There will be no shortage of iconic, villainous characters when Gotham kicks off Season 1 on Monday, September 22. Series regulars include Robin Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin, Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Clare Foley ll as Ivy Pepper/Poison Ivy and Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma/The Riddler. While promoting the series at the TCA Summer Tour, series creator Bruno Heller revealed that two other familiar faces will be popping up this year, Hugo Strange and Harvey Dent, while the infamous Gotham prison Arkham Asylum will also be featured.
Hugo Strange will be featured in the series to show how Arkham Asylum was first built, according to Bruno Heller.
"Hugo Strange is going to pop up because we're going to start dealing with how Arkham was created and why Arkham was created in the way that it was so, yeah, absolutely. It's a Season 1 thing because in our telling of it the way Arkham was created and the why and how is one of the causes of the particular criminal climate in Gotham that allowed Batman to happen. The revolving door of Arkham is both a brilliant narrative device because it allows you to -- you don't have to kill people off, you can just put them in cold storage -- but if you're telling the story from the start you kind of have to explain, 'What the f***? Why don't you make that place a place people don't escape from?' We're going to explain why it is the way it is and Hugo Strange is a big part of that."
The creator/executive producer added that Harvey Dent, the Gotham D.A. portrayed by Aaron Eckhart in Christopher Nolan's 2008 blockbuster The Dark Knight, will also be featured in the series, although they are making him slightly older.
"We're playing Harvey Dent slightly older. He's more Gordon's age in this telling. One of the things to avoid in order not to tell a high school story -- which would be great, but it''s a different show on a different network at a different time that I would not be a part of. But he will go back to school and villains will be part of that world."
He added that the producers don't want to overload the first season with villains, since it may take away from other stories they want to create in future seasons, if they are picked up. When asked about the use of Batman villains such as Ra's al Ghul's daughter Nyssa on CW's Arrow, and if that means those characters won't appear on Gotham, Bruno Heller had this to say.
"That's a good meta-physical, trans-network question. I don't think it would preclude anything, but I think it would be tough to do cross-overs because the worlds are so different. Like I said, there's so many rich, great characters that we can't get them all in there."
Last week, an unconfirmed report surfaced that the producers will tease a different, potential character who may be The Joker in every Season 1 episode. Bruno Heller elaborated that they will be teasing the joker, but it won't be over the course of a whole season.
"We will be playing with... Not just with Joker. Half the fun with all of these characters is who is going to turn into what and when? Certainly the Joker is a good example. In the pilot, you see there's a comedian there. People immediately leap... And that's really letting the audience do our work for us. Because I haven't said anything about that guy and people go there! Yeah, we'll play with that down the line. Not over the course of one season, no, because people will still get tired of that. 'Is that the Joker? Is that the Joker?' No. In a subtle way, we'll be doing that and hopefully we'll fool them in the end."
When it was announced that Clare Foley ll's character Ivy Pepper will be the younger version of Poison Ivy, several fans were upset that her name from the comic books, Pamely Isley, was not used. Bruno Heller explained why this change was made, teasing her origins that differ from the comics.
"It's really about being able to tell the secret histories of these stories. If you just re-tell stories exactly as they've been told before, whilst you're being true to the created mythology, you're not really adding anything to it. So you have to find ways of finding more. And in this case, we've set up a situation in which Ivy Pepper, her mom is sick, her dad is dead... She's going to go to the orphanage. And she's a nice young girl; relatively undamaged. And she will find people to adopt her. And then we will start on the Poison Ivy story that people are familiar with."
"This is about heroes, but there are no superpowers. It's precisely about what to do when you don't have superheroes to call on when the world starts turning bad. What do ordinary men and women do? That's much more what the show is about. It's both grounded and a dream world in the sense that Gotham is for everybody an idea of an American city."
He also spoke about why the origin story of James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) is so compelling.
"He is the Mary and Joseph of this particular nativity. He's the moral core; even when Batman arrives, he's the moral core of Gotham. He's the real person who, in a way, gives permission and birth to the Batman legend by allowing Batman to flourish. He's a character who's been there from the start, so he's a great narrator for the story of how Gotham declined to the point that it needed someone like the Batman. He's both a hero and a moral center that people can relate to in a way that it's tough to relate to Batman because Batman is a man out of time and place, whereas Gordon is a real human being."
When asked if Batman's sidekick Robin would ever pop up in the series, the series creator said that particular character has not been brought up yet, although he is not "off limits."
"Robin has not come up. No one is off limits as long as we're dealing with the pre-Batman mythology. There are some characters, like the Joker, who appear in the Batman mythology after Batman does, but that doesn't mean the man who becomes Joker cannot appear earlier. There's essentially one rule: That we're true to the timeline and chronology of Bruce Wayne. Everything else is up for grabs within the parameters of a show that is not going to go into the supernatural and the super-powered."
"If it fell anywhere, it's between those two in the sense that it pays due homage to the dystopian world of modern Batman, but it also has some of the humor and fun of the old show. You couldn't do a campy show like Adam West's Batman anymore, nor would a bleak, dystopian version of the story work on TV."
"It is a serialized show. It's hard to sell such a rich story without making it serialized. But it's about cops, so there's a procedural stand-alone element every week. This is not ancient history; even the general audience has a basic understanding. As much as we want to pay due respect to the fans, the show is designed to work both ways. As long as we're respectful and intelligent about the inside baseball stuff and tell stories that are sufficiently compelling to a larger audience, then I think we can do both."
Finally, Robin Taylor, who plays Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin, spoke about his version of the iconic character in another interview.
"It's before he's realized his capacity for violence. In the pilot, his journey is so incredible. He starts in this place with very low status, and he tries to establish himself and fails. But all of that gives him everything he needs to become the criminal mastermind that he is. He discovers his full power and full disregard for human life. So when I got the job, I did a lot of research, and the Penguin as a child is bullied relentlessly by his peers for the way he looks and his interests. He's a kid who reads Shakespeare. He's an artistic kid and goes to a prep school, and he's just tortured for it. And how relevant is that? Bullying is such an issue now. And it's amazing to think Penguin has been around since 1942 and that these issues still carry through."
The actor also spoke about finding the right tone to pull off Oswald's bird-like affectations without coming off like a cartoon character.
"That's the trap you don't want to fall into. I have a prosthetic nose, and when I heard they were going that direction I got nervous because I want it to be as real as possible. But you're finding that balance. They came up with the prosthetic. It's very small and subtle, and more of a suggestion rather than-I'm not going to make an "on the nose" pun. So then I was totally at ease."
He also elaborated on how ambitious Oswald Cobblepot really is.
"He's a very ambitious character. Interestingly, status-wise, by end of the pilot he's even at a lower place than the beginning. But it's a rebirth. He's on a way to building himself back up. If you follow what happens to the Penguin, he runs everybody. He plays all sides. He has his hands in everything."
When asked if his character arc will follow the comics, where Oswald is actually one Batman's informants, the actor had this to say.
"Exactly. They have a relationship that goes all the way through that's also fascinating. It's not your traditional villain vs. hero. He needs me and I, in a way, need him."