Arrow: Why Sara Lance Was Recast After The Show’s Pilot

Sara Lance has become one of the longest-serving and most popular characters in the Arrowverse – but was played by a different actress in the Arrow pilot. Starring Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, Arrow ran for eight seasons, ultimately concluding after Crisis on Infinite Earths. The early days of Oliver’s vigilante journey, however, were a far cry from what they would become. Returning home after five years away, Oliver operated as The Hood with no allies and with absolutely no qualms about snapping people’s necks. Over time, he embraced more heroic methods and a support system known colloquially as Team Arrow. One of the earliest members was the first Arrowverse incarnation of Black Canary.


It’s safe to say that the role is now synonymous with Caity Lotz. Following an uncredited appearance in Arrow season 2, episode 1, “City of Heroes”, Lotz made a direct debut two episodes later. She recurred throughout season 2, joining Team Arrow and briefly reigniting her romance with Oliver. To secure back-up in the fight against Slade Wilson, however, Sara was forced to reaffirm her commitment to the League of Assassins. She returned in Arrow season 3, episode 1, “The Calm”, only to be murdered in a plot orchestrated by Malcolm Merlyn. Sara’s demise was once again short-lived, as she was resurrected by Thea Queen and Laurel Lance in season 4 via a Lazarus Pit. After her future Legends of Tomorrow teammate, John Constantine, helped restore her soul, Lotz became the White Canary and made the jump to the ensemble spinoff.

When Arrow first premiered, Sara Lance was played by a wholly different actress: Jacqueline MacInnes Wood. Featured exclusively in the pilot’s flashback sequences, Wood played Sara during her initial, illicit fling with Oliver. Traveling with Oliver on the Queen’s Gambit, she seemingly went down with the ship when it sank due to sabotage. Though that was famously not the case, it marked Wood’s only episode on the show before Lotz came on board to take over.

The reasons for the recasting have little to nothing to do with Wood’s suitability for the role or general performance. Instead, it’s more to do with availability. Wood has had several parts over the years – on screens both big and small. As well as starring in Final Destination 5, she also guest-starred on such shows as Anger Management and Castle. The operative word is guest-starred. In 2008, Wood debuted as Steffy Forrester on The Bold and the Beautiful. Having starred in over 1,500 episodes, Wood has retained the role ever since. The Arrowverse producers no doubt conceived Sara Lance as a one-off character, making it compatible with Wood’s no doubt hectic schedule. Once they changed their mind, however, it would have been nigh impossible for her to juggle both commitments.

Given that Sara Lance would take on a more active role in Arrow season 2, it was likely also beneficial to find an actress more experienced with action sequences and stunts. As a skilled martial artist, Lotz more than fit the bill in that regard. Though it’s unknown whether Wood laments missing out on such an eclectic role, it was the right decision all around. Even when Lotz was cast, the character was meant to have a short shelf-life. Like Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak, however, Lotz’s iteration of Sara resonated with fans – so strongly that there was a passionate outcry when she was killed off. Now, the White Canary is considered a primary hero in the Arrowverse. Meanwhile, Lotz also shifted into directing episodes and is now graced with top billing on Legends of Tomorrow. That is a long way to have come since Arrow.

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About The Author

John Atkinson (1009 Articles Published)

John Atkinson has been a news and feature writer for Screen Rant since late 2018. Before that, he had articles published across a number of different outlets. A graduate of the University of London, John was raised on a small island by television and movies. As such, he pursued a career in screenwriting and film journalism when it became apparent that actually becoming Spider-Man was impossible. John’s fondest wish is to one day produce a film of his own. Until then, he’s more than happy to spend countless hours just talking about them.

John’s love of film and television defies genre and sometimes even logic. Nothing is off-limits to his passion – be it Marvel, DC, Rian Johnson’s Star Wars, or Tommy Wiseau’s latest cinematic offering.

Away from screens, John can often be found in a park reading mystery and/or fantasy novels, jumping up and down at various music events, or thinking too deeply about Keanu Reeves’ career and why Edgar Wright doesn’t have an Oscar.

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