver, and similarities to a certain Russian boxer.

How has the jump to TV been? Was it hard to get used to that shooting schedule?

It’s different. The big thing is it’s split up if you don’t play a main character. I was up in Vancouver for a week, then a couple days here and there, then I’m going up in January and February. It’s interesting because you really get to know the character. You’re doing it for a longer period of time even if it’s broken up, which is kind of satisfying.

What can you tell me about Kovar and his motivations for the season?

The guy’s an operator working for an organization aligned with the government. He’s working against Oliver as well as the Bratva. I found my own motivations in there on a personal level to try to motivate this guy as to why he wants to take revenge on the Bratva.

You made quite a statement in your first scene last week. Kovar recognizes Oliver and says “it’s nice to finally meet you.” Was he always aware Ollie was looking for him?

Kovar’s main beef is with the Bratva. I’m sure he was probably told that Oliver was looking for him. I also think Kovar thinks a little bit like ‘hey you’re working for the wrong guys, you should come work for me. I’m the man.’ He likes him and likes what he’s done.

So he’s not looking to take Oliver out?

No, I don’t think so. Once you kill somebody, that’s it, you can’t use them anymore. If you keep them alive there is a possibility — especially with somebody talented — that they can work for you, or turn them.

I’m not sure if you’ve seen the pilot for the show, but we see Oliver in his last moments on the island — which these current flashbacks are leading up to — before he is rescued. He’s in rough shape and seems to be suffering from PTSD, which he isn’t now. Can you tease what kind of plans Kovar has for him that could lead him to that point?

The next time we meet we have a bit of a physical encounter. I’m not sure what happens, but the way I look at it Kovar likes him and likes that he’s talented. It would be better to use him for something than to just shoot him in the back of the head. I think I’m going to use him for something and that’s probably what happens — then something heavy goes down and that’s what affects him.

As you got into the character of Kovar more, did you find any similarities between him and (“Rocky’s”) Ivan Drago?

I wasn’t sure how to play the guy so I started with something very Russian — almost an Ivan Drago thing — because there are similar qualities like strength and danger. But then I thought it would be great for him to be sitting on a lot of the pain and problems, and be a little more charming and expressive. It’s almost like Ivan Drago is a young cadet — he’s been trained, and went and fought, and went to officer school — and 30 years later he could be Kovar.

“Arrow” airs Wednesdays at 8/7 c p.m. on The CW.

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