On the next episode of the Fox series Gotham, called “Rise of the Villains: Mr. Freeze,” Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) investigate the body-snatching spree of Victor Fries (Nathan Darrow), one of Gotham’s pre-eminent cryogenics engineers. While they’re looking for answers, Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) takes a hit for Theo Galavan’s (James Frain) murder.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Nathan Darrow talked about the duality of Victor Fries and Mr. Freeze, bringing the iconic villain to life, what motivated this man to start down the path that he’s on, putting on the full costume, what he most enjoyed about playing this character, and the biggest challenges of the role. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: How did you come to be playing Mr. Freeze, and did you even know what role you were auditioning for?
NATHAN DARROW: I knew what role I was auditioning for, and it was just the traditional process.
Had you been familiar with the show and who this character is, or were you given those research materials?
DARROW: No, I had not seen the show and I had very little connection with the Batman story. A whole lot of it was just right there in the writing. I just found it to be so interesting and so human. I just loved it immediately. And then, I did a little bit of research into the backstories of the character. There are many of them, so I picked and chose from what moved me and seemed to fit.
Is it intimidating, at all, to enter a show like this, that’s already been establishing iconic villains like Penguin and The Riddler, and find your own place in it?
DARROW: I don’t necessarily feel that. I felt, going in, that there was excitement about the character that I was going to play, and that was nice. There was already interest, which is nice. As far as the show being established, my experience with all the people I’ve worked with and everything that everyone was trying to do was very positive. Everyone there is just trying to do good work.
With as successful as comic book and superhero TV shows and movies are now, who in your own life was most excited about you getting to be a part of the DC universe as Mr. Freeze?
DARROW: I did a movie with a very, very talented artist, who’s a filmmaker and a graphic novelist. I did a student film of his, many years ago in Chicago, and hadn’t talked to him in a long time. He was very, very excited. I remember the message that I got from him, and it was cool to catch up with him. He was just so pumped about it.
What can you say about who Victor Fries is?
DARROW: I would say that he is a creative person who has lived most all of his life without a great ability to connect with people in the world, until at some point, he met the woman who became his wife. In some of the research, they weren’t high school sweethearts, but they met in college and this great love was born. They were devoted to each other and she’s a real anchor for him. And then, she gets sick and he is unwilling to imagine life without her, so he marshals all of his resources of intelligence and experience, and he throws out whatever moral center he might have had because he doesn’t want to lose her. It’s the story of a man losing his last line of human contact.
How much does it help you, as an actor, to have the duality of this character, with the quiet moments he spends at home with his wife contrasting with the costume and the big freeze gun?
DARROW: It’s interesting to explore that part of it because, all of a sudden, there’s a power that he has that he didn’t have. I don’t think that Victor necessarily enjoys what he’s doing. I do think that it’s allowing something in him to live more fully.
What was it like the first time you saw yourself in the full costume with the freeze gun?
DARROW: The preparation for that, as an actor, was probably happening many, many years ago, when I was intensely pretending about having powers and things like that. But, it was exciting.
When you play a character like this, who’s doing what he’s doing for a great purpose, does that make it easier to understand and justify his actions and the bad things that he does because he’s doing them out of desperation?
DARROW: As an actor, I am usually trying to find a way to get behind the actions of the character that I’m playing. I want to somehow personally get connected with what is behind it. I want to find something noble back there. Although, I don’t think that motivation always has to be noble. Sometimes it just is, and it’s not even understand, necessarily. From an acting point, you just have to access it.
We get the sense that Victor Fries has been doing what he’s doing for awhile. Do you have a sense of how many experiments he’s tried and how long he’s been trying to succeed, before now?
DARROW: That’s a good question. The one before the break was maybe the first one, and in the time since then, he might have all these people’s lives on his head.
This is a secret that he’s clearly chosen to keep from his wife. Do you think he thought about telling her what he was doing?
DARROW: I don’t think he would want to burden her with that. Her strength and comfort is very important. If she does before he finishes [what he’s doing], it’s all completely for not. So, she has to keep her strength up and he doesn’t want her stressed out.
Is he someone who has any sort of moral code, at this point?
DARROW: I certainly don’t think he wants anybody to die.
Obviously, we haven’t seen the last of Mr. Freeze because his mission is not complete. What can you say to tease what’s next for Victor Fries, beyond this episode?
DARROW: He’s got to complete his process and somehow get people to understand that this is all for a good cause. He’s come up with this new technology, so he’s got to get to his wife with the right formula to save her life.
What have you most enjoyed about playing this character, and what are the biggest challenges to playing someone like this?
DARROW: I really like the scenes with Nora. I like playing those. And Kristen Hager, who plays her, is fantastic. The action stuff is getting more and more fun for me, too. We have good directors. As for challenges, acting is interesting. There are days when every little thing is challenging. Some days, you can put that on yourself because you can make it difficult. It’s a challenge to have enough time. It’s a challenge to get as much in there as you want. That’s not just the actors, that’s everyone on the show. It’s a cool environment and everyone is so invested in what they’re doing and making everything good. There’s just never enough time, and you have to let it go.
Gotham airs on Monday nights on Fox.