Jim Gordon isn’t Batman, so it’s probably understandable that on his own, he’s unable to maintain law and order in Gotham. That’s where Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen come in. Detectives in the Major Crimes Unit of the Gotham City Police Department, Montoya and Allen are equally dedicated to eradicating crime and cleaning up the city. In short, they have Gordon’s back.
However, as is the way in Gotham City, Montoya isn’t without her own personal baggage. A recovering alcoholic, Gordon’s police compatriot has her fair share of secrets, including a romantic history with Jim’s fiancee, Barbara Kean.
Victoria Cartagena, who brings Montoya to life on the Fox series, spoke with CBR News about reimagining Renee for a live-action TV series, her character’s sexuality and complicated relationships and saving Jim Gordon. And, for fans of her character’s comic book counterpart, she offers her thoughts on the possibility of viewers seeing Montoya eventually undergo the transformation into the Question.
CBR News: How much exposure had you had to the Batman universe before joining Gotham?
Victoria Cartagena: I watched the Adam West Batman as a kid after school, so that was my exposure. Then, I’ve seen every Batman film since then in the theater on opening weekend. I don’t think I can say that for any other superhero films. I’m definitely Team Batman.
The “Gotham” casting process was one famously shrouded in secrecy, with many actors not knowing which role, or sometimes what show, they were auditioning for. What was it like for you?
The exact same thing. I wasn’t given the script until a few days before we started shooting. For the audition, we had fake sides and a fake character. It was awesome because I was just excited about going in for the audition. Then I was excited to be playing Renee Montoya. Then I got to read the script and was fascinated. It just kept escalating.
Renee is a fairly long-running Batman character who has appeared in numerous comics and cartoons. How would you describe “Gotham’s” version, and what, if anything, do you draw from previous incarnations?
The show has its own take on Renee. I can certainly see the parallels with the comics, which has definitely helped me develop her. From what I read in the comics, she’s bold, persistent, tough — basically, a badass. I’m really looking forward to her growth.
She was also one of the first DC Comics heroes to come out as gay. Are you surprised at how much “Gotham” has explored her sexuality?
I’m thrilled by it. I’m not necessarily surprised by it, but I’m happy the way it’s been handled on the show. She’s a woman, she’s Latina, she’s a cop and she happens to be gay. I appreciate the fact they even explored Montoya being gay, and showed her in a romantic relationship. It’s been handled tastefully.
I do feel some pressure because she means a lot to people. You really want to do her justice and not disappoint anyone. I tried to do my homework, read about her, understand her intentions and go from there.
What are your thoughts on the Renee/Barbara relationship?
I’m not too sure how much I can say about where they currently stand. I’ve enjoyed playing a different side to the character. When they are together, we certainly see a more vulnerable Montoya, which is nice. It’s always great to play Montoya with her guard down, because most of the time she’s tough.
“Gotham” features plenty of brawls, chases and gun-slinging. How exciting was it to have Renee and her partner Crispus save Jim Gordon from Victor Zsasz?
I loved it. That was probably my favorite scene. It was really exciting to see Montoya save Gordon after falsely accusing him for many weeks. Saving him from Zsasz was the perfect way to set up that alliance and really show that the GCPD could be trusted, that they are one of the good guys.
Would you like Renee to partake in more of those action beats?
Definitely. I’d love to do more. They are so much fun to watch. It really gets the adrenaline going and you are rooting for them. Everyone loves an action sequence, and you learn a lot.
In the comics and cartoon, Renee was a beat cop paired with Harvey Bullock. Would you like to see more interaction between the two of them on “Gotham?”
There’s that one scene we did in the pilot, in the diner — I laughed reading it. Seeing them trying to gel would be hilarious. They are complete opposites. It’s interesting to see people try to come together from different backgrounds, different values and different outlooks on life. It would result in moments of levity and comedy. I think they would find a common ground as they did in the comic books. They are detectives and need to get the job done.
Renee had issues with Jim in the beginning, to the degree where she even warned Barbara about him. How has Renee’s perception of him changed?
Maybe Renee sees that they are more alike than she realized initially — besides being attracted to the same kind of woman. They both believe that there is a lot of good in the world. As dark as Gotham City is, they are fighters. They are warriors. They are going to fight for good, no matter what it takes. If they can get past that earlier friction that they had, I think they could be great allies, as they are in the comics.
Jim even tells Bruce Wayne that if anything bad happens to him, Renee and Crispus will take care of things.
That was great. I loved the fact that they had the future Batman, the future Commissioner, the Question and the Spectre together. All these people move on to greatness.
“Gotham” is the jumping off point for many heroes and villains, and you just mentioned Renee’s costumed alter ego. Do you feel they’ve planted the seeds for Renee to become the Question?
Because “Gotham” is an origin story, I think all the seeds are planted for all the characters. That’s what is so great about the writing. I really appreciate the fact that they are taking their time to develop and explore each character in depth.
In the comics, there’s a moment that serves as a catalyst: she becomes an alcoholic and hits rock bottom. On the show, if Renee were to fall off the wagon again, it would force her to really look at herself and become more self-aware and become the person she’s meant to be. That being said, this show definitely has its own take on it, so you’ll have to wait and see what triggers her.
Her partner Crispus dies in the comics. Do you and Andrew ever get concerned for his safety?
No, not really. We just go with the flow. I have so much fun with him and we’re having a blast. We’re just living in the moment and enjoying it. It’s superstitious to even talk about that.
As a Batman fan, what have you enjoyed about being part of the DC Universe and the Batman mythology?
Because I’m one of those fans, I can’t wait to read the scripts. I can’t wait to tune into the show every week to see where everyone’s story is going. “Gotham” has such a rich mythos, and everything they can pull for us is amazing. Then there’s the production values and getting to see something that has been in your mind this entire time. You get to see what Gotham looks like. They bring the whole thing to life, and do it incredibly well.
“Gotham” airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.
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