The eighth and final season of Arrow is only days away from premiering on The CW. While Oliver and Co. have to deal with the coming Crisis in the present thanks to Oliver's deal with The Monitor, the action continues in the flash-forward timeline introduced in Season 7, with Star City 2040. Only time will tell if more characters from the present turn up in the future, but Season 8 regular Joseph David-Jones (Connor Hawke) explained to CinemaBlend that two present characters will impact the flash-forwards: John Diggle and Bronze Tiger.
Although Joseph David-Jones technically made his Arrow-verse debut on Legends of Tomorrow back in 2016, that timeline was thankfully erased, and he joined Arrow in earnest to play Connor Hawke in the Season 7 flash-forwards. This time, "Connor Hawke" was not an alias used by John Diggle Jr., or JJ, but rather the given name of the son of Bronze Tiger who would later be adopted by John Diggle and Lyla Michaels.
The future timeline in the seventh season revealed that Connor rose above his status as the biological son of an Arrow baddie to become a hero, whereas JJ seemingly became a villain despite his status as the son of two Arrow heroes. Joseph David-Jones spoke with CinemaBlend about Arrow Season 8, and when I asked what it has been like to play with the expectations of the son of a bad guy vs. the son of heroes with Connor and JJ, David-Jones said this:
In a different timeline, in a different world, I was JJ, I was the son of John Diggle. So it's kind of funny reevaluating who I am and where I fit in with this new timeline, universe. But there's so much to play with with that, and there's a bit of turmoil and knowing what is inside of me and where I came from to be the person that Connor is now. Because we find out that he wasn't always the person that he is now. You get to see that a lot in this season that's coming up. You get to see what went into Connor becoming sort of this Diggle-esque character in Arrow now. And also you get to see what led JJ to being where he is, and playing with that and working with Charlie [Barnett] has been amazing to sort of find that defining moment within that to bring these characters to life.
Even if John Diggle and Bronze Tiger never show up in the flash-forwards -- which hasn't been 100% confirmed one way or the other -- their impacts will be felt in the form of Connor and JJ. Connor in particular comes from two words, as he wasn't exactly an infant who wouldn't remember his biological dad before Diggle and Lyla adopted him. Bronze Tiger also wasn't exactly a supervillain a la Deathstroke or Ra's al Ghul; still, the values Connor was raised with could have taken him in a wildly different direction.
Instead of becoming Bronze Tiger 2.0, even in the awful circumstances of Star City 2040, Connor became a hero fighting the good fight. The same can't be said for his adoptive brother, JJ, who is the biological child of Diggle and Lyla. According to Joseph David-Jones, Arrow Season 8 will share the journeys of both brothers to reveal how they wound up where they were when the flash-forwards left off in Season 7.
Charlie Barnett of Chicago Fire fame was cast in the series regular role of JJ, who was revealed in Season 7 to be the leader of the Deathstroke Gang in the 2040 future. Season 7 didn't drop a whole lot of details about the Deathstroke Gang, but the choice of name certainly suggests that their leader is not somebody to cross lightly.
Joseph David-Jones went on to share how Charlie Barnett has fit into the cast and helped build the key relationship between the adoptive brothers:
It's been great. A lot of the new people, we're still trying to find out what we can bring to the show, especially now that it's coming to an end. Finding times to meet and work on relationships with some of the veteran cast is a bit difficult. They all have so much that they're working on, but whenever new people come in as well there's a chance to really take time on our days off and work through these histories with these people and then personalize a lot of things. And Charlie works like that. He works very well. So we met up a couple times to sort of figure out our relationship because this bond that I have with him [as Connor] is the strongest for me in the show. I really did want to find what that was and how to personalize and how to really feel these things that I'm saying. He was amazing. He's amazing in it. You're gonna love him, you're gonna hate him. He walks that line pretty well.
While fans still have to wait to see how the sons of John Diggle -- adoptive and biological -- interact as adults, Joseph David-Jones' comments reveal that he and Charlie Barnett put a lot of effort into building a believable and personal bond. The relationship between Connor and JJ is bound to be complicated, to put it lightly.
The future timeline is a bit of a mess, to say the least, and they clearly chose very divergent paths at some point. Can their relationship be repaired? We'll have a better idea once we get a look at them sharing the screen, but it's pretty promising to know that fans will love and hate JJ!
Given that Diggle played a major role in shaping Connor on the show, I asked Joseph David-Jones if he'd met up with David Ramsey, who has played John Diggle ever since Arrow's pilot way back in 2012, about shaping Connor as a character:
Oh yeah! We had talks and hung out a handful of times, but he gave less advice on my character and everything and more advice on the show and working as an actor in general. He's been doing this for a while, and he's gotten an understanding of the industry and he's creating his own projects and everything like that. So he's given me a lot of life advice. As well as show advice and character advice and all that stuff, but the relationship that I have with him is that of somewhat of a mentor. He's a good dude. He's a funnier version of who he plays on the show. That's the best way I can describe him. He's genuine but funny.
Considering John Diggle has been one of the few consistently good characters of Arrow -- even more than the Green Arrow himself, who has fallen off the straight and narrow path more than once over the years -- I'd say that being called "a funnier version" of Diggle is a huge compliment!
Now we'll just have to wait and see if David Ramsey and Joseph David-Jones appear on screen together. Anything seems possible with "Crisis On Infinite Earths" coming up, and the flash-forwards haven't given a solid reason why Diggle can't pop up. And hey, there's always the spinoff, if Arrow runs out of time in Season 8!