When is The Riddler not quite The Riddler? When Cory Michael Smith is playing the long game as Edward Nygma in “Gotham’s” third season, a dangerous force all his own, and well on his way to donning a question mark-riddled costume.
“He’s still certainly not The Riddler — yet,” explains Smith, who has shepherded Nygma on his journey from brilliant but socially awkward forensic scientist to an increasingly unpredictable and gleefully malevolent force. “I think he has an idea of who he is. I think he has a sort of confidence that he found, especially in Arkham. It’s just now he’s like been relegated to a cell for months and months and months and months, and his spirit is down. But once he gets out, has a nice bath, gets his suits back…
“Once he’s out and he figures out his alliances and gets himself back going, the kind of excitement and the joy that he was experiencing with finally embracing his true identity – we get to jump back on that track,” the actor continues, saying Nygma is now following the credo Oswald Cobblepot adopted by the end of Season Two.
“He’s someone that now has decided, though he may have friends and alliances, he doesn’t need anybody,” says Smith. “His great lesson to Oswald was,’ If you don’t have any attachments, nothing can hurt you.’ I don’t know that Oswald is actually capable of that, but I think that Ed is.”
“There is a level of sociopathy to Ed – like, a disconnect,” Smith continues. “Like, he thought he loved Kristen [Kringle], but it’s more obsession. I think he can actually kind of shut down from things, so that’s what I’m excited for: things are going to get pretty dark for him this year.”
The actor is greatly looking forward to plumbing the depth of his role’s darker inclinations, juxtaposed with his emerging enjoyment of embracing his villainous nature. “The thing that I love about him is – and I think what separates him from a lot of the other villains in the Batman universe, but especially in our show – is his joy and his glee, and that will never go away.
“It’s just the things that he is gleeful about are going to change, so that’s what’s going to be so dark,” he adds. “I don’t need him to be this brooding, angry, vicious person. There’s so much of that. For him, it’s going to be about finding the games and playing games on people. That’s the joy. It’s messing with people in that way. That’s the darkness.”
As Nygma has maintained allegiances and what passes as friendships across the lines of law and order and criminal enterprise in Gotham City, Smith says those partnerships will remain intact – as long as his allies don’t cross his boundaries.
“I think he can co-exist with people — [but] don’t get in his way,” says Smith. “As long as everyone is aware that Ed will always be smarter than them, and not threaten him or mock him for that, or question him, I think it’s fine.”
“Gotham” launches its third season Monday, September 19, at 8 PM on FOX.
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