Gotham Star Talks Heroes, Commissioner Gordon, and Moral Compromise
Ben McKenzie, who plays Commissioner Gordon in the upcoming Batman prequel series "Gotham," recently gave an interview with Entertainment Weekly in which he articulately discussed his character's morality, the uniqueness of Batman, and the hero trope in American culture. Here are a few highlights:
On Gotham City:
"To me, this show has to be shot in New York. New York is Gotham and Gotham is New York."
On Commissioner Gordon's character arc and significance within Gotham City:
"He's a truly honest man. The last honest man in a city full of crooked people. What's interesting about him is he comes into this city that he hasn't lived in for two decades, since he was a kid, and has fresh eyes to a world he doesn't actually know. He thinks he knows it, and his journey will be to figure out how to make it better both for Gotham and himself without completely [losing] the moral standing that he has...
Why are we telling his story? We're telling it because in a world that's about to fall apart due to all of these people, when there is no reason to be good, he's the one man standing up and saying, 'No, that's not right.' And there's inherent power to that."
On the state of "heroes" in American culture today:
"It's very tricky nowadays to play a true, honest-to-goodness hero. Everybody is so cynical of people's intentions... He's not an anti-hero, he's a true hero - but he will have to compromise... There's nothing wrong with having a moral center, and it sets [Gordon] apart for the rest of the people in this world. And that's an incredibly compelling concept. At the same time, for audiences, that moral centeredness can come across as naivete unless the character is written to be as smart as everybody else in the room, if not smarter... So you have to juggle those balls without having the character go, 'I can't believe everybody is corrupt! What are the odds?'"
On the difficulty of maintaining ideals in a corrupt environment:
"He won't. And that's one of the things we talked about very early on. This is not a Batman-from-the-'50s kind of show, with moral duality in black and white. In this world, everybody lives in the grey. Everybody is on the take. Everybody is compromised. There is no way he'll emerge unscathed from that. How does he hold onto the thread of his mortality [sic] while getting things done?"
On Batman as a grittier, more resonant type of superhero:
"I'm a big fan of Batman. I can't claim I grew up reading a lot of comics... [But] as I grew older, [the depictions of Batman] grew more sophisticated, and I loved the [Christopher] Nolan films. The thing that I think is universally relateable [sic] about Batman is he's not a superhero. He has no special powers. He's simply a man who's experienced this extreme trauma, and has access to all sort of gadgets and weaponry that a wealthy person could have, and has an emotional need for justice. As an actor, I'm much more interested in people. When they have superpowers, it's not that I don't find them enjoyable, it's just that…. I feel a little detached."
On "Gotham"'s depiction of humanity:
"Long story short: Gordon couldn't be more human. In a DC universe where all of these characters are human, he is Exhibit A in being a simple, flawed human being. He's strong and smart and tough, but he's going to make wrong decisions and trust the wrong people. And he has no out - he can't put on a cape and fly off."
Bonus - On hipsters:
"I don't want to be [the] hippest guy. I don't want to sit around in a fedora and skinny jeans."
"Gotham" follows Commissioner Gordon as a young man as the murder of the Waynes causes a ripple effect in an already violent, degenerate city. He forms an unlikely friendship with the child Bruce Wayne and helps him along the way to becoming the Dark Knight. It will also feature many Batman villains in their early years, such as Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman, Two-Face, the Joker, Poison Ivy, and Scarecrow. Judging from the trailer and early buzz, it will have a noir-like, extremely dark tone, reminiscent of Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy.
The show will air Mondays on Fox this coming fall, and we couldn't be more excited.