The Smoak show: 'Arrow' star Emily Bett Rickards on Felicity, Oliver, and some big life changes

arrow-felicity-oliver-diggle-2.jpgIf you're poking around in the "Arrow" tags on your social media site of choice, it won't take long for a clear fan favorite to emerge: Felicity Smoak. Brilliant, sarcastic, and less polished than your typical CW heroine, Felicity is the prime example of why "Arrow," a seemingly male-driven show, has had great success with its dynamic, strong female characters.

When Emily Bett Rickards, a relative unknown from Vancouver, was hired to play Felicity, it wasn't supposed to be a recurring gig. It wasn't even a guest-starring role. Now, she's been a standout guest star in a majority of recent episodes, and been promoted to series regular status for Season 2. "I was a day player, sooo my life has changed, to say the least," she says. "I'm thrilled. I don't know how else to put it. I am the happiest person."

"I remember shooting my first scene with Emily ... way back in early August," series lead Stephen Amell tells us. "I just remember right off the hop talking with our producers after, just being like, 'I really enjoyed that scene, not only is she a great character, but it's just a totally different speed for me. I like her dynamic. Hopefully she's involved more.'" Looks like the producers listened.

In next week's episode, "The Undertaking," we'll see Oliver and his partner Diggle (David Ramsey) having a bit of a falling out -- which means Oliver needs to take Felicity into the field as his right-hand person. "Unlike 15, in which she was uncomfortable in a dress and surrounded by a lot of people which she wasn't used to, she's grown more confident," Rickards says. "She's been training with Diggle and Oliver and learning more about what she's doing, and learning about herself and her place in this. When we see her in the field this time, she's obviously still scared, because she's in a very dangerous situation with very few exits and lots of armed individuals around, but she feels a lot more capable. She's gotten stronger."

Oliver and Diggle both have elements of bloodlust. Oliver is driven to save Starling City by systematically eliminating the scads bad guys his father has listed in a book -- whether that means incapacitating them, exposing them, or straight-up killing them. Currently, Diggle is driven by revenge, after Floyd Lawton -- Deadshot -- the assassin who killed his brother.

That leaves Felicity as the moral compass of the Arrow team, compelled by a very simple desire to prevent bad things from happening to good people, like her boss, Walter. In the upcoming episodes, she finds herself as the voice of reason, attempting to maintain the balance in the lair.

"I think what Felicity really wants to is preserve the relationship between the three of them, and preserve everyone's integrity as well. I mean, she doesn't want to see Oliver get lost underneath the hood, and she doesn't want to see Diggle get lost in this hunt for Floyd Lawton," Rickards says. "Her values and how she weighs certain things is by measure of how much everybody's going to have to sacrifice for each individual kill. For her, each kill is unique. She looks at the book of hundreds of pages of individuals -- of really bad people who have done really bad things, but might have families and lives and people depending on them."

arrow-felicity-oliver-diggle.jpgIt's Felicity's grounding nature and relatability that has led to fans passionately rooting for her on the show -- whether that means rooting for her to get to participate in more action sequences, or just rooting for her to get more action. The fan's "shipping" of Oliver and Felicity certainly isn't lost on Rickards -- but she and Amell haven't necessarily sat down to map out the specifics of their characters' feelings for each other. Perhaps that's a good thing.

"Stephen and I don't really talk about Olicity, which is interesting, because obviously Felicity and Oliver don't talk about it either," she laughs. "They have these really clear, deep moments that the audience picks up on. Those are moments of truth and honesty that we all strive to have in any relationship. We start to see a different bond form. I hope that's what the audience is picking up on. That's what we feel when we're doing it."

Amell tells us that we can expect to see their bond grow significantly in the last three episodes of the season. "Just based on her knowing more about me than anyone at this point in my present day life, she can probably challenge me in ways that other people can't, and that's always attractive," he says, asserting that Oliver doesn't see Felicity as just a little-sister-sidekick. "I think he sees her as a woman."

As for Felicity's crush on Oliver -- just because she thinks he's easy on the eyes doesn't necessarily mean that she's going home and pining over him every night. She's got much more important things to worry about.

"I feel like there's so much going on in Felicity's mind. I mean, I believe it's there -- he's doing shirtless pull-ups on the ceiling, and she's staring at him -- but it's not a priority," Rickards laughs, referring to a scene where Felicity was supposed to be hacking someone's computer but was a little distracted by her companion. "I was like, 'Okay, there's no way she's focusing on the computer right now when this is happening.' I was just sitting there looking up at him, like, 'I love today. Today is great.'"

It's a sentiment that Rickards expresses often. On a recent location shoot, she had a moment to reflect on the impact "Arrow" has had on her. "We were shooting so close to my apartment, so it felt like my hometown. I was sitting in a coffee shop on break, looking around, like 'This is my life. This is my life!'"

"Arrow" returns with the final four episodes of the season tonight, Weds. April 24 at 8 p.m. EST.
Photo/Video credit: The CW