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Gotham’s Ben McKenzie Dishes: 5 Things to Know About Gotham

BY Jennifer Griffin

Published 7 years ago

With FOX’s Gotham premiere mere hours away, ScreenSpy hopped on the phone with Ben McKenzie to ask some pertinent questions about the new series, his character James Gordon, his favorite Batman villains of all time and the issue of that iconic moustache.

Catch highlights from our call below.

Gotham premieres tonight Monday Sept. 22 on FOX.

Follow @ScreenSpy on Twitter | ScreenSpy on Facebook for more Gotham scoop and interviews.


How did you land the role of the iconic James Gordon?

I worked with Bruno Heller last year on a pilot.  Southland was ending, we did a pilot for CBS that Warner Brothers produced and it didn’t go to series, and so Bruno called me this year, January or February of this year, and said, “I have a script that I’ve written.  I’d like to send it to you, I’ve written the part of Jim Gordon with you in mind and I’d like you to take a look.”  So it kind of started from that.


Did you ever consider growing that iconic Commissoner Gordon moustache? 

I had lengthy conversations with Bruno and Danny about everything else.  Lengthy, lengthy conversations about all sorts of things, meeting after meeting.  And then as soon as it hit the internet that I was doing it, it felt like all anyone wanted to talk about was whether I would have a moustache or not, and I thought about ringing Bruno and being like, “Uh, one last thing I forgot to—” We just literally never talked about it.  And then I brought it up to him and he goes, “No, that would look ridiculous on you.  We’re not doing that.”  You know, it’s 20 years before he can grow into the maturity and wisdom that it takes to sport a moustache, and that’s the line we’re sticking to.  Maybe 20 years from now the moustache will feel, you know, earned.

I can grow it.  For the record, I can grow the moustache.  If you think that I can’t, you should watch Junebug.  I’m not afraid of the moustache, I just don’t feel it’s appropriate for the image.


Robin Lord Taylor is garnering some attention from critics as a breakout star. Can you share any on-set stories about your time working with him?

Let’s see, well one story that would sort of illustrate that is the scene where I’m walking him to the end of the pier and end up almost putting a bullet in his head, and instead pushing him off.  We had to do take, after take, after take, to get it exactly right and I kept grabbing him by the shirt collar, roughly, to do this, to make it look real. And after four hours of this, he finally, very, very politely said, “Um, could you possibly not, could you possibly get the collar a little bit more?”  And he opened up his shirt and his chest was just bright red from scratches everywhere.  He’s the sweetest villain I think I’ve ever possibly worked with, and I think that comes alive on screen.


Do you do any of your own stunt work?

I try to handle as much as I can, as much as I feel comfortable with.  We have a great stunt team lead by Norman Douglas, our stunt coordinator.  I do as much as I can.  Stunts are, or action is a big part of the show.  That being said, it’s all coming from a, sort of a central conceit, aesthetic conceit of the world that we’re portraying being more swift and brutal than it is operatic and grandiose.

You know, if Jim is in a fight, he wants to get it over with as quickly as possible and take out whoever he has to take out as swiftly and efficiently as possible.  So it’s more in the, kind of, brutal military fashion than it is, kind of, more kung-fu style acrobatic stuff.  There hasn’t been a lot of wirework and things like that yet.  We may get to that point, but I would prefer that this guy is portrayed for what I think Bruno, Danny, and I agree he is, which is an old school hero, which is just a man, completely fallible, who can’t jump over buildings or fly though the air.  He has to use what he’s got and he has to occasionally lose.  I think that grounds it in more of a sense of reality.  So that’s kind of what we’re aiming for, but, that being said, each passing episode the fight scenes get more and more complicated, so we may end up there anyway, we’ll see.


Who are your favorite Batman villains of all time?

Because he’s front and center in the pilot, I’m really excited for people to see what Robin is doing with Penguin.  I have a weird soft spot in my heart for Nigma, I’ve always liked The Riddler.  I know that is a very unorthodox choice, a lot of people hate The Riddler, but I find The Riddler fascinating.  Scarecrow, I think is really cool.


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