Fox's Gotham has changed the way it's approaching the Batman prequel story, and the changes aren't stopping with the first few episodes. At New York Comic Con, Newsarama sat down with several of the cast members of the Monday night series, along with executive producer John Stephens, to talk about the "Rise of the Villains" as they put it.
One of the more recently introduced villains, Edward Nygma is beginning to feel the call to this darkness according to actor Cory Michael Smith.
“Dark Nygma is a catalyst for the things that he wants which is attention from Kristen [Kringle], love, a date. So he’s just going to be pushing him to man up and take chances.”
Robin Lord Taylor, who plays the crime lord on the rise Oswald Cobblepot, explained a bit more about he and Nygma’s delicate friendship and how it will work this season.
“I mean, yeah with the rise of the villains that generally implies that we’ll have to interact with each other,” said Taylor. “Since we’ve already met in the first season we come back into each other’s lives in an excited way.”
“A very exciting way,” Smith adds. “You know fate will have it so Edward and Oswald meet again. So we run into each other at an interesting place. Edward knows exactly who Oswald is and Oswald could care less. Edward is such a fan and as we see his evolution in the next few episodes, because of that bad Nygma sort of scurrying him along he’s going to be interested in talking to Oswald.”
“From Oswald’s standpoint, he’s always collecting allies,” Taylor said.
Due to the fact that they’re not in the final form and full villains just yet, the question was asked how do the actors know when to embrace their darkness or when to reel it back.
“I think a lot of it is circumstance,” Taylor replied. “You know it’s a lot of how the city influences people and how it forms the people and the choices that they make….sometimes they have no choice but to become darker and more ruthless to survive in the city.”
“And there’s really exciting thing happening with me which is a tug-of-war by the same character,” Smith added. “Having made Edward a bit of a brighter character, really joyful and gleeful, I have this other part now that’s pulling him down. This was unleashed because he took this drug of killing someone.” He gave the writers credit as well and mentioned that they give them hints of what their characters need and want.
Next up was newcomer to the show Michael Chiklis and Executive producer John Stephens, where Chiklis expanded on his relationship with Ben McKenzie’s Jim Gordon.
“Well Captain Barnes is a battlefield commander, he’s not a desk jockey. He’s the guy that jumps in with a war footing because the villains have run amok.”
He talks about how the criminals have upped their game and slaughtered his predecessor, Sarah Essen. Barnes isn’t the type to tolerate that.
“So I come in as both mentor and also I’m worried for the kid because he’s getting into that brand of law enforcement where the ends justifies the means that my character is absolutely against. You found out why down the line which is really interesting.”
Chiklis then talked about the hesitations he had signing on for the role.
“This is different. There’s a familiarity that it’s hybrid of two genres I spent a lot of time in my career, but it’s also a completely new world. Marvel is sort of almost Grecian in its mythology. It deals with epic themes of good and evil whereas Gotham and the DC comic book world is almost a noir feel. Really delves into the darkness of men’s souls, and I’m really proud to be a part of both of them now. You can take this stuff way too seriously, but this is entertainment and a great vehicle for storytelling. The show looks phenomenal and it’s a great way to tell stories.”
Stephens talked about the change in Barbara and how it works better for the show’s dynamic.
“We changed Erin’s character and let her go down this path and it’s probably one of the most exciting things that we’ve done. The culmination will be the Barbara/Gordon/Thompkins episode, which I think is 8, and it’s bananas.”
Also joining the show this season is James Frain, as “philanthropist” Theo Galavan. His character is still a bit of a mystery and his intentions, big picture wise, are still unknown. It’s obvious he’s out for the long con, but what is his bigger plan? Frain explains that’s just it.
“That is his bigger plan. A rogue billionaire who is obviously narcissistic and a strong point of view feels like a valid hero in the city on the brink of collapse. It allows him to get close to the real power players. That’s his plan. To get close to every one and then [making stabbing gesture] stick it.”
Ben McKenzie, who plays the very troubled Jim Gordon, talked about the storytelling devices that the second season has allowed.
“What’s nice about season 2 is that they’re spooling out longer forms of storytelling. We have this whole serialization that we can do these whole arcs so by the time Jim has figured out that Theo is up to no good, it’s too late. Theo is by far the most sophisticated villain he’s faced at this point. So it becomes a real clash of the titans with some really big repercussions for Gotham.”
Jim and Barbara’s relationship has been one of the focal points of the show and how Jim is handling it. McKenzie explains that Gordon is near the end of his rope mentally.
“He’s holding it together barely. He’s starting to fray a little bit under the pressure and certainly wearing the guilt of what he’s already done having killed a man to collect a debt on the behalf of Penguin to get his job back. He’s starting to see that he’s becoming a little unhinged and that’s only to going to continue when he sees what Galavan is up to.” McKenzie mentions that they keep pushing and pushing Gordon until he might break and realize he longer knows who he is at all. “Each time he pushes forward, he tempts fate.”
In the second season thus far, we’ve seen characters embrace more of their darkness and the city to start developing its pre-Batman rogues gallery, with some of the more trademark names hanging around. What do Frain and McKenzie think the biggest change is from the first season though?
“The writers have called this season the 'Rise of the Villains.' I think it’s because we’re going to make this transition from a world quite like our own to a more chaotic space where you can accept there are super villains that have these larger than real life personalities," said Frain. "That’s sort of the goal with season 2.”
Season Two also shows the evolution of what Gordon and the GCPD will be up against, now that the mob is withering away.
“The crimes families was the old Gotham who did business in a city where everybody knew what the game was. Once they go away, there’s a power vacuum and Penguin steps into that. But there’s also an availability for someone like Theo to come in and burn things into the ground.”
Lastly, Erin Richards who plays the psychotic Barbara Kean and Jessica Lucas, who plays the villainous Tabitha Galavan, a.k.a. Tigress. Richards stated that Barbara’s transformation from mild to murderous was something that was always in the works.
“I think from the beginning there were signs,” she said. “She kinda had that spiral of drugs and alcohol abuse and her relationship with Montoya was obviously very cruel. So I think with this, she can go into a darker place.”
Richards also think that Barbara being redeemed on the show is something she’d like to see, but it could be a long while before that happens.
“Yeah, I think that would be nice, yeah. I think fans sort of want her to have a baby with Jim at some point because then Batgirl comes out. So I personally think it’s so much fun to play in this darkness and much to explore.”
When talking about Barbara and Tabitha’s relationship, Lucas explains the trichotomy between herself, Barbara, and Theo works, but in the worst way.
“Well, it’s what you’ve seen so far. There’s a lot of manipulation between [Theo, Tabitha, and Barbara] and jealousy.”
“There’s a lot of using and manipulating each other,” Richards added. “Also from Barbara’s point of view, if you asked which one she would prefer, I think she would say Tabitha. With her relationship with Galavant, she’s very much like she knows who he is. With Tabitha, there’s a bit more intrigue...a bit more respect.”
At the end of the discussion, Lucas was asked she will become an inspiration for a young Selina Kyle.
“I don’t know...whatever made you think that,” she said coyly. “But no, there was a conscious thought put into her look and how it was going to relate to...someone else.”