Stephen Amell has a history in professional wrestling having performed in matches for the WWE and Ring of Honor. His first project after Arrow is the Starz drama, Heels, which looks into the people and happenings of an independent wrestling promotion in small town Georgia. During Comic-Con@Home, the upcoming series held a panel with executive producers, Michael Waldron and Michael O’Malley, and stars Amell, Alexander Ludwig, Alison Luff, Mary McCormack, Kelli Berglund, James Harrison, Allen Maldonado, and Chris Bauer.
Waldron, who also created Heels, chose the small town vibe because he was excited to explore the building of a modern wrestling empire. He wanted to start with humble beginnings at the bottom of the ladder and hopes the audience can watch and enjoy the ascent.
There were some comparisons to Friday Night Lights with wrestling instead of football but with all the rich character centric stories showing the complexities of everyday life. It shows the people both inside and out of the ring with a fun and dark side.
After all the training, the cast definitely has a new found respect for real professional wrestlers. The outcomes might be pre-determined but the physical nature of it all isn’t fake. There’s so much abuse that wrestlers take and they wanted Heels to do it justice. Maybe the person who had the easier time adjusting to the workouts is Harrison because of his NFL experience.
Amell isn’t the only fan on the cast. Bauer is a huge indie fan and loves keeping up with the regional outfits. He based his character off of some of the industry’s best including Ric Flair, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Jake “the Snake” Roberts, and Terry Funk. Maldonado used the opportunity to relive his eight-year-old fantasies of jumping off of couches at home and doing the stunts.
The main relationship that drives Heels is between Amell’s Jack and Ludwig’s Ace. They are brothers but there is no love lost between them. Their relationship is rich but real and despite them deep down really loving the other, it’s all overshadowed by the traumatic experience of their father’s death. Both are stuck in their own ways and are driven by external forces but mask what they really need to do to reconcile. The audience probably want’s them to just hug it out but on the show, it gets a lot worse before it gets better.
With regards to the other characters, Rooster Robbins (Maldonado) is a complex soul who wants one opportunity to make it big. Apocalypse (Harrison) is a mentor and big brother type. He is loyal towards the Duffy Wrestling League because the organization has stuck by him even at his lowest. Willie Day (McCormack) is Jack’s business partner and the logistical brains behind the operation. Crystal Tyler (Berglund) is Ace’s valet and love interest while Staci Spade (Luff) is Jack’s wife who sometimes plays second fiddle to her husband’s dreams of becoming a more renowned wrestler.
Heels also released a sneak peek during the panel. It will premiere Sunday, August 15, across all of Starz platforms.
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