Gotham City is falling to pieces.
In “Gotham’s” season finale, “All Happy Families Are Alike,” the Maroni and Falcone mob war reaches its climax, forcing the hands of some and shoving others into the line of fire. One such individual is a player who’s spent time on both sides of the field: Drew Powell’s Butch Gilzean
Initially Fish Mooney’s trusted right-hand man, Butch was captured, then presumably tortured and brainwashed by the sadistic Victor Zsasz (Anthony Carrigan) into serving the Penguin. Now, with Fish back to reclaim her turf after a long absence, Butch’s loyalties will be put to the test.
Ahead of tonight’s episode, Powell spoke with CBR News about fleshing out what could have easily been a one-note character, Butch’s devotion to Fish, surviving Zsasz, and his status with the Penguin. Powell also teased Butch’s big move during the mob war and weighs in on whether his character could possibly be the Joker.
CBR News: For the most part, “Gotham” tells the story of the early days of Bruce Wayne and many of Batman’s future foes. However, like Fish Mooney, Butch is an original character and not from the Bat mythology. What kind of creative freedom did that give you in bringing him to life?
Drew Powell: There’s a sense that it’s a blessing and a curse. It’s mostly a blessing. I often joke about the curse part with Robin [Lord Taylor] and Corey [Michael Smith] and all those guys. I’m like, “Whoa, now. If you’re the Penguin or the Riddler, you have a certain amount of job security.” Even though Bruno [Heller] had said nobody is safe, the truth is, if you kill off the Penguin, you are going to have some seriously angry fans on your hands, whereas, the new guys can go down.
What I’ve enjoyed about it is there isn’t a road map. To a large extent, Fish and Butch have helped to fill in some holes and help the narrative along. You need some of these other characters that aren’t hamstrung by having this whole long mythology, which is hard to mess with. Even though Butch is a new character, he’s still a character within Gotham. You still have that great Gotham feel, especially with how Butch is dressed.
Early on in the season, Butch carried out Fish’s dirty work with a smile. How much does he love his job?
Here’s the thing: I don’t think Butch knows anything else. I think it’s more of a question of, how much does he love Fish? Over the course of the season, you’ve seen his devotion to Fish. Whether that’s romantic love or more like a platonic love, there’s definitely a real intimacy between those two characters, which is one of the things I love the most about Butch’s character arc.
When Bruno and I talked about the job before the pilot, he said, “The thing about Butch is, people are going to underestimate him until it’s too late.” That’s really been true, even for the fans. They’ve been like, “Butch is just a goon. He’s just a hired-hand. He’s just muscle.” I got a text from an actor friend of mine yesterday saying, “Oh, man. I’m catching up on ‘Gotham.’ I love the turns these characters have been taking.” It’s true. It’s fun to watch those things unfold. I think that comes to fruition more than ever in the finale. I’m really proud of that, and excited for the fans to see it.
From day one, there’s been this animosity between Butch and Jim Gordon. Did they simply get off on the wrong foot?
They certainly did get off on the wrong foot in the pilot, which is one of my favorite scenes from the season. Without giving too much away, in the season finale, Butch and Jim are brought back together for a time. Another one of the things I love about this season is how Jim, the ultimate boy scout, the ultimate good guy, the ultimate white hat hero, has had to put some shades of grey into that white hat and learn to deal with the dark side of Gotham. Jim realizes that’s the only way he’s going to survive and the only way things are ever going to get better.
You saw it last week, with his scene with Penguin. I think you’ll see it even more in the finale. That’s really cleverly done by Bruno and the writers. It turns Jim’s character from the boring old sourpuss of, “I’m going to come in and spoil everyone’s fun.” There’s a way in which he has to learn to walk that tightrope.
With Victor Zsasz on their heels, Butch sacrificed himself so Fish could escape. Rather than kill him, Zsasz took him home to play with. In your mind, what happened off screen and how did it ultimately change Butch?
Good question. It’s one I had to think about. I asked Bruno about that. One of my questions was, “What happened?” His response was something to the effect of, “Well, all I can tell you was, it wasn’t good.” That actually ended up being a line in a later episode. Another note that was given was that Butch has been through a war. Essentially, in the two weeks, or however long it was, he was really worked over. The cool part about this second half of the season is, “What happened to him? Is he faking or is it real? How in the world do you get this guy, who was a pretty rough customer, tap dancing for the Penguin?” Something must have gone down. I’ve never thought of the specifics. God only knows. Maybe [John Wayne] Bobbitt torture was involved. Ultimately, it provided the ability for Butch to fall in line. That was the only way they were going to get him to fall in line, was to have Victor work his dark magic.
Whatever he did, when he was done, Zsasz handed Butch over to Penguin. Regardless of who he is working for, what makes Butch such a valuable asset?
A couple of things. One, he’s loyal. If he’s on your team — look at Fish. He shot his school buddy in the face for Fish! Secondly, he’s that guy you want on your team because he knows where all the bodies are buried, and he knows how to get things done. That’s what he does for Penguin. Penguin needs help getting liquor for the club, and Butch knew how to fix it. He had the police uniforms in the closet for that occasion. He’s savvy. He’s street-smart. He’s been doing this his whole life. This is Butch’s lieu, so that becomes valuable. Whoever is running the show needs a guy like that to keep you on top.
Last week, Gotham’s police captain announced a shooting war was going down. What exactly does that mean for the people and criminal families in Gotham?
What I can tell you is, this is playing out exactly how the Penguin wanted it to. It’s a mob war. We saw over the course of the season that Gotham is split into two sections — the Maroni section and the Falcone section. The peace between them has always been shaky at best. What we saw at the end of the last episode is, there is no peace. This is all-out gang war. That’s what you’ll see in the finale. They pull out all the stops. It’s intense. It’s full-on. You don’t get to catch your breath. There’s something going on, from the beginning to the end.
Where does Butch fit in? Will he be standing by Penguin’s side?
This is a great episode for Butch. Part of the reason it’s so great is because his loyalty is going to be called into question. As an actor, that was really fun to play. My connection, both as an actor and as a character with Jada [Pinkett-Smith]/Fish, was great throughout the season. Then there was this long jump where I didn’t get the chance to see her. She was off on the island, and we never got to work together. It is pretty evident in the trailer that she comes back. It’s going to be very interesting for the fans to watch what happens with Butch. I think I’m okay to tease that Butch shoots two important characters in the finale. If that gives you any indication, there’s going to be stuff going down.
Some viewers have speculated that Butch is secretly the Joker. Have you come across that theory, and what are your thoughts on it?
Somebody has sent me a link to that story. All I can say is, that’s one of the things I love about the show. It can go any which way. It’s fun to be part of any of those discussions. Anything can happen in Gotham, and does. It would be great, but I don’t spend much time thinking about that. I’ve just enjoyed playing this character for what he is. But, c’mon. Who wouldn’t want to play the Joker? That’s a tall order, and the writers have been really smart about being careful not to throw it all out at once. We’re hoping this is going to be a nice long story and have a lot of time to sort through these things. I’m not in front of a mirror working on my laugh or anything, but it’s fun to think about. My 4-year-old little boy would freak out. That’s for sure.
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