SDCC: Robin Lord Taylor Redefines The Penguin in "Gotham"

Gotham City may have given birth to Batman, but it's also the spawning grounds of most of his deadliest enemies. This fall, Fox's "Gotham" plans to explore the origins of the city's good guys, as well as its most notorious villains.

Premiering on September 22, the show follows rookie detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and his partner, Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), as they investigate the murder of young Bruce Wayne's billionaire parents. Along the way, the two men must contend with organized crime and a host of shady individuals destined to one day become Batman's nemeses: Catwoman, The Riddler, Poison Ivy and The Penguin.

Robin Lord Taylor, who plays the emotionally-disturbed Oswald Cobblepot -- the man destined to become The Penguin -- spoke to press during roundtable interviews at Comic-Con International in San Diego. The enthusiastic actor discussed comic books, the Cobblepot family name and teaming up with Batman's other foes.

Did you read specific comic books or watch TV shows to help immerse yourself in this character?

Robin Lord Taylor: Yeah, I keep forgetting the names. This is annoying. There are a couple of comics that I found that actually specifically pinpoint his origin story. It is the actual origin story of The Penguin. The [1989] "Secret Origins Special." That's what it is. That was fascinating because they go into his childhood and growing up as a privileged kid, but with not a lot of love, and in a prep school where he was bullied for being autistic and different. I found that to be incredibly valuable and also depressing. It's an issue we all face and deal with.

But just getting into the comics, how rare is it to play a character when you have 75 years of material, this incredible backlog? It's just an amazing gift. It's been an invaluable resource to go back and read and see where he's going. Even the fact that there are origin stories in the catalog that take place before we come in has been really cool.

Carol Kane is playing [Oswald's] mother, Gertrud Kapelput, in the show. Does Oswald change his name [to Cobblepot]?

I don't know what I can talk about too much. His mother is still in Gotham City. We're not quite sure where the Dad is. That's what I am really looking forward to, is fleshing out where they are going with that story. We could take different roads. Through 75 years, you are going to have some inconsistencies. I'm just fascinated to see what direction they choose. There is a different spelling to her name. She has almost an aristocratic background. Their names are spelled differently. At some point, Oswald has taken it upon himself to distance himself from his family name.

Can you hint at what sets Oswald down the path he goes on? Does he interact with the other villains?

That's what I'm most excited about. Everybody is like, "This first season is all about The Penguin." I'm like, "I want the others to get going." The clash of those personalities is going to be so much fun. I'm so stoked for that to start.

[Oswald] starts the show in a very low status. It's almost like his quarter-life crisis, where he's trying to assert himself, make that transition from young adulthood to actual adulthood, and be a person of power. He goes about it completely the wrong way and it all falls apart. In that, he learns his true desire and lust for power and he will not let anything stop him. It's his failures that actually motivate him to go after what he wants, which is Gotham City.

Does he pick up the iconic umbrella in the pilot?

I don't know if you've seen the trailer, but you may see an umbrella poking around. That's been the fun thing. Just the fact they are teasing out these little bits of the character. You start to see where those come from. People watching can be like, "The umbrella." Or maybe down the line, it'll be "There's the monocle. That's where that comes from." It's really cool to connect the dots, looking for clues. I think it's going to be fun for everyone.

"Gotham" premieres September 22 on FOX.

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