Stephen Amell and Alexander Ludwig on Heels’ Physicality and Playing Loving Brothers at Odds

And finally, we’ve arrived at our last Heels interview before the show launches on Starz on Sunday, August 15.

Stephen Amell and Alexander Ludwig aren’t strangers to physical demands in their work, but with Jack and Ace Spade, they’ve got the whole package with emotional character arcs requiring exciting stuntwork.

Below, find out why they do it and what to expect from Heels.

Alexander and Stephen in Closeup for Heels

So, Stephen, you have had a love affair with professional wrestling for a while. What does it feel like to be leading this particular production?

Stephen: Well, I feel I’ve been dating a girl for 25 years and I finally made it official. I was saying earlier, any opportunity for me to be an ambassador for professional wrestling.

They don’t need me or this show or any support. But to be able to shine a light on not just pro wrestling, but the part of it that not a lot of people see, the independent circuit, the small-town circuit, the Duffy Domes of the world.

It’s really special because I don’t think anyone’s really done it before.

Stephen Amell at the Heels Premiere

What did you know about professional wrestling Alexander? You didn’t grow up in these parts, did you?

Alexander: No. I grew up in Vancouver, Canada, and whenever I turned on the television, I saw WWE was on, and I’d watch it, and I loved it, but it wasn’t something that I would say I followed religiously.

Throughout the course of my career, thus far, I’ve actually had the opportunity of working with some of the greatest heels of all time, like Dwayne Johnson or Adam Copeland. And I was able to lean on Adam and actually Stephen as well to learn more about the world.

And I’ve since fallen in love with it and have tremendous respect for anybody in this world because what these men and women put their bodies through and their minds through on a regular basis is just unfathomable. It’s truly the athleticism that goes into this is just incredible.

Alexander Ludwig Arrives at Heels Premiere

And on top of that, Stephen, let’s start with you. You both have had physically demanding roles in the past, Arrow and Vikings. How does this role and being in the ring compare to what you’ve done previously?

Stephen: Oh, I mean, it’s fundamentally different so far; you cannot fake it. You’re literally almost naked out there, and there’s no muscle padding. [laughs] I’m not pointing a finger at anybody, but there’s no muscle padding.

And I really had to work on transforming my body, especially my midsection and my legs and my hips and my butt and just all that stuff that you’re going to see in the ring.

And if you’re walking around out there, like for me, Jack’s the champion; he’s the DWL champion. He’s got to look like he’s able to handle himself. I know it’s scripted, but it has to be believable in some way, shape, or form, which maybe is why they kept me out of the ring with James, I think. [laughs]

Stephen Amell in Profile from the Heels Premiere

That could be! What about you Alexander? How does it compare to what you did in Vikings, for example?

Alexander: I think every production presents its own obstacles, but for Vikings, it was very much the elements that were the big obstacle. Whereas in this, physically, I’ve never gone through as much of a transformation in my life, nor have I trained so hard for anything.

I mean, the second we signed onto this job, we were in the ring in Los Angeles with Chavo Guerrero. And he comes from a very prolific wrestling family; he’s a WWE Hall of Fame wrestler. And then we trained there for months, moved to Atlanta, trained with pro wrestlers, amateur wrestlers. We had incredible pro wrestlers on our stunt team.

You know, Stephen and I knew that this was an exciting show and that people were going to love these characters, but we really wanted to do right by the wrestling community. So we knew that we had to just put in the work and we want them to know that we did.

So when we weren’t filming, we were in the gym, and when we weren’t in the gym, we were in the ring, and it was just this cycle — all with COVID happening. So it was just a crazy experience, but it was so fulfilling.

Alexander Ludwig and Stephen Amell at the Heels Premiere

And Alexander sticking with you, Ace’s emotional pendulum swings wildly from being incredibly sad and near tears to being crazy angry and really lashing out.

What is that like? How did you manage that? Was it a challenge to be so different?

Alexander: When I read the script, I connected with that character so much because it’s a dream for me to get to play a character that’s so explosive and such a mess.

Yeah, there were some dark moments, we really had to dive to places that I would maybe rather forget, but in a way, that’s therapeutic, and to me, that’s what I really connected to.

At the end of the day, as a fan of this show, I saw myself in these characters, and I think that the audience will, too. And then, you’re going to learn more about the world if you don’t know anything about wrestling, but yeah, we had to go to some dark places, especially with Ace.

Alexander Ludwig, Roxton Garcia, and Stephen Amell - Heels

He’s a very self-destructive human being. And I certainly saw myself in him, so that was a lot.

But again, I always find solace in the fact that we’re making something really special that isn’t on television right now. And we’re telling stories that need to be told. And you know, that is a really rewarding part of the whole experience.

And Stephen, can you talk a little bit about Jack’s struggle to carry forth his family’s legacy while still being present for his family?

Stephen: The key word is struggle. I think that when you’re thrown into any new position in life, you’re always going to try to do too much. And trying to do everything, you’re going to miss all the little details, and not having the ability to delegate is going to come back and bite you. So he’s struggling.

You know, this is maybe something that he wanted, but not something that he’s asked for and not something that he expected so soon. So he’s struggling.

Alexander and Stephen at the Heels Premiere

The real conflict comes between Jack and Ace. So from your perspective, Stephen, how do you see their relationship, their brotherly relationship, and how does it blend with their professional? And then the same from you Alexander, when he’s finished?

Stephen: I think from a brotherly perspective, they would be better off to just behave like brothers.

I mean, Jack is older than Ace, and he’s just incredibly gun shy to let him make any mistakes, right?

But then you end up micro-managing someone and that leads to resentment and it’s a slippery slope.

So I think in the ring he sees a lot of potential on him, but he’s just gripping him a little bit too tight.

Michael Waldron, Alexander Ludwig, Mike O'Malley, and Stephen Amell - Heels

How about you, Alexander?

Alexander: I think Ace is just really struggling with his place in the world. There’s this dark cloud looming over him and Jack, of their father’s passing. Not only his father’s passing, but how he died, and he’s tormented by it. And they do anything but talk it out, which is, funny enough, what they need to do.

And I don’t know if Ace would be a wrestler if he had the choice. I mean, what I do know is that he loved his father, and he wants to do right by his father, and he wants to be loved. I mean, at the end of the day, this is a child who just wants to be loved. And I think we all have a little bit of that in us.

So Ace is just a roller coaster of emotions. And that was so fun because as Stephen and I say in past interviews, this world is limitless.

And as an actor, getting to play wrestlers in this kind of a world, it’s just a dream because there are no limits, there are no limitations to how far you can go and what you can explore, and the stories that you can tell.

Ace and Jack Spade Get Ready for a Match - Heels Season 1 Episode 1

Stephen, heel or face?

Stephen: Heel. Monster heel.

What about you Alexander?

Alexander: Yeah. Massive heel.

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And that’s it, folks! Be here on Sunday night at 10 for a full review of the premiere, and if you haven’t seen it already, read our advance review to get some more thoughts Heels.

Heels premieres on Sunday, August 15, at 9/8c on Starz.

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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