Gotham has never exactly been set in a city where you’d willingly rent a condo, but Season 4 of Fox’s bonkers Batman prequel has upped the ante when it comes to crime. Thanks to former mayor/current crime lord/future Batman rogue Oswald Cobblepot, lawbreaking in Bruce Wayne’s hometown is not only rampant…it’s legal.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Robin Lord Taylor (who plays Cobblepot) discussed the upward trajectory of his ironically flightless villain, the impact of fresh-faced foes like mob heiress Sofia Falcone (Crystal Reed) and the curly-tailed madman Professor Pyg (Michael Cerveris), and what’s next for Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) now that he’s been defrosted from the Iceberg Lounge.
Collider: What sets Season 4 apart from everything that came before it?
ROBIN LORD TAYLOR: What I love about our show—that is affirmed every year—is that as we go deeper and more intricate as actors and writers, we all find deeper, more intricate places to go with the story and the characters. I feel like every season is stronger than the one before it. I don’t feel like it’s one of those shows where we’re trying to recreate the magic of a first season. There’s so many shows that have bonkers, crazy first seasons, and it’s all about trying to maintain that. Our show has the opposite trajectory. Don’t get me wrong, Season 1 is great, but we were all still trying to find ourselves. Now, I think of it like school, like we’re four years in and we know what we’re doing now, and everyone has aged into their roles. It feels more personal.
Is there anything specific you’re doing with Oswald this season that feels like something new?
TAYLOR: Right now, we are four years from when we started the show, as are the characters we’re playing. So I’m basically building the performance and where the character is now off of all personal, previous experiences. Oswald was always a very ambitious, manipulative person, and obviously that’s never going to change. But there was always that seed of a sympathetic person in there. Had things gone much differently, there is a good person in there. But this city, Gotham City, it corrupts everybody. Oswald’s heart has been broken in every possible way. He’s now aware of his vulnerability, his vulnerability being that he does feel empathy for certain people. Now, going forward, he’s on the track of walling himself off, protecting himself from his feelings, because it’s been nothing but heartache and, essentially, torture his entire life.
So much of Season 3 was about the relationship between Oswald and Edward Nygma. Besides the fact he was frozen in a block of ice, how does that dynamic continue to grow?
TAYLOR: Oswald, he was extremely immature with how he approached his friend. Well, he killed him, so immature I guess is a way to describe it. Should they come back together in any sort of fashion, that romantic thing—again, this is part of the lessons Oswald has learned—he knows that leads to nothing but ruin. There is a war between the two of them because of that. Their relationship going forward is as enemies, as you’ll see. Their relationship moves to the forefront again.
How deep into filming are you, story-wise?
TAYLOR: Like every season of our show, the first half is a Mack Truck barreling down the highway. There’s a trajectory for everybody that is very focused. Right now, we’re shooting episode ten of 22, so we’re almost at the halfway point. And it’s usually at this point where everything that we’ve been barreling toward gets flipped on its head. So, we’re at that wonderful point where, Oswald starts the season on top of the world, the King of Gotham, and its inevitably set up for him to fall. Right now, we’re at the precipice, right at the point where we see a major change happen, at the hands of one of our new characters that came in this year, which is Sofia Falcone.
Have you gotten close to the arrival of Professor Pyg?
TAYLOR: Ho, ho, let me tell you! Hands down one of my favorite, top five scenes of the entire series, we just shot last week. It’s a huge, big climax scene in episode nine, which involves Professor Pyg, played by Michael Cerveris, who is the absolute best. It’s a competition between him and Oswald, is what I can say.
Michael is a perfect example of why the show being shot in New York City is so great. I saw him in Sweeney Todd, and he brings the gravitas of a Broadway performer, someone from musical theater, especially something like Sweeney Todd where it’s dealing with dark themes and larger than life, operatic, yet rooted in a human experience subject matter. Hello, that’s us. That’s us our show.
After four seasons, have you settled into the idea that this Penguin—such an iconic character—belongs to you right now?
TAYLOR: I really do feel like the character is mine right now. Maybe one day the Penguin will come around in the DC Cinematic Universe and someone else amazing will have their chance to play the best character ever, in my opinion. But I feel like it is mine right now, and that goes back to getting four seasons in this day and age. It’s such a vote of confidence. I feel like if I didn’t take ownership of it, it would be harder for me to create the emotional stakes that are necessary to be at all believable.
Gotham airs Thursday nights on Fox.