The Penguin has always lived in the shadow of more popular Batman villains such as the Joker, but in Fox's Gotham Robin Lord Taylor and the show's writers have brought new-found appeal and interest into young Oswald Cobblepot. Taylor portrays Cobblepot as an ambitious henchman, paving his way through Gotham City’s seedy underworld, and getting high praise along the way.
Taylor sat down with Newsarama to talk all things Gotham, his performance and life in the spotlight now, as well as his pick for gimmick umbrella he’d love to have on the show.
Newsarama: Robin, Before we really get started, congrats on the second season being announced!
Robin Lord Taylor: Oh, thank you so much, man, it’s all been just so amazing It’s so validating, too. Everybody is working so hard on the show and trying to bring something and to get a second season, it’s just so rewarding and validating to me.
Nrama: Has it weirded you out yet that you have shirts with your face on it?
Taylor:[Laughs] Yes it does, in fact. It is not a normal thing at all and I’m still constantly weirded out by everything. I didn’t expect anything like this as I really just expected to never hopefully wait tables again and just maintain my health insurance, those were my goals! And now the way things are here, my face is on a shirt...nothing feels normal, but in the best way.
Nrama: I'm curious to know how much your role has changed or increased once the series aired and your portrayal of the Penguin became the breakout star of the show. I wonder if your role had originally been planned as more of a bit player, and then you were moved up based on the response.
Taylor:Well, I think it was already sort of planned to have an intense focus on Penguin's rise and [Executive Producer] Bruno Heller had told me that I was the first major, classic villain that they were going to explore. I knew that, but the response has been so incredibly positive and just amazing. I just hope here to stay in Gotham City and they just don’t lock me up in Arkham Asylum with the rest of the rogues [laughs].
Nrama: First seasons are sometimes tricky, when you go back and watch a long-running show, the cast is still trying to figure out their characters. Do you feel like even after a half season you’ve figured everything out about Oswald or is there a lot of exploring left?
Taylor: I think there is a lot of exploring left. We’ve already discovered so much about him, but there’s still so far to go. Yeah, we know what kind of person Penguin becomes when he gets older, but he’s still making mistakes. That’s what I love about it, he’s still finding his footing, no pun intended, and it’s so much more interesting for me to play. Every success he has, he still falls on his ass and makes huge mistakes. It just seems it all makes him more of a real person.
Nrama:You might not be familiar with this, but I’m curious in how much of your performance was inspired by John Turturro's character in Miller's Crossing?
Taylor: It’s on the list! You’re not the first person to ask this! I need to see it, and John Turturro is another one of those great actors and Barton Fink is just one of my all-time favorite movies. His performance in everything is just mind-blowing.
Nrama: Speaking of your performances, somebody was recently endorsed by Danny DeVito...
Taylor: I mean can you believe that? I mean, again, what is my life? I’ve been a fan of him my entire life. Batman Returns was a huge movie and one of my favorites growing up. It’s incredible. The fact that he’s so grotesque and an awful, disgusting guy, but at the same time, so charismatic. You buy the fact that he is running for mayor and, at one point, could win. That’s one thing that influenced my performance. Both him and Burgess Meredith, both had that charisma and sense of fun that I’ve tried to incorporate into my characterization.
Then to hear he’s a fan of the work, it’s just a great endorsement. I think he’s one of our greatest actors working now and such a legend. He’s also good friends with Carol Kane and every now and then she’ll go “Guess who I had dinner with last night…” “Who?” “Danny.” Ugh! Can you call me next time? I just need to meet him! I’m so close at this point. I just want to get drunk with the dude and talk Penguin and everything else!
Nrama: Now I know you turned to a lot of comics like Batman: Earth One and Penguin: Pain and Prejudice, but have you had the chance to play the Batman: Arkham City video game? That Penguin is incredibly insane and demented and is that a route you’d like to go down?
Taylor:It is and I just need to get my ass to Best Buy and just get an X-Box already. I don’t know what my problem is. I think it was for Wii or PS3, but it was Batman: Arkham Asylum and I don’t know how featured Penguin was in that one, but the characterizations for these games are so fabulous. If you had told me back in the day when I was playing Sega Genesis gaming would be what it is now, I would not have believed you.
Nrama: Now those Joker rumors, you recently shut them down, but also saying you’re not sure what the future holds, what would you like to see from Penguin that really isn’t talked about much?
Taylor: What would I like to see? I would like to see more about his personal life. I love my scenes with Carol and they’re some of my favorite and such a dream to work with. I know very little, but I want to know who his dad was, where did they come from, what was their life like? I know Penguin’s entire childhood and it was just him and his mom, and I guess that’s why they’re...close...is the best way of putting it [laughs]. I would also like to see more of that. Another thing I would like to see is the other supervillains we’ve established and want more interaction with them.
Recently we shot a scene where it’s the first meeting of Edward Nygma and Oswald that’s coming out soon. First of all, I am a huge, huge fan of Corey Michael Smith. I think he’s just a brilliant actor and I love what he’s done to the character and I just want him to be evil so we can have more fun and juicy moments. Also, Nicholas D’Agosto who plays our Harvey Dent, like, these amazing characters played by these incredible actors and I just want more time with them. That’s what I want.
Nrama: Okay, lastly, if you had to pick one trick umbrella to have on the show, what would you want to have?
Taylor: Umbrellacopter! All the way! That would be the one, no question! I mean, it’s the whole thing of penguins can’t fly...or can they? That would be so, so rad!