“Maybe 20 years from now the moustache will feel earned”
The one- time voice of Batman moves to Gotham to give Gordon a new face
The name James Gordon should be as familiar as your own if you’ve spent quality time in any era of Batman mythology. Usually addressed as Commissioner, the veteran of the Gotham City Police Department has earned his place as the Dark Knight’s brother- in- arms. He’s one of the last good guys in Gotham, utterly incorruptible and Batman’s lone, trusted connection to police resources. Gordon’s usually seen as a classic middle- aged man, broken down by years of fighting foes both internal and external. But TV prequel Gotham takes us into largely uncharted territory. The new show portrays James Gordon as a much younger man, a recent military vet who takes a detective position in the troubled GCPD. Actor Ben McKenzie puts his own spin on the beloved character, retaining his idealism but also letting his inexperience and flaws expose new facets of the man. SFX met with him to get the lowdown on this new, surprising Gordon… How does one get cast as Commissioner Gordon?
Last year Bruno [ Heller, executive producer] and I did a pilot for CBS/ WB that didn’t go to series. He called me earlier this year and said he had written the part of Jim Gordon with me in mind. Bruno and I like working together and we have a good shorthand. It’s both exciting to be a part of this kind of mythology that’s been around for 75 years, but it’s also a bit daunting. In what way?
It was both an attraction and a cause for a series of meetings to talk about how exactly this would work and how we wouldn’t screw it up and how I wouldn’t embarrass myself completely. Bruno and [ executive producer] Danny Cannon more or less assured me that worst case it would only mildly fail. It wouldn’t be a huge disaster, so that was pretty much how it all came to be. [ Laughs] Who is your favorite Batman villain?
I have a soft spot in my heart for Nygma; I’ve
“It’s exciting and daunting to be part of a 75- year mythology”
always liked The Riddler. I know that is a very unorthodox choice. A lot of people hate The Riddler, but I find him fascinating. Gordon and his Gotham PD partner Harvey Bullock ( Donal Logue) carry a lot of the show on their shoulders. How did you and Donal hit it off ?
There was a real easy connection we realised very early on. We reached out to each other and said we’ve got to make this as good as we can because it’s going to live or die, at least in the pilot, in large measure to whether we like these two guys individually and together. Whether we like this partnership. At the end of the day, we are relying a bit on that old cop conceit, a mismatched pair of cops, and finding a way of doing that that feels authentic, and is endearing and is interesting to watch. So, with him it was easy. We get to see the first meeting of Gordon and a young Bruce Wayne. How would you categorize their relationship?
He meets Bruce when Jim and Harvey are charged with investigating the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne. He bonds with Bruce because Jim lost his father when he was Bruce’s age. They form a bond immediately and have a father/ son relationship of sorts. How is it working with a young actor like David Mazouz?
David is a really terrific actor, he really is. He listens, which is an incredibly hard thing to teach anyone, and it’s something that I struggle with now. Any actor struggles with it. It’s the hardest thing to do on camera, I think. He’s more calm than I am, I’m kind of blown away sometimes. [ Laughs] Did Batman: Year One influence your work in Gotham?
I’d like to think so. I’ve always been a fan of Year One, even before I did the voice of Bruce/ Batman for it. And so it was an opportunity to reread it as an adult and look more closely at it in terms of how to interpret it on screen, albeit just with my voice, not my body. I would say it certainly pulled me in a little bit closer. Jim is battling Gotham’s villains but also his own department. How does he create a circle of trust? Some of the first season is Jim figuring out which cops in the department he can trust, and which ones he can’t, and there’s some surprising twists and turns in those relationships. Some people that you would think would be his enemies are actually kindred spirits, and he needs to assemble a team, going
forward, that he can actually use to bring justice. Gordon usually sports a fetching moustache. Where’s yours?
We literally never talked about it and then I brought it up with [ Bruno] and he goes, “No, that would look ridiculous on you. We’re not doing that.” It’s 20 years before Jim can grow into the maturity and wisdom that it takes to sport a moustache. Maybe 20 years from now
the moustache will feel earned.