This past Saturday at Wondercon in Anaheim Ca., some of the cast of Fox’s hit TV series Gotham, were in attendance. Those in attendance were Ben Mckenzie, Robin Lord Taylor, Cory Michael Smith and producer John Stephens. I had the privilege to speak to all of them during round table interviews and here’s our interview with Robin Lord Taylor who plays Oswald Cobblepot aka the Penguin. Robin Lord Taylor discussed the Penguin’s look, character and how he needed to have Carol Kane play his mother.
Robin Lord Taylor: First of all, I’m not the Joker! Let’s just get that out of the way (laughs). I’m the Penguin! The Penguin!
Q: Compare yourself to Burgess Meredith and Danny DeVito
Robin Lord Taylor: I mean comparing myself…how can you compare yourself to the two of them? They are iconic actors. We’ve all grown up with them. Burgess Meredith is just a legend. Not only his film work, but his stage work is just phenomenal, and Danny as well is just a brilliant, brilliant guy. It’s really hard cause it’s like how do I compare myself?! My midwestern humbleness and humility just comes right out. It blows my mind.
Q: Did you take anything from them in your performance?
Robin Lord Taylor: I would say it was more of a general sort of attitude towards…or approach to the character which is the fact that yes, he’s a villain, yes, he’s grotesque, all of these things that we know about the character but there is a sense that he is charismatic and there is a sense of fun and wit to him. There sort of has to be for him, to ingratiate himself to people for him to like get on the better side of people, which is like what he’s trying to do because ultimately he wants to manipulate people to do his bidding. But to bring it back, what both Burgess and Danny brought to the role was such a sense of fun. That’s the one thing I try and want to keep in the character. I want to keep this sort of sense of irony and wit and enjoyment of the situation ’cause otherwise if gets too serious, then it’s not as enjoyable, at least for me.
Q: How much of it is your character that you brought to the role or are you directed to do what you do? We’ve never seen Penguin like this.
Robin Lord Taylor: Well I give so much credit to Bruno Heller and John Stevens and the rest of our amazing writers. They’ve created the character and the language of the character. It really just sort of just feels like I’m just stepping in and I’m just filling the vessel. And I don’t know why it comes strangely natural to me (laughs). It’s hard to say. I feel like there’s things about Cobblepot that I Identify with, that I understand. Obviously, I don’t make the same choices he makes cause I have a respect for human life that I don’t think he has exactly (laughs), but at the same time, I do understand what it feels like to be different, to be an outsider, and to be discounted for the way you look or what your interests are and what that feels like. All of that personal experience, I definitely brought that to the role. It’s helped me create ideally, a three dimensional person that even though we are in this fantastic comic book world, that you could sort of understand or see him in the real world, in a strange way. That’s the whole thing about Batman is that it’s not so removed from reality, it always has one foot still in the real world and one foot out of it. It’s finding that balance, is what my goal is.
Q: As far as the look of the Penguin, it’s very much different from the traditional look. The Penguin has been more heftier. Would you like to see that look come into ‘Gotham’ or would you just like the Penguin to just keep this new look for awhile?
Robin Lord Taylor: Well, whatever it would be, I would like it to be gradual because I like the fact that we are sort of taking our time with these characters, you know. And I don’t want him to immediately go to like the end of season one, he’s successful, and like we go to season two and he’s like king of Gotham City. That wouldn’t be interesting to me. I want there to be challenges because I think that’s more real. Still, there’s a lot of time (laughs). I mean Bruce, he’s a little guy still, he still has ways to go, you know what I mean? However, it would be something that I’m totally open to exploring and we have sort of done it. There are like little…can I use the term ‘Easter eggs’ without sounding like an a**hole? (laughs) but there have been like little things in the show like in the pilot, where he kills the man for a sandwich. There are little relationships with food that he has and addiction and drinking and I think you’ll start to see more of that as we go along.
Chris Salce: A build up.
Robin Lord Taylor: Yeah, a slow build. I like a slow build.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about his relationship with his mother and how it is to work with Carol Kane?
Robin Lord Taylor: She is such a dream. She is such an amazing actor to work with and literally, I don’t know if I can tell this story…I’ll tell it really fast. So, it was the second episode where I got the script and I found out I had a mom and I immediately texted my agent and was like ‘I have a mom in the show, it needs to be Carol Kane.’ And my agent was like ‘eh, whatever. Don’t hold your breath. There’s a lot of people that they [writers] are going to want to be your mom so, whatever.’ Two days later, Danny [Cannon] texted me and was like ‘Carol Kane is playing your mom.’ And I was like (mouth drops).
Gotham returns will all-new episodes April 13 on Fox.