There are few who would ever doubt Batman's popularity with the masses, but as of late, it's the superhero's villains who are getting the most attention. As Jared Leto prepares to join the select group of actors who have played the caped crusader's arch-nemesis in Suicide Squad, a new version of The Joker has already been unveiled in the world of FOX's Gotham.
Portrayed by actor Cameron Monaghan in his one-episode appearance, the younger version of the villain, and the mere decision to include him in Police Commissioner Jim Gordon's origin story proved divisive. So, what lies in store for this take on the Clown Prince of Crime? The actor has now teased a possible return, along with new details on preparing for the role.
However comic book fans may have felt about a version of the Joker - inherently linked to Batman, not a young Bruce Wayne - being introduced in just the first season of the series, Monaghan's performance (and laugh) were fairly well-received. The showrunners seemed to expect just that, as he explained to CBR that the part of Batman's most iconic villain was offered without need for an audition:
"I got a call and they said, 'Hey, there's a character that could potentially be the Joker. Do you want to play it?' I immediately said, 'Hell, yeah.' Then I was like, 'Oh, wait. That's a lot. Let me think about it.' I took the weekend to think about it, got back to them and I decided I definitely wanted to do it."
"I'm surprised my neighbors didn't call the cops on me because I spent those weeks constantly laughing and staring at myself in the mirror. Even if I was driving in my car to get food or something, I was repeating the monologue. I allowed myself to be a crazy person."
The teenage Joker - or 'Jerome', as he was known in the episode - covered most of the bases that comic fans would hope for. The villain's origins are intentionally a mystery in the history of DC Comics, but with a homicidal intellect, a twisted sense of humor, and a polished maniacal laugh, Monaghan's rendition was up to snuff.
Jerome won't be for everybody, but their have been enough versions of the villain already (with more on the way) to lend any creator, writer, artist, or actor some flexibility. That fact became clear during the actor's preparation for the part, consisting mainly of reading "pretty much every comic I could get a hold of":
"What I find interesting about the character is how every actor who plays him is going to bring something different, every time a writer writes him, he can be very different. Similarly, there's how he is drawn... in "The Long Halloween," he has this giant row of bottom teeth that stick out and are all jagged. He almost looks like a shark. He barely even looks human. It's really fascinating to see how this character evolves, depending on someone's perspective of him while they are writing or drawing him."
After months of Gotham creator Bruno Heller teasing that the Joker wouldn't be introduced too soon, his sudden arrival with little warning immediately raised questions of just what the writers had planned. Especially since his iconic nemesis - in the comic books, at least - is still in high school.
We now know one central character who will be absent from Season 2, but with Heller claiming the version of the Joker that fans know and love is still the better part of a decade away, is Monaghan expecting to return to the series in the near future? And if so, how closely will the show's writers be keeping to established storylines?
"I'm so curious to see where they take him. Batman is so integral to the Joker's origin, and we don't have that right now. However, Jerome is a person who existed in some capacity before that. There's no reason he couldn't have been that person before all of this happened. It will also be interesting to see if they want to go the route of the vat of chemicals.
"When I was on set, we discussed the possibility of me coming back in the second or third season. Nothing is set in stone yet. I think the producers have a firm plan for what they want to do, but I was not privy to it while I was filming. I would love to come back and do some more."
It may be disappointing for some to hear that Jerome's return won't be coming any time soon, but that may also be an encouraging sign. Playing the 'Joker Card' so soon could have been seen as an act of desperation on the part of Gotham's showrunners (regardless of how well the actor in the part performed). But if the introduction was meant to be just that, and nothing else, it could imply the writers really do have a general plan in place to keep the laughing madman in the picture - without sacrificing time spent on other characters.
Does the news that Jerome may be absent from Gotham for a season - or more - come as a relief to you, or a disappointment? Would Gotham become a stronger show if it spent a greater amount of time diving into the history of the Joker, or is that best kept a mystery? Sound off in the comments.
Gotham airs Mondays @8pm on FOX.