On the Fox drama series Gotham, as Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) has been inching ever closer to the super villain persona The Riddler, with his alter-ego fighting to take control, his relationship with Kristen Kringle (Chelsea Spack) and his friendship with Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) were growing and evolving in new and interesting ways. Now that things have reached a breaking point of sorts, how things will play out next for the previously meek and mild Nygma are anyone’s guess.
Thankfully, actor Cory Michael Smith was able to get on the phone with Collider for this exclusive interview to talk about where Ed Nygma goes from here, exploring his character’s increasingly complicated personality, why he made the decision to open up to Kristen Kringle, her reaction, the power in what Nygma is feeling and doing, and being a small fish in the big pond of Gotham. Be aware that there are major spoilers discussed.
Collider: Because you know The Riddler is the inevitable outcome for Ed Nygma, did you enjoy getting to have a little bit of time to explore what it might be like for him to have a few dates and have a couple of friends and get to see what a relationship could be like with him, before he goes full-on crazy?
CORY MICHAEL SMITH: Yeah, I think so. Very early on, when we introduced Kristen Kringle, someone tweeted at me, “This is so wrong! The Riddler never had romantic endeavors. This is so, so, so wrong!” And what I tweeted back was, “There’s a reason why people are the way they are.” I’m very excited about the choices they made, and especially how it happened. It’s so aggressively personal and unintentional. And I’m sad to see Chelsea [Spack] go because I’m such a big fan of hers.
This episode really showed the Ed Nygma that he was always hoping to be, on a date with the girl of his dreams while he’s with people he considers his friends. How do you think he felt, in that moment? Do you think that he felt like he’d become the guy he’d always wanted to be, before it all fell apart?
SMITH: Yeah. And I think that, even in the short period of time that they’re dating, a calm comes over him because he feels like he graduated in life. He has a little bit more confidence in the fact that he is desired by somebody and understood by somebody, even if it’s for a short period of time. It makes him feel like he’s not as crazy as everyone makes him feel. Of course, it turns out that he’s crazier. But he gets to feel, for a little bit, like someone who can be loved and like someone who can be understood.
What does Nygma think of Jim Gordon? Does he admire him?
SMITH: I think, at first, he did. I think everyone noticed when Jim Gordon came in and Ed had to collaborate with him and help him. I think there was a very non-romantic crush on Jim Gordon because he’s the dashing guy who’s principled and came in with a vengeance. I think that was probably exciting for Ed. He got to do the job with someone who’s perhaps as passionate as he is, and who’s not just a schmuck that abused him. So, there was certainly a fondness there, but it never really went anywhere. They had a double date and he wanted to be friends because he’s seeking out someone who has a fondness for him. But as Ed has to get rid of the body recover from this, figure out what this means for him and move on, he goes through all these changes and has to find other people to rely on, make new friends and have new alliances. I don’t know that that’s going to be with Jim Gordon. Jim Gordon is a police officer and Ed has now killed two people. That relationship could potentially get more complicated. As Ed gets more confidant, he doesn’t need to feel validated by Jim Gordon.
Why do you think he made the decision to tell her that he killed her last boyfriend and how do you think he actually expected her to react to that?
SMITH: Well, that’s a great question. In the very last episode of Season 1, the two separate parts of his psyche emerged from a freak-out he has because he thinks she figured it out. So, it’s really the elephant in the room. He assumes that she knows, or suspects it. He just has to let her know that, yes, in fact he did do it. Also, I think that this is all just moving so quickly for Ed. I know that I’ve been in the position with people where I’m just falling so quickly that you want to just share everything, but it never really works out quite the way you want it to. This is his first experience with that. He just wants to tell her everything because he thinks it’s important and that she should know. It’s kind of bragging. She hurt his feeling by saying, “You couldn’t really stand up to him.” And he’s like, “Well, actually babe, I did, in the most epic way possible, and it was all for you. You’re welcome, and I’d do it again.” His judgment is just a little off.
The guy that he killed was clearly a bad guy, and many of the good guys in Gotham have killed a bad guy or two, at some point. But after taking the life of the love of his life with his own hands, how is that going to affect him? Is it going to make him spiral more out of control, or will it make him realize exactly who he is?
SMITH: This is his one true love in his mind, and he’s responsible for fucking it up. At this point, he’s killed two people unintentionally, but it’s a lot to deal with. I think he has to resolve to accept what he has done, but I don’t know that he knows what that means for himself. He’s a murderer, but he doesn’t mean to be. He has to reconcile his truth. I don’t know what it will mean for him. The next few episodes will see him trying to figure that out. The thing that happens immediately after that is that this alter-ego of his comes rearing his head in a really horrifying way.
What was it like to shoot that scene that ultimately ends with Kristen Kringle’s death at the heads of Ed Nygma?
SMITH: It was pretty brutal to shoot. It was a long scene and we had to shoot it in segments. What would be nice would be if you could start from the beginning and go until the end, but you can’t because of the changes in location. We did a master first, that was a big shot of the whole thing, and then we started with the actual killing and worked backwards, which was weird. It was tough. I didn’t want to see Chelsea go, but it was necessary. It was a little bit emotional during it, but we enjoyed working with each other so much, so it was a good time. It’s a very bittersweet thing because I’ve so enjoyed her, so much. On the other hand, I’m so excited to have a new storyline.
Would you personally like to see Nygma slip into a few other personalities, aside from the two we’ve already seen?
SMITH: When the alter-ego comes back in Episode 7, as a repercussion from what he did in Episode 6, I think you will see very new colors of each personalities, and perhaps they are closer to becoming the same person. What’s more important for me than cutting him up into even more little pieces is for him to eventually come to the place where he’s embracing this other side of him. That’s the voice that’s going to lead him to being the super villain. It’s more about luring Nygma into understanding that there’s power in these things that he’s feeling and doing.
As the actor playing him, are you rooting for him to get to the point of being the super villain and getting into the costume as quickly or possible, or do you prefer the slower exploration?
SMITH: I was really eager to get to the point that we’re at now, but now that we’re here, I’m excited about going very slowly. People can change significantly in a short period of time, but to go from where we started with the very meek, genuine, well-meaning guy to where we want to go is going to take a long time. There are some events that speed that up, but at this point, we’ll see him growing and changing. He’ll find himself getting in trouble, as he takes risks and chances and fucks with people.
Could you ever see him teaming up to wreak havoc with another villain, or do you see him as more of a lone wolf, at this point?
SMITH: I see him as someone that is a small fish in the big pond of Gotham. He’s going to be lured into this devious behavior, but he doesn’t necessarily know what he’s doing or why he’s doing it. He’ll seek council from people who are more experienced, more daring and more powerful than he is. He’s just going to get a bit more mischievous now. There’s something so addicting about doing something horrible and getting away with it.
Gotham airs on Monday nights on Fox.