Monaghan Laughs Loudest as "Gotham's" Future (?) Joker

As Jerome Valeska, Cameron Monaghan, is getting the last laugh on "Gotham."

After being convicted for murdering his promiscuous mother, the homicidal maniac was locked up with the rest of the crazies in Arkham Asylum. However, on the series' Season 2 premiere, billionaire industrialist Theo Galavan broke Jerome and five other inmates out from their incarceration, encouraging them to bring panic and pandemonium to the streets of Gotham City. Viewers have speculated that Jerome will one day become Batman's arch-nemesis, the Joker, speculation happily fueled by the series'; creators, cast members and Monaghan himself.

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But will the Rise of the Villains provide the push Jerome needs in order to fulfill his theorized destiny? Following last week's episode, Monaghan opened up to CBR News about Jerome's lust for violence, and his warped sense of humor. We discuss why the young criminal is targeting Jim Gordon, what it was like encountering Bruce Wayne for the first time -- and the work that has gone into bringing the Joker's maniacal laugh to life.

CBR News: As there have been numerous incarnations of the Joker, what were some of the defining traits you wanted to incorporate into Jerome, and which ones did you want to stay away from?

Cameron Monaghan: The driving trait from the scripts this year was his sense of humor. I just wanted to make people laugh and feel uncomfortable at what they were laughing at. That's the core of who this guy is. As for things I was avoiding, that's such a difficult thing to say. I feel like everything has its appreciation in the correct context.

How has your interpretation or understanding of Jerome evolved since his debut in "The Blind Fortune Teller?"

Obviously, he's much more aggressive in the second season. The scope is broadening, and he's becoming more confident. He's starting to strike out and accomplish more. That's something we'll see more over the next few episodes, is his rising and embracing his lust for violence and appreciating it in a way that he's never had the chance to before. It was just figuring out the showmanship of the character and how to embrace that aspect of him. He loves the limelight. That was something that was fun to explore.

The Joker has never truly been a team player, so if Jerome is indeed destined to become the iconic villain, what does he make of Theo and Tabitha?

In many ways, Theo inspires Jerome because he's never seen someone fully take the reins in deciding to do bad in this capacity. He admires that about Galavan. Jerome sees him as a bit of a mentor, just because he's never experienced something like that before.

As for him being a team player, I think you'll see that might not be something in Jerome's vocabulary. He's a guy who would spell "team" with an "i."

One thing we know for certain is that Jerome isn't afraid to get blood on his hands. How crazy and violent will he get this season?

This season is "The Rise of the Villains," and the first few episodes are really the rise of Jerome. He sees Jim Gordon as this emblem or paradigm of law and order, all the things Jerome resents and wants to destroy. He wants to make an example of Jim. He wants to inspire madness within the city. He wants everyone on the same page. Jerome has gone from committing a crime of passion to full-on acts of violence and terror.

As we've seen in the teasers, Jerome invades G.C.P.D. headquarters in tonight's episode. How much of that is a personal strike against Jim Gordon as opposed to a strategic move?

I think most of it is a personal strike. Strategy comes secondary to Jerome. He just likes chaos, and he likes destroying things. He does things based on that more than any plan he has.

This week also sees Jerome and Bruce Wayne have their first run-in. What kind of impression do they leave on each other?

It's hard to say without giving stuff away. It's something I am looking forward to. It's already cool to be in a scene with Bruce Wayne, and David [Mazouz] does such an awesome job with the character. It's cool to have these two strong personalities, these two iconic characters, meeting within a scene. It's not fully fleshed out into what it may one day be. It's something that's going to excite a lot of people.

At the end of the day, what does Jerome want? Is he doing all of this for kicks?

I think he wants everything to burn. If he had his way, he would continue to destroy everything around him for as long as possible. He's this burning fire that is rapidly expanding in all ways. Jerome enjoys the act of destruction. Beyond that, I'm not sure he has anything specific in mind.

What else can viewers expect from Jerome over the next few weeks?

The second act is him stepping on the stage for the first time. The third episode is where he really becomes the ringleader. He becomes fully comfortable on the stage. We fully see him at the height of what he's doing and what he wants.

The prevailing theory is that Jerome and the Joker are the same person, and, reportedly, you were told as much when you were first offered the role. With that perception in the air, how do you approach the character?

I think of him as Jerome. At the end of the day, I have to attach to what is tangible right now. What's important to note is that he's representative of the idea of who the Joker is -- the spirit, the lunacy and the enjoyment of chaos and laughing at other people's pain. In many ways, right now, for our show, the Joker is more of an overarching concept. That's really important to recognize.

We previously chatted about you practicing the laugh in your apartment. Have you fine tuned it for this arc?

Yes -- it was just a matter of using it over and over and over again. The thing is, I had a decent amount of time between the seasons where I got to expand on that. I got to not only practice the laugh, but try to embody the character in any way I could besides staring in the mirror and making faces all day. I was also studying films or compiling music. I compiled this massive playlist that I listened to over and over again. I would take dance lessons, just because Jerome is such a performer, so I wanted to be doing something that felt like I was performing with my body and becoming comfortable in that aspect.

Hypothetically, should Jerome go full-blown Joker, would you like him to experience the vat of chemicals origin, or have his appearance be the result of makeup?

I don't know if it needs to be "A" or "B" -- it could be a "C" of some sort. We're in our own canon in "Gotham," and that gives us a unique ability to be able to do things people haven't seen before. Sometimes people are against change, but that's what is great about comics. With every run, with every book and writer and artist, it's always completely different. They introduce new ideas to something that is old and sacred and has been around for 75 years. It's important to continue injecting new ideas and not stagnate. I don't think it has to be either of those two options. It could be, but I don't think it has to be.

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