The riddle of just who “Gotham’s” brilliant but socially awkward Edward Nygma will become is about to be solved.
As the show begins to close out its freshman season, the enthusiastic but frequently frustrated forensic scientist on the Fox series is poised to take bigger steps toward the future that, despite his good intentions, seems inevitable: his transformation in the Gotham City’s cryptographic crime-lord, The Riddler.
Cory Michael Smith, one of the show’s biggest breakout stars, made the trek to WonderCon for a press roundtable where he revealed to CBR News and other outlets just what looms ahead for the underappreciated, if unorthodox, genius. And will the enigmatic Nygma make the transition from GCPD employee to villain in Season 2? Read on to find out…
Ed Nygma seems to be much more stable and his social skills are getting much better.
Cory Michael Smith: Yeah? Glad you’re thinking so [Laughs].
Give us a sense of what’s ahead for him.
We’ve ended in [Episode] 18 where he finally — he’s taking bigger challenges, getting a little more brave. He finally goes up to Kristen [Kringle] and actually asks her on a date rather than just giving her cupcakes and bullets and stuff. So he’s really reaching out. That’s a big deal. It’s a really big deal, and he totally gets shot down. And I asked the director — I’m like, “Look. We’ve been following this little love interest for a while now. At a certain point, this is just really frustrating, really frustrating.” I’ve been nothing but kind to her and enthusiastic and shown her exactly how I feel. And to get just shut down because there’s another guy already, it’s frustrating.
So that’s a moment, a flash of very much darker things that Edward has inside that we will unlock the door to and take a peek at. It’s quite horrifying, really, the man inside. I think the veneer of trying… he tries. There’s so much effort. And underneath that, what’s behind that is, he’s a pretty hurt guy that he doesn’t really let show. And then the last few episodes, you’ll spend some time alone with Edward in a room with no one else there. God help America and Canada and France and everyone! It’s not a pretty place up here.
Is it challenging to play a character who’s on such a slow burn?
It’s been challenging to my patience. The fans are so attracted to the mischief in this character, the terrorizing that he does to Gotham. And we all just like want to do it! And feel it’s exciting. And this character just has this ability to be like massively ornery. And so that is to come. But before that, we had to create a world where this good guy is really the only villain we’ve let be entirely good at the beginning. We have to earn that. And it takes time for this person to be constantly shut down by everybody that he comes into contact with to really create a human being that would respond the way that he needs to become the man that he’s going to become. So I feel like it’s been a well thought out and appropriate arc and kind of drops a little bit here end of season one. It gets exciting.
Is there any character that you think could break him out of any kind of future drama?
Oh, sure. I mean, they could. If James wanted to embrace how helpful Ed has been. No one talks about him, but Ed has really solved like three or four of the crimes. Has anyone ever thanked him for giving them the golden egg that like solves the puzzle? No! It’s ridiculous. If people would honor him the way that other people celebrate when things are solved, things might be different.
Or anyone want to promote him? The medical examiner’s gone [Laughs]. Got rid of him. But then they brought in someone else. Maybe he’s not a doctor but perhaps more equipped to like do some of these examinations on other people. So no, he’s just not getting any love whatsoever.
Do you think he could change if people gave him the proper recognition?
Yeah, absolutely. I would like to think that a lot of people in this world who have done really terrible things, there’s a reason. I think events are avoidable, potentially. People are the response to their environment, response to the way they’re treated, so that’s kind of just how we’re building Ed. It’s fun to have a hero and a villain. To understand why those people have donned those roles, for me, as an actor and being interested in psychology, that’s more exciting.
That terror when he’s alone in the room: are we seeing him talk to himself or actual thoughts?
Yeah, you’ll hear his actual thoughts. It’s funny how this was all timing out as we were filming this, but I don’t know if any of you watched [“The Jinx”], the Robert Durst documentary that Andrew Jarecki was doing on HBO, but the final episode of that he’s in a bathroom talking to himself. And that aired right before we filmed me being alone in a room talking to myself, and I was reminded that it’s not just a way to tell a story verbally so that the audience knows what you’re thinking: it’s like, people actually do this.
When you’re alone, you actually talk to yourself. I mean I do, [laughter] but… you know, I don’t know that anyone else does. But some people talk to themselves, and you essentially see that. And you get to see a human being fighting with himself, the good and evil, like both sides of his conscience are having a conversation. Walking through an issue — or stomping. Stomping might be a more appropriate word. It’s exciting.
“Gotham” airs Mondays at 8pm on Fox.
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