Entertainment Weekly has posted an interview with Ben McKenzie, star of the upcoming Fox television series Gotham. As Batfans know, McKenzie will portray Detective James Gordon, the future police commissioner of Gotham City, and he shared his thoughts about the character and his past history with the world of Batman.
When asked about what excites him about JIm Gordon as a character, McKenzie replied, "He’s a truly honest man. The last honest man in a city full of crooked people. It’s very tricky nowadays to play a true, honest-to-goodness hero. Everybody is so cynical of people’s intentions. 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. He’s not an anti-hero, he’s a true hero — but he will have to compromise."
Of course, compromising will take Gordon into some morally grey areas, so will he be able to keep his ideals intact? "He won’t," said McKenzie. "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 while getting things done?"
"Long story short: Gordon couldn’t be more human," McKenzie continued. "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."
In preparing for the role, McKenzie got some background on Gordon from none other than DC Comics' chief creative officer. "I went to lunch with Geoff Johns and asked, 'What do I need to know? I’m familiar with Batman and Gordon, but what’s my responsibility here?' He gave me Gotham Central…and said two things -- The origin story of Gordon hasn’t been fully explored before. As central as he is, Gordon has never been the focus. And second, you can’t worry about that. 'We hired you to play you and to make this character fresh.' And he said it without provocation. That coming from the guy who’s so well versed in this, saying to make it your own, it was a real pat on the shoulder. There’s a tendency with such a familiar world that it can be intimidating, but you got to relax and do it. It ought to be bigger and grander and — frankly — cooler than most, but you have to treat it like a job."
And where did that familiarity with Batman and Gordon come from? "I’m a big fan of Batman," said McKenzie. "I can’t claim I grew up reading a lot of comics — weirdly the one I remember is Iron Man. I would watch repeats of the cheesy biff-pow-bang show, the Adam West version, in the afternoons in Texas. 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 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."
You can check out more of the interview at the Entertainment Weekly link above. Gotham is scheduled to air on Mondays this fall on Fox at 8 p.m. EST.