It could be argued that Oswald Cobblepot is “Gotham’s” equivalent of Bobby Fischer. Throughout Season 1, the Penguin schemed, manipulated and shifted people around like pawns on a chess board, starting off as Fish Mooney’s lackey before moving on to being Falcone’s right-hand man. All along, he bided his time, eliminated some powerful players and positioned himself to take over as the city’s ruling crime boss. In the chaotic finale, Falcone retired and Cobblepot killed Mooney, leaving him as the reigning King of Gotham City.
However, that status may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Ahead of “Gotham’s” Season 2 premiere, Robin Lord Taylor spoke with CBR News about why his fan favorite character may have even choppier waters ahead of him. We also discussed how he went about finding the Penguin’s voice, new sibling villains Theo and Tabitha Galvan, whether this is the season where Oswald and Bruce Wayne will meet, and which trick umbrella he most hopes to see make its debut on the show.
CBR News: Every show experiences some growing pains in the beginning, but fans took to your Penguin almost immediately. When did you feel you really found Cobblepot’s voice?
Robin Lord Taylor: From the pilot. Even in the audition, it just all snapped together for me. I rarely feel that good about auditions. This was one of the few where I walked out and was like, “I can actually get this.” But, 15 years of auditions — and I’ve gotten close to big things — you immediately learn to be like, “Nope. Put it away. It’s not happening. Move on. Whatever.” It’s your survival instincts. But, it all came together. They didn’t give us a script, so they wrote a fake scene. When I first read the script, I felt I knew exactly who this person was. Once we started the pilot, we would get rewrites. Bruno Heller heard my voice. We just had this kind of meld of the minds. I just felt it was there. I will say, it wasn’t easy-peasy, no problems; there are definitely things I am still discovering about Oswald and still learning.
It’s great, because this is where I really identify with Oswald. He’s coming up in his life, and I’m coming up in mine. Becoming an adult, making big steps and achieving what you’ve always set out to get, what you’ve always wanted and that has been dangling right in front of you. We’re very similar in that way.
In Season 1, Oswald maneuvered everyone around the game board in his head while gaining their trust. How prepared is he to be the King of Gotham?
He’s done his homework. If there’s anything about Oswald, it’s his ability to read people. The way he learned so much from Fish Mooney and studied Falcone, even Maroni — he takes things from all of them. He’s ready to use all of those tools. He has them in his mind, ready to go.
You can’t prepare for all contingencies, though. There are certain things he is not prepared for, and he’s really going to be confronted with them going into the second season.
This season has been dubbed “The Rise of the Villains.” How well does Oswald play with others?
He’s getting better. This was established in the first season; his relationship with Gordon comes from a place of, he really does see [Jim] as a friend and also trustworthy. At the same time, Oswald sees Gordon as someone he needs to work with. He needs to have an ally on that side to achieve his goals. Oswald needs to work with people. At the same time, he’s working with someone and keeping tabs on them, so that he use things against them. That is his m.o.
In what ways does Oswald butt heads with new villains Theo and Tabitha Galvan?
I can’t really get into specifics, but what I can say is — and it’s not just Oswald — Theo and Tabitha disrupt the entire power structure in Gotham. They make a big move in Season 2 that throws everyone off. They are very reminiscent of what Oswald did in the first season. It’s almost like Oswald is getting a taste of his own medicine. Someone comes in with an agenda that no one was expecting to see, and it just throws everyone off balance.
You and Cory Michael Smith have talks about how much you both love the scene where Oswald and Nygma bump into each other in the police precinct. What can you tease about their next encounter?
What I can say is their relationship deepens. Because their relationship grows, I think you can infer it is something beyond the G.C.P.D.
It is not like the two characters clicked the first time.
No, not at all. They are still figuring each other out. Both characters are so brilliant, but in such different ways. They are totally different, yet they are both outsiders. There’s camaraderie, yet opposition, which I think is very exciting.
Oswald has a bit of a temper. How will his upcoming trials and tribulations push him to the limit?
It’s a learning experience for him. What he’s learning is, there is no such thing as a sure thing. You can plot, you can plan and try and do everything to ensure that you maintain control of the situation, but there are certain things that are going to happen that you could never anticipate. It’s those moments that are jarring. He’s not used to that, especially after everything he went through the last season. He’s not used to being surprised by anything. I can bring it back to the scene where he meets Nygma for the first time. When Cobblepot says to Nygma, “Who are you?” Nygma immediately replies, “I know who you are.” It makes Oswald’s blood boil immediately. He’s been bested. That’s someone winning. That’s someone getting one on him. He’s coming from this extreme place of survival. It’s extremely threatening to him, to his well-being, his life and everything he’s worked for.
Will we finally see Oswald interact with Bruce?
I honestly don’t know. I hope so. It will be interesting because Bruce and Gordon are very intertwined, and Penguin and Gordon are very intertwined. It’s only a matter of time before all these worlds come together. It’s like two galaxies colliding. They get swept into each other’s gravities. I just don’t know when.
Viewers are still anticipating the day Oswald picks up his iconic weapon. Which trick umbrella would you like them to introduce first?
This is where I don’t know if it was strictly a Tim Burton thing or if this was in the comics, but a helicopter umbrella, all the way. That’s so fantastic and so amazing and something necessarily for him because of his impediment. He also created so many enemies, so it would be a really amazing way to get around and not be as noticeable. You see Cobblepot walking down the street and you know exactly who it is because of his injury. For him to be able to use his tools to be able to work around that would be somewhat inspired and make a lot of sense for the character. Helicopter umbrella, all the way.
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