Backstage & Behind Closed Doors On Fox's GOTHAM Set

Photo from "Gotham" set visit
Credit: Lan Pitts (Newsarama)
Credit: Lan Pitts (Newsarama)

Fox’s Gotham is about to start it’s third season and the power struggle to be at the top is about to intensify.

The junior TV show had started production back in July and premieres its third season September 19. Newsarama was invited along with a handful of reporters to witness brand new sets as well as interview the cast of what’s to come in the new year for Gotham City’s heroes and villains, and everyone in between in a rare set visit. For a complete gallery of all of our Gotham set photos, click here.

Before the studio tour started, Fox gathered the guests in the library of Wayne Manor, surrounded by fine art and a plethora of books ranging from subjects about architecture to science fiction art of the 1970’s.

Newsarama was treated to several brand new sets for this season, the first of which was Jim Gordon’s new apartment. It was in shambles, surrounded by old newspapers, case files, and portfolios of hardened criminals. Fox’s representatives didn’t reveal much about why he’s in the new location or why things are in such disarray.

The second new set on the list was the cramped chambers of the Mad Hatter, Dr. Jervis Tetch (played by Benedict Samuel). In the series, he is a deranged hypnotist trying to find his missing sister, aptly named Alice (Naian Gonzalez Norvind). The room was filled with doll houses of various sizes and resembled more of a craft room or an attic than, say, an actual living lair. On tables, it had several cakes and other pastry sculptures, and of course, a tea set.

As you can tell, the sweets appear very realistic.

There were also an assortment of dolls and mannequins that lurched about from the ceiling.

Next up was the parlor of the Penguin himself, played by Robin Lord Taylor. It had very little light in it, but a new oil portrait of his father, played by Paul Reubens, was framed ornately on the wall with an uncanny likeness to the actor. A stuffed peacock and a blue kimono bookended the fireplace. It had class and a bit of an eccentric appeal.

Credit: Lan Pitts (Newsarama)

Afterwards, Newsarama ventured around common locations such as the Gotham City Police Department headquarters and the city morgue, but the last new set to show off was the Sirens Club, which will be run by Tabitha Galavan (Jessica Lucas) and Barbara Kean (Erin Richards).

Returning to Wayne Manor, Cory Michael Smith (Edward Nygma) and Robin Lord Taylor, welcomed us back. Newsarama's conversation began with Smith, who talked about about Nygma’s evolution into a career criminal and how it was clearly a push from destiny.

Credit: Lan Pitts (Newsarama)

“When he met Kristen Kringle he felt like a normal person. I never felt like this before. I have a girlfriend and we get to make out and she thinks I’m funny and she’s hot,” he laughed. “That’s what he wanted, but he messed that up somehow so it’s felt like fate for Edward. Fate has chosen his life for him as he’s accidentally killed two people.”

Smith mentions now that Nygma has started to embrace this fact, and while in Arkham Asylum he accepted the fact that he’s a criminal. “When he gets out he has a clean slate, which is really exciting because he can choose who wants to be and how he gets there.”

Nygma and Penguin have a rocky relationship and coming out of Arkham, Smith said that Eddie realizes that his only friend is the Penguin, but that’s only if Cobblepot can forgive Nygma for rebuking him when they momentarily lived together.

“That’s the only friend he can count on, so things might be a little bleak for him when he gets out. It’s different for me to talk about where he goes because there’s a bunch of wild turns and they happen very quickly.”

As far as where Smith would love to see Nygma’s character go this season, he only has vague details so far, but said he’d love to see him become his own man and more self-reliant.

“There’s the adage that we talked about and how he’s doesn’t want to get close to anyone. I would love to see that tested. To truly realize that yes, this is the way. I am an independent and can ally myself with people for the common good and benefit, but not to be really attached to anybody. I think that’s what propels him to be this brilliant kingpin.”

Credit: Lan Pitts (Newsarama)

Switching gears, Newsarama then talked to Robin Lord Taylor, who was in his full Penguin prosthetic makeup and styled hair. Penguin is Gotham’s first famous criminal from Batman’s rogue gallery to make a name for himself and what that means to him.

“Of all the villains to start with, they were starting with mine and it was just all about where Penguin got his start and how he got here, but with Cory, it’s been a much slower burn. I was a little afraid that after everything that Oswald went through the first and second seasons it would peak too soon. I don’t know if you ever saw The Comeback with Lisa Kudrow, but she has this great line about ‘what do they want me to do next? Explode?’ and that’s how I feel, where can we go next?”

“I can’t speak for Cory’s character,” he added, “but the way I saw it was here this person who is a little odd and strange and wants to make people laugh with these riddles and make people think. Everyone ends up shutting him out and so he breaks and in that break, he went through all that Oswald went through. All that bullying and being shut out happened to Penguin before the pilot even happened. It’s only when he makes his first kill in the first episode, the fisherman, that he finally feels like he has agency and control of his own destiny.”

Lord mentioned that while the show was on hiatus, he was invited to the writer’s room and he saw what they had coming and all the fear went away.

“They’re taking it to the next level and it’s exciting.”

When asked about what he wants from Oswald out of season three, he replied is to not make the same mistakes he made in season two.

“He started the season two as the King of Gotham and lost all of it. He even lost part of his personality and in doing that with the brainwashing, we see who he could have been if he had been loved by his peers and accepted. Even when he is that way though, he still faces the horrors of Gotham City. He’s learned that he made the right choice and accepts the fact that the only way he’ll have power is to be ruthless.”

Taylor said that seeing Jada Pinkett-Smith's Fish Mooney again gives him purpose, especially with her in the position of being this ringleader of monsters created by Dr. Hugo Strange. “It gives him focus and something to inspire others to rally around him with that fear of the monsters and the fear of being unsafe.”

Credit: Lan Pitts (Newsarama)

Next up was Erin Richards, in her cocktail dress and costume jewelry that was used in the scene filming that day, who plays Barbara Kean on the show. She gave some insight on where Barbara is currently going into the third season.

“I would say she is in her element,” said Richards. “She’s reached a point in her journey that she deserves to be there and taking that and running with it. I’m really enjoying her playfulness and she’s a bit of a loose cannon, but at the same time, powerful and great at running this club. I guess she’s the hostess with the mostess and created herself as a debutante.”

Richards lastly put that Barbara is positioning herself to be “an important part” of Gotham’s criminal underworld.

Credit: Lan Pitts (Newsarama)

Fox had more of the cast come in as they finished filming scenes elsewhere on the set. Drew Powell, who plays Butch on the show, talked about his character’s evolution from goon to legit boss, to brainwashed lackey to something else entirely.

“Butch, after having his moment on top, realizes that maybe he didn’t like it that much, is back to finding his way. Danny Cannon, one of our writers, said to me last season that Butch is a survivor. He finds a way to survive through Gotham. That’s how he’s always done,” Powell said. “When you first meet Butch, you just think of him as a henchman, but then you realize pretty quickly and is much more clever, which is something being played up in the scene we’re doing today.”

Powell said that the first part of the season is this interesting dynamic between Butch, Penguin, and Nygma and where those three can coexist. Apparently, it doesn’t go very well. “We’re on episode five now and it’s a heavy episode for me and it’s been so fun to get a chance to do a different kind of things. I’ve really enjoyed every minute of it. You guys are here at a cool time as we’re doing all sorts of fun stuff.”

Before Newsarama’s time was up, Powell talked about Butch’s reaction to Fish Mooney returning again this season and what he has in store for her.

“It’s funny because Butch needed to try and forget Fish. He really did love her, whatever that love was, he really did and had to figure out how to survive. Her coming back is hard for him to process as you’ll see in the first couple of episodes she’s back and hopefully by the end of the season, there’ll be some sort of reckoning. He’s in a weird place as I think he’s also in love with Tabitha as well, but that’s more in the physical sense where with Fish it was more like a family member. It’s going to be interesting to see where it plays out.”

Credit: Lan Pitts (Newsarama)

Up next was Camren Bicondova, who plays the young Selina Kyle. In the first season, Selina was in Bruce’s life as she claimed to be a witness to his parents’ murder. Of course, that was false and since then, she’s aligned herself with villainous types in order to survive,. The actress told Newsarama about where Selina’s allegiances actually lie at the start of season three and that Bruce and Selina’s relationship will truly be tested.

“I guess she would be on the good side now, if we’re talking in black and white. Her and Bruce’s relationship is evolving into a more teenage relationship than it has been, but I don’t think it’ll last very long,” she laughed. “She’s going to find her way to the dark side sooner or later, especially in this season. “

As for what makes Selina walk that tightrope of good and bad, Bicondova replied that she thinks it’s all about her genetics.

“Her backstory and her parents, it all goes back to that, but I think she struggles between the good and bad because she would be 15 or 16 right now and living on her own in Gotham since she was a toddler. Not having someone to explain the differences between good and bad and so for her, she’s trying to do the right thing, but in doing that, she might have to do some wrong things first.”

Talking about Selina and Bruce’s relationship, Bicondova says that it’s difficult with him because it’s not just Bruce realizing he doesn’t need her, it’s more of the opposite.

“I think Selina will realize Bruce is not what she needs and I say that because of what will happen later in the season and I’m excited for that to happen. I love working with David, but I think Selina deep down in her core depends on Bruce, but when they part ways again, she’ll have to depend on herself and I’m super excited to see that.”

Credit: Lan Pitts (Newsarama)

Following a small break, Fox brought us over to to Ben McKenzie, Gotham’s own Jim Gordon. He was dressed in all black, with a prop gun holstered to his waist. The first question was about how McKenzie was taking more charge in the show changing Jim’s story from more procedural to a more overreaching arc.

“It’s a collaborative process so I wouldn’t want to take credit where it’s not deserved. The show is so organic and at its best is a dysfunctional family of 200+ people trying to figure out all the kinks.” He mentioned that the show started out more procedural than what fans had wanted and it eventually started doing the more long-form storytelling, which helped tell the origins of some of its most famous characters and how they interact with one another. “I think delving into those characters have been a big part of that.”

When Gotham started, Jim wanted to become a cop and help the system, but now this season, the future Commissioner becomes a bounty hunter for these monsters that Dr. Hugo Strange created. McKenzie talked about if the show could go even darker from there.

“I want to play with the audience’s expectations of who will become Commissioner Gordon and he had to go this route full of soul searching and this form of soul searching involves him working on the outside, which is his lowest point. He’s trying to find a reason to being, but when he gets his mojo back, it reinvigorates him, but also allows him to operate differently within the GCPD.”

McKenzie stated that he thinks Jim believes in the rule of law as much as the rule allows him to work. When it doesn’t, Jim finds ways to work outside of it, especially dealing with bigger fish to fry instead of going after Nygma and Cobblepot once more.

Credit: Lan Pitts (Newsarama)

“One of the things he realizes after the crime families ceased their reign, it created a power vacuum that resulted in the anarchy that’s taking place now,” he said. “There’s the devil you know and the devil you don’t, and the one you know can be a benefit. In a weird way, he’s not pleased, but far passed the point of railing against Oswald.”

The actor talked about the new pieces in Jim’s arsenal to defeat these monsters, and said he’s relying on his skill set to keep him alive, but mentioned that eventually Gordon will have to return to the GCPD and how he adjusts is something he looks forwards to.

Credit: Lan Pitts (Newsarama)

Conversation then turned to the Wayne murders and how that’s fallen on the backburner for now. McKenzie said that he and Bruce will go off in their separate quarters, but what that promise his character made to David Mazouz's Bruce still mattered.

“The promise he made to Bruce was somewhat satisfied at the discovery of the labs of Dr. Hugo Strange and Bruce is not as focused on it as well. The notion that finding the Waynes’ killer, we realized, is not the point anymore. It’s more of a MacGuffin at this point and we’re looking at the darker sides of Gotham.”

Going back to the beginning, McKenzie talked about how this isn’t just a Batman origin story, but a character piece on Gotham City itself and how certain people came into power as well as reiterating origins of certain people’s relationships. Mentioning Barbara and how her character has evolved, it was brought up if McKenzie thought she could still find redemption.

“I don’t know if the relationship could be healed, but there’s some chance for personal redemption for all of these characters. There’s a way of empathizing with them and it’s unique. We play with the thin line of heroes and villainy. If Oswald hadn’t been beaten up all the time by Fish Mooney, would he be the killer he is now? If we hadn’t poked and prodded at Nygma making fun of him, would he be where he is?”

Lastly, he mentioned that it’s been very satisfying to work with the cast and see a team of primarily unknowns become such stars.

Credit: Lan Pitts (Newsarama)

Heading back into Wayne Manor one final time, young David Mazouz and newly-hired Benedict Samuel sat to talk with the press. First up was Mazouz, who was in a dress shirt and pants and had just gotten done doing the previously mentioned club scene.

“The point of Gotham has been to show how these characters got from point A to point B. From a rookie to a jaded Commissioner. From a small-time thug to the crime lord of Gotham. For Bruce, he’s making his way to becoming Batman but the show, in regards to Bruce, is the supernatural journey from being a kid to a man. In season three, he is making that transition from boy to Batman, and he is gaining confidence to become this man.”

Mazouz talked about Selina’s relationship and where he saw it going this season. Having recapped what Bicondova told Newsarama, Mazouz agreed to an extent.

“It’s just fascinating. It’s evolved so much. In the first season Bruce was this sheltered rich kid and he kinda needed Selina to help be exposed to what the real Gotham was like. He had no connection to that, but going into season three, he doesn’t need her to bridge that gap anymore. They still have their unexplainable connection, but that realization will cause Bruce to question about bringing things to the next level with Selina.”

The young actor talked about their friendship that began as simply she traded supposed intel for shelter and he provided for her, but this time around the trade-off doesn’t exist anymore and he feels that Bruce doesn’t really need her anymore.

Credit: Lan Pitts (Newsarama)

“I don’t think it matters at this point, though. Their friendship is passed two parts of a deal and even more so in season three,” he said.

Finally, Mazouz talked about what steps Bruce was taking with the next level of his training into become Gotham’s Dark Knight.

“His training will only intensify with Alfred as the season goes on. He will slowly step away from the investigations because he realizes that he cares about might get hurt. He kind of dials that part of his dedication down a bit. Season three is where he checks himself and realizes he’s accelerating too fast and in season three he takes a second, but by the end something happens that he realizes he needs to refocus and make Gotham a better place. If it’s not me, it’s nobody.”

Lastly, talking to Samuel who sat in a folding chair as he was coincidentally drinking iced tea. The Walking Dead alumni joins the cast of Gotham this season as the Mad Hatter. Fox had already released a promotional photo of Samuel in costume, but Newsarama wanted to learn what we could about the man under the hat starting with how he landed the role.

Credit: Lan Pitts (Newsarama)

“The audition process was incredibly quick. I was living in Sydney, Australia at the time and I did a self-tape so with the time difference, I woke up to a flurry of emails of notes and suggestions that I send in another tape. I did and was in the mix with two other people, but got the call. I had to get a visa which took two weeks. I got it on a Friday, flew out the next day and started work that Wednesday.”

With the numerous Jokers, Penguins, Catwomen, Riddlers, it’s interesting to note that Samuel will become the only second live-action version of the character to grace the screen, small or silver. Talking about inspiration where he pulled from to get inside his character, he gave credit to the writers for providing such a unique take.

“There are some incredibly talented writers on this show and I was very fortunate that they had written amazing scenes that provided deep thought and forced you to think of what you’re doing. I don’t really create things externally; I’m not that kind of actor. Me getting into this character has been a mix of fabulous hair, makeup and costumes that helped guide me along the way.”

Samuel said that he’s mentioned in previous interviews that the most exciting thing for him as an actor has been that Jervis is full of inconsistencies and there’s great freedom in his portrayal.

“He has a very interesting mind,” Samuel laughed.

Gotham’s third season begins Monday, September 19 on Fox.

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