Up amongst the steel and nocturnal glow of New York City’s bustling Midtown, we sat down with the cast of GOTHAM ahead of the Season Two mid-season premiere. We asked the cast some of our most pressing questions about what else is in store for viewers during this second half of the season, GOTHAM: Wrath of the Villains. Read our conversations below and catch up on Season Two of GOTHAM On Demand and streaming, and watch new episodes on Mondays at 8/7c on FOX.
You’ve played incredibly compassionate and educated mental health specialists in the past… Hugo Strange is neither of those things. Are you excited to sink your teeth into this evil character?
I am! It has nothing to do with mental health or anything like that, but more to do with the personality of the character. Mental health aside, there aren’t really any similarities between this role and others I’ve played and for someone who’s always hoping and looking for something different playing this character has been a gift to me.
How will Hugo’s work within Arkham Asylum change the game for the good guys of GOTHAM?
The “work” that he’s doing is by nature about measuring change. He’s really into the science of rehabilitation, and he’s obsessed with the human mind and how it can be manipulated. He’s using his “genius” experimenting on these people in lots of different ways—not just through therapy!
His greatest satisfaction comes from then turning them back out into the world. The criminally insane are flowing into the asylum, and it’s a revolving door back out into Gotham—and they’re completely changed when they go back out into the world. So the interesting thing is: what happens to each individual character when they’re in there, and what happens to them when they come out.
Detective Gordon has been moving further into the dark side of himself and GOTHAM—can viewers expect more shocking actions during the remainder of the season?
Absolutely! What happened at the end of the first half of the second season will definitely affect Jim moving forward, and he’ll pay a price for what he’s done. You’ll see him at the lowest he’s ever been, both professionally and personally. I think that’s a really nice, humbling way to reintroduce him as a harder edged man of power in Gotham—a man of influence who has to do what he has to do to get by.
You’re seeing him unleashed. I think it’ll be a really satisfying experience for the audience to see this “golden child,” morally composed guy fall to pieces—and have to put those pieces back together.
How do you define “good” and “evil” in the world of GOTHAM?
That’s a good question! I think one of the things we’re trying to do with the series is show how good and evil really don’t start from that different of a place. You see the origins of both the heroes and the villains. Mr. Freeze for example comes out of a good place, because he’s trying to save his wife. He’s trying to freeze her to allow for time for a cure to come about for her disease. Hopefully storylines like these provide viewers with sympathy and empathy not only for the heroes, but for the villains as well. Gotham is this society that’s collapsing, and people are clinging to whatever they can get their hands onto to survive.
Have you been reveling in your transformation into a much darker character this season?
Oh hell yeah! I was being very patient waiting to get to Season Two. The first half of Season Two was really fun, and this second half is just wild. Paranoia and discomfort have been building within my character—especially because he thinks that Jim knows something—and that tension will finally boil over when the two of us finally have a confrontation.
Your theater background must contribute to the ease in which you’ve tackled this transformation. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve found working in front of a camera as opposed to on the stage?
The biggest challenge for me in television vs. theater is when you’re working on a play or a film for that matter it’s a complete entity—you know the parameters of the cameras and the story. When we first started the series I was making choices that I thought were appropriate for the character, but the more I worked on the show the more I learned about my character. I felt so lost at the beginning just because of the nature of how a TV show and its characters are built.
Although my character is one that’s been around for a while, we’re telling the story in an age that hadn’t been touched yet. So I really feel like I’m enjoying my performance so much more now that I feel like I really have a fleshed out character—that’s been the biggest difference for me!
You have a knack at playing really complex and indefinable characters—like Declan Murphy on Law & Order: SVU, and of course Det. Bullock—what’s been your favorite part about playing Harvey?
They’re so different, but what’s interesting is when I first started filming the GOTHAM pilot I was doing those two really heavy episodes of Law & Order: SVU where Pablo Schreiber’s character [William Lewis] escapes, so I was literally filming both on the same day! I watched them both and it’s so weird to think I worked on both on the same day—they’re just such different worlds.
In GOTHAM there are a lot of other elements at play. Some of those being the look of the show, the production design—you have to kind of give yourself up to this super theatrical, colorful world. With Law & Order: SVU you’re faced with a different platform, and the grip that you get underneath your feet is coming from real life stories. In GOTHAM you want to have the same grounding, but you know with GOTHAM that it’s fantastical and larger than life. I also think that with GOTHAM one of my primary roles is to serve as a bit of comedic relief, which definitely hasn’t been the case for other roles I’ve worked on for Vikings, Law & Order: SVU, or Coppers.
Is there a specific villain you like playing opposite to the most?
I enjoy being surprised! I rarely know what’s coming down the pike until right before we shoot it. It’s been great acting alongside Nathan [Darrow] as Mr. Freeze—but I look forward to many years of the show so I don’t know who else might be coming. I’ve loved working with Robin Lord Taylor (The Penguin) and Cory Michael Smith (The Riddler), so I’m partial to the villains we know right now.
What do you think makes the best villain?
Sympathy. I always want to find something about my character that’s sympathetic. If he was just running around creating mischief for no reason, there would be nothing redeemable about him. To me there’s nothing more frightening than a villain that has some personality traits that you can see in yourself, because then you realize ‘Oh shit!’ if things had gone differently in my life would I be the one that does something horrible?! I’ve played my share of terrible people in my career, and that’s always the goal: to find something sympathetic.
You’re one of GOTHAM’s original villains—how’s the Penguin going to match up to some of the rest of the season’s newcomers?
We have yet to see how this really unfolds since we’re only in the second season and we’re still establishing so many of them, but I find it to be incredibly exciting! What I love about the show is how interconnected the characters are, and how the city itself really plays a role in shaping those relationships. So what’s so cool about these new villains is that their character trajectories will inform my character as well and that just makes it more fun, complex, and interesting to play.