Coin Flips & Past Takes: How NICK D'AGOSTO Approaches Harvey Dent on GOTHAM

Nick D'Agosto as Harvey Dent on Gotham
Credit: Fox

TV’s Gotham has taken some liberties and chances in changing some of the way the Batman mythos is presented and tonight’s episode continues that trend. Nicholas D’Agosto (Election, Masters of Sex) joins the cast in the aptly titled “Harvey Dent” as, well, Harvey Dent. The change to make Dent a contemporary of Jim Gordon instead of the much younger Bruce Wayne will change some of the known and familiar landscape compared to the comics, but D’Agosto is willing to take the role head on.

“It’s been so exciting, but I would say the biggest challenges were trying to keep up with the timeline of this thing,” he said, when asked about the challenges he faced for the role in a press conference call. “When I first found out about this audition, I was looking for something else, but the casting office wasn’t aware that I was available because I was working on another project and they wanted me to come in for Harvey Dent later that night.” He later mentioned that the casting process was swift and he was cast, fit for wardrobe and handed his first script, and started filming within less than a week. “It was just a whirlwind process and had a lot to prepare. I had to get all the information for my comprehensive approach in a short amount of time, but it was a real thrill.” He also mentioned that acting out his scenes were probably the easiest of the whole process. “The acting part is just fun! At that point, it’s just a good time.”

When asked about if there was anything he added to the role, D’Agosto kept it clean and pretty much what was on the page for the most part. “What I think I bring to this version of Harvey Dent is what an actor can bring what they can from other iterations of the franchise, but at the end of the day you play what’s on the page. And what was on this page is that there is this real ambition for this guy.” D’Agosto also mentioned the duality of the role and what lies ahead, but without having to go into Two-Face territory. “He’s almost a little reckless and he puts himself in the position where there’s a lot on the line. Some of the things that come out of that show the potential of who he will be. For good or ill, he is an ambitious, merciless, rage-filled guy, but at the same time, somebody who could be kind and genuine and sincere, and at the same time their ambitions can bring them to potentially cross the line.”

D’Agosto kept driving home that the difficulty of his performance was to fight the tendency to want to show the capacity of being Two-Face. “I think the most important thing I had to do was to be smooth and easy and likeable, and as he gets involved with high stakes situations he goes off like a loaded gun. It was to show his confidence and ease in these situations. I know it’s tempting to show his bolder emotions, those are definitely there, but they’re fun if they’re a surprise.”

Since Harvey Dent is a long-time Batman character, D’Agosto mentioned the level of research didn’t always involve the movies, and as a fan, he wanted to make his own notch in the character’s history. “Problem with that is you start to think that the true version of the character is the one in front of you. I did Google comic sites and history and go through the arc of Harvey and Batman. One thing that stood out to me was that his father abused him as a child. He had these psychotic episodes as a child that showed his capacity  to be somebody like Two-Face later on. He has such a visceral response to when he is threatened or when he sees somebody who is also abusive, because that relationship we have with our parents is so irrational. I think it’s important to show this character has the ability to be rational, but that’s under the surface.”

When asked about if there’s any interaction between Dent and other characters aside from Gordon, he gave a little bit away by announcing that he will be a regular on the second season. “I would be surprised if I don’t [interact with other cast members] at some point, but I think this first season of Gotham has so much information to bring in. Right now my story is sort of contained, but come second season I become a regular on the show, so we will see me branching out a lot more next season.”

Talking about the pressure of joining the show, not only as an actor, but as a fan, D’Agosto mentioned it could be overwhelming at times, but he didn’t get discouraged. “Yeah, I think that you can’t get too wrapped up in it, though. I’m a fan as well. I like Batman and this world and franchises and so I am definitely sympathetic to fans who want this show to live up to their expectations. The difficult thing about expectations is that everybody has different ones and that it’s difficult to sway everyone.” He continued with a bit of research and something he wanted to get right. “I can tell you one thing, though. If you ever see a picture of Two-Face, he has the gun in his right hand and the coin in his left. I’m right-handed, so it’s difficult to flip a coin with my left hand, and debated on using it because if I drop the coin, the take is ruined. But I did it. So I practiced and flipping the coin and I feel pretty good about it.”

In addition to his excitement as a fan. D’Agosto talked about what he’s excited to bring to the show with his portrayal. “Jim needs help right now. The thing about Dent is not the moral center that Jim Gordon is, but I think he is a breath of fresh air. I hope people will enjoy the idea of seeing these two guys have their own way of approaching things.”

Harvey tends to live his life by chance, and he was asked if they shared that method in any way. “I think there’s a paradox there,” he replied. “As actors or freelancers in general, but certainly as an actor, I don’t think there could be anything more filled with the element of chance. It has created the most surprising scenarios for my life.”

D’Agosto mentioned again that he didn’t let Harvey’s future weigh in on his performance. “I think the challenge is to be patient. I don’t have to tell everybody in one episode who this guy is, but it’s important for me to be Harvey Dent right now.” He also briefly talked about that they’re shooting episode 14 right now, and will be joining in for a few episodes, but not sure when.

Since he hasn’t had much screen time with many cast members, he talked about who he was most excited to work with as the show progressed. “Well, I’ve worked mainly with Ben [McKenzie], as well as Montaya [Victoria Cartagena] and Allen [Andrew Stewart-Jones]. I got to work with Richard Kind! He’s so funny! I’ve gotten to meet basically almost everybody except for Robin Lord Taylor or Jada Pinkett yet. Robin and I have mutual friends and I’m looking forward to meeting him. His character has been so engaging. People, I think rightfully, have been pulling out his performance.”

Lastly, he was asked if there was anything that stood out on his first day, he responded enthusiastically. “That first day was really exciting because it was a full day. I would say that honestly, this might sound a little cliche, but walking into the [set] was such an extraordinary experience.” He went on describing the set and stage and the amount of detail going into each bit. “That structure is huge! They built a four-story open-aired structure where you can shoot on three different levels across the stage. I think what’s exciting on getting on a show like this is that the production level is so high. The sets are gorgeous, the costumes are gorgeous, and as an actor it makes you feel important. You know it’s exciting to be a part of the show where the network and the studio are really behind it. That’s what I really remember from my first day. There’s just a lot of commitment to show and you can see it.”

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