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Game Changers 2014: Stephen Amell, Grant Gustin, Matt Ryan, Ben McKenzie, and Brett Dalton

A new breed of onscreen talent is closing the gap between actors and real-life superheroes.
Illustration: Sean McCabe

A half-century ago, TV heroes had pudgy physiques that weren’t always complimented by their tight-fitting costumes. (Our apologies, Adam West.) Today, we have TV heroes like Stephen Amell, who plays Arrow on the eponymous CW show, who’s posted several Superhero Workout videos on his YouTube channel demonstrating just how far he’s willing to push himself to achieve those superhero abs.

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Then there’s Grant Gustin, who plays the title character on The Flash (also on the CW) and has trained with an Olympic runner to look believable in those red tights. (On Twitter, he’s called his training “project superhero body.”)

It’s not just the spandex set who’ve started taking their health seriously. In the DC comics’ Hellblazer, demon hunter John Constantine chain-smokes Silk Cut cigarettes. But in NBC’s TV drama, Matt Ryan’s Constantine abstains from cancer-causing bad habits.

Whether it’s future Batman ally Detective James Gordon (played by Ben McKenzie on Fox’s Gotham) or black ops specialist Grant Ward (Brett Dalton on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), these modern-day heroes spend more time in gyms than dive bars. (They’re also nerds. Dalton has admitted he has a comic book collection.)

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Why are comic characters suddenly so popular on TV again? “On some level we all want to be badass heroes,” Ryan speculates. “Seeing these characters portrayed onscreen lets us live out that fantasy.”

FIT FACT: To channel Arrow, Stephen Amell enrolled himself in L.A.’s brutal parkour-inspired Tempest Freerunning Academy.


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