DKN Visits NYCC: Cast of ‘Gotham’ Season 5 Interview

Gotham will premiere their fifth and final season in 2019. The show has been a journey for the creators and actors, as they humbly and thrillingly brought their fans along on the ride, through destiny and rebirth.

This year at the New York Comic Con, Dark Knight News was invited to interview cast members (Sean Pertwee, Camren Bicondova, Chris Chalk, Cory Michael Smith, and Robin Lord Taylor) and the executive producer of the Emmy-Award winning show, John Stephens.

 

Sean Pertwee/Alfred Pennyworth

Q: So this season, Alfred goes through some major emotional stuff?

A: Well yeah, less than prior seasons actually.

Q: Oh, yeah?

A: Yeah, because the things that we actually find out ourselves with young master Bruce and Alfred, it’s actually sort of developed into the relationship that people always expected it to be. They were horrified at my original iteration when I was sort of brusk with him. The fans went “Hey, that’s not Alfred!” But now they understand, I was right.

It’s a sort of combination of the prior seasons where their relationship is the one we know and love, which is Alfred is there for him. We did a scene very similar to that the other day where he doesn’t baulk and says “I’m here if you need me,” and master Bruce is horrified. I think he rather misses it, I think he’s a slight sadistic. So, there you go. It’s not as emotionally driven in that way, there’s much more coming together.

Q: Will we get to see Alfred kick some more (butt) in this season?

A: Well, I think it’s out there. I get my ass handed to me on a plate, but I give a good account of myself. You see some, but not as much. I mean, I’ve been fairly physical. I’ve ended up in the hospital quite a few times as well. I might be visiting it again. I’m not quite sure.

See, that’s something I’ve really enjoyed. The fact that you never really get to see an Alfred be physical. And also, who taught him how to fight, and cook, and dance, and throw knives? Basically, what I’m trying to say is Alfred is Batman.

Q: The OG Batman?

A: Yes, the OG.

Q: Does Alfred/do you believe in true altruism? And do you think the city of Gotham, with so much evil in there, can it have altruism?

A: I think every city… I think the enduring legacy of Batman is exactly that. Everything is applicable to society, even now. That’s why there’s a need for the Bat because he stands up for the little guy. He goes “Enough is enough.”  So there is light and shade in everyone. That’s the thing throughout out journey in the past five years. Everyone has been good and bad, has a capacity to love, the capacity to be evil, to do things wrong. It’s the path that you choose. It’s been interesting watching, just like any city, yeah. It just needs guidance… it needs a bat.

Q: How does it feel to know you’re going to be such a big part of the Batman lore. Even a hundred years from now, people are going to refer back to Gotham.

A: Very good point. I mean, I really do appreciate that. It’s really just dawning on me now. The thing is, enduring legacy of Batman is that he’s been relevant to every generation for years, and every 10 years there’s been a relevant character. I used to watch Adam West, and everyone used to laugh at the time. When I was a kid, that was super cool!

You know, I think this what we’ve realized now is that people’s interest and the way they look at these characters has been peaked, and people now see that fallibility. You don’t just wake up with an evil hat on. Like how Penguin became Penguin. You know, he was pushed into a certain point. He was bullied into being that person. So, yeah, that’s the story we’re telling. So, what we’ve discovered is that we are right. We are right in what we’ve done.

Jeremy Irons is a remarkable actor and in the movies he’s SAS (Special Air Service), and that was a conversation I had with John Stephens and Bruno Heller. Because I trained in the SAS, was conscripted as a marine, but I liked the idea of him being able to do anything with a Swiss army knife. Of course that’s why Batman is Batman, because he can do it. So yeah, our stamp is there now.

I think people will reference it. People will use it at as reference point now. Or question elements, like why did these people become who they are? You know, we’re very proud of that.

Q: Were there any of the elements of the character that you wish you could have explored more on the show? For example, his love life?

A: Yup. Exactly. Thank you very much for noticing. I sort of met a girl I liked, she died about 3 pages later. That was really… I thought we were going to go down that path with the beautiful Leslie Thompkins and that didn’t work out, because… I don’t know. There was a bizarre moment, but it wasn’t really scripted, with Fish Moonie. There was this kind of threesome between the three of us, and even Jada went “What was that about? I think that could be interesting.” Something to explore. He [Alfred] didn’t do well on that front. Tinder.

Camren Bicondova/Selina Kyle

Q: How are you feeling about rapping up your romance with Bruce? Are going to see an end to that maybe with just in the finale with the flash-forward or is this something that you want to leave hanging?

A: I’m not sure we’ll see an end to it. Actually, it will leave off with a question. It will leave off with a kind of open-ended sentence. I like that. I would like to leave that topic with a cliff-hanger, only because their relationship, once the legacy moves forward, it’s so unpredictable I wouldn’t want there to be a definitive end of them at this point, in this show because it wouldn’t be them, you know? I don’t think it would give them justice if that would happen.

Q: What can we expect from your character in this very last season?

A: A lot of trauma. A lot of self-work. A lot of really working through things or attempting to. To really go through, you know we’ve really seen Selina fight these inner demons with herself in the past, but we’ve never seen them. This season you get to actually see them, and it’s been incredible going to work. It has been super draining after the days are done, but it’s completely worth it because we get to see Selina in this raw state that we’ve never seen her in before.

Q: How do you prepare before each episode of Gotham? Do you have acting methods that are different than from when you started?

A: Yeah. My method now is I don’t know what I’m doing and, I don’t look at my sides and I don’t look at the scenes until I am walking to rehearsal. Which actually, releases any pressure for me and just forces me to go with whatever comes naturally. So pretty much during my rehearsals are the cold reads and it just forces me to live in the moment. Do what she (Selina) would do first, while before I would prepare two-days in advance, and if I didn’t know my lines before I went to bed, I would get really bad anxiety, where just now it’s just “I don’t know my lines, I’ll figure it out!”

Q: Is there a lot of room to improvise organically?

A: I mean, not verbally, but given what Selina goes through after the way Bruce helps her after the first episode is a catalyst to the rest of what she goes through this season. Through that I was able to improvise a lot more physically with Selina, because I’ve been able to kind of foreshadow what she is to become.

Q: Did you have to receive any fight-moves training this season?

A: Training? No, I mean production has never really pressured me to do any of that anyways. They’ve only told me like Danny just told me: “Don’t stop dancing. Just don’t stop dancing. That is a gift you are blessed with, just don’t stop dancing.” Other than that, they’ve never really pressed me about my body image, or my physicality. They’ve just always really trusted me in what I bring to the table talent-wise. Which has been a super-huge blessing because as a young woman, I face certain insecurities just like everybody and they haven’t said a word to me, you know? And they’ve just been like “Listen, you do you. You do you, boo.”

Q: That’s fantastic! The fighting sequences though, they didn’t make you pose practice in any way for that?

A: We definitely have rehearsals for those. This season has been a lot different for me, give that, you know [gestures to her leg in a brace] my boot. I injured myself over hiatus and the doctor told me it was something way less major than what it actually was, so I’ve been in this boot all season. So I’ve been really able to focus on the emotionality of Selina, and allowed my stunt-double to actually do her job which has been really great! Because I get to see her kick-ass and I just kind of sit on the sidelines, so “You go, girl!”

Q: In the comics, Selina is bisexual. Is the something you’d like to see more brought out or done in the show?

A: I never thought of them (Gotham) bringing it up. I’ve loved that they touched based on it in the comic books, and I would love to see them tackle that. We don’t see that this season. I think it would be great to see on television or film, I would love to see that incorporated into Selina’s character.

As far as if I would have loved to see it in this show? I would say based on what we’ve seen Selina go through I feel like, I’m actually glad we focused on the different things we focused on before the second sexuality, because she has been so focused on surviving and so focused on herself that she’s not in a place to really question her sexuality, and really experience and experiment with certain things. I think even her being involved with Bruce is too much. So I think, even though I would love to see it, I think she’s dealing with too much. I’m glad that we’ve touched base on the things we’ve touched based on. Especially in season 5, we touch base on more of her mental health. She’s suicidal at the beginning of the season. I think I’m proud we talk about that because I think that’s an important topic.

Chris Chalk/Lucius Fox

What’s up? What do y’all want to talk about? I’ll tell you everything. All the secrets! Even in the promo, they pretty much told all the secrets. That was crazy!

Q: What’s a typical day of filming like?

A: It’s very organized. Actually, I’ve been in a lot of TV shows in my day, and the fastest, of course, was Law and Order because they’ve been on the air forever. Gotham was pretty efficient. We still have a lot of creative say. We come in, you eat breakfast, you get your make-up on, do your hair and make-up. You go rehearse, you change things around if necessary and then we film. And then we laugh probably too much, we would probably have more efficient days if we stopped acting like children. But for some reason, me and Cory, and me and Ben (McKenzie), man! We can’t keep a straight face to save our life!

Even though Ben is professional, I bring the goofy out of him. So like, I hope they show you the bloopers. It might just be me and him. Nonsense! A day working with me, is going to be awesome. Efficient, but you’re going to laugh a lot.

Q: Is that what you’ll miss the most, the camaraderie?

A: Yeah, the thing that will be most missed, easily, is the mandatory friendships that come with TV shows. You have to see the person, so you have to like them. We’ll see what everybody thinks when it’s over, ha. But like, these people have been such an integral part this last four years.

With my father passing, with different traumas in each of our lives. We’ve been each other’s support system, and that’s just nobody’s job. Nobody has to do that, nobody brings their problems in, but people who genuinely care. Our cast genuinely cares about each other and so it is a family. And that’s not every show. It’s not every show. I’ve been on some shows where it’s been like “I wanna go home,” I hate these people, I love the work but hate the work. It’s nice to come to a work where it’s like “Leave the computer in the bag.” Instead of pretending to type so I wouldn’t have to talk to people.

Q:  Have you worked with anyone you despise?

A: I haven’t worked with anyone I despised. I’ve worked with people I don’t like at all, ha ha. We’re not there in service of my own ego, I’m there in service of the words provided and trying to add everything I can do the process. I don’t take people’s nonsense personally. It’s just when I’m home hanging out with my wife, I say “Let me tell you what this guy did today! UGH!”

Q: As we’ve seen over the course of the series, we see Lucius as the voice of reason. Does he get to cut loose at all during this season?

A: This season Lucius cuts loose for him… He unbuttons his top button. […]

But no, he [actually] doesn’t. But he gets to meet the love of his life!

Q: Is that part what’s most exciting for your character or is there another moment you think is more exciting for you?

A: Oh! You know what my favourite moment is? Oh, no, but I can’t tell you.

Q: Do it anyways!

A: We talk about it during the panel. It’s working with one of the actors we were working with and he’s so super-talented, so you know it’s a HE. He’s just so super talented and creative that we just had so much fun. He kind of re-created what we had written, which was nice because in season 5 people are still bringing their A-game to honor the script we would have been given.

Q: How are you doing to make this season very memorable for the fans?

A: Well I’m going to show up to work and do my job, but what the writers have done is taking everyone’s expectations, being “I don’t care about some of them because we have to create what we have to create,” but honoring some of the favorites. Giving each appreciator of canon, a morsel to leave with. In this “No Man’s Land” arc, you’re going to see so many villains that we won’t get to play with specifically because we’re only 12 episodes.

But it’s so nice to go “Ah! There’s that person.” “Wait, is that person going to become that person?” So when we go down in a sense, there’s some intrigue left. It won’t be a bow on the top, it’ll be “Aww, man, there’s no more??” I like that about the show.

Cory Michael Smith/Edward Nygma

Q: There is kind of a love Pentagon, between Riddler, Penguin, Jim, Sam, Lee, what is that dynamic like?

A: Aha! I’ve never thought of it quite like that. I loved that you called it that. It is an interesting season where we all crossed paths again, and at this point 5 years in, there’s a lot of history, there’s a lot of broken hearts, a lot of resentment. So there are wafts of it. It’s interesting that it does happen that all of us are all in the same space, at the same time, and it creates a tense environment. Ed is NOT looking for love this season. I think they’re all a little over it. They’re pretty cynical people at this point.

Q: Is much going to be made about how you are resurrected after the season 4 finale, or are we just kind of skipping past a lot of that? New powers?

A: At the top of season 5, the conflict I am stuck with is that everyone has their territory, and are arriving in their own way. I am blacking out, waking up in strange places, not knowing what I’m doing, who I’ve been with. I’m causing problems for other people, and I’m hiding out in my library, just like losing my mind trying to figure out what’s going on, finding a pattern.

Is this Ed Nygma as an alter-ego to the Riddler doing this, doing something, or am I messing with myself? Am I self-destructive, is something else controlling me? I have no recollection of what happened, and so I don’t know what’s going on. Eventually, I go on a quest to figure it out,  traversing through the city and you know, my surroundings, I start crossing with other people. I spend a lot of time with Gordon and Penguin, A little with of Barbara, Stabby Babs. As I become aware of what is actually going on, it’s pretty alarming. There are some events that really rock Gotham, and it’s quite shocking when we realize who’s responsible, and who’s controlling things. It starts playing into this bigger conflict of man vs. state. Citizens vs. Government.

Q: Mental health is such an important topic in Gotham, do you think if Riddler got any help that he needed, he could have redemption.

A: I think if he lived in a more civil society, where you could potentially have a peaceful life, perhaps? I just don’t think Gotham is that place, you know? It breeds crazy and it requires crazy to survive. But I do think he has the capacity, I think one thing that is riveting about him is that he does have the capacity or had it, at least to lead a normal life, and to be a good guy/ To be on the right side of things. I’ve always tried to keep that relevant to the character.

Robin Lord Taylor/Penguin

Q: You recreated the Penguin pretty much. Everybody is always talking about the Joker, but you’ve really brought the Penguin back to life. What do you think?

A: Thank you. Well, I share credit with our amazing showrunner, our executive runners: John Stephens, Danny Cannon, Bruno Heller… the vision started with them, and I just, I am the vessel. I just showed up.

You know, when I auditioned, I didn’t know really know what I was auditioning for. They wrote a big scene. So everything I brought to that scene just instinctively happened to match their vision where they wanted to take the Penguin in this story. Again, sometimes lightning strikes, and sometimes you get the job, and sometimes it leads to amazing experiences like Gotham. It’s just incredible.

Q: It seems that every season, the Penguin transitions into something else. What can we expect from this final season?

A: The story that I feel Gotham is telling is how this city, Gotham city, corrupts and destroys love. When we start the show in Oswald, there is this shred of humanity. He’s still trying, he is Fish Moonie’s umbrella boy. He’s failing, he’s figuring it out. There’s something, I don’t know if identifiable is the word? Something sympathetic there. Like we know what he’s trying for and why he’s making these decisions.

By the end, I think that humanity, that gentleness, that if deep down underneath if everything had gone right for him, he would have been a good person I believe. But by the end of this story, they were telling me “I want all of that humanity squashed out, he is a monster. He is a monster, he is a super-villain.” Gotham city has taken this person and the people who love him, and they’ve beaten out every shred of humanity. So in the end, we see the super-villain we all grew up knowing. You see someone who could really challenge The Batman, and that’s where we’re going to be at the very end.

Q: Following on from that, throughout the season the Penguin had a specific person or group of people that he’s considered a targeting for revenge. After he got the revenge on the death of his mother, who’s going to be the target for the final season? Where is he going to go?

A: It’s actually really great, I think when that happened at the end of season four when he avenged his mother’s death, I feel that released him. Like that was really the last piece of vengeance that had not been spoken for, that last bit of revenge he hadn’t gotten yet. And then he got it! And in season 5, he’s taken over City Hall, he’s absolutely the most powerful he’s ever been, and he wants to rebuild the city, especially the crime syndicate in his image. In his design. He’s there to remake Gotham in his image, and so yeah, I think there will be revenge. I don’t know where he’s going exactly, I haven’t read the final episode yet, so I don’t know. But the way these alliances are changing so fast, we’ll have to see if Gordon is the friend he always thought he was. If Riddler was the ally he thought he could be… we have yet to see. So revenge could be coming for any one of them. I don’t know who it is.

Q: Is there any chance of a spin-off for you, after Gotham?

A: I mean, I haven’t heard anything. You know, if there is a talk about it, they should really let me know because when we wrap the final scene, I’m walking upstairs and shaving my head. I’m going back to blond! They better get what they need to get because this [gestures to his Penguin-like hair] is going away immediately. I tell people it’s an amazing time for television and entertainment in general because look at it! The fans, Comic Con, is such as phenomenon. The fans, through social media have a voice. They can choose to keep characters coming. You know, if there is a desire for it, this has been the most gratifying character I’ve ever played in my life, and I owe everything to this character and this job, so if they wanted me or needed me, or if the fans were into it. I would be there in a heartbeat.

Q: Speaking of fans, how do you think they’ll react to the finale?

A: I mean, I think they’re going to stoked! Absolutely thrilled! Because I’m thrilled because I get to show the traditional Penguin from the comics. And really having seen the designs, and taking in visually the character, I think it is one of the most closest, film version of the classic comic book Penguin that’s reached media. They’re all classic in their own way but this I feel is just so close to the original source material, that I’m so excited to play it. You know, it just gives that little bit of legitimacy, like being the actual older Penguin that’s overweight. Who, you know, is a monster. You know who, all of this stuff that’s happened to him, has lead up to that, and I think everyone is going to be really thrilled. I’m thrilled!

Thank you guys, bless you. Thank you guys for supporting our show, for writing about our show and reporting on it! It means so much to all of us! Thank you. Cheers!

John Stephens/Executive Producer

Q: So what and how much of you goes into these seasons, particularly season 5?

A: What goes into it? My son was looking at an old picture of me from season 1, and he said: “Dad, you had great hair then.” And I said “Uh…yeah.” It was a real before and after shot.

You know, a lot of people and ideas go into it. Ideas and people who devoted years of their work and lives into it. It’s not all mine, but it is a lot of work. Certainly feels that way. And I think also at the same time, people who become deeply invested are all the actors you see, in their characters and in their world. When I talk to them about what they’re doing, it’s always clear that they’ve been thinking about it a lot. They’ve been thinking about who their character is, what they going to to be doing.

Q: The theme of identity is just so important in GOTHAM. What inspired to make such a focus on it?

A: To me, it all springs from the books themselves. I mean, I think the idea of identity and duality is so integral to the Batman myth. It goes with Bruce being both Batman and Bruce Wayne to the point where you are saying is he Batman pretending to be Bruce Wayne or Bruce Wayne pretending to be Batman? Whether it’s Two-Face? The issue with the Jekyll/Hyde duality I feel is something we try to hold true to the centre of the show. The idea that you can actually create the person who you are going to become, and I guess the decision to tell the growing up story of Bruce Wayne, rather than skipping over than like how it has traditionally been done. If you see someone actually make the decisions of who they’re going to be when they grow up, he is making the decision from being a kid to being a superhero.

Q: Is there any chance we see baby Batgirl in this season?

A: No comment, ha ha.

Q: What is all that talk of not being able to officially name the Joker, where does that come from?

A: You know, I think a lot of it is frankly continuity. Because of the fact that Batman has to be present at the creation of Joker, and Batman doesn’t appear in our the show until the very, very, very end. Everybody called the Joker before that, or even for us to say he’s going to be the Joker I think would disrupt that continuity in a way, I also feel like we could say there are certain things like one day they want to do in the movies, which I want to protect. But I also believe in a case where there is a mystery around who that character is. What his real name is. You know, and I think saying that his name is, or knowing his as well as we might know him as well before his generation maybe is not something I want to do.

Q: This season is shortened. The shortest one so far. Did you struggle with that or was it relatively easy to wrap everything up in less time?

A: Definitely struggled with it. You know, there’s that old saying to a friend that goes something like “Apologies for the long letter, I didn’t have the time to write a short letter.” And I think that’s actually really true. To actually take a lot of material and condense it down is more difficult than just kind of telling the whole thing without a lot of room to breathe.

So it was really hard to get in everything we wanted to get in those last episodes. It was really stepping back for all the characters, and knowing which ones we wanted to hit and saying “these are what we absolutely need,” and building a story around that. But that took some time.

Q: And did you wrap everything up, or is there a lot left up to the imagination?

A: We’re leaving it to the imagination.

Q: How was it like working with two youths on the set, for something that was dark, and still is dark?

A: It was great. Sometimes you worry about having them, you know, stabbing or killing somebody… but they’re naturals at it!

Q: Is there anything you wished you did that you hadn’t?

A: That’s a really good question, but no. I believe we left no stones un-turned.

Thank you to Warner Bros., ReedPoP, the NYCC staff, and the wonderful and sweet cast of Gotham for this incredible interview and their thoughts on the upcoming fifth and final season.

The series returns January 3rd, 2019! Keep your calendars clear!

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Sharna Jahangir

Lover of all things Batman. Majored in English and Biochemistry at the University of Toronto. Passionate about Defending citizens as much as Batman, found herself at Defence Research Development Canada working under Dr. Ming Hou. Also a Graphic Designer, avid blogger, and hobbies in drawing comics. Sharna's not the best at maintaining a secret identity, but more than strong enough to protect her loved ones.