When Dr. Leslie Thompkins made her debut in the Batman mythos nearly 40 years ago, she was a kind, elderly woman who held a special place in Bruce Wayne’s heart. On TV’s “Gotham,” however, Emmy-nominated Morena Baccarin‘s Leslie is anything but matronly — and judging by the promos for this week’s episode, it looks like her major Gotham City relationship will be with Jim Gordon this time around.
Hours before her second episode of “Gotham” was set to air, CBR News caught up with Baccarin to discuss her latest role. Among other things, the actress said that “What the Little Bird Told Him” promises to introduce a whole new dynamic among the adults in charge of taking care of the pre-Batman Gotham City. Plus, we discuss making the shift from “Homeland” to “Gotham,” building an all-new take on her character and why, for her, Michael Keaton will always be the Batman.
CBR News: What was the thing about Leslie that drew you to the character?
Morena Baccarin: To be honest, I didn’t know much about it, and they were playing very close to the vest — I had to take a bit of a leap of faith. But I love the “Gotham” world, and how they were portraying characters and introducing people and characters that we’ve known. They’re not falling into any of the bad traps. And I thought the show was handled really, really well, and I really wanted to be a part of it. So I went with it.
Did you look at the source material? She’s been portrayed in very different ways over about 40 years.
Yeah, very different. I don’t think we’re sticking to any of that mythology. I looked it up a bit so I knew her background, but we’ve really strayed from that, so I’m just creating my own thing.
So far, we’ve seen you work with Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon. Do we get to see you interact with the other characters as things progress?
I’m not sure. As of now, most of my stuff has been with him.
What’s been fun about working Ben?
He’s a total sweetheart and such a pleasure to work with — so fun and dedicated. I think he’s doing a phenomenal job with a character that has a history, and he’s sort of reinventing it and at the same time, keeping it honest to the original. We have a blast together. Our characters have this really fun film noir rapport with each other, and it’s really fun to discover those scenes together.
Are you playing things with a hint that there could be a romance between Jim and Leslie?
Yeah, yeah. That door’s opened on Monday’s episode, yeah.
How saucy does it get?
Pretty good! It’s a pretty good one. It’s a good one — I’m going to go with that.
In the comics, she also has a special relationship with Bruce Wayne. Is that going to be part of what you do?
It hasn’t yet, but I hope so. It would be fun to work with him.
Does Leslie get some action scenes like the rest of the cast?
She gets her fair share of being part of the action. I’m not, like, beating people up, but she is not shy about seeing dead bodies or being around a crime scene and sort of wanting to — she’s very interested and curious to know how [Jim] solves a crime and just kind of wants to be around for that and everything. I think what makes that relationship work is that she’s not afraid of seeing things and being around corruption and the darkness of Gotham.
What’s been the most interesting part of working on a series with this much production value and specific look and feel? Obviously, you’ve done things like “Firefly” and “V,” but this is a darker, grittier, more urban heightened reality.
Yes. It’s been fun. It’s beautifully shot. The art direction and costumes and everything about it is very well taken care of. I feel like it’s going to make a real dent — an impact in this world, the world of these superheroes and this particular brand.
What was your first day on set like?
I was a little nervous. I always am at the beginning of every job. Now, I could care less. No — totally kidding! That’s not true!
It was an adjustment, coming from “Homeland” which was a very, very, very gritty, realistic world to a gritty, fantastical world. I remember, Ben said to me a couple of times, when I was dissecting a moment to try and figure it out — he’s like, “It’s Gotham. Just go with it. Have fun.” I was like, “Right.”
Were you much of a fan of Batman before this?
Of course! I mean, who’s not a fan of Batman? I saw the movies, and my brother was into comics, so I would go to Forbidden Planet, this comic book store in New York.
Do you have a favorite version of Batman among those that you grew up on?
Michael Keaton, to me, will always be Batman. I liked his humor. I thought he brought a self-deprecating, but sexy, humor to that part that was really strong. And him with Catwoman, together, is one of my all-time favorite scenes in any movie.
How does it feel now to be living in that world with all those characters?
It’s fascinating, and it’s been really fun to watch everybody develop, slowly. Watching Catwoman walking through the halls at work, to seeing her performance on camera, and seeing the new beginnings of that is so exciting to me. I think they’re doing such a good job of not belaboring it too much and making it really subtle and slow.
Did you do any medical research?
No. I didn’t. I felt like, for this world, we’re not selling a medical show. We are selling “Gotham,” where really anything goes. And so I feel like people will forgive me if I hold a stethoscope wrong or I use the — what’s the blood pressure thingy? I don’t really care. It’s fine.
You’ve worked in the DC Universe before as a voice actor, right?
Yeah, I guess so. I’ve done Talia al Ghul and Black Canary and Cheetah. I have a hard time remembering which is which world. I’ve been immersed. I think every actor now is immersed in the comic world a little bit.
Do you keep up with “Homeland” now that you’re no longer on the show?
I do. I’ve seen it.
What was fun and/or weird about watching a season without you?
It was really weird when they went to the Brody house. And I was like, “Wait a second! I live there. I should be there!” I almost half-expected myself to look out the door. That was very strange, but it was such a different world this season that I didn’t really miss myself. It was a whole other story, and I thought they did such a phenomenal job. All the actors were incredible this year.