Comic book fans can debate the promise or pitfalls of adaptations like Fox's upcoming Gotham, set to tell the story of Batman's beloved city before he (and his villains) grew into their most iconic personas, but nothing gets discussion spinning out of control like legendary characters being cast with real actors. With James Gordon (Ben McKenzie), Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) and even a young Bruce Wayne already taken care of, the showrunners have now cast their own take on Edward Nygma - also known as The Riddler.
The honor of bringing Gotham's riddle-loving reprobate to life on the small screen, as reported by Deadline, falls to Cory Michael Smith, a relative newcomer known as much for his theater performances as those on film. Smith's most recent work had him performing alongside Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones, Terminator: Genesis) in the Broadway production of "Breakfast at Tiffany's", along with a handful of small-scale indie films.
It's difficult for most comic fans to know what to expect from Smith's version of the iconic Batman villain, but as seems to be the case with the rest of Gotham's villains, the show will likely introduce Edward Nygma prior to his emergence as a criminal addicted to nonsensical questions. The scant details provided with the casting reveal confirm as much, portraying "a brilliant but socially awkward forensic scientist who’s eccentric and outgoing and desperate to be liked." That description bears a strong resemblance to Jim Carrey's incarnation of the character seen in Batman Forever (1995), but we would bet Fox wouldn't encourage those kinds of comparisons.
Viewers won't be kept wondering for long, as Smith's Riddler - like Gotham's version of The Penguin - will make a brief appearance in the show's first episode. What this casting makes even clearer is the network's decision to fill their central cast with recognizable faces and names (at least to Fox audiences), but turn to lesser known actors for supporting/villainous roles.
It also seems the initial assumptions that the show would be a police procedural simply following Jim Gordon with occasional nods to the Batman source material were completely off base. With each new announcement or revealed cast image, Gotham is shaping up to be one massive origin story for all members of the Batman universe, from Alfred Pennyworth to Jim Gordon and the most infamous villains along the way. That's certainly a risky proposition given how difficult adapting a single comic book character has proven in the past, but until the show airs, it's impossible to gauge how successful the show's writers will be.
What do you think of the casting so far? Are you excited to see so many classic characters re-imagined for the series, or would you have preferred to see a smaller cast and concept? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Gotham is in development and expected to premiere on FOX in Fall 2014.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
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