Since his comic book debut four decades ago, Det. Harvey Bullock has been a tough character to pin down — sometimes corrupt, sometimes noble; sometimes compromised, sometimes steadfast; and always slovenly — and that’s part of his charm. And actor Donal Logue says the new television incarnation of Bullock appearing on Fox’s upcoming “Gotham” TV series will walk a fine line between Gotham City’s best and worst elements.
Speaking with CBR News following a screening of the “Gotham” pilot — set in a rapidly decaying Gotham City immediately following the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne — Logue discusses his take on the street-level cop who, in the comics, has always been dubious about Batman’s brand of vigilante justice, and on the show, may be the best friend or worst enemy his idealistic partner James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) will ever have.
CBR News: There have been a few distinctive versions of the Harvey Bullock character in the comics and in animation since he was introduced in the ’70s. What was the thing that you responded to in the interpretation of Bullock that we see in “Gotham?
Donal Logue: I responded to working with Bruno [Heller, the show’s creator and executive producer] and Danny [Cannon, executive producer/director] more than anything. When my sons were young, we would drive up to Oregon and they would play the Batman TV show, and I would hear Bullock [voiced by Robert Costanzo]. And I clearly wasn’t doing the same Bullock. But I also think sometimes if you’re cantankerous, there’s a kind of a — I’m not saying that that was just it, at all — Bullock’s such a fascinating character, but you don’t want to make it too empty and cynical a note that it can’t play that long. So when I think of Gotham, when I think of DC Comics, for some reason, my mind goes, James Elroy, Raymond Chandler — it’s a different kind of thing.
More noir, kind of a detective feel, so that’s what drew me, for sure.
Did you do much research into the comic book character, or are you just relying on what they’re giving you in the script?
Both, but there’s a lot of [comics] — there’s “Gotham Central,” there’s just a lot of interesting literature where Bullock is a good guy. Bullock is also kind of a dirty [character] — he saves the day, but he makes some mistakes. I think that’s kind of what we’re going to see over the course of this long form when we get into “Gotham.”
Are you really going to walk a razor’s edge with his morality? He’s had plenty of moments of redemption in the different versions that we’ve seen of him — literally a good cop and bad cop. Is your Bullock going to be kind of right up the middle?
I’m sure that’s exactly where we’re going to play it. I can’t imagine it being that different. I mean, the thing is, there’s been a few incarnations, but that’s where I think Harvey’s always been. Ultimately, he has revealed himself to be a little bit of a fearless, good cop at heart. I’m fairly cynical. I believe a bit in moche politique — you kind of have to get in bed with the devil. I think that’s who he is. It’s absurd to be that idealistic if Gotham is the Jungian shadow of the world, you know what I mean? So of course, it’s up to Bruno. it’s up to Danny Cannon where the individual storylines are going. After seeing the pilot, you see how my relationship with Jim Gordon will be tested when I’m like, “I was right, by the way, in that you have to do bad things in war to achieve bigger, better things. Can you do this?” “Yes.” And does he or does he not? Ultimately, a lot of people suffer when people wuss out, which is what’s going to happen, I think.
You and Ben McKenzie are obviously going to spend a lot of time in each other’s faces. Tell me about finding your chemistry together.
We found it so quickly — Ben had worked with my sister, and we joked about that. My sister played a prostitute in “Southland” that Ben had by the throat — Karina, who was on “Terriers” with me, and “Sons of Anarchy.” So Ben’s a great guy. Ben’s a really great actor. Ben takes the craft seriously, [but] doesn’t take himself seriously. He’s incredibly patient. He has all those kind of Jim Gordon-esque character qualities that actually just make it really enjoyable to go into that kind of 15, 16-hour day world with. He makes it very easy to bond with him.
There are so many exciting, accomplished actors working in the superhero/comic book medium at the moment. Was it something you were looking forward to, finding the right gig in the genre?
No. I just go from interesting showrunner to interesting showrunner. It started with working with Kurt Sutter and Michael Hirst on “Sons of Anarchy” and “Vikings,” and Tom Kelley on “Copper,” and then Warren Leight and “Law and Order: SVU” came along. And then Bruno Heller and “Gotham.” So I’ve just been really gifted and lucky to work with these great writers, and that’s the most interesting thing. Honestly, things that are either historically rooted, like “Vikings” or even “Copper,” it doesn’t matter. I just think it’s the quality of the writing is the most important thing.
What have you been loving about the overall vision for “Gotham” thus far?
What I love the most about “Gotham” is that I have a sense of what they’re doing, but I kind of see it when I’m doing my little piece of it. So to sit back and watch it all revealed is eye-opening to me, and to see what other people are doing, who I’m not doing the scenes with, to see how they’re taking their parts and running with it. I’m very excited, because “Gotham,” more than almost any other show I’ve been in, I think, has the possibilities of all these unopened doors we have yet to explore, or to see what Sean’s [Pertwee] going to do with Alfred or all these other great actors. Robin Ward Taylor — I’m a huge fan. I can’t wait to see when the new bad guys and the new villains are starting to go — I want to see where Cory [Michael Smith] goes with E. Nygma. So I’m excited!
Are the producers playing the storyline twists close to the vest, or have they shared with the cast?
Playing it very close to the vest! I haven’t even read the second script yet, which I might tonight or tomorrow.
How ready are you to get into the world of Batman, away from the show, now you’re going to be a part of the character’s rich 75-year history? What does that mean to you?
Oh, it’s an honor. That fan base is the most ardent, loyal — sometimes super-critical, but they think critically about it because they care about it. I think it’s great. I accept all responsibility that comes with it. But I’m not scared by it. At the same time, we’re also free to — this is a new incarnation of it, and it’s going to be different. I was never trying to do an imitation of the voice of Harvey Bullock in the animated series, and I think that when the legions of fans have this new version of the world of “Gotham,” then they’ll have this new bible to pore over that they’ll feel their own proprietary sense of ownership with it, I hope.
There’s another side to Harvey that was revealed in the comics long ago: Despite his rough exterior, he’s a devoted classic film enthusiast. Do we get to see that aspect of Harvey in “Gotham?”
I imagine that we will see that element. We’ve had some conversations about it. I think it’s going to be incredibly revealing to see these people in their private moments at home, especially Bullock.