Under Cover Of Night – ‘Gotham’ Panel – Live From Heroes & Villains Fan Fest In London

Article by Adam Ray

The second annual Heroes and Villains Fan Fest has come and gone, and this year’s event was an even greater success than its predecessor. The way the hall was managed, creating a much larger theatre for the panels to be heard, and with stars completely new to the whole convention attending, the excitement for everyone there was raised to new heights.
For Bat fans like us, the Gotham Panel was the place to be, and I couldn’t wait to hear what five of the show’s best had to say for themselves.

Heroes & Villains London 2018 – Gotham Panel

Moderator: How excited are we for this one? I love these guys. This is my favourite group of people to hang out with. So we’re gonna go ahead and start bringing them out. We’ve got: Drew Powell, Robin Lord Taylor, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, and the first time gracing our Heroes and Villains stage, please give a very warm welcome to Cory Michael Smith as well. Hi boys! Come on down!
Drew Powell: Yo! What’s up, London!
Mod: We are so not worthy of this, lemme tell ya.
DP: Wow
Mod: We always have so much fun up here. It’s really bright, sorry about that.
DP: Everybody just disappeared.
Mod: So, first of all, season four; we’re all exhausted. That was a very physical season. Robin and I talked about this a couple of weeks ago. Very physical season for all of you. How do you guys prepare yourselves for all of that?
Cory Michael Smith: Oh, I think Drew should take this one away! This guy’s been working his butt off this year.
DP: So, you may or may not know that, as actors, we’re usually the last to know about anything. I knew about Grundy, but we didn’t know about how it was gonna take place. So with about seven weeks to shooting, John Stephens, the head writer there was: “So listen, the scene is you’re coming out of the swamp naked.” And I said: “Wait, it sounded like you said naked, I’m pretty sure that’s not true.” He’s like: “Well, naked for FOX.” So I immediately called a trainer, the best motivator you’ll ever have. It was important for me because it’s not a C.G.I. thing, we can’t get a silicone suit, like Hellboy or whatever. This was gonna be the Gotham real version. I worked as hard as I could. The working out part isn’t hard, it’s the not eating part, that’s the hardest. Still is. I don’t do very well at that part. It was really good for me to kinda work from the outside in on this one, because it’s usually the opposite.
Mod: How about the rest of you guys? You two (pointing at Sean Pertwee and David Mazouz) had some scenes.
David Mazouz: Yeah, we had a fight.
Sean Pertwee: And I won. Try that again.
DM: That’s subjective. Actually… nah, you won.
SP: I did win. And you were quite beastly. I demand a rise.
DM: When I first read it, I was excited, because I hadn’t really, as Bruce, got to fight Sean before. But then once we actually started shooting it, I didn’t like that scene. Also, at the same time it was a one and a half page fight scene, after a one and a half page really deep emotional scene with a lot of monologues. It was a lot to remember and a lot to perfect in a short period of time.
SP: It was the emotional build up to a sort of to something like that. I think we’ve all been there with father/son relationships and it reaches an ugly head sometimes. When it does actually reduce to physicality, it can be an emotional thing for both parties. Now I’ve spent more time with this young gentleman than I have done with my own son for the last four years. So it wasn’t an easy thing to do, but it’s that rite of passage thing where you push someone so far and you hurt someone. But I’ve got to say this huge thank you to the outpouring of affection from the fan base from the DC world who actually liked Alfred and felt sorry for him, so thank you very much.

Gripping Issues

Mod: So Robin, your role is extremely physical because of how you have to walk, and obviously when we see you, you don’t walk like that. Is that a stress on you, to do that quite often.
Robin Lord Taylor: It’s not fun, you know. And I really do feel it in my knees after twenty two episodes a year. But again, it’s such an amazing character trait for him, and we’ve said before, any time we can bring something classic about these characters into our show, then you really feel like you’re a part of pop culture history in a way. And really, it’s amazing.
Mod: So one of the things that we love between these shows is the amount of cosplay that we have here, and obviously with the story of Batman and all of these different canon characters. When you see someone cosplay as your particular representation of that character, does that freak you out a little bit?
CMS: No! It’s awesome!
DP: So awesome
CMS: So awesome. Yes. We have a little mini Ed right here (pointing into the crowd). I have to say every time I see, whether they’re dressing like my character, or dressing in the spirit of The Riddler, it makes me burst. I just think it’s so cool. Because it’s such a privilege to play this role. And I think I can speak for all of us, it’s such a privilege to play these roles, and to participate in this mythology. We feel like there’s an ownership, so when there’s a celebration of the character, I never get over it, it’s awesome.
DP: I’m amazed that the majority of people cosplaying as Grundy have been female, and I think that’s awesome.
Mod: So, Cory, for you, what was it like the first time you put on that green suit? I know what it was like for me watching it on television, it was incredible.
CMS: It was very generous what they did, they started putting me in suits that got slowly greener and greener.
DP: And smaller.
CMS: And I went to a fitting one day, and there was a glittery green fabric, and I was like “Oh what is that, for like a commercial? Surely that’s not gonna be what I actually wear?” “No, that’s the endgame, that’s where we’re going.” and I was like “This is awesome”, because in our show, we have these gorgeous costumes, but they’re often muted colours. It was around season three and into season four before they started leaning into jewel tones. Then they gave me a glittery green suit and it just really works, and they started using more jewel tones after this. But when I first put it on, I was like: “Well this is obnoxious… I love it!”
Mod: Perfect.
DP: That’s what people say about me!

Riddle Me This?

Mod: So, we’ve got two microphones if people want to line up for questions.
Fan: Hi, two things really. First of all, one of my favourite bits of the season, Sean, can you just say the word “Undercrackers” again?
SP: Undercrackers. That certainly raised a few eyebrows on set.
DP: Hey, can we give it up for my man, Sean, for representing y’all in a major way. He’s holding it down for all of England.
CMS: And a bit of trivia, all these weird little Alfred-isms, just come out of Sean’s mouth willy-nilly! And the writers just kind of write in placeholders, and Sean can go on a monologue saying shit like “Umber crackers” or whatever.
SP: It all started as a way to freak David out. I used to sort of say “Shut up, you muppet – you plank” then I’d say “Do you know what I just said to you?” And he said, “No, but Bruce would!”
Fan: And my other thing was, I’d love to see an Alfred prequel, but for the rest of you guys, what would that look like?
CMS: Well, Robin and I always joked about doing an odd couple situation between the two of us. Especially after season two, it just felt like it needed to be there.
RLT: I was asked recently, if I could pitch any storyline, what would I pitch? And it was definitely Riddler and Penguin become Broadway producers and they create a whole show, and that’s how we have our musical episode, which would be amazing. I don’t know if you know, Cory is an amazing musician.
Fan: So my question is for you Drew, and Robin. What was it like working with Fish Mooney in season one, and is there gonna be a return of Fish Mooney at any point?
RLT: Anything’s possible in Gotham. It was amazing. Jada is such a professional, but so down to earth, she’s approachable. All the things you want in a scene partner. Drew and I, our very first day on the entire series was together, looking at each other in a rainy alley, and Jada Pinkett Smith is standing right there, and we’re like “…Hi.”
DP: Also she’s beating the crap out of that dude too. That was actually as I was coming into season one, was the only real ‘X’ factor. I knew I was gonna work with her a lot and she was probably the most famous person of the crew. It was such a pleasure to work with her. Will came to the set one time. They were very lovey-dovey. Lots of p.d.a. One of my favourite scenes was right at the end of season one with Robin, Jada, and I on the rooftop. I’ll never forget that.
Fan: My question is for Robin and Cory. As a viewer, I feel so much sympathy for Oswald and Edward, but I don’t for other villains like Jerome, and I was wondering why you think that is, and what makes them different from villains on other shows like Arrow?
DP: That’s a great question.
CMS: We were blessed with spending time with our characters before they became villains. Before their world was rocked in such a way that they had to fight back, or that they were so mentally scarred, that the only way they felt they could protect themselves was to hurt other people, which is a real tragedy, because that’s not the answer. Their life happened in such a way that they saw no other escape. I think because we spent some time with these people and got to know them as well-intentioned people just trying to get by and do their jobs, you kind of fall for these people then see them devolve into these terrible, delicious villains. Ideally what we’re going for is this tug of war of: I like this person, but they’re just so mean, but I like how mean they are – it feels wrong and it feels right. I just wanna eat them!
DP: I also think there’s a difference between playing a villain and playing an anti-hero. I’m always more interested in anti-heroes, because there’s more to play. But there’s a lot to be said for someone who comes in guns blazing like Jerome, and it’s just pure evil. I think that doesn’t last over seasons of television, it works over a shorter spurt. And it’s also what Cory said; it’s an evolution.
SP: Everybody in the show has the propensity to be vicious and vile, horrendous. It’s not some decision they make in the morning, to put on an evil hat and go murder someone. They’re pushed, they change. And we’ve been blessed because we’ve been given eighty eight hours of screen time to subtextualise our characters. So you’ve seen these and everyone, Bruce included, myself. Any one of our characters has the propensity to be violent, to be good, and to be bad. And I think that’s been one of the things I’ve been most proud about our show.

Mantle of the Bat

Mod: Yeah, especially with David, when you went through your teenage angst period. I wanted to ground you so bad.
DP: Emo Bruce?
CMS: Brat-man!
DM: I’ve never heard that one.
Mod: So going through that period, how rough was that? You were partying and drinking and kissing girls. That was a pretty crazy time.
DM: It was really fun to shoot. Obviously. I went method for that one, I told my mom: “Y’know this weekend, all bets are off.” Honestly when we were shooting it, I thought people would understand like they understand Penguin and Riddler when they murder random innocent people for probably no reason. I thought they’d understand that Bruce just wants to go partying and be rude to Alfred a little bit, but no. A lot of fan reaction was they really really hated this Bruce. I understood why Bruce was going through this, I didn’t agree but I understood. And I think the reason for that was the way Bruce treated Alfred in those episodes. You can’t like a character that maliciously treats another character you really like. And Bruce was being a major butt hole to Alfred, so he deserved a spanking.

At Panel’s End

Fan: I was wondering, when you shoot a really hard, emotional scene. Is it hard to let go of that at the end of the day, when you get home?
RLT: My adrenaline usually goes, a lot. So when I come home, you would think I’m really exhausted, but I’m actually really hyper. It also depends on the scene, like what’s happening and who I’m working with. One of the most difficult scenes I ever shot was this year in the finale. That one still lingers with me. It’s hard to let go sometimes.
DP: Often times, we’ll finish a scene, and I’ll text with Robin and Cory at two in the morning, asking “You still up? We’re still up. With a bourbon. Trying to unwind.” Which is nice. The thing about this cast is we are abnormally close, and that’s what makes it special. We’re just random people, I don’t think any of us knew each other before this – at least not well. So for the last four seasons, we’ve had this incredible experience. It’s one none of us will forget.
CMS: If there’s a scale of what is emotionally disruptive to do, there’s a threshold, and if you pass that, it knocks you off balance. Whether that be for a day or a couple of days. Sometimes that lingers, and you just feel a little off.
SP: Also there’s the calibre of actors that are in our show. Sometimes when I get home and you feel like you’ve done your job, and that you’ve honoured the people you’re working with, that’s what takes me a little time to come down from. The people sitting next to me are some of the finest actors I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. When you feel like you can replicate that feeling that you’ve done your job, it’s a really cool feeling.
DP: I feel like this is an appropriate place to say extra kudos to our partners, moms, wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, who kinda have to deal with us when we come home. That’s a thing that people don’t really talk about very much, but that’s real. Especially at the end of a season, it’s been a long twenty two episodes and now we come back to the real world. I don’t think they get enough credit.

Born on a Monday

Mod: Do you have to leave the set in all the Grundy makeup?
DP: So the first day we shot with me all in that makeup, Cory and I were downtown in an alleyway. They got me a hotel room in Union Square, and they tarped the whole room down and I’m getting sprayed for hours. We get ready and get in the elevator, there’s a picture of that somewhere, the first Grundy in the elevator with the blue light. So we get to street level, and I say “Okay, people are gonna freak out.” Nobody looked twice… New York City!
CMS: So the first day with Grundy makeup. He and I worked, twelve or fourteen hours? So the first time he’s playing a big canon character, so not only was he worrying about a full day of scenes together, he’s creating a new character with a voice. He comes to me saying “Do I look okay? I don’t know what’s going on, you gotta help me out. I’m freaking out. Tell me if this is okay.” Because it’s a lot, when you take on a canon character, it’s really stressful. When you add on the makeup, being naked with a vest on, all these elements; and then this guy knocked it out the park. We had the best day.
Fan: What was the hardest scene to film?
RLT: The hardest thing for me is killing other characters, because these are actors and people, and we’ve all become family.
DP: That’s definitely the hardest. On either end.
CMS: For me, the hardest stuff has been because of being out in the elements. We film all summer, all fall, all winter, into the spring. It gets incredibly hot and incredibly cold, and we don’t get to put on coats or change our costumes at all. You are in that three piece suit all year long, darling. We’ve had scenes out on that damn pier and all of that rain just happened. The wind, was absolutely natural. It’s cold!
SP: Sometimes it’s the physicality of it. You rehearse something and we’ve got wonderful stunt coordinators, but they let us do a lot of our own work. And it’s just the repetition. I used to bounce a lot, when I was younger, and I do a lot of my own fights, but it’s the repetition of doing the same fight again and again, that you’re running on adrenaline, but when you get home, boy, do you hurt.
DM: Sean did this one fight with Tabitha in season two, you were wearing a three piece suit. It was a really long fight scene, looking at the script. It just kept going, flipping the page like ‘this is still the same fight?’ I was shocked, but he was telling me how long they worked into the night, and how hot it was, and how he had sweat in places he didn’t even know you could have sweat.
SP: I got so hot that I actually had a toys out the pram moment and started shouting at my costume.
DM: I would say for me that the hardest scene I had to do was stabbing Alfred in season three.
Mod: Alright, as always, we love having you here. Thank you guys so much.

Parting Thoughts

It was a great panel. Seeing these actors out of character and as themselves really grounds them for us. They are people and not just pop culture icons. A Bat fan will arrive at a convention like this, and feel incredibly star struck. Seeing all of them together as themselves reminds us how good the quality of acting is and how lucky we are to have a show like Gotham.
(This article was originally published on the Dark Knight News website on May 31st 2018)


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