From the moment of his debut on the Fox series Gotham, Professor Pyg (played with unnerving brilliance by Michael Cerveris) had most definitely made an impression. As a serial killer assassinating cops and dressing his victims in the severed heads of pigs while also wearing a pig’s head himself, Pyg is terrifying and disturbed, but also clearly the mastermind of his own twisted plan that involves Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), whether he likes it or not.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actor Michael Cerveris (who also played September on Fringe and Ramses IV in The Tick) talked about the fun of taking on a character like Professor Pyg, the evolution of the pig mask, Pyg’s overall plan, acting behind the pig face, why Pyg feels so connected to Jim Gordon, the confrontation to come with Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), and why Pyg sees himself as the hero (you can also check out a red-band trailer for the upcoming episode here). He also talked about being a part of the Steven Soderbergh HBO series Mosaic and its unusual new storytelling approach.
Collider: It’s been a real pleasure to watch you on Gotham as Professor Pyg because he’s just such an interesting character.
MICHAEL CERVERIS: You absolutely feel, when you enter into this world, that the bar is pretty high. I’m grateful that everybody seems to have taken up the challenge, in the most dramatic, fun and exciting ways, with this character. I was aware that there is a big section of the comic book fan base that really had been wondering if Professor Pyg would ever show up on Gotham and were excited about the chance that he might, but then that also makes you more nervous that you’re going to live up to people’s expectations.
I don’t personally have a fear of clowns, but masks bother me, and I have to say that this pig head with the floppy ears definitely bothers me.
CERVERIS: Weirdly, that’s the thing that is most unnerving. The early drafts of the mask were more like the comic book, which was a more cartoonish sort of thing, and Danny Cannon, the executive producer, said, “No, I want it to look like he cut a pig’s head off and put it on his face.” When they went in that direction, there was just something about all of that grisly gruesomeness, and then these weird little vibrating ears that’s hilarious and terrifying, at the same time.
You’ve auditioned for a few roles on Gotham, over the seasons, even going all the way back to auditioning for Alfred for the pilot. What kept drawing you back to this show, and would you have kept coming back, if Professor Pyg hadn’t been in the cards for you?
CERVERIS: Sure! I just have been a fan of the show. It’s one of the most stylish and inventive shows that’s out there, certainly on network television. I grew up as a comic book kid, so the idea of having a chance to be a part of the DC Universe and the Gotham storyline, in particular, would have been exciting and appealing to me, anytime that it happened. And then, the fact that I’ve been such good friends with Danny Cannon for so many years, I would always want to be a part of something that he was involved with because I know that it will be high quality and fun. So, yeah, I would have kept coming back, no matter what, but I really do feel like this is an example of the right thing finding you at the right time.