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Stephen Amell: Season 2 of 'Heels' is all about brotherhood, accountability

Alexander Ludwig (L) and Stephen Amell's "Heels" Season 2 premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Starz
1 of 5 | Alexander Ludwig (L) and Stephen Amell's "Heels" Season 2 premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Starz

NEW YORK, July 28 (UPI) -- Arrow alum Stephen Amell says Jack Spade, the small-town pro wrestler he plays in Heels, is working on himself instead of trying to control the lives of others in Season 2 of the Starz drama, which premieres on Friday.

The show follows Jack and his younger brother, Ace (Alexander Ludwig of Vikings fame), as they try to define success for themselves, while keeping their family-run wrestling league afloat after the suicide of their father.

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Season 1 saw Jack's wife Staci (Broadway actress Alison Luff) deeply disappointed in him for deliberately embarrassing and angering his sibling during a match to gin up the crowd and then allowing Crystal (Kelli Berglund from Now Apocalypse) to claim the coveted championship belt instead of him.

"For Jack, I think it's become a little bit less about worrying about Ace or worrying about [his wife] Staci or worrying about [their son] Thomas or the Duffy Wrestling League," Amell told reporters in a recent Zoom interview conducted before the Screen Actors Guild strike.

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"He's more focusing on handling his own business and taking accountability for his actions and his behavior since his father killed himself, which has been well-intentioned, but misguided and has hurt people," Amell added.

"This is very much about him just not trying to wave a magic wand and make everything better all at once."

The road to forgiveness isn't an easy one for Jack to travel, but it was exciting for Amell to play.

"[He's] just taking accountability for his actions, specifically with Ace and Staci, saying: 'Here I am. Hat in hand. I'm sorry. What do I do?' It is a fun thing to play -- humility. Who knew?"

Ace is just trying to pick up the pieces and figure out his next move at the top of Season 2.

"He's still a complete mess after what happened. There is a huge rift between brothers," Ludwig said.

"This is not just a wrestling show. It's so much about family," he added. "Ace is trying to find his identity inside and outside of the ring."

Mental health also is a central theme this season, reflecting conversations that are taking place in the real-life sports world.

"Ace has been traumatized for years. His outlook on his life and on himself needs to change because he feels abandoned by his father. This is the first time you see Ace fully step into a role that he never ever wanted to step into -- both as a performer and a human being," Ludwig said.

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"Toward the end of the season, you really start to see him, perhaps, become more of the man he was destined to become."

The latest episodes suggest the potential the family's minor league wrestling franchise has to go national and become more diverse.

"The women lead the charge, and you get to see that on a whole other front, which is really exciting with this backdrop," Ludwig said. "You get to see the inklings of what this [league] could be with Jack and Ace."

Having a newbie woman wrestler win the championship over more seasoned athletes was a thrill for some onlookers and a quick solution to the Spade brothers' off-script fighting in the ring.

But now that the dust has settled, everyone must figure out exactly what it all means going forward.

"We are dealing with the immediate aftermath," Amell said.

"Do we just call an audible and put everything back the way it was the next day?" he asked rhetorically. "While he appreciated what Crystal did, he may not see it as the big sea change that audience members or fans or she might have seen it as. That's a point of contention in the early part of the season."

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Ludwig called Crystal's unexpected Season 1 win "the nail in Ace's coffin."

"He's just constantly taking punches and he's throwing them wildly back, kind of not really focusing," he said.

The show's scribes and directors are collaborative and welcome suggestions from the cast, but don't change much in the scripts from the time of the table-read rehearsals to actually filming the scenes, according to the actors.

"There isn't much that you would change. Of course, they talk to you about your characters, but it's all so beautifully on the page," Amell said.

"I'm like, 'This just seems the way it should be.' Of course, when scenes come up and things happen and you go, 'I want to say this instead of that. ...' That's [dealt with] on a day-by-day basis. But we have an incredible team."

Working on the second season of the series was easier than creating a first one because the setting is established and the main characters have been introduced, the actors said.

"You have some time under your belt to see what works," Amell said. "You also have the benefit of audience interaction and seeing what pops for people and what doesn't."

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Ludwig said it was humbling to learn the cable network wanted more Heels.

"There's not a lot of shows like this," he said.

"Back in the day, this would have been the kind of movie that would have made me want to be an actor," he added. "I love everything about this. I love that it's flawed characters. I love that it's a world I'm not super familiar with, but have fallen in love with simultaneously."

The cast includes Mary McCormack, Allen Maldonado and Chris Bauer. Mike O'Malley serves as showrunner and executive producer and plays the role of Charlie.

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