Interview with Robin Lord Taylor of "Gotham" on FOX - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Sundi

Interview with Robin Lord Taylor of "Gotham" on FOX 10/3/14

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 liked him. 

Final Transcript
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 recorded.

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 first question.

Robin: Sure.

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] here, totally.

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 it?

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 into.

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 those guys.

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.

Robin: Good.

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 you.

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 universe.

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 media.

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 entire life.

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 an umbrella?

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 [indiscernible].

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.

Sundi Thanks.

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 of empathyó

Robin: Right.

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 good work.

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

Check out our new "Gotham" site!

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