Actor Nicholas D’Agosto just won the coin toss.
The latest actor to join Fox‘s “Gotham” as the proto-version of one of the colorful psychopaths who will eventually menace Batman, D’Agosto makes his debut as Harvey Dent — the dashing, crusading district attorney destined to have his psyche split in two when half his face is scarred, assuming the persona of the duality-obsessed master criminal Two-Face — on the show’s Nov. 17 episode.
But for now, as D’Agosto — most recently seen as obstetrician Ethan Haas on Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” — is playing Dent on the side of the angels, a rare ally in young cop Jim Gordon’s battle for Gotham City’s corrupt soul, as the actor revealed in a recent conference call with the press.
On his particular spin on the Harvey Dent role:
Nicholas D’Agosto: I think what I bring to this version of Harvey Dent — the actor can bring what they can from other iterations of the franchise, but at the end of the day, they’ve just got to play what’s in front of them, play what’s on the page. What was on this page was, there’s this real ambition for this guy who is really to the point of being almost a little reckless, and he puts himself in a position where he puts a lot on the line. Some of the things that come out of that foreshadow who he will eventually be, the potential that he has to become Two-Face later.
I would say that, for good or ill, I guess I’m a really ambitious, merciless, rage-filled guy. Ultimately what I bring to this role, and what this role was kind of requiring, was someone that can be a kind and genuine and sincere person, a sympathetic character, and at the same time, someone whose ambition can kind of bring them into areas that maybe could potentially cross a line.
On the challenge of playing Harvey Dent while not telegraphing Two-Face:
A lot of actors fight — I certainly fight it — the tendency to want to show the capacity for being, in this case, Two-Face. I think the most important thing I had to do, and I did this with the help of the directors and producers and everybody around as we, at the eleventh hour, sculpted the beginning of this guy, was to just be smooth and easy and likable and let things roll off my back. He gets himself involved in some pretty intense, high-stakes situations. He walks right in with a loaded gun — not literally, but he presents this to Gordon and they go off on this attempt together. I like how vague I’m being! I would say that the most important thing for me to do in that is to show his confidence and his ease in these situations. I think it’s tempting to want to play the kind of bolder emotions, and those are definitely there, but they’re more fun if they’re a surprise.
I think it’s tempting to want to play up the areas where we are going. Sometimes, I think the challenge is to be patient. I don’t have to tell everybody in one episode who this guy’s going to be. In some ways, they do that for me. Their writing is very good, and they’ve shown a lot of the different elements of who my character is, but I think it’s going to be important for me to remember to be Harvey Dent right now, and to be Two-Face when it’s time to be Two-Face — if I get the chance to be Two-Face. Hopefully I will.
On his research into the role:
I would say that I didn’t go watch a lot of the movies, because in my past experience I haven’t found watching other actors do the role has been really valuable. Part of the problem with that is that you start to think that that version of the character is in the version that’s in front of you, and it’s not. They’ve written a new character, and he has new stakes and ambitions and things driving him, so I try not to go just watch other people. But what I did do was just do as many Google searches of different comic sites and history sites and go through the condensed, essentially Cliffs Notes versions of all the things that Harvey Dent has done, and all the different iterations of Batman.
One of the things that really kept standing out to me is that his father — they talk about him being abused as a child, and that he had these, maybe, psychotic episodes as a child that kind of foreshadow his capacity to become someone like Two-Face later. What I think was really good about that was, that drives him to want to eradicate this type of behavior, and also [explains] why he has the potential to have such a visceral response when he’s threatened or when he sees someone that he thinks is also abusive, because that relationship that we have to our parents is so irrational. And I think it’s important that this character has this capability to be really rational. Although he’s mostly Harvey Dent right now, he has, under the surface, these things. That’s the thing that I was able to pull that was really valuable for me.
On his interactions with other members of “Gotham’s” emerging rogues gallery:
I would be surprised if I don’t [interact with them] at some point, but right now, I think in this first season of “Gotham” — as you guys, I’m sure, can tell — there’s just so much information that they have to bring in, and they’re bringing us all in at different times. I have this great mini-arc here in the middle of the season, but they have other things that they have to bring to the table. Mostly, the story is about this arc with Penguin and Fish and all that. So I think that right now, my story’s kind of contained, but come second season, I become a regular on the show, and that’s when I think you’ll mostly see — certainly by the end of this season, and I don’t know in what capacity — a lot more of me branching out next season.
On bringing a subtle, very specific nod to the comics to the screen:
I can tell you one thing that I really debated, but I made [the decision to do it] because I felt like it was a real fan choice: In every version of every picture I saw of Harvey Dent, Two-Face, he’s holding the gun in his right hand, he’s flipping the coin in his left, but I’m right handed. It’s difficult — sort of like rubbing your stomach and patting your head a little bit when you’re in the middle of a scene, and I was a little bit intimidated by the idea of using my less dominant hand, because if I ever dropped the coin the take is ruined, but I did it. I wanted to make sure that if every picture was Two-Face, with the coin in his left hand, well darn it, I was going to put that coin in my left hand. So, I practiced all weekend, talking and flipping the coin, and I did all right, thankfully. I feel pretty good about it.
On how Harvey Dent fits into the established world of “Gotham”:
I think Jim needs some help at this point. The thing about Harvey Dent is — you’ll see that he’s not the moral center that Jim Gordon is, but I do think that he’ll be a breath of fresh air. Gordon needs like a teammate that he can trust. I think he needs somebody else on his side, and I hope that people will enjoy the idea of seeing these two guys in their different ways of approaching it, but creating this kind of like alliance.
On living a life dictated by chance:
As an actor, I don’t know of anything I could be doing that would be more filled with the element of chance than doing this job. It has created the most astoundingly surprising scenarios for my life. I cannot tell you — I’m not unique is the thing — I find them to be really extraordinarily strange situations, and that’s really normal in my business. I think because of that, I’m pretty methodical in a lot of other parts of my life. I really try to put down anchors in a lot of other areas — that’s with my relationship, that’s with my friends, that’s with my family. I really try to keep those things as constants in my life, and I think I plan a lot. I make lists all the time, I’m one of those guys. I think I try to limit as much of the chaos in my life [as possible], because there’s just so much with my work.
On his first day on the set:
Honestly, this may sound a little cliche, but walking into the GCPD headquarters is a really extraordinary experience. That structure is huge. They built a four-story, open-aired structure, where you can shoot on three different levels, all across the stage. I think what’s exciting of getting onto shows like this is just that the production value is so high. In addition to just the sets being gorgeous and the costumes being gorgeous, that just makes you, as an actor, feel important. It makes you feel powerful, wearing really amazing suits and walking in this great office that was probably just built the day before. It’s exciting to be a part of a show that you know the network and the studio are really behind. That’s what I really remember from that first day! “Wow, there is just a lot of commitment to the show, and you just see it in all the detail.”
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