Television shows based off comic book superheroes and franchises are nothing new. With the recent booming successes of the Marvel and DC world, we now have shows like Arrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, and The Flash, all building on heroes and worlds we have already seen. Fox’s new show Gotham, however, may be one of the most ambitious attempts yet, choosing to focus not on the central character of Batman, but to explore the origins of the city itself and the insane cast of characters it has created, both good and evil. At the center of the show is Ben McKenzie as a young Detective Jim Gordon, who comes onto the force to work with veteran Harvey Bullock, played by Donal Logue. Main antagonists that emerge are Jada Pinkett Smith as an original character, Fish Mooney, and Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepott, the man who becomes the Penguin. Balancing out the cast are Erin Richards as Gordon’s mysterious fiancee Barbara Kean,David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne, Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle, and Sean Pert as Alfred Pennyworth.
Collider was able to speak with Logue, Pinkett Smith, Taylor, Richards, and series creator Bruno Heller while they were at Comic-Con. Hit the jump for some highlights.
BRUNO HELLER: “That’s sort of the beautiful thing about this world: it is genuine popular mythology. You can’t come up with an original idea in the Batman universe that someone hasn’t already done, which means that the pressure is off. It’s both a world that everyone understands and has expectations about, but you can also play with it and create new myth without betraying the old myth. You can tell history without lying. Normally you’re warping something. The truth here — everyone owns the truth. It’s a beautiful place to write.”
ERIN RICHARDS: “For this, it’s an origin story, first and foremost of all of the characters you love and know from the series, weaving in new amazing villains like Jada Pinkett Smith playing Fish Mooney as a villain that Bruno Heller has created. And it’s so fast, it’s so interesting, and even for people who have never seen Batman, it’s such an interesting take on all of the characters.”
On character backgrounds:
DONAL LOGUE: “He’s an old school detective who’s been around the block a lot. He’s a legend. I think he’s well liked among the department because he’ll defend the blue line. I wouldn’t say that he’s unethical, I just say that he’s the willow and not the oak. He’s pragmatic. Just like police work in general — sometimes you have to cut a scumbag a break to be a confidential informant to get bigger bad people. So he’s actually crossed that line a bit. He actually has relationships with people in the criminal underworld, but he’s just trying to survive, and maybe get to his pension. And a guy like Jim Gordon shows up, and he’s like, ‘No, there’s a right and there’s a wrong.’ Good luck. This is Chinatown. But it wakes something up inside of Harvey Bullock I think, to make him maybe want to be the cop that he once was.”
JADA PINKETT SMITH: “The thing about Fish is that she tries — she tries to love. She really does, but it totally interferes with her main priority, which is to take over Gotham. And she doesn’t really have the capability to love in that way. She’s too damaged.”
RICHARDS: “I think everyone has sort of an idea of a Gotham in their head that they either wanted to or never wanted to live in. I’ve always been fascinated by Gotham.”
HELLER: “Gotham, for me, is the central character. For me, it’s New York in the 70s. It’s scary and sexy, it’s dark but glamorous. It’s the place your dad runs off to with another woman. It’s the place you get mugged, you lose your virginity, your first big party. That sort of thing — all of that fed into it.”
PINKETT SMITH: “I’ve always been really intrigued by Gotham, and I never understood how come we didn’t learn more about the city and what it was about. Which was really interesting to me about this particular project, because Gotham is its own character that has been kind of dangling in front of us that nobody’s really dived into. The relationship between Batman and Gotham — I was like, there is more to this than they’re telling us, and now we get to see it, and in regards to what happened in Gotham that all of the most iconic villains that we know of came from this one place, and Batman!”
On original characters in the established Gotham world:
LOGUE: “I honestly think so far that Fish is just about it. What’s amazing about DC and Batman universe — it’s 75 years old — it’s that so many generations of writers and artists have brought something to it. There’s so many different incarnations of the same character, but it’s just a wealth of people to pluck from. As a story they’re all interesting, so besides Fish, I don’t think we have a need for too much narrative invention to make the stories move along.”
PINKETT SMITH: “It’s been a unique challenge. And to be a part of a project like this that has such legacy and to have the opportunity to create an original character, when do you ever, ever get to do that? So from a creative standpoint, um, it has been absolutely amazing. Completely amazing.”
PINKETT SMITH: “I just love that she’s a female character that can hold her own in male dominated Gotham. She’s got some big balls to be this woman. Some of the moves that Fish is making, I look at the page and go, ‘Really?! Okay. Let’s just see how this gonna turn out.’ But she’s a ballsy one.”
RICHARDS: “What really drew me to this character is that Bruno Heller writes fantastic female characters. So I could have just been somebody on the arm of Jim Gordon, who every now and again he comes home to and tells all his woes, and you know, just a terrible female character. But luckily, Bruno is such a genius, that he, from the get go, had written this beautiful, complex woman who is intelligent and ambitious, and also loving. She’s just really wonderfully complex, and she’s going to have such an interesting journey for everyone to follow.”
On the significance of the Penguin:
HELLER: “Penguin is the first sort of supervillain, arch villain of the show, and he [Taylor] brings it so strong, as if he was born to play that part, and attacks it with such an elegance and venom. People will be surprised, and he knocks it out of the park. It’s great to watch.”
PINKETT SMITH: “My favorite Fish relationship right now is the Penguin, because the pilot was off the chain, and when she finds out what’s really going on with Penguin, it’s going to be on and crackin’. Penguin is under her skin. She cannot get Penguin off her back, so it’s all about she and Penguin right now.”
LOGUE: “We have to start strong, and the critical piece of the puzzle was who was going to play Oswald Cobblepot, and it’s Robin Lord Taylor, who I’ve known for a long time, since he was very young, and he’s so perfect. If he wasn’t fantastic, I think maybe the whole show wouldn’t work, and we got the right man for the job. He’s amazing. It seems like we’re very Oswald Cobblepot heavy right now, which is a good thing right now.”
Taylor on Penguin’s relationship with Fish Mooney:
ROBIN LORD TAYLOR: “As we start the show, Jada is my boss. She’s the one who teaches him everything about the world, the fine underbelly of Gotham City. In a way, she’s very much like a mother figure. However, the Penguin’s desire for power is relentless, and he will use absolutely anyone to get what he wants. He will do whatever it takes. With Jada, the two of them begin so connected, but ultimately there’s not room for two of them in Gotham City.”
Heller on the eventually appearance of The Joker:
HELLER: “We’re gonna wait and get the show up and running — right, tonally right, story right, and then we’ll start thinking about how to bring him [The Joker] in. We will certainly try to surprise people, and maybe even trick people. It’s one of those expectations that everyone will be waiting for, so you can’t just present the guy with a big smile and start telling the story. Not that that would be dull, but that’s one of those opportunities to really start playing with this.”
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