From executive producer/writer Bruno Heller (The Mentalist, Rome), Gotham is the origin story for a number of the characters in the Batman universe, including Catwoman, The Penguin, The Riddler and Poison Ivy, as it shows what made them the formidable adversaries that they eventually become. At its core, it is the story of Detective James Gordon’s (Ben McKenzie) rise through a dangerously corrupt city teetering on the edge of evil, and it chronicles the birth of one of the most popular superheroes of our time.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor David Mazouz (who plays Bruce Wayne) talked about how getting this role was one of the best moments of his life, how super excited he is to read each script, why shooting the Waynes’ murder was his favorite scene to shoot, building toward becoming Batman, the dynamic between Bruce Wayne and Alfred (Sean Pertwee), why Bruce trusts Jim Gordon, the unusual bond between Bruce and Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), and what he most enjoys about playing such an iconic character. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
DAVID MAZOUZ: Yeah, it was also a pretty long audition process. My first audition, I met with Bruno Heller, our creator, who’s an amazing, really smart guy, and the casting directors. That was right before Christmas vacation. So after that, I didn’t really hear for about two weeks because everyone was on vacation. And then, they wanted me to come in to test. That was on a Friday, and the following week, I tested three times. That was a pretty long and strenuous audition process. About two weeks later, I heard that I had booked it. My mom had actually found out first, on the day of my sister’s birthday. I’d also gotten in trouble at school that day, so she didn’t want to tell me. When my agents called me, I was in a public place, buying something, and I screamed so loud. It was one of the best moments of my life. It was really great.
Could you ever have imagined that, at this age, you’d not only get to be a part of the DC universe, but you’d actually be playing the character that will eventually become Batman?
MAZOUZ: Could I ever have imagined that? No. But what boy growing up didn’t want to be Batman? It’s coming true for me. I’m as close to Batman as I can get, at my age. It’s really cool. It actually didn’t hit me that I was playing Batman until the day after my first day of shooting the pilot. I wasn’t working that day, and I woke up and was like, “Oh, my god, I’m Batman!” It’s great. Every time I think about it, something happens in my stomach and I get really excited.
MAZOUZ: Yeah. I’m looking at comic books a lot for research and for a little inspiration, just to get some of the Bruce and Batman character traits. I do not want to get myself too wrapped up in that because it’s Bruce Wayne, and not Batman, but I don’t think that’s too hard. When they make my hair all straight and Bruce Wayne-y, and I get on a Brooks Brothers suit, I feel the part. It’s like I’m stepping into a vessel, and a lot of the work has already been done for me. So, it’s not really that difficult to not really get myself too wrapped up in the Batman world. Bruce Wayne and Batman really are two different characters.
Usually on a TV show, you don’t know what the endpoint for your character will be, however many seasons down the line that is. But if you know anything about Batman, you do know where Bruce Wayne’s story ultimately goes. Do you like having that knowledge, in playing this character, at this stage of his life, or would you prefer to have a bit more mystery to that?
MAZOUZ: I like it. Maybe if Batman wasn’t such an iconic role, and I was growing up to be somebody you hadn’t heard of, maybe that would be a little bit more disappointing. But Batman is Batman, so it’s awesome. It’s just so cool. Acting wise, I don’t think it really makes a difference to me. I always try to stay in the moment, in real life and in acting. I’m not really thinking about Batman when I’m doing a scene. I’m thinking about what I’m saying and what I’m feeling.
Gotham posters and billboards have been everywhere. What’s it like to see all of that? Is that very surreal?
MAZOUZ: It’s actually really crazy. I was in a car, looking out the window and daydreaming a little bit, and all of a sudden, the Gotham logo flashed in my face and woke me up from my daydream. Stuff like that happens every few days, and it’s really surreal. It’s really, really cool. I see myself on a bus and I’m like, “Oh, that’s me! I’m on a bus, looking all dramatic!”
As exciting as it must have been to read the pilot script, because it set up the show and who all of these characters are, was it even more exciting to read the scripts that followed, to really learn about how your characters would start to interact?
MAZOUZ: Definitely! Every time I get a script, I get super excited. I can’t wait a second to read it. I read it that very second. And every time my name pops up in the script, I get excited. Anytime I get to speak, it’s just cool. I love seeing how everything comes together in this world because it’s really interesting to see the character relationships evolve and change throughout the show. You think things are a certain way, but in some episode down the line, there will be this huge thing that twists the storyline. The writing is amazing. I love getting the scripts and seeing what my character will go through, and what the other characters will get to do during that episode.
Obviously, the murder of the Waynes is such an iconic moment in the Batman story. What was it like to shoot that scene, and really go from a happy family to heart-wrenching tragedy, so quickly?
MAZOUZ: That was actually probably my favorite scene to shoot, in the show so far. It was so much fun. A lot of people ask me where I got that inspiration from, to bring out so much emotion and let out a scream like that, but the answer is really that I don’t know. I feel like it’s an actor’s job to be in the shoes of their character and put themselves in that position. As far as the scene, it is such an iconic moment, in the Batman universe and the DC universe. You’ve seen it in the first five minutes of every Batman movie, but you never got to explore what Bruce Wayne was going through or his grieving process or what his anger makes him do. At this point in his life, he’s angry, he’s scared, he’s compulsive, and he’s lonely. He’s looking for any meaning to his parents’ death. You’ll see the things that he’ll do to himself and to other people while he’s grieving, and you’ll see how he becomes a regular kid again.
You start out by thinking that Bruce Wayne is just your typical rich kid, but you really start to see a strength and determination that’s unusual for his age. Is that the sort of behavior we’ll continue to see in him, or will we also see moments of weakness, and moments of him just being a kid?
MAZOUZ: As soon as his parents get killed, in that moment, years and years of maturity happen. He does become darker and more determined and stronger, just in that very second. I don’t think he’ll ever go back to being a regular kid. He is more determined and he is stronger, and he does have the need to want to fight. Eventually, that will lead to him becoming smarter and wanting to make himself more aware of what’s going on in Gotham and the world. All of that will build up and become Batman, in 10 or 15 years.
Alfred is clearly so much more than just a butler, and the relationship between Alfred and Bruce is one of the only constants in his life. How will their dynamic continue to develop?
MAZOUZ: First of all, Sean Pertwee, who plays Alfred, is one of the nicest, warmest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. He’s such a fantastic actor. I love working with him, and I do most of my scenes with him. Sean brings a whole different level to Alfred. They’re friends. Alfred is raising him. He’s a father to Bruce. He’s the one who he’s closest to. But it’s not a typical father-son relationship because they’re not father and son. And Alfred feels bad for him, so he lets him do things that at typical father probably wouldn’t let him do. Their relationship will continue to go through different stages, throughout the show. It’s a really interesting dynamic, in that you can’t really put your finger on what their relationship is.
MAZOUZ: As soon as Bruce met Jim Gordon, he found out that Jim Gordon was also a kid that suffered the deep tragedy of losing a parent at a young age. Immediately because of that, he has a respect for him. He develops a trust in him that he doesn’t really have with most people. He looks up to Jim Gordon, in a way. He sees him in a different light than he sees most people. You’ll see, throughout the season, that their relationship will get stronger and they’ll bond more. He’s also like a father to him. Bruce is missing that father figure, and he’s replacing it with his two surrogate fathers, Alfred and Jim Gordon. You’ll see their relationship go through different stages, and eventually you’ll see why Bruce chooses Jim Gordon to be the police guy that he trusts in the GCPD.
Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle keep crossing paths, but haven’t had direct interaction. Will he ever learn about how much she’s seen and knows?
MAZOUZ: They will come into contact with each other and have a relationship, this season. In the pilot, she was kind of stalking him, in a way, and we didn’t really know why. It’s all a mystery. But, I think a lot of those questions will be revealed later this season.
What do you most enjoy about playing Bruce Wayne?
MAZOUZ: I really like the fact that he’s such a mature kid. He’s so strong and he’s really not like any regular kid that you’ve seen before. As a kid actor, a lot of the roles that you get on TV are the son or the friend. This is such a prominent role, and an interesting role. It’s a role that really is unreplaceable. I love the fact that he’s so strong and so mature and so adult-like. I feel like I’m playing an adult. I don’t feel like I’m playing a kid character.
Gotham airs on Monday nights on Fox.