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Interview with Robin Lord Taylor of "Gotham" on
I found the actor who plays Cobblepot extremely articulate and well spoken
about the part and the accompanying expectations. He seemed to really get his
contribution to the DC universe and seems super grateful and humble. I really
FBC PUBLICITY: Gotham Conference Call
October 3, 2014/11:00 a.m. PDT
Robin Lord Taylor
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by.
Welcome to the Gotham Conference Call. At this time, all
participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will
conduct a question and answer session. (Operator
instructions.) As a reminder, this conference is being
I'd now like to turn the conference over to Laurence from
Fox. Please go ahead.
Laurence: Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for joining the
Gotham conference call today with Robin Lord Taylor. As a
reminder, the next all-new episode of Gotham premieres on
Fox on Monday. At this point, I will turn the call over to
Robin and we can begin with the first question.
Robin: Hi, everybody. Itís Robin Lord Taylor. How are you
guys doing? Canít wait to talk to you guys.
Moderator: (Operator instructions.) One moment please for
Moderator: The first question will come from Jamie Ruby with
SciFiVision. Please go ahead.
Jamie R.: Hi. Thanks so much for talking to us today.
Robin: Oh, itís my pleasure. Itís why Iím [Indiscernible]
Jamie R.: Iím really enjoying the show and youíre really
great in it. You steal the show in a lot of places.
Robin: Oh my gosh. Thanks so much. Iím in excellent,
excellent company, everyone across the board from Bruno to
every star, every guest star we get has just been just a
dream. Itís amazing.
Jamie R.: So, what was it, though, that first attracted to
you either the part or the script when you found out about
Robin: The script, well the role I just auditioned for
blindly. It was a fake scene that they wrote together with a
fake character namedó I wasnít told the name of the project.
It wasnít until I was going in the night before where my
agent sort of gave me the tipoff and was like, ďOh, by the
way, itís a young Penguin and this is the origin story of
Batman.Ē I was like, ďOkay.Ē I didnít let tható I had
already prepared and I just went in and did my thing and it
just worked out for once.
It was amazing, and then when I read the script, it all just
came together in such a brilliant way. The pilot script was
one of the best ones that Iíve ever read. In terms of what I
really responded to was the fact that this character,
though, from all Iíd ever seen, these larger than life,
incredible performances of the character by Burgess Meredith
and Danny DeVito, but what was brought to the page was just
this humanity and the fact that weíre actually trying to
bring some real human pathos to this fantastic character and
this fantastic world. That was immediately what I just keyed
Jamie R.: Great. Was there anybody, other than watching the
actors that have played Penguin before, was there anybody
else that inspired your portrayal?
Robin: Iím inspired byóI was definitely inspired by both
Burgess Meredith and Danny DeVito. Theyíre just two just
amazing characters and to be connected to them in anyway is
justóIím still wrapping my brain around that, but I would
say definitely theyíve been an amazing influence on me and
then also just Iíd read briefly that when they were
considering years ago about in the Chris Nolan seriesóThis
may have all been rumor and conjecture. It probably was, but
the thought of bringing in a Penguin character and have it
be played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is one of my idols
in terms of actors. I look at him and heís just been such an
inspiration for me in everything that Iíve done. I would say
Jamie R.: Great. Thank you so much.
Robin: No, no problem. Thank you.
Moderator: The next question comes from the line of Erin
Willard with SciFi Mafia. Please go ahead.
Erin: Hi, Robin. Thanks so much for talking with us today.
Robin: Itís my pleasure. How are you?
Erin: Terrific, thanks.
Erin: I have to say I havenít enjoyed a villain so much since
Ben on Lost. You are just exceptional in this role.
Robin: Oh my gosh. You have no idea how much that means to be
because Michael Emerson is such a great guy and Ben is
another huge influence on me, and wow, thatís amazing. Thank
Erin: Really, you can see it because thereís something about
your characterization of the villain that brings out a lot
of humanity and is so horrible, but yet so memorizing. I
absolutely appreciate it. How was the presentation of Oswald
developed? Were you given a lot of specific direction? Was
Bruno Heller asking for emphasis on particular aspects?
Anything like that?
Robin: It wasóI said it before. The script itself was
justóeverything was there. I didnít feel like I needed very
much guidance because just what was on the page was just so
clear and I think we just had a mutual understanding of
where we wanted the character to go and the fact that the
character in the script was presentóThere was sympathy there
and there was humanity there. It was just sort of a matter
of just keeping it going in that direction and thatís been
one of the most validating things for me is that people are
picking up on that.
You worry when you play a character like this, you worry
about falling into just the trap of it being a
two-dimensional, like a Snidely Whiplash type character just
doing bad things for the sake of doing bad things, but Iíve
been so lucky in this script. People have really been
responding to the sympathetic aspect of the character, which
I think is just such a new twist on this whole world that
weíve known, that has been around for 75 years, the Batman
Erin: Right. Also, as far as the presentation goes, you make
Oswaldís very formal way of speaking sound very natural and
almost kind of lyrical. Where does that come from for Oswald
and for you as an actor?
Robin: Well, you see for Oswald, he was raised inóthough they
didnít have much money, he comes from a somewhat aristocrat
background. His family came from Europe and they
stillóthereís the sense that they had a lot of money there,
but then when they fled, all of that sort of went away, but
the tradition still remains and I think youíll definitely
see that. Carol Kane is bringing that in spades to her
character, and once you see her and her characterization,
you really understand why he speaks the way he speaks. Itís
where heís coming from as a person.
For me, itís just, again, itís finding the relatable in this
fantastic character. You know what I mean? I love the way
itís written. I love the heightened sort of way that he
speaks because it sets him apart from everybody else and it
just illustrates, like I said before, where he came from and
also what it is about him that is different and thereís a
thing thatís just sort off about him.
Erin: Iím completely enjoying the presentation. Thank you so
much for your work.
Robin: Oh my gosh. Thank you. Thank you. You have no idea how
much that means to me. It really, itís everything. I
appreciate that so much.
Moderator: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line
of Jamie Steinberg with Starry Constellation Magazine.
Please go ahead.
Jamie S.: Hi. Itís such a pleasure to speak with you.
Robin: Hi. Me too. How are you?
Jamie S.: Good. Youíre a part of social media. Are you
enjoying that instant fan feedback youíve been given when
the episodes air?
Robin: I have been. Itís been likeóitís a rollercoaster. When
weíre watching the show and Iím live Tweeting, Iíve never
experienced anything quite like it. I have two computers
open, my phone. Itís an intense experience because you want
to respond to everybody and you want toóyou just want to
absorb how people are reacting to your work. Itís just I
never thought I would be part of something that would be so
immediatelyóthat people would have such an immediate
response to and then also on top of that be able to respond
in real time.
Itís a connection to the audience that you only really
findóitís almost like going back to theater. You know what I
mean? Because when youíre doing a play and youíre on stage,
you feel that energy from people and you can tell when
things are landing and you can tell what people are
responding to, and then having Twitter there, itís a very
similar experience in a way. Only, in this world Iím
actually responding back as opposed to just doing the thing
on stage or whatever.
Jamie S.: Yes. It must be kind of surreal to have people flip
out just because you favorited something that they
[indiscernible] you. Even that goes a long way on social
Robin: Yes. It really does and I donít want it to be likeóThe
thing I would hate most is to come off as cynical or
anything. I really truly, truly appreciate the feedback.
When the news was announced, forgive me if Iíve said this
before, when the news was announced that I would be playing
the character, there was some negative feedback, which I
wasnít really expecting, but the feedback was stuff like,
ďHeís too skinny,Ē and ďHeís too tall.Ē I was like, oh my
God, Iíve never heard these things said about me in my
If this is as bad as it gets, Iíll take it, whatever, but
yes, I would say like 99.9% of the responses that Iíve been
receiving have been so positive. Itís just so validating.
You [indiscernible] that you love so much and then to have
people responding to it in that way is justóItís more than
icing on the cake. It is the cake.
Jamie S.: Weíve seen some amazing scenes so far in these few
episodes and weíve gotten to see you play so well against
Jada Pinkett Smith. Can you talk about some of your favorite
scenes to shoot?
Robin: I would say, well, every chance I get to work with
Jada is just an unbelievable experience. Iíve never worked
so intimately with a star of her caliber and of her talent.
When you come on set, everyone, like on the pilot when we
first were interacting, I was really nervous and everyone
has misconceptions about people before they meet them and
then she was just so open and giving and so committed to the
work and there was no ego and it was just open arms. Sheís
just there and ready to play and thatís an actorís dream.
You want to be with someone who is as committed and as
excited about a project as you are.
So, yes, every scene with her, and then of course on top of
that, the scenes that really, really speak to me personally
are the scenes that I have with Carol. Iíve been a fan of
Carol Kane, who plays my mom, Iíve been a fan of hers for
years and years and years and the connection that we have
personally as well as professionally is just really, really
dear to my heart.
Itís also just those scenes stand out to me because it is a
moment where Penguin doesnít have to be plotting so much. I
mean, he is constantly, but he can let his guard down a
little bit and itís just so gratifying to show another side
of him and sheís just a brilliant, brilliant actress. You
just lose yourself in her eyes when youíre sitting there
across the couch from her. Itís really fantastic.
Jamie S.: Donít call him Penguin.
Robin: Right. Thatís right. Totally. Although, itís a funny
thing. I think like as the series goes along as he discovers
his own power inside of himself I think he starts to embrace
that as instead of being something that heís been, well itís
always been a name that heís been called thatís somewhat
tortured him his whole life, and then I think he reaches a
point where heís like, ďOkay, well if youíre going to call
me this, Iím going to embrace it and Iím going to run with
it and Iím going to use that and Iím not going to be a
powerless person anymore.Ē
Itís almost like facing your fears and embracing the worst
thing thatís said about you, and when you do that, that
gives you the power. You then own that. You know what I
mean? I think thatís definitely Penguinís trajectory.
Jamie S.: Thank you so much for all your time. Itís amazing
to speak with you.
Robin: Oh, me too. Yes, have a great day.
Moderator: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line
of Steve Eramo with Sci-FiAndTvTalk. Please go ahead.
Steve: Hi, Robin. Thanks again so much for your time today.
Robin: Oh my gosh. My pleasure, man. How are you?
Steve: Very well, thank you. Listen, very quickly, Iíve got
to echo everyone elseís response. You are doing an amazing
job in this role. Youíve taken creepy to a new level, but
again, as people pointed out, you bring a real humanity. You
really feel bad for your character, so youíre doing a great
balancing act. You really are.
Robin: Thanks. Itís just so great. Iím just so grateful to
hear people saying that because thatís been my approach this
whole time and itís just so validating to know that people
are responding to that. You have no idea. Thank you.
Steve: I wondered if maybe you could talk a little about,
just in your eyes, how do you sort of see your characterís
relationship with his mother and how has that maybe sort of
developed, as far as you can speak, in the episodes youíve
worked on so far?
Robin: Well, I think they have a remarkably close
relationship and I think that sheís been, I think
becauseóIím going to get into a little bit of the comic book
history. He was a bullied kid and he didnít have friends
really and he was alone. He didnít have peers that he could
rely upon when he was young, so I think he found a lot of
that in his mother. I feel like that definitely reads in
their connection, just their closeness. Itís not so much
creepy as it is a very insular, just very close connection
that they have. I could end it there. I donít know. I lost
my train of thought, but yes, thatís sort of where that is.
Steve: Then, just as a followup, a general question for you,
Robin. I wanted to find out did you always want to work in
this industry while you were growing up or did you have
other professions in mind?
Robin: My little sister is an opera singer and sheís been a
singer for her entire life and so it was always very clear
from the get go that she was the star of the family, and for
myself, I always loved being part of school plays and
everything and I kind of had it in my head, I didnít know
that this was something, like a reality really, and for a
little bit, I was consideringóI always wanted to be involved
in something creative, so I thought, oh maybe Iíll be an
architect and I went to architecture camp. I quickly learned
that I did not want to be an architect.
At that point, that was when I was applying to schools and I
had always known that Northwestern University was somewhereó
I grew up in Iowa. Itís in Chicago. Itís close to where I
was from, but it was such an amazing school and I always
knew that I wanted to go there, so when I applied, I applied
early decision and when you apply, you have to declare a
major, and at that point, I didnít know what the heck I
wanted to do.
I only knew that the only thing that I ever got any sort of
real gratification from was theater, so I just put it down
thinking Iíll just change it, Iíll find something else, this
is just for application purposes, but it was the best random
thing that Iíve ever done because once I found myself in
that program it just was everything that I wanted and it
really helped me grow not just as an actor, but as a person.
It was the best decision I made.
Steve: Robin, again, thank you for your time and for all your
hard work on the show. Continued good luck with success.
Robin: Thanks so much, man. I appreciate that so much. Thank
you. Thank you.
Steve: Take care.
Moderator: Your next question comes from the line of Kiel
Phegley with Comic Book Resources. Please go ahead.
Kiel: Hi, sir.
Robin: Hi there.
Kiel: One of the moments I think from the last episode that
really stood out was at the end when Oswald is attempting to
be a threatening kidnapper on the phone of that college bro
and just failing to have the gravitas that makes it seem
like he really is the monster heís been behaving as. Do you
see more, I guess, of that kind of black-comedy tone working
its way into the characterís performance and into the show a
little bit as we move forward?
Robin: I would hope so. Thatís the thing. When I think about
influences for me, like Burgess Meredith and Danny DeVito,
what I walk away from with their performance is just the
sheer glee and fun that they bring to this sadistic person
and the show itself is a dark show and it deals with very
dark themes, but I love those moments whereóSince weíre
starting at the beginning of his life, I want to see himóI
love those moments where he makes missteps and you watch him
grow and develop in front of you.
It would be almost a disservice to the character if he just
started off right away and knew exactly what he was doing.
You know what I mean? Itís those little like hiccups and
failures that make him I think sympathetic. Well,
sympathetic is weird because heís terrible, but that make
him identifiable or that people can identify with and not
just a two-dimensional, just bad guy.
Kiel: Weíve had so many moments in the show so far where
youíve got to go at somebody with a knife or with a bottle.
When do you think youíre going to get to kill somebody with
Robin: I donít know, but I hope itís soon. As we go, we
develop his relationship with the umbrella, and in my head,
I imagine that he befriends someone like Q from James Bond
who makes him all the really fun funky umbrella gadgets, but
who knows what they have coming down the pipe. I donít know.
Kiel: Thanks so much, sir. Take it easy.
Robin: Oh my gosh. You too, man. Thanks so much.
Moderator: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line
of Sundi Rose-Holt with TV MegaSite. Please go ahead.
Sundi Hi, so, I really am enjoying your character and
Robin: Thanks so much.
Sundi: Here is what, youíre sort of joining a franchise
thatís got a real rabid built-in fan base. Right? People on
the show, really strict expectations. Are you feeling
pressure or are you feeling like no, I can do whatever I
want? How are you feeling about sort of joining an already
established franchise like this?
Robin: I would be a robot if I didnít feel some pressure. You
know what I mean? This is above and beyond anything I ever
expected for my own career. My goals were just to have
health insurance. You know what I mean? And to not have to
wait tables. Then, you find yourself in this world with this
just amazingly smart, devoted audience.
Of course, I want to fulfill everyoneís expectations and
hopefully exceed them, but Iím not nervous only in the sense
that I have the bestóBruno Heller and Danny Cannon are
justóI feel so, I just trust them and feel so comfortable in
their hands and theyíre just so smart and they know exactly
where this world is going.
I donít feel fear that people will be disappointed. Iím just
excited because I really do believe that people will start
seeing new things about these characters that have been a
part of popular culture for 75 years. Itís just so exciting
to be able to illuminate new parts of this personality.
Sundi: Youíre doing a really good job. Iím not disappointed,
definitely. Iím not disappointed.
Robin: Good, good. Thank goodness.
Sundi: Thereís also chatter, good and bad, too, about the
expanding universe. The part of Fish Mooney is supposedly
sort of new to the show and stuff. How do you answer all
that chatter? What do you say to folks?
Robin: I donít know. I guess I can just say just trust that
the people that are in charge of this, that the people who
are driving this ship, have everyoneís best interest in
mind. They want it to make sense to everyone and thatís
their ultimate goal is that this is the Gotham City that
forms Bruce Wayne and they want to do it in a way that just
does so much good service to all of the other iterations
that have come before. Iíd just say trust in Bruno Heller
and heís a freaking genius.
Sundi: Yes. Well, thatís a great answer. Thatís the exact
right answer. Thank you so much for talking to me.
Robin: Thank you. Thank you. Have a great day.
Moderator: Thank you and we do have time for one more
question and our last question will come from the line of
Bill Harris with Sun Media. Please go ahead.
Bill: Hi, Robin. Youíve talked a lot about humanizing the
character and showing the origin story and the humane side
of it and where he came from. One thing that I really
appreciate about the show, though, is that you guys are not
shying away from the sort of violent cruel nature of him.
Heís kind of a bad guy like in the first episode when his
eyes light up when heís beating that guy for the first time
or the poor guy sitting there fishing. What did he ever do
to you? And I appreciate that.
Now, how are you balancing, because that is an important of
it, because he is a villain and a fairly bad villain, so how
do you balance humanizing him and yet remembering, in a
world now where we all think penguins are cute because of
Disney, remembering that this is a very bad guy and you also
have to portray that side?
Robin: I would say the way I personally approach it is the
fact that, and this is where I identify with the character,
not that I was ever bullied to the extent that he was, but
we all understand what it means to be different and what it
means to be treated like youíre less than another person
just based on whatever it may be; the way you look or
whatever it is, and that fear of being powerless and just
being at the whim of everyone else.
The only difference though is that Oswald has very little
empathy in terms ofóHe just refuses to go back to that place
of powerlessness. It is not even a conversation thatóThereís
no conflict in his mind about that, so in terms of becoming
powerful and not being walked upon any more, thatís the fuel
that drives him to make these terrible decisions, and I
think that is somewhat the human aspect of him.
I think once you understand where someone has come from and
their situation and their life and it does not excuse their
horrible, horrible behavior, but it does humanize them and I
think thatís definitely what Iím keying into and thatís what
weíre trying to portray on the show.
Bill: Also, I guess, but what you guys have done a good job
of doing, though I think maybe when you look back at, I
would say even the most terrifying criminals in the history
of human beings, what terrifies us most I think is that lack
Bill: óbecause most of us have that empathy, but if you can
show, even just in your eyes, a little bit that you donít
quite have that empathy, I think thatís terrifying to the
audience. Donít you?
Robin: Absolutely. I do and I think thatís what keeps
everyone from going ballistic on everyone else in the world.
You know what I mean? Itís the fact that we have, the
majority of us have that and to see someone who doesnít is
truly terrifying. But at the same time, where I approach the
character, what I understand from reading the comics, the
fact that he was bullied and that he was shown no mercy and
no empathy when he was younger, that really forms a person.
You know what I mean? And thatís sort ofóI believe thatís
where heís coming from in those situations, but yes, he
could definitely use a good psychiatrist. Thatís for sure.
Bill: All right. Thatís great. Thanks very much. Keep up the
Robin: Thanks, man. I really appreciate it.
Laurence: All right. Thank you so much, everyone, for joining
the call today. Just a reminder the next episode of Gotham
is Monday on Fox. Itís also available on the Fox screening
room for your view. Thank you. Have a great day.
Robin: Awesome. Thanks, everybody. Have a great day.
Also Read: Our
Review of the show
Interview with Ben McKenzie
Interview with Bruno Heller
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