Ben McKenzie Interview About Gotham
Will Ben McKenzie Grow a Mustache For Gotham? And 7 Other Things the Fall TV Star Spilled
Ben McKenzie has gone from The O.C. to Southland to a fictionalized city riddled with crime on Fox's upcoming drama, Gotham. He's playing a young version of Detective Jim Gordon, years before the famous character becomes Gotham City's Commissioner and Batman's right-hand man. McKenzie recently hopped on the phone to chat with journalists about the show's upcoming villains, his concern about embarrassing himself with this part, and his strange connection to his onscreen partner, played by Donal Logue. Also, in case you were wondering, he totally can grow Gordon's signature mustache, but that doesn't mean he will. Here's what we learned!
1. The part of young Jim Gordon was written with him in mind.
"I worked with Bruno [Heller, the creator] on a pilot last year when Southland was ending, and it didn't go to series. He called me this year in January or February and said, 'I have a script that I've written, I'd like to send it to you, and I wrote the part of Jim Gordon with you in mind.' It's exciting to be a part of this mythology that's been around for 75 years, but it's also a bit daunting. It was both an attraction and a cause for a series of meetings about how exactly this would work, and how we wouldn't screw it up, and how I wouldn't embarrass myself. They more or less assured me that, worst case scenario, it would only mildly fail. It wouldn't be a huge disaster. I'm a fan of Batman, but not a hardcore fan."
2. He's not growing Gordon's signature mustache quite yet.
"When the news hit the Internet about my casting, all anyone wanted to talk about was whether I would have a mustache or not. I brought it up with Bruno and he said, 'No, that would look ridiculous on you.' Gotham takes place 20 years before Jim grows into the maturity and wisdom that it takes to support a mustache. Maybe 20 years from now, the mustache will feel earned. I can grow it, for the record. If you think that I can't, you should watch Junebug. I'm not afraid of the mustache, I just don't feel it's appropriate for my age."
3. This season's bad guy is actually the "sweetest villain" he's ever worked with.
"Robin Taylor [Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin] is a phenomenally talented guy and an incredibly nice person. The scene where I'm walking him to the end of the pier in the pilot, we had to do take after take. I was grabbing him by the shirt collar roughly and after four hours of this, he very politely said, 'Could you possibly get the collar a little more?' He opened up his shirt and his chest was just bright red. He's the sweetest villain I've ever worked with. His charm comes through on screen [and] even though he's playing a demented guy, you almost end up rooting for this weaselly henchman."
4. Yes, he does have a favorite villain.
"Because he's front and center in the pilot, I'm really excited for people to see what Robin is doing with Penguin. I have a weird soft spot for Nigma. I've always liked The Riddler; I find him fascinating. And Scarecrow, obviously. There has been no talk thus far of the non-human villains. I think we'll start with the humans and branch out from there. But it's early days, we're only eight episodes into shooting. Hopefully we've got a long way to go and we can bring those people — or non-people — in."
5. He's not afraid to do more stunts, despite his recent injury.
"Stunts are a big part of the show. I try to handle as much as I can. That being said, the world we're operating in is more swift and brutal than it is operatic. If Jim gets in a fight, he wants to take out anyone as swiftly and efficiently as possible. He's an old-school hero and he's completely fallible. Each passing episode, the fight scenes get more and more complicated."
6. He has a weird connection to his costar.
"Donal [Logue, who plays Detective Harvey Bullock] and I had never met before, but there were a lot of two degrees of connection between us. His sister was on an episode of Southland. She played a hooker and I had her by the throat in an alley in crappy downtown L.A. From the moment we were both announced, Donal and I reached out to each other and said, 'We gotta make this good.' We are relying a little bit on the old conceit of being a mismatched pair of cops. We have to find a way to do that that feels authentic and endearing."
7. He's impressed by Jada Pinkett Smith, too.
"There are a lot of of powerful characters in Gotham and I think what is kind of great about Gotham is that we can portray a society that is similar to ours, but in which there is no understanding of racism or sexism. It's all just whoever is battling for power in this city that has completely fallen. Fish Mooney [Smith] is really good at it. She's an enforcer for Carmine [John Doman] and she's really tough. She's really smart and she uses her sex appeal to get what she wants. Jada just kills it. She's just really strong, powerful, interesting, and funny at times."
8. Being on Southland gave him plenty of practice to play a cop.
"The overall similarity is in the mentality of law enforcement officers. The sense of wanting to uphold morality and make sure that the laws are enforced whenever possible. We want to keep the sense of realism, but at the same time, it is fantastical. It's meant to be more approachable in the sense that it's not so starkly drawn. Southland was so real that it could, at times, be frightening. In Gotham, we want to have a little bit more fun with it."