Kristen Hager is no stranger to playing characters whose loved ones harbor dangerous secrets. After playing a nurse and girlfriend of a werewolf on the sci-fi series “Being Human,” “Gotham” newcomer Hager once again plays a character whose loved one poses a threat to the world around them. Hager plays Nora Fries, a character who just learned that her husband has been conducting terrifying experiments behind her back.
Best known to Batman fans as the terminally ill wife of Mr. Freeze, Nora is almost always depicted in a cryogenic state, while her obsessed husband seeks out a cure. “Gotham’s” spin, however, introduced a still-awake and very aware Nora, whose condition is reaching a critical stage. With his wife’s time quickly running out, Mr. Freeze is more determined than ever to save her — no matter the cost.
Ahead of tonight’s episode, “A Dead Man Feels No Cold,” Hager spoke with CBR about fleshing Nora out, her tragic love story, making hard choices and her future with Mr. Freeze.
CBR News: In the cartoons, movies and comics, Nora almost always appears in a cryogenic state. How do you feel having a voice and meeting Nora at this point in her life gave some emotional weight and gravitas to her story?
Kristen Hager: It’s essential to understand why Victor is who he is. I also think it’s special to have this be the first time that this has been done, that Nora is an actual living, breathing human being who you get to know. Whether she ends up frozen or not, you actually get to know her as a person before that does, or doesn’t, happen. It’s just important to finally get her story told.
Nora is awake, but is still very ill, as illustrated by her violent collapse last episode. What is her disease, and did you research it?
It was never explained what the actual illness is, but we know that she’s terminal. It wasn’t in the episode, but originally we filmed this scene that mentioned she had been given four weeks to live. It was sort of left in my hands to do with it what I could in terms of figuring out this illness. I could only imagine it was some kind of horrible cancer.
I like that they went there to that horrific, tragic place with her, where you do see that extreme vulnerability in that scene, specifically where she is on the floor unable to breathe. It makes what Victor is going through that much sadder.
Eventually, Nora stumbled across Victor’s lab where she learned that, contrary to her belief, he hasn’t been experimenting on mice. What’s going through her mind not that she realizes her husband has been experimenting on humans?
It was horror. Never in Nora’s wildest dreams did she imagine that this is what he was doing down there. What you learn a bit in the next episode is that she did see him becoming more and more obsessed with finding a cure and, through that, retreating inward. She did have to reach for him more, and try and keep him grounded there with her. Nora sensed something was up, but I honestly think she simply assumed he was so obsessed with his work, that was all he could see. But it was an absolute horrible shock for her, and devastating.
Do you feel Nora at least understands her husband’s motivations?
Yeah — she knows what he’s trying to do, but that doesn’t mean she agrees. She knows Victor is a brilliant man, and so determined, and will stop at nothing. She definitely understands why he’s doing what he’s doing, but by no means is she happy about it or condoning it. Nora would never, ever have agreed to this, had she known this was something he was doing.
With Nora in police custody, where her condition continues to deteriorate, where do we find her in tonight’s episode, “A Dead Man Feels No Cold?”
She awakens, because she’s coming out of unconsciousness, getting more and more sick. As you know, she doesn’t have her medicine that Victor was trying to give her in the last episode. She wakes up in the care of Lee Thompkins, and Nora is quickly the person they go to for answers. Bullock and Gordon, while they are searching for Victor, end up using her to try and bait him. She ends up in that situation where she has to make the choice of whether she’s going to play along with Victor, or sacrifice herself to try and stop him.
What kind of reunion can viewers expect from Nora and Victor? Is she afraid of him now?
No. Never. He’s the love of her life, and vice versa. There’s only a strong love there. That’s what I think is so special. When he’s with her, she humanizes him and you see nothing more than this tragic love story between the couple.
Does that mean Nora no longer wants to be frozen?
That’s what she is struggling with, whether Victor will just let her go, or whether she will go along with his plan. That is her biggest dilemma at the moment.
Nora spends time with Lee Thompkins. What kind of interaction do they have?
A really special one, because it’s woman-to-woman. Nora is able to explain her situation, and Lee is able to relate in her own way through her experiences and relationships. There’s some really special moments between the two of them.
Will audiences get some closure to Nora’s fate?
I don’t think I am at liberty to say right now. You’re going to have to tune in to find out.
If things play out like previous incarnations, Nora could end up on ice for years. Of course, another version features a revived Nora gaining super-powers and becoming a villain. How interested would you be in going down that path, or do you consider it out of character?
Honestly, I would be ecstatic if she came back as a villain! It would be so cool. I’d love to get to do the juxtaposition of having gotten to know Nora this way and then seeing her come back as something else. That would be amazing.
In the research that I had done — I believe she becomes Lazara — she has the ability to raise the dead and set people on fire, which is obviously the opposite of [her husband’s power]. I’d stick to the original comic book version, even though it would be fun to freeze people as well. Give her both depending on her mood.
Which one is anger?
Ice. Fire is passion.