It’s hard to imagine two cities that are more different than dark, shadowy — and fictional — Gotham City and sun-drenched Los Angeles, but when “Gotham’s” crusading cop Jim Gordon and brooding kid billionaire Bruce Wayne — A.K.A. actors Ben McKenzie and David Mazouz — made the trek to legendary Golden Apple Comics for a meet-and-greet with fans just a day before the season finale for the hit show’s first season, they were greeted with a hero’s welcome — and a lot of anticipation for where the FOX series will leave their characters for next season.
After signing autographs for several hundred fans who’d long lined a stretch of Melrose Avenue for a close encounter with the stars, McKenzie and Mazouz joined CBR News for a conversation about meeting the faithful followers, reflecting on the freshman season and offering some insight into the road ahead for Jim and Bruce as the shadow of the Batman slowly but inevitably rises over Gotham.
And make sure to come back to CBR right after the season finale of “Gotham” airs for direct reactions to the events of the closing chapter and more hints on what’s ahead next season from McKenzie and Mazouz.
CBR News: How was this experience, getting up close and personal with the fans?
David Mazouz: It was great. I think this is my third comic book signing in general, and it’s really great. I love seeing them. They’re all so nervous or happy. It does make an effect on me, and it really makes me more motivated to do my best and be better for them.
What was the fun get-back from meeting everyone today?
Ben McKenzie: Well, it was great. I mean, they’re so enthusiastic, and some of them have been in line since 6 a.m. They’re really fired up. I mean, we signed so many, we ran out of the official FOX headshots, so something must have been going right! It was cool to get that interaction. We’re squirreled away in Brooklyn, in a studio, so we don’t get as much access as people might think to people who are actually watching the show which is really cool.
Was there a common question that kept coming up?
Mazouz: Ah, no. It was pretty quick. There was not much time for talk. I usually get to say, “Thanks so much for coming. Thanks so much for coming.” And that’s how it ended.
Does this kind of experience give you a sense of your custodianship of these characters that have been around for 75 years?
McKenzie: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, everybody has a piece of the mythology, a comic or a T-shirt or something, and you see how many different influences there are and how many different reference points there are. It’s incredibly impressive. And some of the stuff, when somebody brings out a vintage comic from the ’50s, it’s sort of kind of awe-inspiring that we’re a part of that.
How much into the comics have you become because of this role?
Mazouz: Massively. Before this role, I probably have never opened a comic in my life. Maybe, like, Archie comics once or twice. Besides that, nothing. And ever since I got this role, I have become a huge, huge Batman fan, and I’ve read as much as I can get my hands on. Whenever I have free time, I’m reading a Batman comic.
One of the freshest elements of the show is the ongoing relationship of Jim and Bruce at this age and place in their lives. What’s been fun and intriguing for you to develop in that realm, where you don’t have a lot of established material from the comics to draw from?
McKenzie: I don’t know — I think it’s cool because, as you said, it’s new. That doesn’t exist in the comics, at this age, so to kind of build that up from the ground up is kind of cool. It feels pretty easy.
Mazouz: Yeah, it’s really interesting to me, how they’ve been going about that relationship because it’s not a solid relationship. They go through twists and turns, but in the end, they’re still friends. And in the end, Batman does pick Jim Gordon to be his inside man in GCPD, and I think it’s really interesting to find out why.
Who have you not gotten a chance to work with who’s a regular character that you’re dying to have more scenes with?
Mazouz: I would say Robin Lord Taylor and Cory Michael Smith — Penguin and Riddler. And Donal Logue, of course.
Has anybody made any promises to you?
Mazouz: Not yet, but hopefully, soon.
Ben, working so closely with Donal, what’s been interesting about developing the relationship with that particularly great actor?
McKenzie: Well, it’s a real kind of match made in heaven, both in terms of the characters, who are so different, and the actors — we get along really, really well. [We have] a lot of respect for each other, and yet, we have wildly different personalities. His personality isn’t necessarily Bullock’s, but it’s certainly a larger than life personality that I think comes across so well on screen. I think it’s funny how relationships on screen mirror actual relationships, where we definitely have learned from each other, both on screen and off, about a variety of things.
What’s nice about their relationship at this point is, even when you feel as though Bullock betrayed him terribly in episode 18, when he testified against him, there’s so much built in camaraderie that you know they will be okay in some way. They will still be partners in some deeper level, even through the treachery.
Do you think they’re in pretty much lockstep going forward?
McKenzie: “Lockstep” is always tricky with Bullock and Gordon, but there’s an understanding and respect, I think. Respect is the ultimate thing.
Who in the cast have you not gotten a whole lot of chance to work with?
McKenzie: I’ve gotten to work with everybody, which is great. I get to work with almost everybody. I think it will be fun to play off of Cory with his new personality, as it develops — the new-to-Jim personality of The Riddler. And it would be fun to do more with Sean [Pertwee]. I’m always doing scenes with David and Sean, but he’s always [speaking to David] your butler, basically, and he’s always having to be sort of subservient to young Bruce. If I can have some more scenes with Sean, that would be fun.
David, you share a lot of scenes with Sean’s Alfred — tell me about developing that crucial relationship over the first season.
Mazouz: Sean is amazing. He’s so fun to hang out with. He’s such a phenomenal actor. I look up to him in so many different ways. The Bruce/Alfred relationship, it’s such a great relationship because really Alfred is his guardian, his role model, his person that he looks up to. They have almost a father/son relationship, but there’s just something that’s different. He’s more lenient in some things, more strict than a father would be, in some ways. Their relationship has gone through major transformations, and they have crossed many lines. The journey that the relationship is taking, it’s going from a butler and his boy, to Batman and Alfred, so it’s really cool.
Is there anything you’ve seen in the comics that you’re eager to explore in your character’s personalities?
McKenzie: There are. I’m interested in his relationship to his eventual daughter and his relationship to how he climbs up the ladder, the GCPD specifically. At what point does he go from being a detective solving his only crimes to a senior officer organizing people and conducting his own missions and his own tactical operations and things like that. We may get there pretty quickly.
Mazouz: I heard that in Season Two, Bruce is really going to start to have that dual personality. I mean, when he’s Batman, he has his Batman detective, determined, really hell-bent on fighting crime [personality]. And then you have his public persona, which is party boy, playboy, waste-of-a-life kind of rich boy. What I heard is, you’re really going to start to see that dual personality in Season Two, and I’m really excited to play that. I think it’s really interesting the way they play it out because you don’t really see — I mean, who’s ever heard of a 13-year-old that wants to take down a major organization or a major corporation? It’s unheard of! I think it’s brilliant the way Danny [Cannon] and Bruno [Heller] and our whole writing staff is portraying it and making Bruce go on this journey.
Do you see your relationship growing tighter in the second season?
McKenzie: It’s the bedrock of the show. It’s the emotional underpinning of the entire show. I think from the pilot alone, that’s how people — everybody loves Bruce Wayne and Batman, so the only way they’re going to care about him is if Jim is at least mildly a good guy towards him. So, yeah, I think it’s definitely going to evolve, right?
Mazouz: Yes, I think, definitely, they’re going to become tighter.
Would it be fun to be at odds for a little while?
McKenzie: Sure. As we have in this year. Yeah, yeah, for sure. And even as they become closer, they won’t be completely honest with each other. I think that’s sort of the important thing. He’s already hiding secrets from me, and in some senses, I’m hiding secrets from him. That sort of friendship, with secrets, sort of continues to grow and grow and grow, until ultimately, it becomes the complicated relationship between Batman and Commissioner Gordon.
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