‘Gotham’ Star Breaks Down the “Birth of The Riddler” and Setbacks Ahead

March 21, 2016 6:00pm PT by Graeme McMillan

"Someone has to go to jail, and it's not going to be Ed," Cory Michael Smith tells THR of the elaborate scheme behind Monday's episode. Nicole Rivelli/FOX

“Someone has to go to jail, and it’s not going to be Ed,” Cory Michael Smith tells THR of the elaborate scheme behind Monday’s episode.

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Monday’s episode of Gotham, “Mad Grey Dawn.”]

Never mess with a forensic scientist. The latest episode of Gotham showed just how far Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) would go to keep himself from being revealed as the man who killed GCPD records keeper Kristen Kringle earlier this season. Edward wentt to all the trouble of creating an elaborate series of crimes and threats designed to frame Jim Gordon (Benjamin McKenzie) for a murder he didn’t commit.

As Gordon goes to jail, THR talked to Smith about what it’s like to go from mild-mannered scientist to criminal mastermind — and whether Ed could ever find his way back.

Congratulations. After two seasons, you turned out to be the guy who finally manages to get Gordon out, and on your first major outing as a bad guy.

Yeah, I go directly for the jugular. I had to take him out.

I was surprised by how playful Ed’s plan was. After all, his “evil” side has previously seemed… well, more evil.

We started off his criminal behavior by being a bit violent and grotesque, which certainly is in the comic books, but I think the Riddler most people love is the one that makes games and puzzles and traps. I was very happy when I first read the script, because he’s creating quite a complex set-up to trap James Gordon and frame him. But I like this color of the Riddler. I think it’s what sets him apart from other villains.

Despite all the games, he’s still very focused in what he does, though. For all the elaborate scheming, his aim is clear: frame Gordon for the murder and make sure that he can’t expose Ed for the death of Kristen.

Well, someone has to go to jail, and it’s not going to be Ed. It can’t be Ed. Even with Kristen’s death being an accident, it’s still homicide, and he knows he’s going to go to jail [if he was caught]. He just doesn’t want to. He’s certainly sorry, but this has ignited something in him, and he’s not quite figured out what he’s going to do.

And, frankly, Jim has never been genuinely nice to him, the friend that Ed has wanted him to be, or the friend that Ed has tried to be for him. Ed’s now in this place where he knows that he doesn’t want to go to jail, so, basically, he has to take Jim down.

That sounds so clear-cut. It reminds me of the scene in this episode where the reformed Oswald shows up, and Ed essentially brushes him off, because he doesn’t have any use for him anymore. Is that fair? Is Ed that much of a sociopath?

That scene with Oswald is difficult because he’s a person that [Ed] has admired and looked up to so much, and now he’s unidentifiable. He’s completely changed, and it’s really quite depressing. He was a model for me, I was striving to be like him, but something bad has happened to him.

I do qualify him as a sociopath. As he said to Oswald to break him out of his reverie about his mother, we’re all alone in this. Everyone is meant to take care of themselves. That’s kind of his outlook, you know?

Now that he seems to have gotten away with Kristen’s death, do you think Ed is going to go back to being the lab tech for the Gotham PD? Can he stop what he’s started? Outwitting the entire Gotham City Police Department and putting the man he was most afraid of in jail is a pretty great note to go out on.

I think that the fact that this goes off as planned is so cool. (Laughs.) It’s really interesting, and the fact that it comes off is really a vote of confidence in himself, you know? I think he wants to stick around and enjoy how people respond to Jim Gordon being in jail, to make sure that he’s covered all of his tracks — I think he wants to see everyone try and figure it out, and fail. He wants to relish that.

He has to figure out what he wants to do. He’s embraced the idea of being a criminal — and also, this episode shows that he doesn’t understand that he’s exploring his trademark yet. It’s not like he’s decided, ‘Oh, I am the Riddler, I’m going to be famous for puzzles and I’m going to use a question mark as my calling card.’ It just kind of happens. It’s the birth of the Riddler, and he doesn’t know it yet. This is an exciting moment where he’s like, “I’m really good at this!”

For almost all of Gotham‘s first year, Ed was this amazingly meek character who was, let’s be honest, treated kind of terribly by his co-workers. Going from that version of the character to the one we saw this week had to have been fun.

Oh, certainly. I think there’s a lot more confidence in him, which we’ll be exploring more going into next season. He was very lost before, and then he got the confidence of, ‘Oh, someone’s attracted to me.’ That was huge for him, and now that he has this faith in himself and his abilities even beyond that. There’s a version of the Riddler where he’s a showman, he’s a villain who really enjoys the intricacies of his games, and of his presentation. I think we’re starting to explore that flavor of him: the trickster.

Is that where you want to take him? In the comics, the Riddler has been a trickster, a psychopath, a lighthearted criminal who seems to care more about the puzzles than the crimes, there are so many ways he could develop.

I love this character so much. As I read the comic books, as I was researching the role, I saw that he’s been all those things and more, and I think that, depending on what his job may be — as the season goes on he suffers some setbacks — but when he gets back on his feet, he has to make some choices about how to make money and whatnot.

I really like the guy who’s creating puzzles and kind of mocking people. The more fun, spirited Riddler rather than the homicidal, murderous one. That’s a color that’s in our show a lot. As he embraces his talents, I think it adds an extra layer of fun to the show.

Is this some latent puzzler instinct in you coming out, when you say that?

I’m not really into puzzles. I don’t have, like, a giant puzzle I pull out at home or anything. I said to Bruno [Heller, Gotham showrunner], “I love this episode so much. It’s so smart and so interesting. And you guys did the hard work of working it all out. I just showed up and performed.”

Will the Riddler bring more fun into the show as he continues to explore his particularly playful flavor of villainy? Leave your comments below. Gotham airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.


Graeme McMillan

Graeme McMillan


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‘Gotham’: Who Is Matches Malone?

March 14, 2016 6:00pm PT by Graeme McMillan

Inside the comic book past of the most important man in Bruce Wayne's televisual life Courtesy of FOX

Inside the comic book past of the most important man in Bruce Wayne’s televisual life

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Monday’s episode of Gotham, “This Ball of Mud and Meanness.”]

Who is Matches Malone?

For those who saw Monday’s episode of Gotham, he’s a professional assassin who certainly seems to have killed Bruce Wayne’s parents — or, at least, certainly wanted to give the impression that he did. To fans of Batman’s comic book adventures, however, neither of those facts are true. Indeed, not only did Matches not kill Bruce Wayne’s parents in comic book lore, but he has a secret identity all of his own: Bruce Wayne himself.

Matches first appeared in 1972’s Batman No. 242, created by writer Dennis O’Neill and artist Irv Novick. The comic book Matches was far from the haunted killer in Gotham. Instead, he was a small-time criminal who had a reputation for defusing conflict between mob bosses. He was also especially unlucky; during a confrontation with Batman, his gun went off accidentally, killing him immediately. But that, surprisingly, was just the beginning of Matches Malone’s career.

While the “real” Matches was dead, Batman assumed his identity as a means of infiltrating the underworld. Not only the world’s greatest detective, Batman was also such a good gimmick that he could mimic Matches’ look, voice and mannerisms so well that no one could tell that he wasn’t the real thing. It was as a fake identity for the Dark Knight that Matches made the majority of his irregular comic book appearances, from the 1970s all the way through to the 2012’s Batman, Incorporated No. 3.

Of course, that there had been a real Matches at some point would allow for the fact that he had killed the Waynes to be true, if it wasn’t for the existence of Joe Chill — the real comic book killer behind the origin of Batman.

The mugger that killed the Waynes in Batman’s comic book mythology — the original version of the story favored a random mugging over Gotham‘s hit man theory, at least to begin with — made his debut in 1939’s Detective Comics No. 33, but didn’t get a name until nine years later, when Batman No. 47 showed Bruce Wayne solving his parents’ murder and confronting Chill by unmasking and declaring, melodramatically, “I am the son of the man you murdered! I am Bruce Wayne!!”

Chill’s status has changed many times across the years: he has been a mugger, a hit man hired by a mob boss sick of the Waynes’ influence on society, an assassin who teamed with Batman to deal with a second vigilante in Gotham City, and even a low-level crime boss who murdered the Waynes as part of his rise to prominence.

For a brief period, he was even written out of the comic book mythology altogether — it was decided that Batman worked better if his quest to bring his parents’ killer to justice never ended — but in today’s version of events, he’s an alcoholic who killed the Waynes for the money to buy booze. It’s not the happiest version of events, but one arguably in keeping with Gotham‘s outlook on the world.

Following the events of “This Ball of Mud and Meanness,” it certainly seems as if the televisual Bruce Wayne has ended his quest to find his parents’ killer, but questions remain: Was Malone (Michael Bowen) telling the truth about remembering killing the Waynes, or just telling Bruce what he wanted to hear? And if he was, who hired him to kill the Waynes in the first place? As with everything else on the show, there’s a lot to unpick in order to find the truth, but one fact should be remembered while searching — Gotham hasn’t introduced a Joe Chill into the show just yet.

Gotham airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.


Graeme McMillan

Graeme McMillan


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‘Gotham’ Star Dissects Mr. Freeze’s Heartbreak: He’s Ready to Cause a Lot of Pain

March 07, 2016 6:00pm PT by Graeme McMillan

"I suspect he's trying to discover if he can feel anything inside, only to find that it's not there," actor Nathan Darrow tells THR. Jessica Miglio/FOX

“I suspect he’s trying to discover if he can feel anything inside, only to find that it’s not there,” actor Nathan Darrow tells THR.

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Monday’s episode of Gotham, “A Dead Man Feels No Cold.”]

Things are getting chilly in Gotham. After two weeks of attempting to perfect a method to cryogenically preserve his dying wife Nora, the best-laid plans of scientist Victor Fries (Nathan Darrow) were put on ice when Nora herself (Kristen Hager) sabotaged his scheme in an attempt to save him from future heartbreak. Unfortunately, that led him to attempt suicide… only to wake up alive, but transformed, in the basement of Arkham Asylum under the watchful eye of B.D. Wong’s Hugo Strange.

The Hollywood Reporter talked to Darrow, also known for his role on House of Cards, about the Victor Fries that was, and the Mr. Freeze that’s taken his place.

Gotham has played with many of the big-name Batman villains before now — the Penguin, Catwoman, the Riddler — but Mr. Freeze is a little more obscure. Were you familiar with him before you got the role? Did you grow up reading the character?

I had a brief flirtation with being a comic book reader when I was younger. A kid a little bit older than me moved onto my street when I was 9, and he was crazy about comic books. So I kind of got into it because of that, but it was too expensive for me! So, no, I had no knowledge of this character.

In that case, what was it about Victor that made him a character you wanted to play? Even for Gotham, he’s a particularly tragic figure.

I found him to have a creativity and a drive and a real interest in what he was doing in terms of his work. I thought he had a pure interest in science, while still using it as a method to save his wife. I thought that was really interesting.

I also was very drawn to the relationship with Nora. I imagined Victor as a person who was more socially isolated, and had been all of his life, but his relationship with her was his singular attachment to another human being. When that was threatened, what would that mean? And then, of course, what does it mean now that attachment has been totally severed?

The fact that he was, up to the end of this episode, driven by the need to save his wife, made Victor a sympathetic figure even as he was murdering chemists and cops. Did the noble, if doomed, quest make it easier for you to play the role?

I mean, it’s always easier in acting when you can find specific reasons for doing what the character does in the story. I guess, if those things are sympathetic or what we’d consider positive, it’s easier because you know the audience is going to understand and relate to you, but what really helps is when the reasons are specific and clear to you as an actor. If it’s clear from the script, and in this case it really was. That makes it seem believable.

You said that Nora was Victor’s “singular attachment to another human being,” and he was clearly going to great lengths to save her. But what made her so special to him?

I think that part of what the relationship does for Victor is that it calms a lot of his impulses, that are — I don’t know what you’d call them. Anti-social, maybe? I did some research into the character, and there are many, many different back stories for him out there, and I found them all interesting. It was nice to be able to pick the parts that worked for me and put them together with what was written in Gotham.

One of them concentrated on his father, and how isolated he was from his father, and how he never felt good enough. The idea that he poured himself into science as a means to occupying himself so that he doesn’t need human contact — and then he meets Nora, and you have this really intense relationship that allows Victor to live this relatively normal human life that doesn’t necessarily have to deal with the kind of trauma that he’d had.

And now the only contact he has with humanity is Hugo Strange.

I don’t know where Strange is going, to be honest. He’s very complex. I don’t know if he’s just unsatisfied with his power, or if he has some kind of greater mission in mind, but Freeze can certainly become a useful tool of his.

Monday’s episode ended with Victor waking up after what he’d assumed was a suicide attempt. With Nora gone, who do you think he’s going to become? He didn’t seem to immediately embrace the villainous role.

I think a lot of his anger, his disappointment and what might be this anti-social stuff that has been in him for a long time, all of this had been kept in through his relationship with Nora and now that’s over. He’s probably ready to cause a lot of pain — and maybe feel a lot of pain, if he can feel anything. I suspect he’s trying to discover if he can feel anything inside, only to find that it’s not there. It’s a really interesting place for him to be.

A lot of people attempt suicide and fail, and wake up back in the life they thought they were leaving behind. Something stranger has happened with Victor — you could even think of it as an alternate reality from his point of view. I think at the point he’s at, he’s asking, “What happened to me? Am I dead? Am I in hell right now?”

Arkham Asylum has been called many things, but is it going to turn into Victor’s personal sub-zero hell? Leave your comments below. Gotham airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.


Graeme McMillan

Graeme McMillan


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