Gotham stars Cory Michael Smith and Robin Lord Taylor are going to continue to break bad in the FOX drama’s second season, as their characters move closer to the Riddler and Penguin that DC Comics fans have known – and hated – for years. But how are they going to reach supervillain status? The two actors sat down with LA Fan Cultures Examiner at the recent New York Comic Con to discuss their characters’ evolution as the second season continues.
Smith’s Edward Nygma has the more literal downfall, as Batman enthusiasts know that Nygma is destined to lose his mind. The actor explained that downhill slide continues this season. “You’re going to see this other personality of him which you know, for ease, we’re just calling Bad Nygma,” he told us.
“You’re going to see him become a bit more aggressive and independent. There’s no control over where he is, when he’s there, what he’s doing,” he continued. “He’s going to be his major torment and mentor. This is the voice that will lead Nygma to his eventual identity. So things get very exciting during the next few episodes.”
On the other side of the spectrum, Taylor’s Oswald Cobblepot is facing a battle to retain his newly acquired control of Gotham City’s criminal underworld now that Theo Galavan has designs on replacing him as the top dog. “It’s going to be one of his major struggles this season,” Taylor said.
“It’s interesting, because in the first season he spent most of the time trying to be the king of Gotham, and he was able to deal with Fish and Sal Maroni and Falcone and there he is to fill in the vacancy of power. Then of course once you’re powerful someone is there to try and take it away from you. It’s going to be one of the hardest things that Penguin has had to deal with in his life.”
The two actors have an interesting challenge ahead of them, because with Gotham being an origin story, they know the endgame that they’re working toward. They and the audience are already aware that these two men are going to become legendary bad guys. How does that change their process, being aware of where they have to get to?
“Well, the first thing I did was look at the comics, the actual books, from various decades,” Smith explained. “and I think you notice that anytime a new artist comes on or a new writer, there’s a reinvention, there’s a recreation. The Riddler used to be fun and games at first and it was for kids.
“[Then] you look at the Riddle Factory, and what he’s doing is not unlike what Jerome was doing in episode three [“The Last Maniac”], which is capturing people in a small room and doing horrible things to people. In the comic book [Riddler and the Killing Joke], he’s forcing them to commit suicide because of public humiliation. That’s horrible.
“Getting down to that, I felt a lot of freedom in trusting what [Gotham creator] Bruno [Heller] had thought initially,” he continued. “We had a very indepth conversation, because my role wasn’t that significant in the beginning of the [first] season. I didn’t have a lot of material to build off of, so it was very much Bruno, what are you thinking? How do I want to make this different? How can this be a young Riddler in 2015?
“As things have gone along, we’ve made adjustments and it’s ever-changing. It’s nice though, because now we have a language and we’re building from that,” he said. “The fact there’s a Bad Nygma is adding gravity to this character, and he’s going to be falling very quickly now, which I’m so excited about because I’ve been waiting for it.”
“We’re very lucky in that [DC Comics chief creative officer] Geoff Johns is very open and available to us,” Taylor added. “When I started, I contacted him and he sent me comics, so I was able to look back at the origin stories of Penguin and learn about his past and how he was a bullied kid and all that sort of informs the choices he makes later on in life.
“We’re very lucky to be playing these characters at this stage in their life,” he continued, “because our own personal spin that we can do is different and show their vulnerability. They’re not the full realized villains.”
Agreed Smith, “They’re not monsters.”
Will audiences ever see the paths of Nygma and Penguin intersect in Gotham? The duo are enthusiastic about a villainous team-up in the future. “I think it’s inevitable that the worlds have to collide. How it happens is really surprising,” said Smith, while Taylor added, “And dark. And crazy.” Audiences wouldn’t want it any other way.
Gotham airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.