Interview: Supanova guest Colin Donnell talks Chicago Med, the death of Tommy Merlyn & arm wrestling Chris Hemsworth

Colin Donnell is a name that has been around for quite some time in the DC/CW Universe with his character of Tommy Merlyn in CW’s Arrow TV series. Even though Tommy was only with us for one season, his death on the show led to some serious foundations for the series going forward and leaving many a fan crying out for more, leading into some later cameo’s (in flashback form).

Now, Colin stars in Dick Wolf‘s Chicago Med series as Dr Connor Rhodes and the future couldn’t look much brighter for this suave and smooth gentleman. Not only can Colin lean firmly and confidently on being in a Dick Wolf show, but he can rest assured that his utmost adoration, respect and love for his wife (Patti Murin) and fur babies (Dogs) will only garner more of a fan base going forward.

We wait patiently to welcome Colin to Australia and Supanova Comic and Gaming Expo in the coming weeks, until then, I got the chance to have a chat and a catch up with Colin Donnell while he was still in Chicago before the big trip down under.

Congratulations on NBC picking up Chicago Med for a third season and it is something to be congratulated about in this day and age where TV series can be thrown pretty quickly, you must be stoked to be returning as Dr Connor Rhodes for another round?

Colin Donnell as Dr Connor Rhodes (Chicago Med)

Yeah man, as you said nothing is really guaranteed at this point, even a Dick Wolf (Creator) show. It is pretty amazing, it is definitely the longest I have gotten to do a character on television, so I’m really stoked. I think we’ve got such a great group of writers that are looking forward to deepening the characters. There is just a ton of stories left to tell, so I’m glad we are getting the chance to tell them.

You just mentioned that it’s the longest you have stayed with a character on a show and I must ask, as many others probably have, other than a few flashback cameos, why did they get rid of Tommy so damn early in Arrow? Was this a writer’s choice or did you have something better planned?

In hindsight, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me because I ended up being able to go back to New York and do ‘Shakespeare in The Park’ there, where I re-connected with my now wife (Actress Patti Murin), so we started dating when we were doing that show. But when it happened (Tommy Merlyn’s death in Arrow) it was a decision which they came to in the writer’s room somewhere along the line of the first season. They had this idea that they wanted to really do something major at the end of the first season and the best way to accomplish that and the character that would have the most impact across the board, would be to give Tommy the axe!

So, I mean, it took me by surprise certainly, but the way they gave him such an exit is pretty cool for me, especially now, almost 5 going on 6 years later people are still remembering it.

Colin Donnell as Tommy Merlyn (CW’s Arrow)

It must be gratifying to know that people loved your character so much and that fan base moves across with you into your other work, so I am sure a lot of Arrow fans have followed you into Chicago Med as well?

Yes, it has been great and being able to do these appearances (fan conventions such as Supanova) has been so cool. The longer I go to these things and the longer I stay on Chicago Med, the more I have coming up and saying how much they loved Tommy at the beginning, but now they just want to know things about Chicago Med, it makes me feel good about a hopeful and long career ahead and not just being known for one thing!

Looking into your extensive career over the last few years has been amazing. You have come through countless Musicals and Stage plays and mixed that in with TV and eventually landing a role on Arrow and now Chicago Med! I’m not sure there are many like you anymore, keeping so busy all the time, do you ever take a breather and what do you do for a hobby?

Ya know, basically, I pick up poop when I walk my dog (laughs). It’s been keeping me busy (career), I’ve been keeping career focused the last many years now that I’m married and I have a couple of dogs and I try to take every free moment to be able to spend time with her (wife Patti Murin) and my wife is also a very busy actor as well, she’s been on Chicago Med and is going on to do the Broadway musical of Frozen (Disney’s Frozen) as well. I really look forward to those times where I just get to be at home and cook her dinner. We are also pretty involved with some animal rescue organisations. In New York we were honorary hosts for a 5K (5 Kilometre running charity event) on Sunday, which I did not participate in but Patti did, we got to lend our voices to the cause and we try to do what we can.

Having such a huge interconnected world with Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. and Law & Order in a time where all these big connected universes are being created, did it just seem natural to want a gig on a huge potential series like Chicago Med and how did you end up with the role?

It’s actually a funny story, Brian Tee who plays Dr Choi on Chicago Med, he and I did a pilot for NBC and when that didn’t get picked up for a series, we ended up getting offers to come over and do Chicago Med. I think any working actor would probably jump at the chance to be on a Dick Wolf series, especially one that is just beginning. What is cool for me being in the Chicago universe and having it so connected as you said, it reminds me a lot of what the CW and DC Comic book shows are and the Marvel Universe movies. I mean everybody loves seeing characters they have attached themselves to, weave in and out of other shows and get attached to different series. It was cool to have that fan base of Chicago Fire and Chicago PD willing to give us a try and our biggest job was to step up to the plate and say, ‘we’ve got a show that’s worthy of the name.’

If you could join any of the big universes or film franchises on the big screen, is there a particular one you would be interested in the most?

Oh man, ya know, if I were a Brit (British), I would want to be James Bond in a hot second, I would give my left eye to be in a James Bond movie.

Anything else we need to watch out for on the Horizon for you soon?

Not really at the moment, I just want to focus on season three of Chicago (Chicago Med) and making some good television, my wife Patti is going to be doing her out of town production in Denver for Frozen and then she will be starting into the Broadway production just after new year, so any free time I have is going to be spent supporting her.

So, no children in the very near future then?

Not quite yet, no! It’s in our future, but right now we’re pretty happy with our fur babies that we’ve got.

You have a nice big gig coming up in Sydney June 16th onwards with Supanova Comic Con and Gaming? What made you want to come over to Australia?

It has been a spot on the list of places to go for a long time, I was really excited to jump at the opportunity to come over for the weekend and meet all my fans that are over there and then, not exactly a hot skip and a jump over to Perth the following weekend. I will have a little bit of time in-between and I have a couple of friends that I have met along the way that are full time residents out there. I am just looking forward to seeing the country and meeting all my fans that are on that side of the world.

I heard that Sunday is bringing a big Marvel star with it as well, Chris Hemsworth! So, we will have a real DC vs Marvel on our hands in some form anyway.

Yeah, we will end up with an arm wrestling competition or something like that… might be the worst idea I ever made I think.

Colin Donnell appears at Supanova in Sydney June 16-18 and in Perth June 23-25. For more details head to supanova.com.au