Exclusive: In our final roundtable interview at New York Comic Con 2014 we spoke with actor Ben McKenzie who discusses his “Dream job” of playing Jim Gordon, the similarities between Alfred and Jim, his push-pull relationship with Harvey Bullock and guiding “The darkness” within Bruce. Here’s the podcast with all the interviews from New York Comic Con 2014 or you can read on for the transcript. Sorry for the poor audio quality at the end of the interview with Ben McKenzie.
Question – What’s it like coming in and dealing with the fans at New York Comic Con?
Ben McKenzie – It’s great. I’m really excited about this panel because when we were in San Diego the show wasn’t on yet. It’s an odd thing to interact with fans who haven’t seen it yet cause they’re excited and also going “This isn’t going to suck right?” (laughs) and you say “No no I really think it’s going to be good”. So this will be a real opportunity to see people who have actually seen the show and what they think of it and get their questions.
Question -What’s it like playing an iconic character and making it completely your own?
B.McK. – It’s a thrill. It’s an absolute thrill. It’s kind of a dream job in that respect. It was very intimidating initially because the character has been portrayed before and portrayed by some brilliant actors but what’s freeing about it is what you pointed out we’re showing how he came to become, how he came to be, how he grew into the role of commissioner and that’s never been seen on film before. So there was a chance to take advantage of the mythology and the deep love for these character but also breathe fresh air into that.
Question – They’ve set Jim up as a mentor for Bruce which is very different to the comics. What’s that like since you’re basically helping to create Batman
B.McK. – Yeah. But I think Jim starts off trying not to create Batman. He is a law enforcement officer and you see in the third episode with “Balloon man” who is the first vigilante that Gotham had seen actually targeting people are morally corrupt and going outside the law to do so. Jim, rightly, is deeply concerned about this trend in Gotham. If people choose not to follow the law there is no law. If people choose to go outside the law, even for the right moral reasons the whole society falls apart. So when he starts counseling Bruce he’s trying to educate him on how not to fall into that trap. Because he sees a darkness in Bruce, he sees an incredible intelligence an incredible integrity in this young boy but he also sees a darkness and an anger that he’s trying to direct in the right way.
Question – so you have this area to negotiate between the murder and the full blown Batman. What do you do to envision this character. Is there a guiding source for that?
B.McK. – It’s actually quite straightforward in a way. He’s a war hero. He came straight off the front lines pretty much back to Gotham where he saw heavy action. So he approaches it with a military man’s perspective. Morally rigid, can-do, stoic, fight forward, fight forward, fight forward, don’t look back. Unfortunately he realises that the terrain is more complicated than even the war in which he was fighting. So he has to learn how to live in Gotham and get things done. Cutting deals educating himself perhaps making decisions that morally are dubious in order to get the kind of positive change that he wants.
Question – This is the back story that’s in your head? they haven’t said do that?
B.McK. – Well we talked about it and it’s set up in the pilot. Harvey Bullock leaves Essen’s office after basically trying to get rid of the kid and says “Oh your a war hero and your daddy was a big D.A. and I can’t get rid of you”. We don’t dwell on it. Hopefully we won’t do flashbacks just because they’re clunky. But that’s the approach, he was raised that way from the beginning because his father was a revered D.A. and a noble man. Perhaps not quite as noble as Jim thinks he was. So he’s always prided himself on this morally rigid stance and yet he’ll learn that perhaps he’ll have to be a little more flexible in Gotham.
Question – Are there any more parallels between Gordon and Alfred. They’re both military men Alfred was in the Marines, Gordon was in the Army. Do you see any other parallels between them?
B.McK. -There are. The parallels are their approach to life, perhaps being a bit stoic about it. At the same time Alfred has receded from the battle lines he’s not working on the ground level in law enforcement and his charge is to take care of Bruce. But his school of parenting is a bit…unusual let’s say and Jim’s is actually oddly a bit softer. He’s probably actually trying to talk to the boy and get him to understand things on a deeper emotional level. Whereas Alfred is probably coming from an older set where children are supposed to be managed and taught things, seen and not heard. Drilled a bit sort of like you would drill soldiers as he fences around Wayne Manor with him. So it’s a fun relationship and they are essentially battling over Bruce’s soul.
Gotham TV Podcast Question – Your partner Harvey Bullock has gone path of least resistance. Now you’re that block in the way how does that develop over the season. That tense relationship where you’re trying to drag him out of the mire but he’s trying to drag you in?
B.McK. – Yeah we end up sinking both back into it in a way. Pull out and fall back in and of course I’m hiding the secret from Harvey that I’ve not actually killed Oswald and that will come back and create yet another layer of tension between the partnership. It’s a complicated relationship that will only become more so. But they do at the end of the day teach each other things. Begrudgingly they learn from each other.
Question – Can they trust each other?
B.McK. – Eventually? Probably. (Laughs) but not now.