Ahead of the network's official upfront presentation next week, Fox announced that the highly-anticipated Batman prequel drama Gotham was given a series order, with the first trailer debuting later that same day. The first footage included brief glimpses of Robin Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot (a.k.a. The Penguin), Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle (a.k.a. Catwoman), Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma (a.k.a. The Riddler) and Clare Foley as Ivy Pepper (a.k.a. Poison Ivy), who were previously announced as cast members. But one major villain hasn't been mentioned as a part of the series, The Joker. Entertainment Weekly recently caught up with series creator/executive producer Bruno Heller, who confirms that this iconic villain will pop up in the show at some point.
"He's the crown jewel of the Batman villains. He will be brought in with great care and a lot of thought."
Since Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight is so iconic, some fans think it may be too soon to bring The Joker back. Here's what he had to say about how his Joker will be handled.
"I've written scenes for Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony and Cleopatra. So while that is a serious and valid note, you can't get into doing this without going there. That was a wonderful performance and - apart from everything else - wonderful make-up. And we should try to live up to that. It will be a different character. It's certainly going to be more Heath Ledger than Cesar Romero. But like I say, all of these people are real people with feelings and emotions and history and parents. I just build from that."
When asked what other villains fans might see, the executive producer also teased Harvey Dent, while revealing that other characters will be introduced that may later turn into some of the more well known iconic villains.
"Obviously, the Penguin, Riddler, young Catwoman, Alfred. Possibly Harvey Dent. Poison Ivy. Um ... and then there will be others, but I hate to - I'm so used to doing a police procedural, so I'm used to telling, 'Next week he's going to go there.' With this, it's very much storytelling. So I would be remiss to tell you who will show up when. I will say we're not going to skimp on giving people the characters they want and expect from Gotham. But when and how they're going to show up is half the fun. Penguin is one of those guys that, as soon as you see him, you go, 'Oh, that's the Penguin.' It would be hard to disguise him as somebody else. Because we're starting way before these villains even themselves knew they were villains. Some of them started out as good guys. So there will be a lot of that."
When asked about the inevitable comparisons to Christopher Nolan's theatrical Batman franchise, and the pressure that may create, the creator had this to say.
"I'm not at all concerned. Actually I would [pauses ... considers] - yeah, in that area, I would say in terms of what [director and executive producer Danny Cannon and director of photography David Stockton] are doing - visually - Gotham will surpass the Batman movies. The movies are a very rigorous, kind of Germanic take on that world. They're visually stunning, but not particularly visually pleasurable. I would say this is much more on the street level of Gotham. There's more people, it's a more colorful place, it's a more vivid place, it's more crowded. The inspiration for me and Danny was New York in the '70s, because we both remember that as a seminal moment, coming to the city for the first time. This is very much that kind of Gotham - intensely visual and three-dimensional and layered and gritty and dirty and sexy and dangerous. From that point of view - and it's easy for me to say, I just have to write the thing, Danny and David have to visualize it - but I think you'll see it's fabulous."
The series takes place when Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) is just a young boy, centering on his relationship with James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and James' partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), as they investigate the death of Bruce's parents. Bruno Heller revealed that his first involvement in the series sprung from a meeting with Warner Bros. executives, who had the same sort of idea that he had envisioned about a Batman prequel series.
"I sat with [Warner Bros. President and COO Peter Roth and Warner Bros. TV development chief Susan Rovner] about what to do next. I've been talking to Geoff Johns at DC for a few years about wanting to do something in the DC canon. I came in to pitch the idea that we're doing, essentially, and they came to pitch me the same thing. The nut of the idea was: What if young James Gordon was the detective who investigated the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents? And once you make that connection, it opened up a whole world of storytelling that we realized hadn't really been looked at before, which is the world before Batman - the world of Gotham, young Bruce Wayne, and young James Gordon and the origin stories of the villains."
When asked if this show appealed to Warner Bros. because Batman is not technically in the series, meaning it would not have to cross over to their cinematic universe, Bruno Heller claims that he was always more intrigued by the city of Gotham, than Batman himself, stating that he would have declined a straight-up Batman series.
"Certainly from Warner Bros. and DC's business point of view, that's why it can be done. For me, if they said, "Do Batman," I would have said, 'No.' I would have not been interested at all. I don't think Batman works very well on TV - to have people behind masks. Frankly, all those superhero stories I've seen, I always love them until they get into the costume. And then it's, 'Oh, okay, they've ascended, they've stopped becoming humans.' It's their apotheosis. They go to heaven and they're Superman. There have been so many great versions of it. This is a version of something else entirely. Growing up in England, we didn't have DC and Marvel Comics until the '80s. I was aware of Batman and that world. Gotham itself is much more a fascination for me than Batman specifically. When thinking about how to enter the DC world for TV, certainly on network TV, to do shows about superheroes - about people who wear spandex costumes - that doesn't work very well. We want to see people's faces. TV is about emotion and character, not stunts and special effects. This is a way of entering that world in a fresh way."
He also added that the key to getting the story right revolved around James Gordon's character, "the most normal" person in the DC Universe.
"The first thing was starting with Jim Gordon, who is the most human and real and normal person in the DC pantheon. What would the city of Gotham look like to a young rookie cop coming into this world? And that's where we calibrated. This is a world that's going to become that familiar world of Batman, but it's not there yet. It's an embryo. A lot of the work was reverse engineering the story to look at what these characters were like when they younger. Penguin, for instance, is not a powerful gang leader, he's a gofer for a gangster. It's about giving the world room to grow, but at the same time giving the fun and pleasure and drama of that heightened world. One of the great things about the Batman world is [the characters] have no super powers. Nobody flies or leaps over buildings. You start with psychology and that's where we build from."
He also talked about the extensive research he did for the series, and what his favorite comic book story is.
"I did a lot of research, and what it told me is this world is a little like Greek or Roman mythology. There are so many iterations of the story and so many great versions [that] there is no one road to go down. And if you stick to one of those roads, then you lose other parts you could go down. I read everything I could and then - I didn't throw it away, but I started fresh. I would hate to pick a particular Batman iteration because I would be dismissing others. But for me, The Killing Joke was one of the great ones in the comic books. Obviously the [Frank] Miller version [The Dark Knight], as well."
Bruno Heller said that he has the entire first season mapped out, and that it will be a serialized story with some procedural elements, revealing that the show is too big to do in any other way, which Fox has been on board with from day one. He was also asked about ABC's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is set in the same universe as The Avengers, although they are not shown in the series. When asked how his show compares to Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the producer had this to say.
"Not to comment on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but [the SHIELD agents] are in the same temporal space as their superheroes. So while watching it, I imagine you feel, well, it's kind of mean not to show us Thor. If Thor is there in the next room, or the next town, why not come by and see us? For Gotham, if we could bring Batman in to say hello, he'd say hello. It's not that the celebrities are in the VIP lounge while you're out front wondering where they are. In this case, the heroes aren't "born" yet. They're kids. I am cognizant of that as an issue. But look: Most stories that people tell don't have Batman in them. You've just got to make the story you tell as compelling as it can be."
When asked if there are creative limitations, meaning they can't kill off certain characters or else their fates will be altered, he had this to say.
"No. Because there's lots of other people in the world, and one of the conceits of the show is, where did they get all their ideas? There's precursors to that for the villains and the heroes. They got inspiration from other people, and it's about how they got to that point in the world. It's invigorating and expansive how many stories you can tell once you get away from the gravity of Batman. What happens with superheroes is they suck all the air out of the room. You can't play a scene between two people when there's a guy in a cape and a mask in the corner of the room. As far as the history goes, people don't know the ins and outs of it. Even in the well-known stories, there are secrets and backstories that people are not aware of. We also have the pre-iconic villains, like Fish Mooney, played by Jada Pinkett Smith, and those characters that people won't have seen before."
When asked if Fish Mooney will be revealed as an iconic character from the comics, Bruno Heller had this to say...
"She doesn't become another character. But we will be telling as many interesting stories about people who are not going to become costumed figures, and she gives a performance that will surprise and shock people, I think."
He was also asked about why Donal Logue's Harvey Bullock character was brought on.
"Yeah - Harvey Bullock, for the comic book fans, he's an iconic early Batman character. I always liked him just because he encapsulates the moral ambivalence and corrupt-but-fun quality of Gotham. He's very much a Gotham figure. Gordon is a complicated figure, but he's very much a good guy. He's an old-fashioned American hero. So it's important to pair him with someone who has a darker and funnier side, and someone who personifies that ambivalence of Gotham. And we got Donal Logue playing the character. As soon as we got him, I was able to write the character with much more edge and comedy and wisdom because Donal has all those things in spades. And frankly, I love double acts - buddies, whether it's Laurel & Hardy or Starsky & Hutch or Holmes & Watson. Erin Richards will also pop out of this, I think. She plays Gordon's fiancé."