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Interview with Ben McKenzie of "Gotham" on
It was great to speak with Ben again! I believe this is
the third time. He's always so kind and thoughtful, and he
has nothing but good things to say about his co-stars. It's
clear that he really values his job and takes it seriously.
I've been a huge fan of his since "The O.C." because he's so
gorgeous and such a wonderful actor. It's nice to know that
he's a great human being, too.
FBC PUBLICITY: Gotham Conference Call
April 6, 2015/9:00 a.m. PDT
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by.
Welcome to the Gotham Conference Call with Ben McKenzie. At
this time, everyone is in a listen-only mode. Later, weíll
have a Q&A session. (Operator instructions.) As a reminder,
the conference is being recorded.
Iíll now turn the conference over to our host, Joanna Wolff.
Please, go ahead.
Joanna: Hi, everyone. Thank you for joining the Gotham
Conference Call with Ben McKenzie. As a reminder, Gotham
returns Monday, April 13th at 8:00 p.m. on FOX with only
four more episodes this season.
Now, I will turn the call over to Ben, who will begin taking
Ben: Hey, guys.
Moderator: Thank you. (Operator instructions.) Our first
question from the line of Karen Moul with SciFiVision.
Please, go ahead.
Karen: Hi. Thanks so much for being with us today.
Karen: I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about
where Gordonís relationship has gone with his partner,
Harvey Bullock, this year and how Bullockís influence on Jim
is affecting the way he acts and maybe who heís becoming as
Ben: Good question. I would say, overall, perhaps the best
word I can use to describe the evolution of their
relationship is maturation. Itís been kind of a maturation
process. Initially, Jim and Harvey were polar opposites. Jim
is the wet behind the ears, almost naive rookie cop, and
Harvey is the jaded, cynical veteran.
As the season progresses, they learn from each other. Harvey
is inspired a bit by Jimís do-gooderism, but Jim is also
educated in the ways of Gotham and becomes more
sophisticated in the ways that he approaches cases and the
way that he uses the power that he gains through
relationships with, say, Oswald Cobblepot, in order to get
what he wants. So, thereís give and take.
The last episode that we saw on screen, Harvey betrayed Jim
by testifying against him in the case of Arnold Flass in
getting the case dismissed. He did that because Commissioner
Loeb had evidence on Harvey, had dirt on him, and so Harvey
and Jim team up to find that stash of evidence, only to find
out that itís basically Loebís daughter whoís mentally kind
of handicapped. Jim then ends up using the existence of that
daughter against Loeb to get what he wants.
So, youíre seeing a real evolution in Jimís character that
he is not afraid to do something thatís morally or ethically
borderline, if not over the line, in order to get what he
wants, get what he needs for the greater good. Heís doing it
in part for Harvey, and he gives Harvey back the dirt, so
Harvey is in the clear, but theyíre at a dťtente as we leave
the last episode. Theyíreóyes, dťtente might be the best
Karen: Quick follow-up, do you think, is Jim really
consciously aware of how close he is to that line, do you
think? Is that a decision he makes, or heís being sucked in?
Ben: I think heís being sucked in. I think he is aware on
some level. But I think the overwhelming nature of Gotham
tends to sort of beat you down, and even if you are aware on
some level of whatís going on, you really are just focused
on whatís right ahead of you, and you canít really see the
full picture; youíre just in it. So, I think heís a little
Karen: Great. Well, thanks so much. Itís been a great season.
I canít wait to see how it ends.
Ben: Well, thank you. Thank you very much.
Moderator: We have a question from the line of Bryan Cairns
with Comic Book Resources. Please, go ahead.
Bryan: Hey, Ben. Can you introduce us to the Ogre and how he
really puts Gordon to the test during this arc?
Ben: Sure. The Ogre is a serial killer who seduces, kidnaps,
tortures and kills women. In the never-ending pursuit for a
partner, he finds these women, and they, letís just say,
donít meet to his exacting standards. Heís a true
psychopath, and heís remained at large for years because he
protects himself. Any cop who takes on his case, the Ogre
targets the loved ones of that cop. He ends upóthe cop will
end up with his wifeís throat cut, his girlfriend dead,
things like that. So, no cop touches it, and itís basically
just become the dirty little secret of the GCPD.
Jim, when he ends up in contact with the case, and he ends
up in contact with it in an interesting way, heís a hero; he
canít put it down. For him not to pursue the case would be
to have the blood of future victims on his hands, so heís
put in a perilous position where he knows that the women in
his life could be targets. It creates a strain on his
relationship with Thompkins, and it will have dire
consequences moving forward.
Bryan: And just can you tease how maybe this arc and the
finale kind of propels Gordon into Season 2?
Ben: Sure. The arc takes us down an incredibly dark path,
probably darkest of the season, and then after a sort of
three-episode arc involving the Ogre, there is kind of an
epic season finale that really pushes us strongly into a
Season 2 that is extremely chaotic. The best way I can
describe it without giving too much away is youíre really
starting to see the downward spiral of Gotham as a city
towards the ultimate anarchy that will manifest and result
in all these masked vigilantes roaming the streets. Youíre
at the tipping point here on the season finale, and I think
itís going to kick us into Season 2 with a literal bang,
Bryan: Great. Thank you, and congratulations on the second
Ben: Thank you very much.
Moderator: And weíll go to Suzanne Lanoue with the TV
MegaSite. Please, go ahead.
Suzanne: Good morning.
Ben: Good morning.
Suzanne: I was wondering, have you started filming the second
Ben: No. We just ended the first season. Weíll start filming
in about three months.
Suzanne: Great. And have you noticed, since youíre in, Iíll
call it a geek show because Iím a geek, I can say that, as
opposed to a ďregular show,Ē have you noticed any difference
in the people coming up to you on the street or fans that
you talk to or anything like that, the different types of
people or experiences.
Ben: You know, not in any way that I think I would want to
generalize. I think whatís interesting, we just did
WonderCon [Saturday], John Stephens, one of our executive
producers, myself, Robin Taylor, and Cory Michael Smith,
went down and we didówe had some fan interactions, did an
autograph signing and did a panel.
I think one of the things thatís interesting about ďgeek
cultureĒ at this point or even superhero culture is that
itís so pervasive. I think itís easy to try to sort of
stereotype who folks that are into those things are, but the
reality is that, again, I mean, itís men, women, young, old.
Itís the stereotypes of the introvert and the extroverts.
Itís really all over the map.
One of the things thatís interesting for me, having done two
other shows, is youíll sit there signing autographs for
Gotham, but people will be fans of The OC or Southland or
all three. So, I think itís actually been a pleasant
surprise that a ďgeek cultureĒ doesnít feel so insular. It
feels like just a collection of people who happen to have
that interest in addition to many other interests. I find it
kind of welcome.
Suzanne: Well, thanks very much. I love the show.
Ben: Thanks a lot.
Moderator: And weíll go to Andy Behbakht with TVOvermind.com.
Please, go ahead.
Andy: Hi, Ben. I hope youíre doing well. One of the things I
have loved about your version of Gordon is the relationship
that he has created around him, whether itís with Leslie or
Bruce or any of these other characters. One of the things
that I really love following is the relation with Bruce,
that itís kind of like this very young surrogate
father-and-son dynamic. What can you talk about them in
these four final episodes and where theyíre going next as
this, well, sort of partnership, in a way?
Ben: Yes, thank you. I think the core relationship of the
show in many ways is the relationship between Jim and Bruce,
and thatís how we kick off the pilot, and thatís the central
conceit in this conception of the story that we all know.
This central change is to put a rookie detective in contact
with Bruce Wayne at 13 at the scene of his parentsí murder
and to task our hero in the story, Jim Gordon, with solving
the case. So, thatís the emotional undercurrent of the
entire series, and I think right now their relationship is a
bit on rocky ground.
Jim has been unable to solve the case, obviously. Bruce is
frustrated by that. Heís been investigating the case, and
Alfred has been injured. Jim goes to sort of console Bruce
and basically realizes that theyíre both lying to him. They
refuse to reveal really whatís going on and whatís
happening. So, at this point, itís very complicated. While
Bruce and Jim have a bond of sorts, they are also at this
point a littleóBruce is a little distrustful of the
detective. Heís hiding secrets from him already, a trend
which, of course, will only continue, and ultimately it
results in him trying to hide the biggest secret.
Itís an interesting relationship. Itís a mentor/mentee. Itís
a surrogate father/son, and thereís also peer-to-peer
because Bruce is so otherworldly intelligent. Itís quite
interesting, and itís a joy to work with David. I think as
we go forward in the series, the bond will grow stronger,
and at the same time theyíll be keeping more and more
secrets from each other. Thatís the best I can probably
Andy: And also, yes, quickly, you were talking a little bit
about Gordon crossing that line of the corruption that is
going on with the GCPD and so on. One of the things that
Iíve always followed with Gordon in any interaction is that
he seems to still always have that hope and optimism. What
do you think, in this version of Gordon, what is it that
keeps him still holding on to that light? Is it someone in
his life that he knows that can strengthen his optimism?
What is it that keeps him going and not falling completely
into that path of darkness?
Ben: I think thatís a very accurate observation. I think it
isnít even a person in his life, I think it is a core value
that perhaps springs simply from his makeup, his almost
genetic makeup. He is, particularly in this conception, a
true believer and a soldier. Heís a veteran coming back from
the front to take on the enemy at home, and he believes very
sincerely in that cause.
The evolution of the character will be from a true believer
believing that he can fix everything in the right way by
doing everything correctly into a veteran who understands
how to get things done, how to possibly serve the greater
good. How do you get a good outcome? Perhaps you have to do
a bad thing. Itís something that he will be struggling with
for the entire series, keeping his morals roughly intact
while working his way up the food chain in Gotham. So, an
Andy: Okay. Thank you so much, Ben. Loving your version of
Gordon, and I canít wait to see Season 2.
Ben: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Moderator: Weíll go next to David Betancourt with the
Washington Post. Please, go ahead.
David: Hi, Ben. How are you?
Ben: Iím well. How are you?
David: Great. The question I have for you is you knew going
into Gotham that Gotham was going to be a Batman show based
in the past with no Batman, you as the lead actor. What Iím
wondering is with the first season almost complete, have
things gone as you anticipated they would in terms of the
reaction to the show and its success?
Ben: Good question. I think that the thing thatís true of all
first years of shows, at least every first year of a show
that Iíve ever been on, and Iíve done three now, is that
itís impossible to predict almost anything in terms of not
only the reaction to the show, whether itís the public at
large, but also the evolution of the show itself.
This show, in particular, has had an interesting first year.
Iím very proud of it. Itís grown a lot, I believe, in the
first year, and I think weíve learned from some mistakes
that weíve made in the first year. I think after we made
what I believe is a very strong pilot, we ended up on a
detour where we became a little too procedural. We became a
little too focused on the crime of the week. We were using
villains that werenít really from mythology, and that did a
disservice to the mythology that we were trying to serve and
to the fans.
Weíve adjusted. Weíve introduced villains with multi-episode
arcs. They are from the mythology, by and large. A grandeur
of Gotham is sort of more fully exposed. I think weíre
learning, as you learn on the first year of a show. You can
only really learn by making mistakes and correcting them.
As far as the reaction to the show, itís been incredible. I
honestly expected a little more flack. I think anytime you
enter into a universe this beloved, people have strong
opinions. By and large, itís been incredibly positive.
Obviously, the show is a hit and watched all over the world.
I know that we can do better, and weíll continue to do
better in Season 2 in terms of the stories weíre telling and
how we tell them, but Iím very proud of the show and so far,
Iím particularly relieved that the primary criticism of the
show, the Batman show without Batman, at this point, I
believe has been shown to be a bit of a misunderstood
complaint. If one is really a fan of Batman and the world of
Batman, I would think discovering how Batman came to be is a
fascinating journey, discovering how all these villains came
to be. So, I think at this point weíve dodged that bullet
for the most part, but we need to live up to the
expectations of the fans, and weíll try to do that.
Andy: Okay, thank you. Good luck going into Season 2.
Ben: Thanks a lot.
Moderator: And our last question from the line of Henry Hanks
with CNN. Please, go ahead
Henry: Hey, Ben. How are you?
Ben: Iím well. How are you?
Henry: Doing good. Thanks for talking to us. Just one,
curious; you guys are building up to a lot of things that
will happen in the comics over time. How much and what sort
of comics did you sort of do when you were researching the
role, and how much did you look into the character of
Ben: I read a fair amount. I had done the voice of Bruce
Wayne, Batman, in year one, so I was familiar with year one.
I read Gotham Central, Long Halloween, you know, a fair
amount. Geoff Johns at DC actually sent me a bunch when I
asked him for material on Gordon.
The truth is that we really havenít seen Jim Gordon for the
most part at this stage of his life, and what we have seen
in the mythology in terms of the comics, we havenít seen
much, but what we have seen we were contradicting on the
show. We are starting him off in Gotham investigating the
case of the Waynes.
So, there were several takeaways for me reading a lot about
it. The first, the most important, is that this tale has
been interpreted and reinterpreted for 75 years, and each
and every interpretation is different. Many are
contradictory in many important ways.
So, thereís a real, I think, freedom to interpret anew these
characters in this world, and thatís what Geoff Johns said
to me when I asked him how do I do this? What am I playing?
What am I supposed to do here? He said we cast you for a
reason. Youíre perfect for the part. Do your work. Treat it
like the best job in the world, which it is in some senses
for me anyway. But itís an acting job. You have to interpret
this character for yourself, and thatís what Iíve done.
Weíll always be true, or try to be true, to the themes and
the tone of a gothic warish world that is represented in the
Batman story, but we will interpret these characters as we
see fit and have them interact in all kinds of unexpected
ways. We have to surprise the audience at every turn. The
only way you do that is by giving them new things that they
didnít know, new relationships and new windows into each
Henry: Thanks. And are there any villains that you have
enjoyed the most or really enjoyed the portrayal of them the
most so far?
Ben: I think all of our primary villains this year have done
an excellent job, all the actors. Robin Taylor playing
Oswald, obviously, has knocked it out of the park. Cory
Michael Smith, who plays Nygma, weíre just at the tip of the
iceberg in terms of where that character is going, but heís
a really terrifically talented actor, and heís done a
I liked the seed we planted this year for Scarecrow,
Scarecrowís father, and what affect that will have on a
young Scarecrow. I also enjoyed the tease of a possible
Joker in this orphan child of the circus, named Jerome.
So, at this point, most of our primary villains, I think,
have done a really, really nice job. We have a lot more to
go, but itís hard to pick a favorite.
Henry: Thank you so much.
Ben: Thank you.
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, this will conclude our
teleconference for today. Thank you for your participation
and for using AT&T Executive TeleConference Service, and you
may now disconnect.
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