Confession: When I first saw Felicity Smoak on Arrow back in 2012, I was not a fan of her character. All I could think was, “What is this little tech geek doing on a superhero show? What is up with those dork glasses? Why is she so awkward?” Looking back I realize I had been so conditioned to see strong, female characters only as the stereotypical action girl who can box with the guys. As I’ve gotten older, I have realized that not only do I actually adore Felicity, I relate to her as well. I am not tech-savvy, nor am I good with computers, but I am a very flawed individual. Felicity Smoak portrays the reality of how a woman can be feminine and kind, but still selfish, stubborn, and frustrating. In other words, human.
Which brings us to Emily Bett Rickards, the fiercely talented actress who brings this character to life. Like myself, Emily does not share Felicity’s talent with computers. What she does have, however, is a quiet intelligence and warm sense of humor that imbues everything she says with urgency, forcing the listener to quiet their mind to take in what she has to say. Emily takes long pauses before delivering each response… except when it comes to her television crush. That one she knew right off the bat. And no, it is not Oliver Queen.
You’ve kind of become a geek girl icon with all of the crossovers between The Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl as well as your work narrating the Mortal Instruments audiobooks. Are you a fantasy comic book fan in real life? I haven’t been in the comic book world from the time I was a kid but I love to read so I have always been a Harry Potter and an Eragon nerd. I also read Ender’s Game and all those books. I was always into novels, I absolutely will be interested in any sort of storytelling.
Felicity is the moral center and beating heart of the Arrow–verse in many ways. How do you think she has held onto that hopefulness after everything she has been through? I’m always very proud of her and shocked by her ability to move on from the things she has experienced. She has been able to go forward and heal from some of the darker things she has endured. She’s inspiring to me in that sense that she is able to keep moving and keep bettering herself. She is so strong, I really look up to her for that.
Do you think she has sort of lost some of that hope after Oliver’s decision that has caused her so much isolation recently? I think she has been burned a couple of too many times. She wants to fight back and be able to protect herself and the world around her instead of just relying on others.
Would you say you are more like Felicity in real life? If Emily Bett Rickards were in this universe, what would her role be? We have helped each other grow over time. We have been together for seven years! There are things that bleed in and bleed out into our lives. Our environments are completely different, but she has taught me a lot. You know, I’m not leading an undercover life… But I wouldn’t tell you if I was! She has a very strong, moral code. Her voice of justice is the same and she holds very high expectations for herself.
A villain would be fun to play, but I don’t think I would really want to be one. If I were in that world, I think I would be more in an action kind of role. I am a lot more physically active than Felicity, though I’m not very coordinated. I also don’t have her technical ability in terms of hacking. Her skills are really not my skills.
Your characters on Arrow and Funny Story are deeply feminist in that they are flawed, fleshed-out characters and not just “the girlfriend” or “damsel” that we often see in media. How much input do you get on your characters in these projects? In the past have you had to act as a character that didn’t feel quite as real? When choosing a project, the connection to the character, for me, happens before I ever even act like the character. I have gotten to play, and choose characters that I am interested in, and who I find three dimensional. It’s constant work, and these characters are hard to find and that’s why we hopefully get to work with very wonderful groups of artists and sort of flesh out these people. But that is how I go about choosing the characters I play.
Which do you prefer– comedy, drama or action? I love comedy! I find it very smart and usually very current. That is definitely what I gear towards. There is such a wonderful truth in comedy that is grounded in our realities and very relatable. So, that is definitely what I am drawn towards. Also, anything that has well-rounded characters who aren’t perfect. That is what life is, I’m not interested in perfect characters, because I don’t think that really exists.
What draws you to certain roles? Is there something particular that you look for? Complexity, authenticity, truthfulness, just anything that is written with complete honesty and without ego. Something was written with a humane lense to the world. That is what I tend to be attracted to.
Who is one female comic character who you would love to hang out with? My friend Caissie [Levy]’s on Broadway in Frozen so I do kind of get to hang out with her.
What is your favorite ship name? I was going to say my best friend’s ship name but I probably shouldn’t share that. I mean Ollicity is obviously the best one out there!
Who do you ship yourself with? Are you watching The Good Place? There is a guy called Jason on there and he is incredibly hilarious. Sense of humor is a requirement. The character is Jason Mendoza, his real name is Manny. I have never met him but he is a fucking genius on that show. Such a phenomenal actor and the show is hilarious.
Article initially published in print, December 2018