'Gotham': Ben McKenzie on Jim Gordon's Idealism & Lack of Cape

Gotham - Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon

Who doesn't love a good origin story? Although Fox's upcoming police procedural drama Gotham will retell the tale of how young Bruce Wayne lost his parents, the real star of the show is not a superhero or a vigilante. Gotham follows Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) in his pre-commissioner days as a rookie detective who genuinely believes that he can make a difference in his city, and that he can do it without having to break the law.

The first trailer for Gotham teased the appearance of iconic characters from Batman canon as kids or youths, with Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) and his mob boss Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett-Smith) set up as the first antagonists that Jim will encounter in the show. In the face of so much crime and corruption, sticking to his ideals won't be an easy task for the young detective.

One popular archetype in comic book movies and TV shows is the anti-hero: Guardians of the Galaxy features a group of criminals as its protagonists, upcoming NBC show Constantine is about a magician who's mostly out for himself, and even paragon of goodness Superman executed some questionable actions in Man of Steel. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, McKenzie was asked what excites him about being able to play Jim Gordon, and explained that there's nothing "anti" about his brand of heroism.

"He’s a truly honest man. The last honest man in a city full of crooked people. It’s very tricky nowadays to play a true, honest-to-goodness hero. Everybody is so cynical of people’s intentions. What’s interesting about him is he comes into this city that he hasn’t lived in for two decades, since he was a kid, and has fresh eyes to a world he doesn’t actually know. He thinks he knows it, and his journey will be to figure out how to make it better both for Gotham and himself without completely [losing] the moral standing that he has. He’s not an anti-hero, he’s a true hero — but he will have to compromise."

Gotham Premiere Penguin Easter Eggs

Jim Gordon might be a hero, but that doesn't mean that Gotham will be a simple story about the good guys trying to catch the bad guys. In Gotham City, McKenzie says, "everybody lives in the grey. Everybody is on the take. Everybody is compromised. There is no way he’ll emerge unscathed from that."

When asked about his relationship to the Batman franchise prior to being cast in Gotham, McKenzie says that he didn't read many comics while he was growing up, but he loves the character nonetheless - in particular his presentation in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. When it comes to his superheroes, McKenzie prefers them without the "super" part:

"The thing that I think is universally relateable about Batman is he’s not a superhero. He has no special powers... As an actor, I'm much more interested in people. When they have superpowers, it’s not that I don’t find them enjoyable, it’s just that…. I feel a little detached. Not to rag on a completely unrelated topic, but to me it’s like musicals. I’m like, “Oh, I’m with this story,” and then they start singing and that seems strange. I probably shouldn’t say that in New York City! Long story short: Gordon couldn’t be more human. In a DC universe where all of these characters are human, he is Exhibit A in being a simple, flawed human being. He’s strong and smart and tough, but he’s going to make wrong decisions and trust the wrong people. And he has no out — he can’t put on a cape and fly off."

What's particularly interesting about Gotham is that the audience knows in advance that Jim will ultimately fail to clean up the streets of Gotham, since Bruce Wayne will have to do that himself years later. The show could make for a great character study which pits the incorruptible cop against a corrupted city. Even Jim's own partner, Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), has long since stopped trying to do everything by the book. In the face of so much opposition, how much good can one man do?


Gotham will air Mondays on FOX in the fall of 2014.

Source: Entertainment Weekly

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